The 5 Best Paints For Ceiling Tiles (Different Materials Reviewed)

Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by Barry Gray

When you get your new house or start to renovate the house you have been planning to fix for so long, you will eventually install new ceilings. With this comes to challenge of getting the ceiling tiles painted and ready to weather through the day-to-day storms of cooking and cleaning. 

The five best paints you can use for your ceiling tiles are water-based paints, acrylic paints, oil paints, enamel paints, or primer paint. Each of these can safely be used on most ceiling tiles and protect them from any abuse they may have to go through. 

Your ceilings need to be painted properly to ensure that you like the color and that the ceiling tiles are not damaged when painted. A few different materials are used for ceiling tiles, each one having different reactions to different paints, with many being severely damaged if painted wrong. 

Can You Paint Ceiling Tiles?

Yes, you can paint ceiling tiles, with many ceiling tiles specifically being untreated and ready to be painted by the owner. The ceiling tiles need to be painted once they have been fitted and not before, as they will be damaged if painted before they have been attached to your ceiling.

We always recommend that you consider this when getting ready to paint and redo your house, as many people try to cut corners. Having to paint ceiling tiles that are already fitted is not always easy, but finding all the cracks and scratches and then fixing them can feel almost impossible to do.

When painting your ceiling, you will also have several different options to choose from when painting. Many people think that they will have to painstakingly use a brush when special sprays and rollers are meant to be used when painting a ceiling, making the process much more painless. 

What Paints Are Best For Styrofoam Ceiling Tiles?

Now that we know whether or not you should be painting your ceiling tiles, we need to start looking at the best paints to use on certain materials. We are looking at Styrofoam, or polystyrene, ceiling tiles that are becoming the standard types of tiles being used in many homes.

These tiles are favored because of the low cost of production and the many options they provide, with many designers even able to send for custom designs. This is in stark contrast to some of the older materials used, which are usually flat or prohibitively expensive. 

Acrylic Paints

This is the glossy type of paint that many might recognize as being used on metals and other harder materials. Acrylic paint creates a thicker layer on Styrofoam ceiling tiles which means that the paint is always bright and effective; even with just one layer applied to the tiles, the color will be effective.

Often used in places where the paint will be in the sun or the ceiling tiles will have to handle temperature changes, acrylic paint is perfect for Styrofoam tiles. This is because they add rigidity and, unless touched or broken, will look the same as any other ceiling tile you may use. 

Water-Based Paints

Water-based paints can work on almost anything if the surface has been properly prepared and the material is not too absorbent. Water-based paint is a good way to get your Styrofoam ceiling tiles with patterns on them the exact color you need. 

With water-based paints, the layers of paint you are applying will be much thinner than those applied with other paints. This allows finer details that Styrofoam ceiling tiles have to stay intact, creating contrasts and ensuring that everything stays intact with your shaped ceiling tiles. 


ceiling tile paint

Many people forget that primer paints are meant to be used on almost any surface, with many even being used on trees and plants. When working with Styrofoam ceiling tiles, we always recommend applying a thin primer layer anyway, ensuring that your final layer of paint will work. 

Further, primers are usually in many different colors, allowing you to easily and comfortably paint your entire ceiling with a paint that is resistant to almost everything. Many people that use paint regularly will use primers on surfaces like Styrofoam specifically because the primer will stick no matter what. 

Oil Paints

If you have a flat Styrofoam ceiling, then using oil paint will be the easiest way to get a thick solid surface that is dry within a few hours. Further, because oil paints are so thick, you only need to apply one layer to get the desired effect, with most oil paints also automatically becoming sell leveled.

However, the downside of using oil paints is that you can apply them too thick, causing drips and slides across the ceiling. This is often why oil paints are used as they can be hard to apply without causing dripping and other problems; if done properly, the paint does provide the best coverage.

What Are The Best Paints For Plaster Ceiling Tiles?

Now that we know what paints work the best with Styrofoam ceiling tiles, we need to look at the next most common type of ceiling tile, plaster. You are more likely to find these ceiling tiles in large sections, with older ones having chalk linings in the middle to provide rigidity. 

The paints we recommend being used on these are much different from those on other surfaces. This is because you can get different kinds of plaster ceiling tiles, with some covered by paper while others may be pure plaster that can easily and comfortably absorb most paint.

Flat Latex Paints

flat latex paint

This is the best paint to use when painting directly onto the plaster itself, as the latex does not get absorbed by the plaster. Latex paints create a shiny layer of paint on top of the plaster, sealing it in and preventing it from absorbing moisture from the air while also allowing you to customize it as needed. 

