How to Paint Popcorn Ceilings

Oct 29, 2022 | Ceilings, Home Improvement

How to paint a popcorn ceiling:

How to Paint Popcorn Ceilings - 4

Repainting a popcorn ceiling with a roller. : Image Source: Adobe Stock via Standard Image License..

Project Outline

  • Estimated Working Time: 2 – 4 hrs
  • Total Project Time: 1 – 2 days
  • Yield or Coverage: 500 square feet of ceiling
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated DIY Cost: $100 to $150

If you want to learn how to paint popcorn ceilings like a professional painter, you’ve come to the right place! A fresh coat of paint can brighten the entire room, cover water stains, and hide imperfections like nicotine stains. Below, our experts from Robinson Painting of Colorado in Lafayette, CO, explain everything you need to know.

Type and Quantity of Paint to Use

Popcorn ceilings are made of foam balls mixed into drywall, creating a finish that looks like cottage cheese. The heavy texture creates acoustic ceilings that absorb sound better and cost less. While popcorn ceilings offer a few benefits, many homeowners consider them outdated and want to refresh their homes by painting over the ceiling texture.

When selecting your materials for a DIY project, you must choose the best paint for popcorn textures. Painting a popcorn ceiling requires different materials than a flat ceiling – interior acrylic latex paint is the best option.

How much paint you need depends on the size of your ceiling. For example, one gallon of paint typically covers 400 to 500 square footage for flat finishes. However, if you have a popcorn ceiling, you should double this amount to paint the entire ceiling.

Popcorn ceilings require two coats of thick paint for even coverage. The more paint you use, the more you can evenly fill between the nooks and crannies, although too much can create streaky results.

How to Paint a Popcorn Ceiling: Picking the Right Color and Finish

When researching “how to paint a popcorn ceiling,” the most exciting choice might be selecting the color and finish. Most people choose a matte or flat paint sheen for ceilings. We recommend satin, eggshell, or semi-gloss paints if you need more moisture protection.

Remember that brighter tones help the space feel bigger. Some recommend an off-white or gray finish, though don’t feel afraid to pick bright white. Avoid dark colors in small rooms that don’t receive much natural light.

How Do You Repaint a Popcorn Ceiling to Freshen an Old Coat?

If you’ve already painted your popcorn ceiling in the past, then you’re familiar with picking the right paint and colors. When refreshing the coat, you can either stick with your current color or pick something new.

If you want to cover up old stains, you don’t need to choose a dark shade. Instead, we recommend using an oil-based primer to hide discoloration.

Paint, Cover, or Remove Popcorn Ceiling

How to Paint Popcorn Ceilings 1

A woman repaints a ceiling – DIY Project. : Image Source: Adobe Stock via Standard Image License..

There are several ways to cover textured ceilings. Painting over the popcorn ceiling is the quickest and easiest fix, though you can also cover the popcorn texture or remove it. Below, we will discuss the pros and cons of each of these methods.

When considering these options, keep in mind the potential asbestos risks. Asbestos is a material that manufacturers frequently used in many products manufactured before 1978, including popcorn ceilings. Asbestos exposure can lead to mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

Treating or removing your popcorn paint might put you at risk of asbestos exposure. To avoid this risk, you can have your ceiling tested for asbestos before completing any projects.

Pros and Cons of Ceiling Paint

Painting over a popcorn ceiling is usually the fastest and simplest option, though it’s more of a “Band-Aid” solution.

Benefits of painting include:

  • Achieve results in just a couple of days
  • Spend only a few hundred dollars (depending on the size of your ceiling)
  • Seal potential materials that contain asbestos

Negatives of painting popcorn ceilings include:

  • The ceiling texture will remain
  • More paint is only a short-term fix that will not meet current trends
  • You risk asbestos exposure if changing the ceiling surface

Covering Textured Ceilings: Pros and Cons

You can cover the surface if you want a flat ceiling finish without removing the popcorn texture. Covering popcorn ceilings usually involves adding a layer of drywall or wood on top of the existing textured ceiling.

The benefits of covering the ceiling texture include:

  • Achieve the appearance of a flat ceiling
  • Improve insulation and soundproofing
  • Cover up potential hazardous material exposure risks
  • Match other flat ceilings in your home

Negatives of covering include:

  • It decreases the height of your entire room
  • The whole ceiling becomes thicker and heavier
  • You must remove ceiling lights and other fixtures
  • The project costs much more than just adding new paint
  • You must hire a professional to complete the installation
  • The project will take longer

Removing Popcorn Ceilings: Pros and Cons

Instead of covering it with drywall or ceiling paint, you can remove popcorn ceilings entirely. Like the other two options, removal has pros and cons.

