Painting a ceiling is the hardest part of painting an interior room for many people.
Paint Extension Poles
You need to master the use of the paint extension pole to do most ceilings. You really don't want to climb up and down a step ladder constantly in order to do the painting. The job will be easier and look better if done with an extension pole.
Ceiling paints are dead flats because they are easier to use on a ceiling and will hide defects better than paints with a sheen as well as lap more invisibly. New construction paints (known as "builder's flat paints") work well for ceilings too. Ceiling paints are usually formulated to be spatter resistant to minimize the mess caused by overhead paint spattering.
There are times where a flat paint is not preferred. A bathroom or kitchen may require the use of a sheen paint or special "bathroom paint" for the added washability and / or water resistance.
If you are painting the walls, you can "bump and wipe" with the roller. To bump and wipe, you will jam the paint roller right into the inside corner at the ceiling / wall joint. Once bumped, you will wipe the excess paint smooth on the wall and into the corner itself. The best way to do the wipe is with a brush attached to the extension pole via a "brush holder" attachment.
Note: Don't use the bump and wipe method if your walla are painted with glossy paint because the flat ceiling latex paint will not adhere to the glossy wall paint. You must prime glossy walls with a bonding primer first, then you can bump and wipe.
Using a Paint Extension Pole
Hold the pole with your right (if you are right handed) at the bottom of the pole with an "overhand" grip and the left hand about three feet up the pole with an "underhand" grip.
Good paint rolling is done in a systematic pattern. Think of the pattern as a "W" or a "V" pattern.
Generally, you will divide the ceiling width into half or thirds and roll the ceiling a section at a time. For example: if the ceiling is 12' X 25". I would divide the 12' width into half which is a manageable 6' (if the ceiling is really wide divide the width into thirds).
Dip you roller into your paint pan or bucket, roll off the excess and bring it to the ceiling. Work one half of the ceiling for 4' or so, and then roll the other half of the ceiling joining your to halves in the middle.
Work you way down the whole ceiling in the same manner, working halves at a time. Allow the pant to dry for an hour or two (if you painted the ceiling with a latex paint) before proceeding on to cutting in and rolling out the walls.
Cutting in the ceiling.
If you are not painting the walls you will "cut in" the ceiling paint in a straight line at the ceiling / wall inside corner. You will also cut in around all light fixtures and other items that may be on the ceiling ( beams, skylights etc....) If you are using a dead flat, you can do all the cutting in up front at the start before you begin any rolling. With a sheen paint you will have to cut in as you roll out a section in order to prevent any lapping.
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Two Common Problems With Ceiling Painting
Missed spots are a common problem with ceiling painting because you are painting white over white making hard to see where you are rolling. A new type of ceiling paint goes on violet in color and changes to white as it dries eliminating the "white blindness" that occurs when rolling white on white.
Quick drying of the ceiling paint which leads to lap marks and uneven appearance. When ceilings have been painted multiple times with dead flats the surface becomes very porous leading to fast absorption of the water in the paint, causing almost instant drying. To correct this, you need to prime the ceiling with a universal primer to seal the ceiling before painting with the ceiling paint.