How to Paint a Textured Ceiling

A Textured ceiling is my favorite…said no one ever. 

Painting them is even worse.  Not sure why anyone thought “putting a popcorn or orange peel texture on ceilings would look amazing!”  Hindsight is 20/20. 

We’ve taken the hassle out of how to paint a textured ceiling for you.  Read on to get all the tips and tricks to get this job done easier and faster. 

how to paint a textured ceiling
I get a commission for links in this post.

Do You Need to Paint A New Textured Ceiling? 

Not sure why anyone would be putting in textured ceilings in new builds but here we are.   Can you tell I am not a fan of texture?!?!  Anyways, moving on…

New textured ceilings should be both primed and painted to protect and seal the surface from humidity, mold and mildew.  All the air in your home rises up and hits the ceiling, this includes grease etc.!  The easiest way to paint a textured surface is 100% with a paint sprayer.

Can You Paint Over a Popcorn Ceiling or other Type of Textured Ceiling?

Yes, if your popcorn ceiling needs a refresh or if you’re changing the color, you can definitely paint over it.

Can you Paint a Stippled Ceiling?

Yes, you can definitely paint it.   

It takes more time and effort because you will need to do extra prep work and even buy a special roller. Instead of painstakingly rolling or brushing your popcorn or stippled ceiling, we recommend using a sprayer.  It will make quick work of the textured surface. 

Don’t work harder, work smarter. 

How do You Prepare a Ceiling for Painting?

With a textured ceiling, there isn’t much you can do in the way of sanding.  First, make sure your home is new enough that the asbestos in the texture on the ceiling won’t be an issue.  Then you can tape your edges and start cutting in.

With a regular old flat surface ceiling, you would run a sanding wand over your surface, lighlty scuffing the existing paint to make sure your primer will stick to the surface.  If you’ve got any mold or mildew problems you should clean it first with TSP and wait for it to dry, then prime it will a mold and mildew blocking primer like Kilz.

Do You Need to Cut in When Painting a Ceiling 

You will need to cut in twice.  First, when you’re painting the walls.  You’ll have to cut in close to the ceiling.  Second, you will have to cut in with your ceiling paint right up against the wall.   

We recommend painting your ceilings first.  This means cutting in your ceilings first.  This way, you make sure to prevent any drips or splatters from randomly getting on your freshly painted walls due to gravity.   

There is a tool called a ceiling edging tool.  It’s different than the usual edging rollers available.  While we haven’t used one, it looks pretty neat.  Helps you to cut in with perfectly straight lines every time.   

A total time saver.  You load paint onto the tool and then roll it along the edge of your ceiling or wall. Decent price too! 

how to paint a textured ceiling

How to Cut in a Popcorn Ceiling when Painting  

Oh boy, as if cutting in a ceiling wasn’t bad enough.  Now it’s textured.  Fun times! 

You can’t apply painters tape to a popcorn ceiling.  You will need to use an angled brush here.  Put a bunch of paint on your brush, but apply it lightly to the ceiling.   

Too much paint will make the texture peel off.  Work in small sections and plan on doing a second coat to make sure you have complete coverage. 

You will use more paint on a textured ceiling than a flat ceiling so make sure to work that into your paint budget.  

Using a straightedge with a 3 inch angled brush is a great strategy or use a ceiling edging tool as discussed above to cut in the walls against the ceiling. 

Do You Paint Your Ceilings or Walls First  

We recommend you paint your ceilings first.  This way you are working with gravity, if there are any splatters, drips or drops of paint.   

Plus, most ceilings are flat white.  It is easier to cover up white paint that gets on your walls than colored wall paint on your white ceiling. 

Painting a Textured Ceiling with a Roller Tips  

Thick or Long Nap Rollers are the key to getting an even and complete coat on your textured ceilings.  They have thicker threads/material on them compared to regular rollers.   

For textured ceilings, you should look at getting a ¾ inch nap.  Check the different types you can purchase below. 

Don’t use too much paint on your roller to avoid uneven edges, lines and splatter.  Also, paint in the opposite direction that you painted on your primer.   

Cut in and then paint in small sections so the paint blends together.  

painting a textured ceiling with a roller

How to Paint a Ceiling Without Roller Marks  (textured or not)

Roller marks are usually left behind because the paint was applied too thick.  Also, if you paint too slowly and the paint has a chance to dry before you do your next stroke, then it won’t blend and leave marks.  

