How to Paint a Ceiling – a Quick Guide

Updated May 31, 2024 | Posted Aug 29, 2023 | Professional insight, Product Advice | 0 comments

Painting a ceiling can be slightly daunting if you’ve never done it before, but it’s relatively straightforward. I thought I’d take the time to sit down and write a quick blog on how to paint a ceiling.

I’ll start by quickly running through the tools and materials you’ll need. Then I’ll touch on each step you’ll need to take. Then, as your paint choice and the tools you use are integral to achieving a good finish, I’ll go into detail about what I recommend and why.


Shopping List


  • Dust sheets
  • Plastic membrane
  • Sandpaper
  • Good quality filler
  • Long-pile paint roller with a pole and scuttle.
  • Paint brush
  • Low sheen matt emulsion (more details further down the blog)


How to Paint a Ceiling


1 – Prepare Your Room

The first thing you need to do is set your room up. Remove any breakables, move furniture into the middle of the room, then cover everything. I use plastic membrane to cover furniture, and cotton dust sheets to cover the floor.


2 – Prepare The Surface

Then you can move onto your prep. Rake out cracks and nail pops, fill with a good quality filler, then sand imperfections.

Bare plaster should be primed before you carry out your prep really. You’re fine to proceed if your ceiling has been painted previously.


3- Cut in Around the Edge of Your Room

Once at this stage, you’re ready to paint. Decant some paint into a kettle (tub), and the rest into a paint tray or scuttle. Use the paint in your kettle and your paintbrush to ‘cut-in’ around the edges of your ceiling, around light fittings, and anything else you need to cut around.


4 – Roll The Ceiling

Now you’re ready to roll your ceiling. Start at the biggest light source in your room (usually a window) and backwards away from it. Doing it this way means you can look across your ceiling and spot any misses. Apply a generous amount of paint with your roller and spread it evenly. Having a pole and a good quality roller will make all the difference.

Previously painted ceilings take two coats. Bare plaster will take a primer and two topcoats.

A few tips on how to paint a ceiling

Mike Cupit talks through painting a ceiling.

The Best Tools for Painting a Ceiling


As with most decorating tasks, having the best tools will make all the difference. The obvious items are steps, dust sheets and plastic sheeting. A brush with a thick stock is advantageous, but it’s your roller that makes all the difference when painting a ceiling.

Let’s talk about the brush first. Choose an emulsion brush with a thick stock that holds its shape. The more paint it holds the better. My recommendation is the Purdy Monarch elite XL, which does everything you need it to.

A Purdy Paintbrush isn’t just good for painting ceilings. It’s also a great all-rounder that can be used in any water-, or oil-based paint products.

However, as mentioned, it’s your roller that makes all the difference when painting a ceiling, and the Purdy Colossus is a gamechanger. It has a long-pile which holds a fantastic amount of paint. This means you can apply more paint on  every stroke, which cuts down on dragging. It can shed a little bit on its first use, so wrap and unwrap it in masking tape before you start, to de-lint.

Use a pole too! Standing on steps, trying to use a roller without a pole to paint a ceiling is very hard work. You’ll hurt your wrists and shoulders, plus your finish won’t be as good. Honestly, if you take just any one thing away from this blog, make it to use a proper roller set-up when painting a ceiling.

The Best Paint to Use on a Ceiling


There was once a time when it didn’t really matter which paint product you used on a ceiling, it all looked pretty much the same. However, things are a bit different now. A lot more people have open plan rooms, or rooms flooded with natural light, so the paint finish is really noticeable.

When painting a ceiling, you should use a low-sheen paint as it will avoid defects such as roller marks, flashing and picture framing. There is a vast range of modern and specialist ceiling paints available. You can read a full comparison review here.

If I had to choose one, it would be Tikkurila Anti-Reflex. This is the most popular paint for a ceiling amongst Professional Decorators on DFUK. It has a luxurious soft matt finish, it’s very easy to use, and it’s very forgiving. No roller marks, no defects, just a flawless finish every time.

the best white vinyl matt emulsion to use on a ceiling

Final Thoughts


I hope this has given you everything you need to know on how to paint a ceiling. As a Professional Decorator, I must have painted thousands over the years. Having good tools and using a good quality ceiling paint will make a huge difference. Other than that, it’s just about being methodical and cracking on with it.

Updated May 31, 2024 | Posted Aug 29, 2023 | 0 comments

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Gregory is a Professional Painter and Decorator who works in the Northwest of England. He mainly sub-contracts for large decorating firms and works on a wide variety of projects.


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