How to Avoid Roller Marks When Painting a Ceiling

Updated Jun 24, 2024 | Posted Apr 6, 2021 | Professional insight, Miscellaneous | 1 comment

Gone are the days when a decorator would just use any cheap matt emulsion to paint a ceiling. Finish is everything and you can experience problems with roller marks and picture framing if you’re not careful.

As a decorator, I know when I’m likely to experience these types of problems. I also know there are a few steps you can take to avoid roller marks on a ceiling. I thought I’d put pen to paper and explain.

Light critical or large, open plan type ceilings are generally trickier to get right. This is because light will shine across the ceiling and show every imperfection.


How to Avoid Roller Marks on a Ceiling



A good-quality paint roller – Click here to see online prices.

A pole

Paint Scuttle – Click here to see online prices.

Paint brush – Click here to see online prices.



A low-sheen matt emulsion




Use the Right Paint

I can’t stress how important your paint choice is. Ceiling paints have a very low sheen, so light doesn’t bounce off it as much as it does other paints. This leads to less shadowing and flashing. Choosing the right paint is the easiest way to avoid roller marks when painting a ceiling. I’ll go into my recommendations further down the blog.


Dilute The Paint

If you are using a quality paint, then the first thing you can do to eliminate brush and roller marks is dilute it slightly with clean water.


Cut in

Then you should cut in around the edge of your room and light fittings with a brush.



Next you should roll. Make sure you use a long or medium pile roller on a pole. Start at a natural light source. By doing this you will be able to look back over your work and spot any heavy roller marks. Get plenty of paint on your ceiling and spread it out in long, even passes. Don’t keep going back over your work while it’s drying unless you need to and don’t panic about it looking patchy before it’s dry!!

You paint roller makes a huge difference when trying to avoid roller marks on a ceiling. I highly recommend using a Purdy Colossus roller. You will need to de-lint the sleeve before use, but it holds loads of paint and allows you to lay it off with ease. Click here to see online prices.


The Best Paint for a Streak Free Ceiling


Cheap contract matt, retail paint, or an emulsion with a high sheen level will generally lead to problems. However, there are some very good products you can use, whether you’re painting with white, or a tinted colour. I’ll mention my three favourite and most forgiving products now. The general attribute each of my favourite products has is the sheen level. You need a perfect and flat matt if you want to avoid roller marks.


Johnstone’s Perfect Matt

Perfect Matt is a premium paint which you can buy online by clicking here, or from any Johnstone’s Decorating Centre. It does come with a premium price tag, so if budget is a concern you may want to look at the other options on this blog. It is a completely flat matt, will not show blemishes such as roller marks, and you can even touch this emulsion up. The finish is lovely.


Tikkurila Anti-Reflex

Slightly cheaper than Perfect Matt, Anti-Reflex is a very strange paint, but the finish is amazing!! You should apply very generous coats to achieve a rich luxurious finish.

This is easily my favourite paint to use on a ceiling and a very popular choice amongst decorators. The only real downside is the opacity, so you may need to apply an extra coat to your ceiling. Other than that, it’s perfect. The finish is amazing and you won’t see any roller marks. You can order this product online.

best paint for a lounge ceiling

Teknos Teknoceiling

Teknoceiling is a specialist ceiling paint, meaning it has been developed to perform as well as it possibly can on a ceiling. It has an extremely low sheen, so you’ll never see any roller marks. Opacity and ease of use are fantastic. Click here to see online prices.




Will a second coat of paint cover roller marks?

If the opacity of your first coat isn’t enough to achieve a solid colour, then there’s a chance that a second coat will look less patchy. However, if it’s a light critical room and your ceiling paint is flashing, then the chances are that a second coat won’t make a difference. My advice would be to opt for an ultra-low-sheen emulsion to avoid visible roller marks.


Is there a trick to painting ceilings?

Carry out your prep, cut in around the edge with a brush, then start rolling from the biggest natural light source. As you roll, look back over your work. Because you’re looking towards the light source you will notice any misses and roller marks. Using a good quality roller on a pole will make things a lot easier.


Why is my paint still patchy after 4 coats?

If your ceiling still looks patchy after 4 coats, it’s probably down to the paint you’re using. opt for one of the paint products on this page and you will not have an issue.


Will roller streaks go away when paint dries?

Possibly, but probably not. The sheen level of vinyl matt paint becomes more uniformed as the paint dries. However, streaks (the technical term is “flashing”) are a major issue when painting ceilings with the wrong type of paint.


What paint additive removes roller marks?

This is a great question!! There are conditioners you can add to paint that extends it’s drying time, which means it levels off before setting. My favourite is Smith & Rodger Flow & Bond. Click here to see a full list of paint conditioners.

However, if you’re using a cheap emulsion to paint your ceiling, then a bit of paint conditioner isn’t going to make loads of difference.


How do Other Decorators Avoid Roller Marks on Ceilings

There are 3 options…

1) you could go direct for a spray finish if the environment allows.

2) choosing the right pile roller and quality tools for the surface,

3) use a paint designed to reduced roller marks, Anti-Reflex 2 or White Gold (Goodhome), or my

Personal favourite, Smart Matt by leyland

Oliver J Scarth

Professional Painter and Decorator

Use Tikkurila  anti reflex 2 and you won’t have any issues with roller marks when painting a ceiling.

Paul Woodward

Professional Painter and Decorator

Correct pile paint roller.

Good even placement application of paint on the roller.

Have the correct size pole or extension of pole.

Hold the roller pole correctly to be able to manipulate the roller and apply the paint product effectively

Use a nice Z pattern to first apply and then Spread evenly across the surface meant for application.

Do not apply excessive pressure, Finally a light rolling off to the paint once happy and finished with spread and placement of the paint product.

Brett George

Professional Painter and Decorator


Using the right pile and quality roller, again its simple but it can mean the difference between a flush finish and patterning on your ceiling.

Kris Devos

Professional Painter and Decorator

I normally use 12 Purdy colossus sleeve and lay off as I’m rolling, never had a problem. If it’s a Porous surface with a lot of lighting, use gardz on it first. It will give you more working time and will dry evenly.

Darren Morrissey

Professional Painter and Decorator

A decent large sleeve like a purdy or Hamilton

Also, if you’re struggling with lines or patchy areas then a good flat Matt will help to hide irregularities.

Also, it’s basic, but keep a wet edge working away from light source.

Anton Marsh

Professional Painter and Decorator

For me, avoiding roller marks when decorating a ceiling comes down to the paint more than anything. Tikkurila Anti Reflex and Teknos Teknoceiling are both specialist paints, designed for ceilings. They will perform better than any other product would.

If you’re struggling to get a good finish, just buy a bucket of either of those and you’ll be sound.

Tim Marcus

Professional Painter and Decorator

Updated Jun 24, 2024 | Posted Apr 6, 2021 | 1 comment

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Cupit has been in the decorating industry since 2002 and has mostly worked as a Trade Decorator in the domestic sector (peoples’ homes). Self-proclaimed “product geek”, Mike has a passion for paint and decorating tools. Mike now spends most of his time testing paint products and tools, comparing them to similar products on the market, and blogging about the industry in general.
How to Paint Coving – A Complete Guide

How to Paint Coving – A Complete Guide

In this blog, I’m going to explain everything you need to know about how to paint coving, including a few product recommendations. Coving is one of those decorative features which never really goes out of fashion.  I’ve completely lost count of how many rooms with...

1 Comment

  1. Andrew

    Can you lay off the paint in the opposite direction?


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *