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How to Paint a Ceiling


A modern kitchen with a clay colored ceiling.
Julien Fernandez | GAP Photos

Make your fifth wall pop with a color expert’s how-to steps.

Walls and trim seem to get all the attention when it comes to paint makeovers. Next time you aim to liven up a room with color, look at your ceiling: It may just be the key to waking up a tired room, without a pricey remodel. We aren’t the only ones who like a little color on the ceiling. Dee Schlotter, national color brand manager for PPG The Voice of Color Program, considers the ceiling a room’s “fifth wall,” and urges homeowners to remember it when creating a space’s color design.

Tap into the paint potential with our suggestions for adding color to ceilings. Schlotter suggests going a shade lighter or darker than the wall color for a sophisticated look.

Steps for Painting Your Ceiling

Whichever end of the spectrum you decide on, follow her PPG-approved steps for getting a neat paint job for your fifth wall.

Step 1: Get the right amount of paint

Determine how much paint you’ll need by measuring the square footage of the room. Many paint labels indicate how much square footage one can will cover—typically 300 to 450 square feet, depending on the type of paint.

Step 2: Prep the room

Prep the room by removing furniture and ceiling fixtures and using drop cloths to cover surfaces you can’t move. Get more tips on protecting surfaces in our video, How to Prep a Room for Paint.

Step 3: Start with the ceiling edges

Using a stepladder, begin painting the ceiling edges where the ceiling meets the wall by cutting in with a brush, creating a border 2 to 3 inches wide. Perfect the technique by watching our video, How to Cut in Paint Edges With a Brush.

Step 4: Paint the rest of the ceiling

While standing on the floor, use a roller with an extension handle to paint the rest of the ceiling. Work in 4-by-4-foot sections, starting in a corner of one section and using diagonal or zigzag strokes to cover the section’s surface.

Step 5: Apply longer strokes

Once you cover a section, use the roller to go back over it with longer strokes to even out the paint coverage.

Step 6: Paint a new section

Start painting a new section at the edge of the previous one; before the first section dries, work to blend its edge with the new section.

Step 7: Paint Finishing Strokes

After all the sections are covered, paint the finishing strokes in the same direction, working lengthwise across the ceiling.