This is why you should only cut in one small section at a time and then roll paint on: to ensure it blends perfectly.   Of course, you could just use a paint sprayer and eliminate the rollers and brushes all together! 

How to Paint a Textured Ceiling Like a Pro (with a Paint Sprayer)! 

How to apply textured ceiling paint is best done with a paint sprayer.  When spraying paint, prep work is key. You will want to mask off anything in the room that you don’t want to get overspray on.  For example, light fixtures, electrical outlets, furnace vents, windows, doors etc.   

Move all the furniture out of the room so you have a ton of space to walk and paint overhead.  This avoids start and stop marks on the ceiling from when you’ve stopped/pulled on the sprayer trigger. 

Use a drop cloth, plastic sheeting or newspapers to cover the flooring

Don’t forget to suit up or wear really old clothes that you don’t mind getting paint on.  Also, get out your paint respirator mask and some safety googles and you’re ready to go!

Lightly sand all surfaces that you plan on painting with a pole sander.   Don’t forget your sanding screensYou don’t need to go crazy here, just a quick once over should be enough to get the primer to stick well. 

How to Paint a Ceiling with a Paint Sprayer 

Spraying a textured ceiling is THE way to go.  No other method will deliver professional results on those popcorn or orange peel surfaces.  Below is some advice for getting great results on your ceilings. 

You will absolutely need to strain your primer and paint before running it through your spray gun.  

You might even need to thin it, depending on your sprayer.  Check out our easy to follow instructions on thinning both latex and oil based paints. 

Now fill the reservoir of your spray gun with the paint that you’ve strained into the bucket. Make sure the tip you’re using is compatible with the paint you’re using. 

Different types of paint require different spray gun tips, so refer to your owner’s manual and manufacturer recommendations for best results. 

Once you’ve got the paint loaded into the gun, test your spray pattern on a test board. Use a scrap piece of plywood or cardboard that is lying around somewhere. 

In a pinch, you can even use the paint can. 

Adjust the spray until you receive an even pattern that provides consistent coverage. You can turn the spray into horizontal or vertical patterns based on how you adjust the tip. 

Join our Email List for more Tips and Info!

Let’s Crush that Textured Ceiling DIY!

Then begin to use strokes that move from side-to-side.  You’ll receive a better result if you move your entire arm for the stroke. This will also prevent wrist fatigue from occurring. 

Work in a space that is about 3 feet by 4 feet. Begin with a horizontal pattern, creating sweeps with the paint back-and-forth. Then move to a vertical spray and repeat the process.  

If you move too slowly, the paint will dry on your surface and you’ll create overlapping marks in your paint that you’ll need to fix. 

Begin your arm movement for each stroke before you begin to paint. If you start at one spot and then move, you’ll have a thicker area of paint at your beginning point. 

Try to stop the paint spray before you end your stroke as well. If you do not, your painting project will look more like a connect-the-dots series than a good painted surface. This is called an “understroke.” 

Once you get the hang of painting, you can also try to overspray your strokes to prevent paint buildup. 

If you depress the trigger just before your stroke hits the area being painted and let go just a moment after your stroke ends, then you’ll have a wider area being painted with the same consistency. 

Plan to apply multiple thin coats of paint for best results. One thick coat with a paint spray gun will not usually provide the good results you want. 

Take your time on the project, especially since everything is masked off and protected. It is better to get the job done right the first time around, so you’re not stuck going back to fix problems day after day. 

Recommended Textured Ceiling Paint Sprayers

#1. Graco Ultra Cordless

graco ultra cordless airless review
  • Powered by DEWALT XR Lithium Ion System
  • Fully Repairable for Extended Life
  • Uses RAC X FFLP Spray Tips
  • Triax Triple Piston Pump with ProConnect

If you need the convenience of a cordless sprayer, but want the effectiveness of an airless sprayer too, then this is the model for you.  It’s flexibility and profitability make it perfect from spraying a textured ceiling.

The pressure controls are the nicest feature of this Graco Cordless Paint Gun. You can adjust your PSI levels to work at the speed you are most comfortable.

You’re given the possibility of a perfect finish every time and at any speed. Most paints don’t require any thinning either, which decreases your overall prep time.

It features a triple piston pump and RAC X FFLP spray tips to provide a strong and consistent spraying experience. Two 20V lithium-ion batteries from DeWalt are included with your purchase as well.