Many people forget that plaster will always absorb some moisture from the air, so you cannot simply paint it with something that does not seal. Further, if left unpainted, it will start to crumble within a few years as the plaster absorbs more and more water from the air, becoming completely weak. 

Oil Based Paint

Oil Based Paint

Oil will be absorbed to some extent by the plaster and ensure that no moisture gets into the plaster. Creating a seal that joins on a chemical level with the plaster as the oil naturally mixes with the plaster or mixes with the paper when using plaster ceiling tiles that are covered.

You will usually find that when using plaster ceiling tiles that have textures using oil paints is the best, especially if you want to add some colors. The oil-based paint ensures that your plaster ceiling tiles will stay safe as they won’t be absorbing any of the moisture or other particulates in your home. 

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is one of the best paints to use when working with plaster ceilings, as they also create a thick layer. This means that the acrylic eventually becomes a hard layer, preventing the plaster from flexing or bending, which is often required when working on higher ceilings.

Plaster ceiling tiles are not flexible and require that you have paint that keeps them from bending with atmospheric changes. We always recommend that you have acrylic paint ready when you have to apply a strong layer of paint on something damaged by water or moisture. 

Enamel Paint

Enamel paint can be water-based or oil-based and is one of the best ways to get your plaster ceiling completely sealed when it has just been installed. Enamel works similar to acrylic and latex paints, creating a hard layer of paint on the outside but not binding so strongly with the plaster.

This creates a harder layer of paint around the plaster ceiling tiles that protects them from being damaged and prevents the paint from being damaged by the breaking plaster. We always recommend that you consider this when you have to work on your 

What Are The Best Paints For Drywall Ceiling Tiles?

When working on a drywall ceiling tile, there are several things that you need to consider, some of which are that you will be working on just flat sheets. These are larger ceilings meant to cover a larger area for the least amount of money. 

This is why we only have four of the most basic points that you can use on these types of ceiling tiles, as they are larger and will usually be installed and then forgotten about. This means that the paint applied to the needs to be strong and applied in the quickest possible way. 

Enamel Paint

Enamel Paint

Enamel paint used on drywall ceiling tiles is the easiest and fastest way to get a smooth finish covering the entire ceiling in one or two coats of paint. We always recommend using enamel when possible as the paint can be applied smoothly and then left to dry without too much worry. 

Further, enamel paints are usually much thicker than some of the other paints, which means that you will only need to apply one layer to the ceiling. It is important to remember when the ceiling may be so high and large that special equipment is required to reach it. 

Oil Paint

When working on a ceiling with drywall ceiling tiles, you can apply the final layer of paint to be oil pain, as this will ensure that the surface is clean and smooth. It is much less likely to become dusty and filled with other problems when the paint is smooth. 

We recommend that you consider this when painting your ceiling, which can ensure that the final finish of your ceiling is not only smooth but relatively clean. Further, on a flat surface, oil paints can easily allow you to make much more interesting designs, which is something usually done in homes you own. 

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is one of the paints that will create a harder surface on whatever it is being painted onto, including drywall ceiling tiles. If used properly, you will get a much more reflective ceiling once acrylic paint has been applied, as the paint is known to help brighten many rooms it is used in.

We recommend using this if you are using drywall ceilings in smaller rooms, as the paint will help ensure that everything is bright and easy to see at all times. Further, many people have been able to get more muted colors from acrylic paints than what is available from enamel or other paints. 

Water-Based Paint

Water-Based Paint

This is the most commonly used paint on drywall ceiling tiles as the paint is affordable and extremely easy to apply to your ceiling. Further, the paint can be mixed and textured in many different ways, with dripping not always an issue.

However, water-based paints usually require several layers to be applied before the paint becomes effective, so they are often used as a base layer. Use water-based paint as the first layer and then add acrylic, enamel, or even oil paints on top to help the color pop a lot more. 

Can You Paint On Older Ceiling Tiles?

ceiling tile

Yes, you can easily paint older ceiling tiles, but you will have to use a combination of wet rags, thinners, and compressed air to clean the ceiling. This will ensure that you are not painting on top of dust and cobwebs that have gathered on the ceiling tiles as they have been aging. 

Many people assume that installed ceiling tiles cannot get dirty; this is not true and is often a good way to see how well kept the home is. If the ceiling has splotches and marks across it only from age, you need to clean it off to ensure the new paintwork is properly. 

We always recommend considering this when you have to work on repainting a house and looking at the ceiling that has not been painted in a long time. If you take the time to clean it, you can easily get something that looks amazing and will not crack or fade with time. 


Painting ceiling tiles is not always as easy as many people seem to think, but with the most basic paints, you may be able to get the perfect finish. Just make sure that you use paint that won’t eat up your ceiling tiles, which can happen when mixing chemicals. 

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Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.