How to Paint
Popcorn Ceilings

When people are renovating their abodes, they often think of painting the walls and/or  furniture. But what about the ceiling? While you may not notice it as often, the color of the ceiling can change the entire atmosphere of a room. 

Written by: Christie Simon 

Tips for Painting Popcorn Ceiling Texture

Painting a ceiling poses quite the challenge. You must be careful to keep your paint away from the trim and walls below. And what happens when you add a popcorn texture to the mix? Also known as cottage cheese or stucco ceilings, these surfaces are full of raised ridges that create challenges when painting.

If you’re ambitious enough to take this project on yourself, don’t worry—we’ve put together a few painting tips that will come in handy:

Prep, Prep, Prep!

Every beautiful paint job starts with a well-prepped surface. One that’s free from cracks, water damage, or flaking layers of old paint will ensure you achieve a smooth surface when you’re finished.

If the ceiling is already damaged, adding a coat of paint will only go so far. What should you do if the ceiling requires repairs before you get to work? The answer depends on what year the texture was applied. 

If you live in an older abode, there may be asbestos in your popcorn ceiling. In general, if it was built before 1980, asbestos may have been used. We recommend working with a professional to repair your ceiling safely before you start painting it.

Prepping before painting saves you more work later on. Paint will only exaggerate existing imperfections, so be sure to perform any necessary repairs before you get started.

Cover Surrounding Areas

Before you break out that bucket of paint, remember that you’ll be working with a ceiling instead of a regular wall. As such, you’ll need to protect everything else in the room. You don’t want to spend time fixing paint splatters on other surfaces once you’re done with the ceiling.

If you’re heavy-handed when applying paint, it may drip down onto the surfaces below. Remove all the furniture that you can from the room, and cover the floor with drop cloths.

Next, apply painter’s tape near the edges of the ceiling. Try to paint as accurately as possible to prevent the paint from dripping and/or seeping through.


When you’re transitioning from dark to light colours, a primer helps you blend more easily. It also provides a solid base for the paint to stick to. Some types of paint already have primers mixed into their formulae. Applying a base coat of primer helps to hide any light stains.

Choose a formula that’s consistent with the base paint you’re using—for example, use an oil-based primer with oil-based paint. 

Choose the Right Brush

We’ve all been tempted by the inexpensive brushes. But a brush that’s designed specifically for textured surfaces is your best bet. Using a brush with a heavy packout of bristles will ensure coverage in all those hard-to-reach crevices in a popcorn ceiling. Try the Chiseled Wedge paintbrush or Trim paintbrushes for great coverage and easy painting! 

A roller is useful for large surface areas, but not for coating small indents. Using a brush that’s too abrasive and firm means you’ll risk damaging the popcorn texture. Stick to bristles that are soft and flexible instead.

Which Type of Paint Works Best?

We recommend sticking with flat instead of glossy paint. A ceiling with too much sheen draws unnecessary attention. Unless you really want to emphasize the popcorn texture, stick to matte paint.

As for the paint itself, a thinner consistency will work best. If the paint is too thick, it won’t spread easily over the popcorn texture. Latex and acrylic paints may need to be thinned out with water. At your local paint shop, look for paints designed for use on ceilings.

You should also consider the type of room that you’re painting. Areas like the kitchen or loo are significantly more humid than a bedroom or salon. In these places, use paint that has moisture-resistant properties to prevent the growth of mould or mildew.

Trying to calculate how much paint you’ll need? A popcorn ceiling is different from a typical wall. Its raised texture gives it additional surface area, so account for that when you’re making your estimate.

Like any paint, the colour of your ceiling will fade over time. A bright white may become yellowed. Even if the paint is in good shape, you just might be ready for a change of colour—like soft beige or a light blue. 

Regardless of the colour you choose, it’s no easy task to paint a popcorn ceiling. The above tips can help your DIY paint project go smoothly.

Zibra makes it simple to find the answers you need and the inspiration to tackle that next home improvement paint project. For more helpful articles like how to paint windows, visit the Zibra How-To-Series. There, you’ll find out the easiest way to do pretty much anything paint-related, like How to Get Paint Out of ClothesHow to Paint Stair Railings, even How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets for an affordable kitchen transformation done right! 

Great for detail work
Chiseled Wedge Paintbrush
Great for detail work
Trim Paintbrush
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