What’s awesome about Graco Spray Tips is that you can switch to any tip you need, including a fine finish low pressure tip!  Get all the spray tip info you need, straight from Graco.

Compared to the older models that used to be manufactured, the Graco Ultra Cordless Airless Handheld Paint Sprayer provides an incredible experience. We found it to be well worth the investment.

If you’re interested in taking a look at a few more cordless sprayers, we take a look at a few of the best models available in our cordless sprayer reviews.

Low upkeep
Perfect Lighting
Easy to set up
Doesnt take up much space

Easy to damage
Time to set up and take down

#2. Graco Magnum X5

graco magnum x5 airless best paint sprayer

With this Graco airless spray gun, you receive a paint sprayer that is fully adjustable. You stay in control of the flow of the paint as you work to create specific results.

At the same time, the stainless-steel piston pump is strong enough to let you spray paint that hasn’t been thinned at a high enough pressure for consistent results.

Latex paint works the best. It did an adequate job with some stains, but it had to be a stain with a thicker viscosity. 

This tool will take the paint directly from the can for you so that you can get started painting immediately.

It works with both 1 gallon and 5 gallon cans thanks to a paint supply hose that is flexible instead of rigid like other models with a similar design.  Hook yourself up with a 20 inch extension rod and save your back.

When storing, put some Graco Pump Armor into your sprayer to protect the pump parts.  You’ll thank me later.

Weighing 15 pounds, you can also take this unit just about anywhere and achieve professional results.

We also appreciated the easy-to-access adjustable pressure controls that are on this Graco paint spray gun

Everything you need is placed on a dial that is easy to turn, even while working, and the symbols for each setting are placed in such a way that you can easily see them so you don’t have to guess at what you’re doing.

Sprays unthinned materials
Awesome Quality
Easy Clean PowerFlush Adapter

Limited to tip sizes smaller than 515

#3. Wagner Control Spray Max

best paint sprayer
  • Turbine system
  • 1.5 quart cup
  • 20 ft hose
  • 2 nozzles included: one for detail smooth finish another for semi smooth finish

This model by Wagner is extremely reliable to get that textured ceiling done, without breaking your budget.

No matter what type of paint or stain you choose to spray, the Wagner Control Spray Max HVLP Sprayer gives you options.

You can spray a pattern of ½-inch in size to 1 foot in size with the same optimal levels of control.

Wagner suggests that you can thin latex paint by 10% to 20% to achieve the finish that you want. We found that for some latex paint options, you may need to thin it by up to 40%.

That means you’ve got to pay close attention to your spray to avoid clogging issues. Going beyond that level of usefulness is difficult.

Painting a bedroom wall, for example, would not be feasible with this equipment. You wouldn’t want to take it outside to paint a fence.

Painting the exterior of a home? Forget about it.

1/2 inch to 12 inch fan width
No compressor needed
Flow and air pressure are adjustable

Hose might be too short for some
Oil based paint is a no no
Large Investment

Painting Ceilings Problems and How to Solve Them 

The biggest problem when painting a ceiling, textured or not, is getting the edging line straight where the ceiling meets the wall.  

To solve this, use edging tools like a ceiling edging tool or an edging roller.  

Blending the cut in portions with the paint is another issue that can be solved by cutting in and then painting in small sections before the paint dries. 

Uneven paint is another issue.  Make sure that you don’t use too much paint on your brushes or rollers, and use even quick strokes with your sprayer.  

Also, prime your ceiling before you paint it to create a smooth surface for the new paint to bond to. 

To avoid seeing lines in your ceiling, remember to paint your primer in one direction and then the 1st coat of paint in the opposite direction.  Lay down the 2nd coat of paint in the same direction as your primer and you won’t see any lines showing through. 

Always paint your ceilings with a flat finish to hide imperfections.  You don’t need to buy ceiling paint, just a regular old flat finish paint will do.  

If you hate that textured ceiling you may be thinking of removing it. Before you do that, you have to know that if it was installed before a certain date it might contain asbestos! Best to call a pro to test it before doing any DIY, especially if your home was built before the mid 1980s.

How to Paint a Ceiling without Making a Mess 

Not making a mess all comes down to taking the time to do proper prep work.  Remove all the furniture from the room and anything you don’t want to get any paint on.   

Lay down plastic sheeting or newspapers to cover your flooring, counters, anything you want to keep clean.

Also, hanging some sheeting in front of the window would be ideal; then nothing will get on there. 

If you’re going to be using a sprayer, you will definitely want to get yourself an extension wand to reach the ceiling easily without breaking your back, a sturdy ladder, and make sure that your hose will reach far enough for when you’re up the ladder a few feet or walking the length of the room. 

How to Paint a Large Ceiling 

Painting a large ceiling can actually get done pretty fast.   

You would follow the same steps as painting a smaller ceiling, but you will have to work a bit faster to make sure you are blending the paint strokes together before they dry.   

Only cut in small sections at a time as well to prevent the same thing from happening. Get a friend to come by to help and crush those big ceilings in no time. 


What is Backrolling? 

It basically means that after the paint has been applied to the surface with a paint sprayer, the user must then use a brush or roller to create a coat that is more even or can better penetrate the application surface.  

First you spray, then you brush, and then the paint dries.   

Not every surface requires backrolling, but if you’re painting unfinished wood or wood that has been previously painted or stained, it’s a good idea to do so even if the tool doesn’t recommend that it needs to be done. 

How to Paint a Ceiling with a Brush 

Wow.  This could take a few hours or more if you’re planning on only using a brush to paint your ceiling! 

Just like with a sprayer or roller, you would cut in your ceiling with an angle brush in small sections and then brush paint onto the ceiling. 

The problem is that the paint will dry as you are painting leaving spot where the paint isn’t blended very well.  It will look uneven, with streak marks as it dries.  Spend a few bucks and grab yourself a roller and a tray.  Please! 

How to Paint a Ceiling Without Streaks 

The best way to avoid marks is to overlap your roller and/or sprayer painting strokes by 50%.  Another tip is to roll and spray with techniques to avoid applying the paint too thick or too thin.   

Third, is painting with enough speed so that the previous stroke doesn’t have a chance to dry before you paint over it with your next stroke.   

Painting over paint that is dry prevents it from blending together, leaving marks.  This is also why you should only cut in on your walls etc. in small sections and then paint that section right away. 

When rolling, try not to apply a bunch of pressure onto the ceiling via the roller.  This will avoid ridges of paint forming at the edges of the roller. 

Do Ceilings Need to be Primed? 

Should you primer a ceiling before painting?  Of course, you should prime all surfaces that you plan on painting. 

Primer helps paint to bond to the surface, makes your paint last longer, and makes the colors richer.  It also protects against moisture, humidity, mold and mildew. 

What kind of Paint Do You use on a Textured Ceiling?

Some folks will try to sell you on buying paint labelled as ceiling paint.  Don’t fall for it.  You can use any old flat finish paint or even an eggshell to paint your textured ceiling.

Can You Just Prime a Ceiling and Not Paint? 

Well yes, if for some reason you can’t finish off painting your ceiling, you could leave it primed (but not painted) for up to 30 days. 

After that, the benefits that you get from the primer will no longer work and you will have to reprime before painting. 

How Many Coats of Primer on a Ceiling?  Does a Ceiling Need 2 Coats of Paint? 

Standard coats of primer on any surface is 2.  That way you make sure to have full even coverage and get all the benefits that come with using primer.   Make sure you know how long it takes primer to dry before applying a coat of paint.

Same goes for paint.  Painting new ceilings is ditto.  2 coats is the standard amount recommended by most manufacturers. 

How Long Between Paint Coats on a Ceiling? 

If you’re brushing/rolling on paint in ideal conditions (a low humidity, higher temp environment with ventilation), each coat of paint should only take an hour or two to dry. 

If you’re spraying paint, this time will be reduced because you are putting on thinner coats than if you brushed or rolled the paint on. 

Get full details about how long you should wait between coats of paint.

Best Way to Paint a Ceiling Without Splashing 

Make sure not to put too much paint on your brushes and rollers.  Not only will this lead to paint splattering and splashing everywhere, your paint job will be uneven and drying time will be affected. 

Do You Paint a Ceiling Towards the Window? 

Which direction should you paint a ceiling?  We recommend starting from the part of the ceiling closest to the window and working you way across the room.   

This way the light from the window shows up anything you’ve missed on the ceiling.  Make sure that your spray pattern is perpendicular to the entrance of the room too. 

Textured Ceiling Conclusion

Painting textured ceilings is no fun, but we hope with the tips and tricks above, that you are more confident than ever to tackle your DIY! 


What spray gun should I use to paint my textured ceiling?

Check out our indoor paint sprayer post with detailed discussion and reviews of the best indoor paint sprayers.