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How to Paint Walls & Ceilings

By Dale Devries ; Updated September 15, 2017
Paint Walls & Ceilings

Painting is a project that many people hate to do. It isn't that it's difficult to paint, it's the fact that everything must be moved or covered and it must be continued until it's done. Paint sprayers have changed the thinking of many procrastinators. The project gets done in less than half the time, there are fewer tools needed and the outcome is more consistent. In some cases, though, spraying is not an option and the rollers and brushes must come out. Either way, you can do this project alone, and the time it takes depends on the size of the room.

Prepare to paint the ceiling first. Vacuum or wipe off all dust from the ceiling. If you are using two different colors for the ceiling and walls, you will need to mask off the walls. Hang brown wrapping paper with painters tape on the wall just below the ceiling. Cover any light fixtures or ceiling fans. Cover all floors with drop cloths and anything else the paint may drip on. Put on safety goggles so you don't get paint in your eyes and thin gloves to keep paint from your hands.

Spray on the paint using slow even strokes, releasing the trigger of your paint sprayer at the end of one stroke and pulling it again at the start of the back stroke. Do a small section that you can reach without moving, and then move on to another section. Try not to spray over the last section or your paint may drip or dry darker. Clean out the sprayer when you are done. After the ceiling is completely covered, let it dry for a half hour and check to see if it needs a second coat.

Prepare for painting the walls. Mask off window trim, door trim and baseboards. Remove the paper and tape from the top of the walls. Make sure the walls are clean and dust free. Leave drop cloths in place and cover anything that may get paint dripped on it .

Use a paint trimmer to hold up to the ceiling if you are using a different color for the walls. A paint trimmer is a metal or plastic flat shield with a long handle. Hold the trimmer at the top of the wall in one hand and spray the paint back and forth under it until you are far enough away from the ceiling that the spray will not get on it. Then move down the wall and start another section. Once you are all the way around the room, you can finish the walls without the trimmer. Clean out the sprayer. Allow the paint to dry and check for missed or thin spots, and paint them in.

Clean out the paint sprayer immediately when you are finished or are waiting for paint to dry, according to the manufacturer's directions. The paint will harden quickly and clog up the sprayer if it's left for very long. Take down all painters tape and take up drop cloths. Uncover light fixtures and ceiling fans.

Prepare the walls and ceilings by vacuuming and wiping them down. If there are any grease spots on the walls, use a commercial cleaner, because they will show through most paints. Put down drop cloths throughout the room and use painters tape on all window trim, door trim and baseboard. Tape around the edges of ceiling fixtures, cabinet edges or bookcases. Cover anything you don't want paint on, such as counter tops and built-in shelving units.

Cut in the paint around the ceiling. Use an angled paintbrush, dip in the paint and go around the edges of ceiling about two inches out. This will keep your roller from bumping into the wall. If you have a very unsteady hand, you can use a sponge painter that has wheels on the side that will guide you along the wall or ceiling. If you are using the same color paint for both the ceiling and walls, you don't need to worry about getting the line between the wall and ceiling straight.

Paint the ceiling. Place paint in the tray. Put the extension handle on the roller, and place the roller cover in paint, completely covering it. Roll the paint onto the ceiling without pressing too hard. Pressing the roller will leave lines in the paint. Keep a good amount of paint on the roller cover without causing it to drip, and roll back and forth in a small section where you can reach. Then move on to the next section until the ceiling is completely covered. Allow the paint to dry to see if it needs another coat.

Cut in the walls. This is a little more time-consuming than the ceiling, because you have to go along the ceiling and floor, around windows and doors and around any other obstructions and both sides of each corner. If you've taped off everything well, you should be able to cut in rather quickly without worrying about getting paint on anything.

Roll on your paint using as much paint on the roller cover as possible without it dripping. Use the extension handle to do around the top and then take it off to do the bottom part of the walls. Use an up-and-down motion, moving over a little with each stroke. Allow the paint to dry a little and check for missed spots. In most cases, the walls will need a second coat. Wrap the roller cover in plastic wrap while waiting for the paint to dry. This will keep the paint from drying out while you're waiting.

Pull off the tape and clean up drop cloths. Clean out your brushes and roller cover, if it a reusable one. If the paint was a latex, it will wash off with water. If you were using an oil-based paint, wash it off in a can of turpentine or mineral spirits.