How do you paint a popcorn ceiling? 4 steps to give any textured surface an instant refresh

These expert tips will show you how to paint a popcorn ceiling if removing it isn't an option

a popcorn ceiling
(Image credit: Alamy)

Popcorn ceilings aren't in fashion right now, and while some people choose to remove them, learning how to paint a popcorn ceiling might have to suffice for the time being. You might be renting, or just not ready to tackle such a big job – either way a fresh coat of paint can go a long way to making your ceilings look better. 

A popcorn ceiling, called so for its textured, bumpy appearance, was often used as a way of disguising uneven surfaces in homes, particularly in mid-century properties, but they can be tricky to maintain and time-consuming to paint. 

Once you've mastered painting your popcorn ceiling as part of how to paint a room, you'll be free to bring the rest of your vision for your space to life. Here's how you do it. 

How to paint a popcorn ceiling to freshen up your space

Not sure where to start? Charlotte Radford, a paint expert at Valspar, shares her top tips on how to paint a popcorn ceiling below.

When it comes to painting your ceiling, avoid any mishaps by making sure you have the right tools. You’ll need the following:

  • Drop cloths and tape to protect the flooring below 
  • A roller and extension pole to ensure you are able to reach the whole ceiling
  • A paint tray 
  • Your desired ceiling paint (keep in mind that popcorn ceilings often require twice as much paint to cover)
  • A brush suitable for cutting in (angled) 

1. Prepare and clean your space

'First of all, empty the entire room to prevent any splatters from paint on furniture,' says Charlotte. 'Anything that can’t be removed should be covered with drip cloths. You’ll also need to cover the entire floor with drip cloths. Tape down the cloths to make sure nothing comes loose.' 

'Popcorn ceilings can be a magnet for dirt, so you should hoover and wipe down the surface,' she adds. 'Once your ceilings are clean, go around the edges with tape to mask off the top of the walls.'

2. Apply your paint

A paint sprayer will make painting a ceiling much easier, but it’s not a necessity for the job. 

'A paint roller is needed to cover the surface and get into all the grooves,' says Charlotte. 'You may need an extension pole for ease if your ceiling is too high to reach (it will help you paint a room faster), otherwise, a normal roller will do.

'Start by gently cutting in along the edges of the ceiling with a paintbrush. Once you’ve covered the edges and corners, you can start on the rest of the ceiling with your paint sprayer or roller, slowly applying the paint in a V motion to make sure you get into all the grooves.'

'Make sure to blend adjacent areas together as you go to get an even coverage across the ceiling.'

3. Apply a second coat

Let the first coat dry for two to four hours before applying another coat. 

4. Clean up 

Clean your brush and roller with warm soapy water once you’ve finished painting. 

Finally, take a step back and admire your hard work.

Do you need a special roller to paint a popcorn ceiling?

No, you don't need a special roller to paint a popcorn ceiling, but a roller with a thicker nap will make easier work of the job.

Opt for a roller with at least a one-inch nap foam cover for best results.

Ruth Doherty is a lifestyle journalist based in London. An experienced freelance digital writer and editor, she is known for covering everything from travel and interiors to fashion and beauty. She regularly contributes to Livingetc, Ideal Home and Homes & Gardens, as well as titles like Prima and Red. Outside of work, her biggest loves are endless cups of tea, almond croissants, shopping for clothes she doesn’t need, and booking holidays she does.