How to Paint a Popcorn Ceiling in 5 Easy Steps

Are your popcorn ceilings looking tired and discolored? If you want to breathe new life into your home’s ceiling without scraping away the textured surface, a fresh coat of paint could be all you need!

Learning how to paint a popcorn ceiling is not much different from any other surface in your home. As long as you take care not to damage the raised texture as you work, repainting a popcorn ceiling could take as little as a couple of hours.

To get a better idea of what a popcorn ceiling is and what you need to consider when dealing with any design, repair or removal read our guide: What Is a Popcorn Ceiling? 4 Pros And Cons Of Popcorn Ceilings.

Here’s everything you need to know about tackling this simple and economical interior update by yourself:

Can You Paint Popcorn Ceiling Texture?

Painting a popcorn ceiling requires a bit more care than painting a perfectly smooth one. But it is possible!

Applying a fresh coat of paint is a great solution to hide discoloration and other imperfections that can appear throughout the life of a ceiling.

It can also be a wonderful way to update the room with a new ceiling color.

Is It Safe To Paint Popcorn Ceilings Containing Asbestos?

Some popcorn ceilings (as a general rule, those installed before the mid-1980s) contain asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that can cause serious health problems if inhaled.

The good news is that asbestos-containing ceilings are typically harmless unless disturbed. This is because the asbestos inside the ceiling isn’t airborne.

Painting a popcorn ceiling with asbestos can be an effective way to “seal” the asbestos particles for an extra layer of protection.

While painting is possible, applying a brush or roller to the ceiling could release asbestos into the air. We recommend hiring professional painters who have the skill and equipment needed to prevent this.

5 Best Roller for Popcorn Ceiling

Top 5 Paint Roller Covers For Popcorn Ceilings:-

  1. Wooster Brush Popcorn Acoustical Roller Cover
  2. FOAM PRO Foam Paint Roller
  3. Wagner SMART Paint Roller
  4. Pro Grade Paint Roller Covers
  5. Bates Paint Roller Covers

What You Need To Begin

Before getting started, here are the basic supplies you’ll need to paint a popcorn ceiling:

  • Interior ceiling paint
  • Angled brush
  • Roller with extension handle OR airless paint sprayer
  • Face mask/respirator
  • Protective eyewear
  • Drop cloths
  • Plastic sheets
  • Ladder
  • Paint bucket
  • Painter’s tape

Choosing the Best Paint for a Popcorn Ceiling

Opt for an acrylic-latex paint formulated for indoor use. If possible, select a paint formula marketed for use on ceilings.

A glossy painted ceiling will reflect light — smooth or not. It will also highlight imperfections in the ceiling’s surface.

You can avoid glare and disguise imperfections by choosing a matte or flat paint formula.

Pro Tip: The bumpy texture means there’s more surface area to cover than a smooth ceiling. This Old House recommends buying 15-20% more paint to account for this extra coverage!

Priming is technically optional when painting a popcorn ceiling. Many ceiling paints also include a built-in primer.

If your current popcorn ceiling is particularly old or stained, we recommend taking the time to apply a separate stain-blocking primer before applying the topcoat.

The extra labor and expense will be worth it for a more professional-looking finished product!

Choosing the Best Roller for a Popcorn Ceiling

If you opt to paint your popcorn ceiling with a roller, not just any cover will do. The right roller cover is the key to painting a popcorn ceiling with minimal mess and stress.

The ideal roller for a popcorn ceiling must be thick and non-shedding. Most rollers that meet these requirements are made of lambswool or synthetic fibers.

In terms of thickness, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Start with a nap thickness of at least ½-inch, depending on how rough your ceiling is, and adjust as needed.

Pro Tip: A roller cover that is too thick can make the popcorn texture even more pronounced. Don’t be afraid to switch to a different roller cover if the first one you try isn’t working.

Paint rollers are available in many different lengths. While longer rollers can make quick work of a project, they can be unwieldy in the hands of a non-professional.

