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Popcorn Ceiling iStock

Popcorn ceilings may be called different names like acoustic ceilings, cottage cheese ceilings, or stucco ceilings, but the telltale textured, bumpy look is the same. To get this “cottage cheese” effect, small particles are mixed with paint and drywall and applied to the ceiling.

And while the popcorn ceiling has become less popular over the years, it was a common mid-century feature that’s still seen in many homes.

Before Painting a Popcorn Ceiling:

Mike Poellinger, President of Poellinger Inc., a residential and commercial construction company, stresses that using a primer ensures uniform color.

To save yourself time during this DIY painting project, choose a ceiling paint that also includes a primer.

What Type of Paint and Finish Should Be Used?

As with any type of ceiling, whether it’s a textured or drywall, a flat paint made for interiors is best at hiding imperfections and flaws.

Additionally, choose a paint made specifically for ceilings and plan to buy about 15 to 20 percent more paint than you need to account for the extra surface area from the texture.

What Type of Roller is Recommended?

Painting a popcorn ceiling is much easier (and faster) with a paint sprayer. But if you don’t have access to a paint sprayer or renting one is not an option, Poellinger recommends choosing a roller that matches the thickness of the texture you are painting.

“If too heavy of a nap roller is used, it may exaggerate the existing texture,” he says, adding that “a ⅜-inch nap roller will cover a fine-to-medium texture while a ½-inch roller will cover a heavy texture, noting that the heavier the nap roller, the more difficult it is to achieve a uniform coat."

Also, make sure to choose a wide roller, made of synthetic material—as to not damage the texture of the ceiling—and one that specifically says it is designed for textured and rough surfaces like a popcorn ceiling.

What Tools Are Needed to Paint a Popcorn Ceiling?

In addition to paint, you’ll need these tools to paint a popcorn ceiling:

How to Paint a Popcorn Ceiling

  1. Remove all items from the room. Protect hanging fixtures with painter’s plastic or plastic bags, making sure the lights are off first. Add drop cloths to protect the floors.
  2. With the soft brush attachment of your vacuum, gently vacuum the ceiling to remove dust, dirt, and cobwebs. You can also use a feather duster to knock off the dust from the ceiling and let it collect on the drop cloths.
  3. Use painter’s tape to attach plastic sheeting to the walls to protect them from paint splatters.
  4. With a brush loaded with paint, gently cut in and paint along the edges of the ceiling.
  5. Generously load the roller with paint and apply to the popcorn ceiling in one direction, taking care not to saturate the ceiling with paint—if the ceiling is unprimed, the popcorn texture may absorb the paint, become too heavy, and fall off.
  6. Let the paint dry completely.
  7. Apply another coat of paint in the opposite direction, smoothing and eliminating any lines from the first application.
  8. Let dry. Inspect any spots that need a touch-up and apply paint with a brush; otherwise, clean up and remove all materials from the room.
  9. Label the paint container with the room name, seal, and store in a dry, cool place.