How to Paint Popcorn Ceilings

Renew that old acoustical ceiling with a coat of paint

Is your popcorn ceiling showing its age? Here's a hassle-free way to refresh it. Painting acoustical ceilings is easy—just use this approach.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Painting a popcorn ceiling

What's the best way to paint an acoustical ceiling? That depends on whether it's ever been painted before. Without paint, it tends to be very water-soluble. This means that painting it with a roller can be very tricky because the acoustical material will absorb the water from the paint and start coming off on the roller. To test the water solubility, spray a small amount of water on an inconspicuous area. If the texture becomes soft, the best way to paint it is with a spray gun.

If that's the case with your acoustical ceiling, use a good, vibrator-type paint sprayer (available at home centers). Since you'll be working overhead, you'll need a suction set and portable paint reservoir for the sprayer instead of the usual paint jar. The one we used has a backpack type of setup. To ensure a uniform coat, it's wise to apply the paint in at least three directions.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Dust mask
  • Extension cord
  • Safety glasses
  • Stepladder
  • Vibrator-type paint spray gun

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • Paint