The Best Way To Mud A Ceiling (Tips From A Pro)

Last Updated on August 9, 2023 by Web Operator

When I started my home renovations, I was surprised by how little I knew about the required tools and materials. After some extensive research and redoing my ceiling, I discovered that DIY jobs can be relatively easy, and I figured out the best way to mud a ceiling.

The best way to mud a ceiling is by using a premix of all-purpose joint compound. By applying a few coats of mud to joints and screws, sanding the dried compound for a smoother finish, and applying a few coats of paint – your ceiling will look as if professionals did it. 

Mudding a ceiling can be quite easy, even for DIY beginners. However, to ensure you do the best job possible, you must buy all the necessary tools and materials and follow all the recommended application techniques. 

The Best Way To Mud A Ceiling 

Before you can even begin with the ‘how to’ section of mudding a ceiling, you will need to familiarize yourself with the various tools and materials you will need to get the job done like a pro. My first mistake was buying a timed drywall mud, which made it hard as a DIY beginner to fix any mistakes or take my time with the application, as the compound dried exceptionally quickly. 

Types Of Drywall Mud

For your DIY home project, the hundreds of products and materials you come across in the hardware store can feel daunting. You must choose the correct type of mud to make the whole process easier. You can find the different types of mud in the lists below:

Premixed Mud

This mud comes ready to apply, with no mixing necessary. There are three main kinds for you to choose from:

  • Topping mud – This mud is for your final top coating. It is easier to sand down and dries to a brighter white color, making it a perfect finishing mud if you plan to paint with lighter colors. Do not use this mud for first or second applications. 
  • All-purpose mud – This is a smoother mix used for all coats. It also takes a few hours to dry, so it is best to stick with this type of compound if you’re a DIY beginner. 
  • Lightweight all-purpose mud – This compound dries to a lighter shade, which is perfect if your paint is a pale shade. 

Powdered Mud

This compound will dry much faster than premixed mud, as it contains chemicals that react and harden when adding water. If you’re concerned about your mudding skills, I recommend that you avoid this type as it will leave no time to fix mistakes. 

  • Timed drywall mud – With this type of mud, you can choose the set time on the label. Different kinds will harden according to time frames, such as 5-, 20- or 60-minute hardening times.
  • Easy-to-sand setting mud – If you want to avoid spending hours sanding down your hardened mud, I recommend choosing an easy-to-sand compound that will save you a lot of time.

Now that you have a clearer idea of the available different types of mud, you should know which one will work the best for your ceiling project.

How To Mud Your Ceiling Like A Pro

To ensure your ceiling looks like it was done professionally, I highly recommend you familiarize yourself with all the tools you will require and the correct application techniques.

Tools Required: 

  • Old Clothes
  • Canvas Drop Cloth
  • Ladder
  • Goggles/Respirator 
  • Drywall Knives (5 and 10-inch)
  • Paper Tape
  • Joint Compound (Mud)
  • Drill (With Paddle Bit)
  • Pan/Bucket 

There’s nothing worse than starting a DIY job only to find out halfway through that you’re missing a crucial tool to finish the job. Once you’ve ensured you have all the tools and materials required, you can get started with the mudding process.

Prep the Room

As mudding your ceiling can be pretty messy, you’ll want to protect your room and furniture by laying down a canvas drop cloth. I recommend a canvas cloth as plastic drop cloths are known to be slippery, which could be dangerous. You can also ‘prep’ yourself by wearing old clothes and using goggles and respirators.  

Mix or Stir Your Compound

If you’re mixing the compound yourself, you’ll need to follow the directions from the manufacturer. You can usually just open the lid for premixed mud and be ready to go. However, if you see that water has accumulated on the top of the bucket, I recommend mixing the compound yourself using a drill. 

Once the mud is smooth, and there is no water, you can begin your application. You can buy an all-purpose compound that is perfect for beginners here.

Apply the Mud to Joints and Screws

To cover the indentation along with your drywall panels, use a 5–6-inch taping knife to apply the mud over the joint. Smooth the mud evenly in both directions and wipe away any excess compound. Remember that thicker applications of mud may form cracks once they dry.

Apply Paper Tape to the Mudded Joint

While the compound is still wet, you should run your tape along the joint. To smooth the tape, start in the middle of the joint and firmly stroke the knife in one direction. Return to the middle and repeat this process in the opposite direction. 

Apply Tape to the Insider Corners

With this next step, you’ll need to apply a thin layer of mud on either side of the corner. Cut your tape to match the length of the corner before you crease it in half (lengthwise). Use your knife to push the tape into the corner slowly. Smooth out the tape by drawing the knife along the drywall in one direction from the middle. Go back to the middle and smooth the tape in the opposite direction.

Mud Butt Joints

Butt joints occur at the end of the drywall panels when they are fitted together. You will only need a thin layer of compound to fill the gaps. I recommend watching this tutorial video which helped me immensely. 

Apply a Second Coat

It may take up to 24 hours for your first coat to dry. Once you’re sure the mud is completely dry, you can start applying a thin second coat of compound. Use a 10-inch knife for this process. 

The Final Coat

After your second coat is completely dry, you can add your third and final coat. Use a 10-inch knife and apply only thin layers of mud. For a smoother finish, feather out all the edges.

Sand the Ceiling

Once your third coat is dry, you can sand the surfaces for a smoother finish. You can also sand in between each coat. To make this last step easier, use a drywall pole sander. I recommend you wear goggles and a respirator, as there will be dust.

How To Create A Textured Ceiling Using Mud

If you’re looking for a unique project, you can texture your ceiling yourself using mud. After the taping and mudding process along the joints is complete, use a paint roller to apply the mud onto a small section of the ceiling. 

There are many different techniques you can use to texture your ceiling, the ones I recommend are listed below:

  • Drag a swirl brush through the mud in a half-circle, which will create a swirling pattern
  • Use a paintbrush to stipple the mud
  • Use a slap brush and press it against the mud
  • Drag a trowel over the mud leaving visible grooves and indents 
  • Press a plastic bag into the mud

Using these methods should create a unique and fun pattern on your ceiling. Remember to work in small sections so you can texture the mud before it dries. Once your textured mud has completely dried, you can paint the ceiling as desired.


Mudding a ceiling can be a pretty easy job, even if you are a DIY beginner. However, to mud your ceiling like a pro, you will need to have all the required tools and materials and follow the recommended application techniques to ensure the best possible finish. 

Photo of author

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.