how to6 min read

How to paint a ceiling

Hallway with pannelling and painted blue ceiling in Lick paint Blue 111

WordsMaha Elley


When it comes to painting and decorating your home, it’s easy for ceilings to get overlooked. Most people - professionals and amateurs alike - tend to put off this slightly awkward and messy job. But, you’d be surprised at just how much a sloppy ceiling paint job can affect the look and feel of a room. Bite the bullet and give your ceilings a little spruce with a fresh paint job. Don’t you want to admire your home from all angles? 

Thanks to leaky roofs, smoke and spills, it’s also easy for neglected ceilings to get covered in unsightly stains. Learn how to paint a ceiling like a professional and you won’t need to deal with the ugly sight of stains, fading paint or cracked corners again.

Thinking of painting your bathroom? Make sure you check out our top tips for choosing the best paint for a steamy bathroom ceiling.

Gather your tools and paint supplies

Here’s what you’ll need to get started to paint a ceiling: 

Paint Supplies

Prep Supplies

  • Sandpaper block
  • Filler
  • Filling knife 
  • Dust sheet
  • Ladder (for cutting in)

Pro Tip: Use safety glasses so you don’t get paint speckles in your eyes

Protect your furniture

Gathered your gear? Time for prep:  

  • Start by moving your furniture to another room. If you can’t find any other space for it (or it’s on the heavier side) move it to a corner of the room. Drape lots of protective dust sheets over it to save yourselves the hassle of dealing with nightmarish upholstery stains after. 
  • 99% of the time it's best to use matt paint instead of gloss paint, because it hides imperfections, decreases light glare, and doesn’t show the flashing of roller glide marks. Situations, like decorating a kitchen or bathroom, might call for a gloss paint ceiling. 

Best way to paint a ceiling: prep your ceiling surface properly

  • Prep is just as important to ceilings as it is for walls (you can read how to prep walls for painting here).
  • Inspect your ceiling for bumps and gaps. Sand down any bumps with sanding paper and fill in any holes or large cracks with flexi filler. This is also a good time to deal with any ceiling-related issues that you’ve been neglecting. Discover Lick’s Wall Repair Kit, a trusty 3-piece kit to help you achieve a professional finish.
  • Get rid of any grease and dust by cleaning the surface with warm water.

““In most instances, a dust rag should suffice and soap plus water is for heavier grime””

Apply masking tape to protect key areas

If you are not planning on painting the walls too, then first you need to apply masking tape around the edges in order to protect your trim and/or walls. Read our full guide on how to apply masking tape.

  • Starting at the corner of a room, apply your tape by pressing down on the edges firmly to ensure a tight seal so the paint doesn’t bleed through.
  • To paint around a ceiling fixture, make sure you cover up light fixtures and secure painter's tape around the edge of the fixture's base.

Start by painting the ceiling edges

  • Step onto your ladder and start with the corners first. Start to brush paint along the edge of the ceiling, tackling one section at a time. 
  • You will want to use our painting tray, which is smaller and easier to manage when up a ladder. 
  • Using a 1” angled brush start to brush paint along the edge of the ceiling to cut in by about 3 to 4 inches around the perimeter of the ceiling (learn how to cut in paint).

Note: When painting an entire room, our decorators always suggest you paint the ceiling first, and allow 24 hours for the surface to dry before painting your walls. Learn how to paint a wall here.

Shop our Blue 111 cobalt blue paint.

Time to roll out

  • By using a roller instead of a brush you can roll your ceiling fast. Our 9” roller with extension pole is the speediest way to get the job done.
  • Start to roll, working in small sections whilst your cut-in section is still wet. 
  • Always roll your roller in the same direction, following the same lines to decrease visible lap marks on the ceiling. Not sure which way you should roll? Consider where the light is coming into the room and where will the majority of visitors be entering the room. Ideally, you want people to look across the roller line marks rather than down them.
  • Try not to take too long between sections, otherwise the paint will dry along the edges and you’ll see lap marks. You can prevent roller marks by starting each section with an overlap onto the wet edges of the section before.
  • Skip the ladder for this step and use an extension pole to move around the room faster.
  • Reroll as you go for optimum coverage. We’d recommend rerolling every section at a right angle to the first roller direction. 
  • 99% of the time it’s best to use a matt paint instead of a gloss paint because it hides imperfections, decreases light glare and doesnt show the flashing of roller glide marks. Situations, like decorating a kitchen or bathroom, might call for a gloss paint ceiling. 

Tip: Planning to paint the walls too? Lap the paint onto the walls to avoid sloppy edges on the ceiling. Read our guide on how to prep walls for painting and how to paint a wall.