January 13, 2021

How to Paint Popcorn & Textured Ceiling: a Complete Guide

How to Paint Popcorn & Textured Ceiling: a Complete Guide

Wondering, can you paint popcorn ceiling? You came to the right place.

Knowing the best way to paint popcorn ceiling is essential to achieving good results. Popcorn ceiling painting is no easy task and requires the proper tools and processes to do right.

Popcorn ceilings, also referred to as acoustic ceilings or cottage cheese ceilings, are a telltale sign that your home was built any time around the 1950s.

These ceilings are made from small particles mixed with paint and drywall, and they were a cheap and efficient method of finishing homes during this time period.

Although popcorn ceilings have become less popular over the years, they are still a part of many homes today. A quick and inexpensive way to upgrade your popcorn ceiling is by giving it a fresh coat of paint. We’ve compiled a step-by-step guide on the best way to paint over your popcorn ceiling below.

Working Time: 2-4 hrs

Total Time: 1-2 days

Skill Level: Beginner

Yield: 500 square feet of ceiling

Estimated Cost: $100 to $150

Safety Considerations

First and foremost when navigating how to paint over a popcorn ceiling, you'll want to determine whether or not there is asbestos or lead paint in your popcorn ceiling. Generally speaking, homes built before 1977 are at higher risk of having these dangerous materials in them.

Asbestos was banned from homes in 1978 for a number of reasons. While this material was initially used due to its heat resistance, it has been found to cause some health issues, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

Purchase an at-home test to determine whether or not your popcorn ceiling has asbestos or lead. If it tests positive, you'll want to get the ceiling material professionally removed.

Keep in mind that asbestos doesn't always have to be removed from your home. If the asbestos remains undisturbed, it can remain where it is and be covered with paint or drywall. However, if you want to fully remove your popcorn ceilings and they contain asbestos, a qualified asbestos mitigation specialist is required.

Can I Paint Popcorn Ceilings?

can you paint popcorn ceiling

So, can you paint popcorn ceiling designs? Absolutely, but it's important to know just how to paint a stipple ceiling. Many families with popcorn ceilings opt to paint them instead of replacing them altogether. Painting popcorn ceilings is a cheaper, cleaner alternative to replacement and can help you get more mileage out of your home’s original finishes.

You also may simply want to upgrade the color of your popcorn ceiling to modernize it and give it a fresh, new appearance. While painting your popcorn ceiling is completely possible, make sure to note that this is a different, more complicated process than painting a flat ceiling.

Type of Paint & Finish to Use for Painting Over Popcorn Ceiling

When it comes to how to paint popcorn ceilings, interior acrylic-latex paint is the way to go.

Ceiling paint is most commonly found in flat or matte finishes, which help reduce light bounce. Furthermore, if you want to protect your ceilings even more, it's best to use eggshell, satin, or semi-gloss paint sheens.

Textured ceilings typically require more ceiling paint than a flat ceiling. While one gallon of ceiling paint will cover around 400 to 500 square feet of a flat ceiling, it will take double that to paint a popcorn ceiling.

What’s the Best Primer for Painting a Textured Ceiling?

When you paint over a popcorn ceiling, it's important to use a primer. Specifically, to paint a popcorn ceiling, we recommend an oil-based primer on this popcorn texture. This primer is best because water can soak into the textured material, adding extra weight and causing it to pull away.

With this in mind, an oil-based primer will allow you to safely apply water-based color for your paint job.

How Much Paint Do I Need?

One of the trickiest parts of painting textured ceilings is determining how many gallons of paint to purchase for the ceiling paint. Because there are so many tiny holes in popcorn ceilings, the paint easily soaks into these small spaces. This means you’ll likely need to buy more paint than you think.

As a general rule of thumb, one gallon of paint covers approximately 350-400 square feet, but you should factor in additional paint for the extra popcorn ceiling texture. The real surface area for this project will be approximately 15-25 percent greater.

How many coats you’re planning on the painting will also factor into how much paint you need. If you plan on multiple coats (for example, if you need to cover darker paint colors), you’ll likely need at least two full coats.

We recommend starting with at least two gallons of paint to cover your popcorn ceiling.

What Tools Do I Need for Popcorn Painting?

The specific tool that you use to paint the popcorn texture is dependent on your personal preference and the materials that you have on hand.

Our recommended tools and materials include:

  • Clean 5-gallon paint bucket
  • Roller screen for bucket
  • Paint roller frame
  • Extension pole for roller frame
  • Ladder
  • Work light
  • Shop vacuum with a brush attachment
  • 2 gallons of interior acrylic-latex ceiling paint
  • 4 thick-nap (3/4-inch) roller covers
  • 4-mil or thicker plastic sheeting
  • Painter's tape
  • 2-inch angled brush
  • Drop cloths

In addition, paint rollers, brushes, and sprayers are the three most common methods of painting a popcorn ceiling. Here are the benefits of each.


best way to paint popcorn ceiling

While the fastest way to paint popcorn ceilings is with an airless paint sprayer, your next best choice is a roller.

