Most Important Tip for Painting a Ceiling: use the best ceiling paint to cut your work and stress
Even if the customer is a cheapskate, we easily convince them to use the rather expensive Waterborne Ceiling Paint Ultra Flat (508) (from Benjamin Moore). It is without a doubt the very best ceiling paint on the market, and you can also find it online here. Yes, this excellent ceiling paint costs a little more but it’s designed to COVER IN ONE COAT and to hide and cover yellowing, aging, and the stray mark from when you were playing hockey inside. (Puck marks need 2 coats). This great paint covers all in one coat if the old ceiling is off-white or white. (Non-white will need two coats as you are changing colors). You can also read more about what makes the best interior paint in my other post. For sure we recommend Benjamin Moore paints (company site).
The second most important tip after choosing the best ceiling paint is to use a quality roller (such as this one) and use it in the corners instead of a brush (almost). We also have written about power rollers: yeah, baby.
If you are painting ONLY a ceiling and nothing else, skip to the last paragraph “Just painting the ceiling“.
The Important Point When Doing Only One Coat on a Ceiling
You have to go slower and cover all well. A quality wool/poly roller ‘cover’ or ‘sleeve’ is essential here. You don’t want to have to hear the term “Flashing”. Because the old paint will have a sheen that is either flatter or glossier than what you are using (usually), and if you miss a spot, it will ‘flash’. It’s a sore thumb.
You can touch up skipped spots, but hopefully, you will inspect the job BEFORE you clean up! Normally with walls, when doing a second coat, you can go faster on both coats. We often do 2 quick coats even if we might be ok with one on walls, but not so for ceilings as much because they are hard work even for us. But painting a ceiling sucks and we always want to just do one coat.
Best Ceiling Paint for Old Painted Ceiling with Discoloration
If your old painted ceiling has some discoloration, go with the runner-up, Ben Moore Muresco, you can find it on online. This one hides even better than the one above and it will also act as a primer if you have a new ceiling. (New drywall ceilings need 2 coats of this or one drywall primer and one latex ceiling paint)
But if you are also painting the walls, here is a big time saver.
Brush? On a ceiling?
No my friend, don’t work so hard. Don’t work so long.
Secret Professional Ceiling Painting Tip: Eliminate (Almost) the Brushing
When you are doing both the ceiling and the wall, there is no need for brushing when you use a quality paint roller ( using this Wooster 3/4 inch ) and a high-quality ceiling paint. In the corners, yes a little brushing is necessary and of course around the lights etc, but not the long sections where walls meet the ceiling. Even painters who have not heard this, still waste tons of time dragging a ladder around and brushing the joint where the wall meets the ceiling.
What the wha? Here is how (this video is also at the end of the post). Here I’m demonstrating with a silly 3-inch roller, but you will need a 9-inch. Just push your roller into the corner getting ceiling paint all over both surfaces.
How to paint a ceiling with almost no brushing
- Dip roller with a good deal of ceiling paint (just so it’s not dripping)
- Push paint into the ceiling corner and slide maybe a foot to one side
- Lift off the roller and rotate the cylinder about 1/3 turn
- Repeat steps 1-3 until you need more paint
- Push harder as you run out of paint before you have to dip
This is nothing wrong with using your roller as a brush!
You don’t have to worry about getting ceiling paint on the wall as you will be painting over it soon anyway! Learn how to not drip at my post about paint walls or trim first
If using a high-quality latex ceiling paint, as shown above, you will probably have to do this only once. Let the paint dry, then with a good brush, lay your wall color right up to the nice fat corner you just filled in with white ceiling paint. Cheap brushes will not give you a nice clean line. The line somewhat makes itself with a good Purdy brush.
To make this work at it’s best, roller nap length is important
The best is a long nap paint roller cover: we like 3/4 inch (or more), in a wool/poly blend. We consider 3/4 to be the best nap for ceilings and walls. Longer naps leave a slightly different dimple pattern on the wall, but that is not important to us–if it is to you, go with a short nap “designed” for walls, but they don’t hold much paint and you have to dip them a lot.
We use only Wooster or Purdy paint rollers: the poly gives longevity and the wool sucks up the paint. The Wooster 3/4 inch wool blend is only 7 bucks. A better value is to buy a pack of several and not worry about getting more later. This will last a homeowner a lifetime. Learn how to quickly clean paint rollers.
