What are the Best Tips for Painting Popcorn Ceilings?

Misty Amber Brighton

Before painting popcorn ceilings, it might be a good idea to clear as much furniture from the room as possible. Things that are too heavy or awkward to move should be covered with plastic so paint won't get on them. Choosing the right paint is important, and acrylic paints are not recommended. People who have experience with a paint sprayer may want to use one to do this job. If a paint gun is not used, a coarse paintbrush might work better than a roller brush.

Paint and a paint brush.
Paint and a paint brush.

Paint can splatter and run when people are painting popcorn ceilings. For this reason, it is a good idea to remove as much furniture as possible from the room being painted. In the event some items cannot be moved, they should nonetheless be covered with heavy plastic or a tarp to keep them from being damaged. It is also a good idea to cover the floors with a drop cloth to speed cleanup later.

Supplies for painting.
Supplies for painting.

Using the right paint can make the job go smoother. A good quality latex paint is normally recommended. Acrylic paint can sometimes cause the texture to peel or tear, so it is not advisable to use this type of paint. If acrylic paint is used, it might need to be thinned with water first.

Sponge brushes may smear or tear paint.
Sponge brushes may smear or tear paint.

A paint sprayer can help complete this job quicker and with less mess. An airless model paint gun is normally ideal for painting popcorn ceilings. It is important to use the right tip so the equipment doesn't leave runs on the ceiling. People who are not sure which tip to use should ask a professional painter for advice.

If the job is completed by hand, it is best to use a paintbrush rather than a roller. This is because a paint roller can cause paint to splatter and might also cover the ceiling unevenly. A wide paintbrush with coarse fibers is generally recommended for painting popcorn ceilings. Sponge type paintbrushes may tear or smear paint.

While popcorn ceilings can add visual interest to a room, they can often be difficult to keep freshly painted. People who are thinking about completing this home improvement project should plan on purchasing the right paint and equipment to do the job properly. They may also want to allow more time do this than other painting projects. These efforts can be rewarded with a brightened room for many years to come.

Avoid using paint rollers to paint popcorn ceilings as they are often unable to distributed an even coat of paint on the heavily textured surface.
Avoid using paint rollers to paint popcorn ceilings as they are often unable to distributed an even coat of paint on the heavily textured surface.

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Discussion Comments


@Bagly79: It's not difficult to remove a popcorn ceiling, but it is extremely messy. My husband used a sprayer with water (the kind you normally spray the lawn with), but you can use a large spray bottle. Once the ceiling is soaked, you can scrape the popcorn off with a drywall blade or wide scraper. The popcorn is generally made from a drywall mud type substance, so it scrapes right off.

The problem we had is that the concrete ceilings underneath were not pretty and would require a lot of prep work to make them livable. We tried it in a closet and weren't thrilled with the results, and the time and mess to get the rest of the apartment done, so we are leaving the popcorn on the rest of the ceilings.


@LisaLou - I had to laugh when I read your post, as I want nothing to do with popcorn ceilings.

We recently moved in to an older home that needed some fixing up, and the first thing I wanted to do was get rid of the 'cottage cheese' ceilings.

I think they make the home look outdated, and remembered reading somewhere that popcorn ceilings may have asbestos in them.

The frustrating part is there were several other jobs that really needed to be done first, and we have never got around to it.

Does anybody have any experience in how to remove a popcorn ceiling? I imagine it might not be as easy as I am hoping.

This is still something I want to take care of, and now that the other big jobs are out of the way, think it is time to get this scratched off my list.


When we bought our first house I got the crazy notion that I wanted popcorn ceilings in some of the rooms.

Not having much money, this was something we were going to tackle ourselves. Needless to say, only one ceiling ever got painted this way.

Before getting started I read articles on how to paint a popcorn ceiling, and thought it would be a piece of cake.

The process itself wasn't so bad, but I quickly discovered that painting any kind of ceiling was a lot of work. This is a lot different than just putting a new coat of paint on the walls.

You really have to make sure you have everything completely out of the way or totally covered up. It is just too easy for paint to get everywhere.

This is one job I know I won't try to tackle again.


I have been a professional painter for about 10 years now and I can tell you from experience that painting a popcorn ceiling is a pretty difficult job for a novice painter. I can remember the first few that I painted and these jobs were definitely not easy.

Planning is the biggest thing to keep in mind when you are painting. Having the space ready and all your paint and tools on hand is really important. The more work you can do before you start painting the easier the job will go.

Once you get started painting, take your time. The biggest mistake I see people make when they try to tackle their own painting projects is trying to use too much paint too quickly. Don't slather it on but use even, consistent strokes with a modest amount of paint. This greatly reduces the amount of paint that will drip on your hair and floor.

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