Spray or roll – I just can’t decide

Updated May 8, 2024 | Posted Feb 20, 2020 | Professional insight, Miscellaneous, Tool Insight | 2 comments

It’s a dilemma that we all go through, but we think it is just us. I am here to tell you that you’re not the only one and we all have those days when we can’t decide if we should roll that ceiling or spray it.

I am talking here from personal experience, but I am sure that you will all recognise yourself in this. It all starts off with you rolling everything. You only need a roller, a brush and a roller bucket. It’s a well worn process. Sheet up. Decant your paint into the roller bucket (trays are for amateurs) and you decant a little more into a paint kettle and you start to cut in.


Using a Paint Roller

All around the edges you go and then you fill in the middle with the roller. You can use a roller pole if it’s a high ceiling, but the cutting in will have to be done off steps. A mate of mine puts his brush in the end of a bit of copper pipe and cuts in off the floor but I am not sure if that’s a good idea or not.

Once it’s complete, the ceiling looks great. Well I used to think it looked great, these days I am so used to seeing a sprayed ceiling that a rollered one looks a bit poor.

Anyway, back to the plot.


Checking Out Spraying


Then you hear that some people are spraying their walls and ceilings, especially if they are bare plaster. So, you do a little research, google “spraying” and find that the best system to apply emulsion to walls and ceilings is an airless sprayer.

Wow, they are expensive though. What I did was ask around and I found a decorator friend who had an old Graco 495 in his shed that he had never used. “You can borrow this Pete, I never use it”

The next job coming up was a full house, all bare plaster and perfect for the sprayer. I had done loads of spraying at college so I was confident that I would be fine. At first setting up the sprayer is a bit time consuming and fiddly but once you are up and running you are away. This is fun, and so fast!!

The finish is pretty amazing too. “I am never going to use a roller again!” I say to myself. After a while the novelty wears off and you find yourself on a smaller job.


The Day of the Dilemma


It’s a lounge, the carpet has been taken up and it’s all being emulsioned.

I strike up a conversation with myself; –

“Shall I spray it?”

“No, it’s not worth it for one ceiling”

“It will be a great finish though!”

“I am not sure I can be bothered getting all the gear out of the van”

“It didn’t take long last time”

“Oh, I will just roll it”

It’s a good job the customer is out or else they will think I am a nutter talking to myself. Self-employment eh?

I get my roller and brushes out and start cutting in. Now a little voice in my head is saying….

“You would have sprayed it by now”

You carry on though, it’s slow and it is hard work really. The ceiling does not cover with the first coat, and you have to wait for it to dry before you can give it another coat.

“Never again” you vow, “I am spraying the next one”

But you don’t.


Old Habits Die Hard


For some reason old habits die hard. You have got to push through and spray every ceiling you get.


Masking takes seconds (the pendant usually) you have to sheet up the floor anyway. These days it takes me minutes to set up the sprayer and minutes to put it away.

In fact, I would rather wash out the sprayer over a roller any day.

It took a while though to get to this stage. I can understand decorators who hit a few problems the first time that they spray and then give up, relegate the sprayer to the garage and roll forever.

In time you get better and better at it, the finish is amazing if you use the right techniques and products and the customer is always interested in your new approach. Word gets around fast. People want the flawless ceilings that you can provide, the orange peel roller texture just does not cut it anymore.


What You Should Do


If you have bought yourself a sprayer and you are new spraying then ceilings are a great way to learn, avoid the roller or spray dilemma and power through. Promise yourself that you are going to spray the next 10 ceilings no matter how big or how small.

You won’t regret it.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. If you enjoyed it, you may want to check out my books Fast and Flawless  and Fast and Flawless Pricing

Blog written by Pete Wilkinson – Instructor at the Paint Tech Training Academy

Updated May 8, 2024 | Posted Feb 20, 2020 | 2 comments

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.


  1. Darren Webb

    I used to be exactly the same but now I spray every ceiling unless it’s a tiny wc or similar! Spray so often now I can setup my sprayer and clean it out in a matter of minutes! Certainly a lot quicker than washing out a brush an roller and totally agree the finish is flawless!

    • Darian Crowther

      Which spraying system do you use airless or hvlp. Are there any paint types that work better with spraying


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