Can You Paint a Popcorn Ceiling? (Helpful Tips)

Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by Barry Gray

Can You Paint A Popcorn Ceiling

When a friend asked for my help with painting their popcorn ceiling, my first thought was, ‘Is that even possible?’. After some extensive research, I discovered it is, in fact, entirely possible to paint a textured ceiling yourself, provided you have done the proper research. 

Painting your popcorn ceiling is a quick and cheap way to drastically improve the appearance of your ceiling without having to remove or cover the popcorn texture completely. However, if there is a chance that your ceiling contains asbestos, it is best to hire a professional as a DIY project could be dangerous. 

There are a couple of things that I would recommend before you decide to paint your popcorn ceiling. Checking to see if it contains asbestos, measuring the room to ensure you buy enough paint, and buying all the required materials you need to paint your ceiling. Ensuring you have prepped correctly will make painting your ceiling a quick and rather effortless job.

Can You Paint A Popcorn Ceiling?

Barring any complications, painting your popcorn ceiling should be a relatively easy job that can be completed in a few hours. I was fortunate to find out that my popcorn texture did not contain asbestos, which made the entire job a lot simpler. 

As many people already know, before 1977, they used asbestos to create the popcorn ceiling texture. Asbestos has been banned and labeled as a carcinogen, as inhaling the substance can lead to numerous health concerns. It is vital that before you start to paint your ceiling, you need to test it for asbestos. If you notice the texture flaking or cracking, I recommend hiring a professional for safety reasons. 

If your ceiling does not contain asbestos or is in excellent condition with no cracking or flaking, you can proceed with your DIY paint job. Depending on how large the room is and whether you have chosen to paint your ceiling using a roller or a sprayer, you can expect the job to take at least 4-5 hours.

What Materials Do You Need To Paint Your Popcorn Ceiling?

Can Popcorn Ceilings Be Sanded Down

Now that you are ready to paint your ceiling, there are a few things that you will need for a quick and effective paint job. I recommend you hire an airless sprayer, as it is easier to paint with, and there is no worry about knocking off some of the popcorn texture. However, a roller can be as effective if you use it correctly. 

Tools Required 

Before starting your DIY paint job, it is essential to have all the necessary tools required. You don’t want to be running back to the hardware store halfway through painting. Below is a list of what you will need:

  • Dust masks
  • Safety goggles
  • Painter’s tape
  • Drop cloths or plastic sheets
  • A ladder, roller, or sprayer
  • Paint tray or bucket with paint screen
  • Angled brush for touch-ups or outlining
  • A feather duster (or vacuum that has a soft brush attachment)

The Best Paint For Popcorn Ceilings

acrylic-latex paint

The most popular paint used for popcorn ceilings is interior acrylic-latex paint. Unfortunately, your textured ceiling will require a lot more paint than a flat ceiling. A good rule of thumb for painting popcorn ceilings is to double the amount of paint needed for a flat ceiling,

For example, a gallon of paint can generally cover around 400-500 square feet when painting a flat ceiling. However, the texture of a popcorn ceiling requires a lot more paint to cover it adequately – so you will need around two gallons of paint for a 400-500 square foot room. 

Although it is not necessary, I recommend having your paint thinned. This will prevent any flaking in the future, and if you are using a paint sprayer, it will make your paint job a lot easier. You can either thin the paint by around 20% yourself or ask your local hardware store if they have a premixed solution.

How To Paint Your Popcorn Ceiling 

Whether this is your first time doing a DIY paint job or your first time painting a popcorn ceiling, there are a few guidelines you can follow to make it a quick, effective, and clean paint job. 

1. Prep The Room

Painting a popcorn ceiling can be a messier job than flat ceilings due to splatter. It is essential that you prep the space correctly. Remove any furniture and smaller items. Cover the entire room and any remaining items with a plastic sheet that is 4-mil or thicker. You’ll want to tape plastic sheeting to the walls, as well as any air vents and radiators. 

2. Clean The Ceiling Before Painting

Use a feather duster to remove any build-up of dust or cobwebs that may be trapped between the popcorn texture. You can also use a vacuum with a brush attachment to gently vacuum the ceiling – remember not to press firmly, which could cause the popcorn texture to flake. Cleaning the ceiling is a crucial step to ensure the paint adheres correctly and that there are no speckles in the paint.

3. Cut In The Ceiling Using a Brush

Using an angled brush around 2 inches, cut in all the edges and paint along where the ceiling meets the wall. The brush should be loaded with paint but remember to use light strokes. Thicker coats tend to peel, so if you feel like you are not using enough paint, wait for one to two hours for the first coat to dry before you apply a second coat.

4. Painting The Ceiling

If you are using a roller, you should generously cover your roller with paint and roll it over a roller screen. Make sure you are painting long strokes in a single direction, using a light touch, so you do not over-saturate the ceiling. You can overlap your strokes to ensure there are no gaps but refrain from going over a single area twice. 

When using a sprayer, apply the same concept. Spray in one direction only, overlapping slightly, but make sure not to cover the same area twice. 

5. Allow The Paint To Dry

Open any windows or turn on fans to allow for adequate airflow, then wait a minimum of two hours for the paint to dry. After two to three hours, apply your second coat. Using your roller or sprayer, apply your second coat of paint in the opposite direction to ensure a smooth finish. 

Roller Vs. Sprayer For Painting Popcorn Ceilings

If your popcorn ceiling has never had a paint job before, I recommend using a sprayer. This is because a roller could potentially knock some of the texture loose, causing it to flake and fall off. A sprayer is also easier to use and will get the job done much quicker. 

However, if you do not have access to a sprayer or cannot rent one, a roller is fine as long as you use it correctly. The best roller to use for a textured ceiling is one that has a thick nap because it will be able to hold a lot more paint, which is crucial for working the paint into those rough areas quickly.


Painting a popcorn ceiling is a cheap alternative for improving the appearance of your ceiling without the expense of removing the texture or covering it completely. Many popcorn ceilings may contain asbestos, a dangerous material that is unsafe for humans. If your popcorn ceiling contains asbestos, I recommend hiring professionals instead of attempting a DIY. 

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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.