The benefits of removing the popcorn texture include:

  • Achieve an even finish
  • Maintain the room’s current height
  • Remove ceiling weight
  • Potentially improve your home’s resale value

Negatives of popcorn ceiling removal include:

  • The project is costly and time-consuming.
  • Removing the popcorn ceiling texture can become messy.
  • You risk asbestos and lead paint exposure.

Paint Popcorn Ceilings

How to Paint Popcorn Ceilings 2

A man with a roller in his hands paints the ceiling in a gray color near the window of his house. Repair the interior of the room, repainting walls and ceiling. : Image Source: Adobe Stock via Standard Image License..

If you search online for “how to paint popcorn ceilings,” you’ll likely see two main methods:

  • Spraying: With an airless sprayer or spray gun, you can apply even, thick coats of paint to your ceiling quickly. This method offers the most professional results and the lowest exposure risks.
  • Rolling: With the proper preparation, you can achieve an excellent finish using a paint roller. Sprayers are usually unnecessary for small, one-room projects. A roller takes more time but still offers a good way to update your ceiling paint for homeowners on a budget.

Cover Popcorn Ceilings

Homeowners typically cover popcorn ceilings with one of the following materials:

  • Drywall: Most people will need a professional to install drywall. Drywall offers a flat, clean finish that you can paint any color you like. Painting drywall is quicker than painting a popcorn texture and sometimes only requires one coat.
  • Wood planks: For a more rustic appearance, you can install wood panels over the popcorn ceiling. Wood planks require professional installation, though you probably won’t need to paint over them.

If you choose to cover your ceiling, consider selecting a material that matches your walls. If you already have wood panel walls, you can extend the same style to your ceiling.

Remove Popcorn Ceilings

How to Paint Popcorn Ceilings 3

Removal of old dirty popcorn ceiling wall interiors home remodeling. : Image Source: Adobe Stock via Standard Image License..

You can remove popcorn ceilings yourself or with the help of a professional. If you want to avoid the mess, consider hiring a Robinson Painting of Colorado contractor to update your ceiling.

How to Remove a Painted Popcorn Ceiling

Before starting, cover the entire floor with painter’s plastic or tarps. Then, apply warm water to the surface to loosen the popcorn texture.

You can use a scraper to remove the ceiling’s texture in chunks. The removal process is tedious, so be patient and allow plenty of time. Once finished, paint and finish with a top coat.

Safety Considerations for How to Paint Popcorn Ceilings

Don’t forget to practice safety precautions for all home renovation projects. Painting a popcorn ceiling can put you at risk for falls, electricity, and exposure to hazardous materials.

We recommend using the safety tips below:

  • Test all materials for asbestos and lead: If you don’t disturb the popcorn ceiling, you won’t be at risk of exposure. Suppose you plan to alter the ceiling or are worried that you may accidentally breathe in particles while working. In that case, you should call a qualified asbestos specialist to test your materials or purchase an at-home kit.
  • Always have someone hold your ladder: Keep your ladder secure while you work. Never stand on the top rung of the ladder. Use an extension pole as much as possible instead of a ladder to reduce the risk of falling.
  • Wear goggles and a dust mask: Protect your eyes, nose, and mouth at all times. Even if your home doesn’t have asbestos or lead, you don’t want to breathe in cement particles or dust.
  • Leave any electrical work to professionals: If you must unplug and re-install light fixtures to complete your project, consider hiring an electrician. Dealing with open wires increases electrocution risks.

If you’re unsure whether or not you can complete the job safely, contact Robinson Painting of Colorado for help!

What You’ll Need

Before you paint, make sure your room and belongings are protected. Cover your floors, furniture, and areas where the ceiling meets your walls. To do so, get the following materials at your local paint store:

  • Painter’s tape
  • Drop cloths
  • Painter’s plastic

You should apply paint on clean and smooth surfaces for optimal results. If your ceiling has layers of dust, dirt, and stains, you’ll need to remove them before painting. You should pick up cleaning products that fulfill the following needs:

  • Dust removal: We recommend using a shop vacuum with a brush attachment or feather duster to remove dust from the ceiling. Any unnecessary rough surfaces will make your job harder.
  • Stain removal: Use an oil-based primer to remove ceiling discolorations before starting. Without an oil-based primer, most stains will show through even a second coat of paint.