Our best ceiling paint is a flat white latex ceiling paint
Most people want their ceilings to be white because the reflection multiplies your lighting and makes the room feel bigger. We always recommend a flat white latex ceiling paint: the flat sheen in most paints will show handprints easily, and is difficult to clean: but how often does someone put hands on a ceiling. Plus, the flat sheen is soft and does not draw attention to itself. We used to say: more sheen, more attention. Glossiness makes you look, so flat ceiling latex paint is the norm for good reason.
A tip you might use if you are later painting any other white or off-white: don’t clean your roller and brush after you are done with the ceiling: just scrape most of the flat ceiling paint out of the fibers/bristles and go right into your semi-gloss white trim paint (if that is what you are doing–and it usually is). Before applying your trim paint, soak up a bunch of the new paint and work it in and out of the roller/brush: you are all set to paint. (Don’t tell your boss you do this!–but it will not matter at all in the end and save one cleaning-whew).
Just painting the ceiling – big tip:
Obviously be sure to protect your floor and furnishings from drips: tape some light plastic to the walls near the ceiling and remove the art or carefully cover with the plastic. If you use old bed sheets etc to cover things, be sure to wipe any drips as they happen because they will allow paint to bleed through onto your things. Tip: use drop cloth that is a different color than your paint, so you can spot your ceiling paint quickly on the cloth.
As with all paint jobs ROLL FIRST. Why? See my post about painting walls. If doing only one coat, as discussed above), go carefully making sure not to leave any skips (but if necessary, you can touch up skips later).
Roll as close to the wall as you can to the wall without touching (obviously). Then brush with a good quality (we like Purdy latex-only) brushes. The quality bristles will find the corner for you and you don’t really even need a very steady hand. Get the 3-inch (if you have a strong arm, as it is heavy when wet!) is only 15 bucks and it will work like new for life (see my post on how easy it is to clean up).
Have a question about the best paint for a ceiling? Please write below, or email me. I’ll try to reply asap!
Drop cloths: be happy and get the canvas for the floors and plastic for the furniture.
Drop cloths: be happy and get the canvas for the floors and plastic for the furniture.
The regular canvas is fine (best value: buy a large and cut it into smaller ‘runners’), but if you can afford it, go for the one that will not slip around as you walk on it: a constant source of worry for us. Even paint spills are no problem(should you ‘kick the bucket’ while looking up as you paint your ceiling).
For plastic, we like the 1Mil thickness because it tends to stay put, and we use painter’s tape to hold it in place. If you are only painting a ceiling, this is a must: you simply cover every wall, bringing the edge of the plastic near the top.
We buy quality painting tarps and keep them for many years: they are also useful at home for all kinds of things, painting or other projects.
Large ceiling? and if you have other projects lined up for the future? Spray that puppy. Even if you do not use the best ceiling paint, you will cut your time tremendously.
Spray painting a ceiling is 10 times faster than rolling and painting ceilings is the hardest thing we do, even when using the best ceiling paint.
Two recommendations for two budgets:
- The best non-commercial paint sprayer today is hands down the Graco 390. It’s pricey but will last a lifetime with proper care. We have an entire post showing quality sprayers for different budgets.
- The budget version is the Wagner Flexio 590. It has a very reasonable price for what you get.
There are 2 basic types of paint sprayers: airless which cost an arm and a leg and small home-owner machines which don’t. The two paint sprayers brands you can trust are Graco and Wagner. If and when you need parts, (the tips do wear out) you can find them easily if you go with a major brand. Some keys to spraying paint:
- Mask what is not getting painted: use plastic, canvas and lots of tape. Take your time masking–you’ll save a lot more time in the end
- Practice first: move your hand at a uniform speed, and when you change direction, you make a quick flick of the wrist so you don’t have paint build up (sags and runs)
- Soak the sprayer nozzle right away when done: this is normally going to be water, but if you spay oil, have your cleanup station ready–don’t let your tool get dry
- Soak the sprayer tip in a bucket when you put it down to do something else other than spray: keep it wet as it will clog fast, especially on a hot day
- Use the best ceiling paint and you should have no problem covering in one coat (not counting black marks from hockey pucks)