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Painting Ceilings

This painting guide shows how to paint a ceiling with emulsion paint and includes details on final preparation of the surface as well as explaining techniques for cutting in the edges with a brush before roller painting the main area.

Laying dust sheets before painting

1. Before starting any work on the ceiling, lay suitable cotton dust sheets over the floor area. Whether you’ve got carpet or a wood floor, you’ll want to protect it from paint splashes or drips. The small amount of time spent getting things covered up before you start will be well worthwhile.

Making Good

2. Inspect the surface of the ceiling and if necessary make good any defects

Adding water to filler pot

3. Add some clean cold water to a small plastic kettle.

Adding powder filer to the clean water

4. Add an appropriate amount of powder filler to the water

Stirring filler to smooth consistency

5. Stir thoroughly to a creamy smooth consistency

Scooping out filler onto spatula

6. Scoop out some filler onto a spatula or hawk with your filling knife.

Filling with filling blade

7. Fill the defects in the ceiling using a sweeping motion with the filling knife. Fill it as smoothly as possible. If the defect is deep, you may need to do this in two layers, allowing the first to dry before applying the second

Sanding the filler smooth

8. Once the filler has dried, smooth it off with abrasive paper. For large areas, use a sanding block to keep the surface flat.

Cutting in with a brush

9. Regardless of whether you have done any filling work, you should denib the ceiling before painting. This is simply a matter of lightly sanding the whole surface to remove any slight imperfections.

Transferring paint to a paint kettle

10. If necessary, stir the paint (read the label on the tin), then transfer some to a paint kettle.

Loading paint on the brush

11. Paint the edges first, using a decent size brush. This is called cutting in. The size of brush you use depends on what you can comfortably manage, but don’t be tempted to use a small brush on a large surface. Load paint onto the brush and work the paint along the edge.

Cutting in paint at edges

12. You should aim to keep the bristles at a slight angle to the edge so that paint flows smoothly from them. The angle and pressure used can be adjusted slightly as you work along allowing the brush to follow the edge accurately. Long continuous strokes will enable you to produce a smooth line. It does take a little practice – try working on an offcut of board to get the hang of it. By practicing running straight edges you’ll soon be more comfortable with it and able to cut in surprisingly quickly.

Overlapping walls when cutting in

13. If adjacent areas are also going to be painted, it is not necessary to be too accurate when cutting in. So if you will be painting the walls later, allow the brush to run right into the corners. Just make sure that you don’t leave any big dollops of paint on the walls.

14. Paint a band of paint around the edge of the ceiling and around other obstructions like loft hatches. Basically you want to paint all the areas where the roller will not be able to reach.

Cutting in around ceiling rose

15. Ceiling roses and the like should have their covers slackened off so that you can paint round the base fitting without marking the cover. Be sure to switch off the power to the circuit concerned before removing any electrical covers and leave it off until the cover has been replaced again.

Loading the tray and roller

Loading paint into roller tray

16. Pour some of the paint into a roller tray.

Loading paint onto roller

17. Load the roller by rolling it in the paint. Then roll it on the grid of the tray to spread the paint evenly over the roller.

Roller painting

Applying band of paint

18. Start in one corner of the ceiling. Apply a band of paint about 1m long and about 300mm from the wall.

Spreading paint with roller

19. Cross roller this band to spread the paint so that you’ve covered around a metre square.

Laying off the paint with roller

20. Finally, roller the area lightly in the opposite direction to give a smooth finish. Rollering from the outer edge back towards the wall, use overlapping strokes to finish the paint without any tram lines.

First section of ceiling painted

21. Continue with a bay of about the same size next to the first one. As you lay off the paint with the final rollering, work back towards the first bay. As a general rule you should always work wet paint back into dry rather than the other way round. This minimises the chance of variable sheen showing in the finished work. Carry on working across the room to the far wall.

22. Now repeat the process with a new row of bays starting next to the first bay. As before, for the final laying off, roller from wet back into the dryer paint.

23. As your experience builds, you’ll find that you can roller back and forth in a tight ‘W’ pattern leaving a good finish very quickly. Keep the roller fully in contact with the surface to avoid skipping or skidding

Roller painting around ceiling rose

24. When you get to obstructions such as ceiling roses or light fittings, simply roller reasonably close so that the new paint overlaps the cutting in done earlier. You don’t need to roller right up to the fitting – just as close as you comfortably can without getting paint on the fitting.

25. When painting a second coat or painting over a very similar colour, it can sometimes be difficult to see where you’ve painted and where you haven’t. The best way round this is to position yourself so that the light from the window is reflected on the new paint as you go along. This should help eliminate skips and misses which would otherwise spoil your work.

Second Coat

26. Once the first coat has fully dried, a second coat is normally required to ensure full bodied coverage. Check on the paint tin to see how long the paint needs to be allowed to dry before recoating. Emulsions are normally re-coatable in 4 hours or so. Rather than washing out brushes and rollers after the first coat, you can put them in a sealed plastic bag to keep out the air and stop them drying.

Cutting in the second coat with a brush

27. Repeat the process exactly as before. Cut in around the edges with a reasonable size brush.

Cut in second coat of paint around light fittings

28. Cut in a band of paint around obstructions such as light fittings.

Roller painting second coat

29. Roller the main area again using the bay method described above.


Returning unused paint to tub

30. Once you’ve finished painting the ceiling, return any excess paint from the kettle and roller tray to the paint tub. If the paint has become contaminated or partly dry, don’t bother trying to keep it as it will ruin the remaining paint in the tub.

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