Now that you’re ready to paint, you will need the following tools:

  • Latex paint
  • An extension pole
  • An angled brush
  • A paint roller
  • A roller screen
  • A 5-gallon bucket
  • A 3/4 inch thick nap roller cover
  • A 9-inch roller frame
  • A ladder

If you choose to spray the ceiling paint, you will need a paint sprayer or airless sprayer instead of the brush, paint roller, and roller cover.


Now that you’ve gathered your materials, it’s time to start painting! Follow the steps below to learn how to paint popcorn ceilings.

Step 1: Test the Ceiling for Asbestos

Many homes built before the 1980s contain asbestos. We recommend testing your materials before risking exposure. You can purchase an at-home kit to test for asbestos or hire a specialist to visit your home and examine the ceiling.

Step 2: Prep the Room

Before you open any paint, you should protect all of your valuables. First, remove any furniture from the room. You can leave some larger items inside, though you’ll need to cover them with plastic.

Next, cover all of the floors and walls in painter’s plastic. Many people forget to protect the walls and end up with stains from the ceiling. We recommend purchasing 12-foot rolls of plastic to cover your walls thoroughly.

Once you’ve prepared the plastic, arrange all of your materials on thick drop cloths. If a spill happens, this added layer of protection can save you a big headache.

Step 3: Check the Ceiling for Old Paint Coatings

The more previous paint coatings your popcorn ceiling has, the less you should have to add. To check for old layers, climb a ladder, spray a few water droplets on the surface, and watch how quickly the water absorbs.

If the water absorbs immediately, your ceiling does not have a lot of paint. If the liquid forms droplets, the surface already has a decent glossy coating. Use this reaction to determine how many coats you need.

Step 4: Clean the Surface

Use a shop vacuum with a brush attachment to remove dust and dirt from the ceiling’s surface. You can also use a hand-held duster if you don’t have access to a vacuum.

If you want to remove stains, now’s the time to make touch-ups with the oil-based primer. Follow the instructions on the bottle and allow it to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Step 5: Apply Painter’s Tape

Creating a clean line between your popcorn ceiling paint and walls is challenging because of the uneven texture. For the best results, you can either:

  • Use a painter’s brush: Gently cut into the area where your walls meet your ceiling with a two-inch painter’s brush to make a precise line. Do the same for other areas you aren’t painting, like trim, light fixtures, sprinkler systems, vents, or alarms.
  • Apply painter’s tape: If you’re concerned about your free-hand abilities, use painter’s tape to achieve straight lines. Painter’s tape won’t damage the finish of your walls.

Step 6: Prepare the Paint

Pour your paint into the large bucket and attach the roller screen inside. Add your roller frame to the end of the extension pole and attach the thick nap roller cover.

When you need more paint, dip the roller in the bucket and rub it against the roller screen to remove excess liquid. The roller screen will reduce mess and help you avoid drippage.

Step 7: Apply the First Coat

When painting your first coat, follow a single direction across the entire surface to avoid covering the same spot twice. For example, you can start by brushing the roller north to south. As you move across the ceiling, overlap your strokes, so you don’t miss any areas.

Ideally, you want to cover the entire surface without drenching everything. Use your roller to spread out the excess if you notice paint dripping.

Step 8: Apply the Second Coat

After the first coat dries for at least two hours, you can start the next one. Apply the second coat in the opposite direction of the first. Using the last example, you would paint from east to west this time.

Step 9: Complete the Finishing Touches

After your second coat dries, you can touch up any mistakes, smooth over drips, and remove the painter’s tape. Ensure that everything is dry before cleaning up the plastic and tarps.

Tips for Painting a Popcorn Ceiling Without Mess

Painting a popcorn ceiling doesn’t have to be hard. Use our tips below to avoid mess during your painting project:

  • Don’t use too much paint: Excess paint causes drips and wastes money.
  • Clean gently with the vacuum: If you vacuum too roughly, you might scatter popcorn dust everywhere.
  • Use tape to prevent bleeding through tarps: Sometimes, paint can leak between the cracks of your plastic or tarp linings. Apply tape to seal these cracks.
  • Use quick sweeping motions: Begin moving your roller before touching the surface and keep it moving quickly. We recommend overlapping each stroke by 50%.
  • Spread out runs: Tidy up the results by spreading out any dripping or running areas with your roller.

Now that you know how to paint popcorn ceilings, it’s time to transform your home! If you want easy, quick, professional results in Lafayette, Boulder, Erie, Arvada, Broomfield, and across the Frontrange of Colorado, contact our team of painters to complete your job. Call Robinson Painting of Colorado at (866) 528 8902 for a free estimate!

Featured Image Source: Adobe Stock via Standard Image License..


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