How to Paint a Popcorn Ceiling

paint popcorn ceiling
  • 3-6 hours
  • Intermediate
  • $50-$150
What You'll Need
Paint and tray
A segmented foam paint roller
Plastic sheeting
Face masks
Safety glasses
Hat (optional)
An airless spraying device

Painting popcorn ceilings can seem intimidating because of their irregular texture, but it’s actually a simple process once you know what to do. There are two general ways to paint popcorn ceilings. These steps will help take you through both methods so that you can decide which is best for your project.

TIP: Painting a ceiling always runs the risk you'll get paint in your eyes or mouth, and using spray paint runs the risk you'll inhale paint particles. Put on a respirator mask and safety glasses (and a hat if you want to keep paint out of your hair) before you start working.

Method 1 - Hand Painting a Popcorn Ceiling

Step 1 - Preparation

Protect the work area from splashes and drips by covering the entire room with heavy duty plastic sheeting and remove any items of furniture that cannot be properly covered.

Even when applied evenly, gravity may pool the paint to the peaks and points of the popcorn causing drips throughout the process. Make sure everything under the ceiling gets covered.

Step 2 - Add Paint to Tray

Add a large quantity of paint to the basin of your paint tray. Take your segmented foam paint roller and use the textured surface of the paint tray to remove any surplus material. By removing the excess paint, you will allow for the even distribution of paint and minimize paint splashes.

Step 3 - Apply Paint

Begin painting the ceiling. Try to use complete movements of the roller in one direction instead of rolling back and forth using short strokes. Even coating prevents the paint from saturating into the ceiling and reduces the risk of peeling.

Areas that have not received enough paint coverage should be left to dry thoroughly before applying an additional coat.

Method 2 - Spray Painting a Popcorn Ceiling

Step 1 - Preparation

Airless spraying devices are ideal for painting popcorn ceilings, but they can easily make quite a mess. Again, heavy duty plastic should be draped on the walls, floors, and furniture to prevent overspray.

Use 2-inch masking tape to keep the sheeting in place and to provide a defined edge for the paint. A pole gun will also be beneficial. They are available in a range of lengths up to 6 feet maximum.

Step 2 - Add Paint to the Sprayer

Fill the sprayer’s holding compartment with the paint. Most airless spraying devices will spray the paint out quite easily. If you find that the material isn’t flowing well, try adding water (10%-20%) to the paint in order to thin it for effective application.

Step 3 - Painting

Paint should be applied in two separate coats. The first coat should be completed by spraying in one direction until the entire length of ceiling is complete. Be sure to slightly overlap each individual line of sprayed paint to prevent dry edges from forming.

Wait two hours for the paint to dry before spraying a second coat. The second coat should be sprayed in the opposite direction to the first in order to promote maximum coverage and a consistent finish. Popcorn ceilings that have never been painted can be extremely porous. Several coats could be necessary before an even texture of paint is achieved.