A long roller will also be quite heavy once loaded with paint. We recommend using the longest roller that still feels comfortable in your hands — err on the shorter side if you’re unsure.

How To Paint a Popcorn Ceiling With a Brush/Roller in 5 Steps

1. Prep the Space

prep the space

Painting a ceiling is even messier work than painting a wall. It’s important to remove as many items from the room as possible before getting started.

Remove vent covers, light fixtures, and other objects mounted to the ceiling. Cover any objects that cannot be removed with plastic or a drop cloth.

Cover the entire floor and surrounding walls with plastic sheeting. Use painter’s tape to secure this protective layer as needed.

2. Clean the Ceiling

clean the ceiling

Next, you need to thoroughly clean the ceiling’s surface. Don’t skip this step!

The easiest and quickest way to clean a popcorn ceiling before painting is with a vacuum brush attachment. Vacuum the entire ceiling.

You may not be able to see all collected dust or cobwebs at first glance.

Pro Tip: Use very light pressure — the bristles should be the only thing that actually touches the ceiling. Bumping the ceiling with a hard vacuum nozzle could knock some of the popcorn texture loose.

3. Repair Damage (Optional)

If your ceiling needs repairs, now is the perfect time to address damaged areas. Be sure to double-check the required dry times for any popcorn ceiling patches you use.

Allow plenty of time for the product to set before applying paint.

4. Cut in Edges

cut in edges

Using an angled paintbrush, paint the edges of the ceiling. Cut in the edges where the ceiling meets the surrounding walls.

This is also when you should paint around lights, outlets, vents, and other ceiling fixtures.

5. Paint the Ceiling

paint the ceiling

Once the perimeter of the ceiling has been cut in, you can switch to a larger brush or (ideally) a paint roller.

Pro Tip: Let your roller soak in the paint for up to 30 minutes to fully saturate the material. This will improve coverage and shorten the time it takes to cover the entire ceiling.

Use minimal pressure when rolling paint onto the ceiling. Popcorn texture is already quite fragile, and the moisture from the paint can make it even more prone to flaking.

Popcorn ceilings that have been painted previously are less likely to be damaged by a paint roller.

How To Paint a Popcorn Ceiling With a Sprayer in 5 Steps

1. Prep the Space

prep the space

Empty the room and cover all remaining surfaces with plastic drop cloths. Use masking or painter’s tape to secure the plastic in place and seal the edges.

An airtight protective layer is even more important when using a sprayer versus painting with a brush and roller. Any surfaces left exposed no matter how small could end up covered in paint.

2. Clean the Ceiling

clean the ceiling

Using a soft-bristled vacuum attachment, clean the ceiling’s surface just as you would before using a roller and brush.

3. Protect Yourself

protect yourself

Before using a sprayer on your ceiling, be sure you have the necessary protective gear. At the bare minimum, you should wear a ventilator and safety goggles.

The more of your body and clothing that are covered during this project, the easier it will be to clean up afterward.

4. Patch Holes (Optional)

Again, now is the ideal time to address any damage to the popcorn texture that will not be hidden by a fresh coat of paint.

5. Apply the Paint

apply the paint

Starting on one edge of the ceiling, begin spraying the paint. Continue each stroke along the entire length of the ceiling.

As you work your way across the ceiling, overlap your strokes to ensure no spots are missed. Repeat as needed until the entire ceiling is evenly painted.

Pro Tip: Apply paint using multi-directional strokes for the smoothest and most consistent coverage.

Final Thoughts

Painting a popcorn ceiling is a great way to refresh your living space without the time or mess of removing the texture altogether.

It can also be an effective method for “sealing in” harmful substances like asbestos or lead that are present in some popcorn ceilings.

As with any interior design project, using the proper tools and adequately preparing your workspace is a recipe for stunning results.

Don’t cut corners, and you’ll soon find yourself with a popcorn ceiling that looks like it was installed yesterday!