A roller is one of the most effective methods of covering a large area. Attaching a roller to an extender can help you reach your ceiling, but this method can be quite messy.

When it comes to the best paint roller for popcorn ceiling, use one that matches the thickness of the texture you are painting over. If you use too heavy of a roller, it will only accentuate the texture of your ceilings. We recommend a 3/8-inch nap roller for fine-to-medium texture and a 1/2-inch for heavy texture. Additionally, the best paint roller for popcorn ceiling is a wide roller made from synthetic materials to avoid damaging the ceiling.

If you opt for a roller, make sure to diligently cover your walls, floors, and furniture with protective plastic beforehand. You can also use painter’s tape to secure the coverings to avoid causing any damage to your space.

Choose a high-quality roller; we prefer rollers made with lambswool or specialty synthetic coverings for the best results. Trust us when we say that the project will be significantly more manageable with the right materials!

Only use a light amount of pressure with your roller as too much force can cause the popcorn material to crumble and fall.


A paintbrush is another useful tool for painting your popcorn ceiling, and it is especially helpful for those hard-to-reach corners and angles. Similar to a roller, choosing the right brush requires special attention to the type of paint you're using and how large of an area you're painting.

When painting, it’s best to give yourself at least 2-3 inches of a border along the edge, a process referred to professionally as “cutting in”.

Always wipe the paintbrush off on either side after dipping it into the bucket, as an overly saturated brush can result in damage to the popcorn. Use smaller brushes around light fixtures and ceiling lights to avoid a messy finish.

Paint Sprayer

popcorn ceiling painting

The easiest way to paint popcorn ceilings is with a paint sprayer. If you have access to a paint sprayer, this may be a good option if you want to avoid the physical labor involved in traditional painting. Airless sprayers will allow you to get the task done at a consistent pace.

There are some downsides to using a paint sprayer, however. Be mindful that they go through paint significantly faster than using a roller, and if you don’t have a sprayer on hand, you’ll have to purchase or rent one. You’ll also need to be diligent in setting up protective coverings as airless sprayers can be incredibly messy.

Paint, Cover, or Remove Popcorn Ceiling

When dealing with painting your ceiling texture, there are a few options you have in the process - to paint, cover, or remove the popcorn ceiling. Before selecting the route you will take, here are the pros and cons of each option to ensure you achieve the ideal ceiling surface.

Paint Popcorn Ceiling

Instead of covering or removing the texture, the fastest way to paint popcorn ceilings is to simply paint over them. While this is certainly less expensive, here are some considerations:


  • Inexpensive
  • Fast and easy
  • Helps encapsulate potential asbestos


  • It's a short-term fix
  • Textured appearance remains
  • There's a possibility of asbestos if you disturb the surface

Cover Popcorn Ceiling

can you paint over popcorn ceiling

Another solution is to cover your popcorn ceiling. This is done with 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch drywall, which is installed right over the texture. The pros and cons of this include:


  • Creates flat ceilings
  • Covers any asbestos
  • Boosts soundproofing


  • Creates a thicker ceiling
  • Adds weight to the ceiling
  • Most expensive solution

Remove Popcorn Ceiling

The last option is to fully remove the popcorn ceiling. This is done using warm water, a scraper, and a whole lot of patience. When considering this option, keep in mind:


  • Creates flat ceiling
  • Doesn't add weight or thickness
  • Eliminates asbestos


  • Potential asbestos risk
  • Messy and labor-intensive
  • Can be a lead paint hazard

Preparing Popcorn Ceilings for Painting

One of the most important parts of painting a popcorn ceiling is to prepare the entire room, ceiling, and entire floor in advance. Here's how to prep in advance!

Popcorn Ceiling Cleaning

how do you paint a popcorn ceiling

To start, you’ll want to wipe away the dust and debris that has accumulated on the popcorn ceiling to create a clean painting canvas for yourself. The stippled surface makes it easy for debris particles to accumulate, so this is an essential step before you start painting.

Popcorn ceilings are magnets for dust, so there are a few essential steps to take in order to remove dust properly. To clean your ceiling, we recommend:

  1. Covering all furnishings and floors with plastic tarps.
  2. Wear a protective mask and goggles to protect your eyes.
  3. Remove dust. You can do this with a broom, vacuum cleaner, or duct tape on a roller to remove dust from the ceiling's texture. Don't press too hard, though, as this will break off the texture.
  4. Clean the ceiling with a cleaner of your choice. Try this on a small area first. We recommend using warm water and dish soap to tackle grease stains, while bleach and water are better for water, smoke, and mildew stains.
  5. Let the ceiling dry overnight, opening windows to allow for circulation.

Popcorn Ceiling Repair

Thankfully, repairs tend to be pretty simple and straightforward, mostly because the texture can hide a lot of flaws. However, if the ceiling tested positive for asbestos, it's important to turn to professional service.

If there are patches or other larger, noticeable imperfections, use a joint compound and a taping knife to flatten the surface. Be mindful that matching the joint compound with the rest of your popcorn ceiling can be tricky.

In some cases, purchasing an aerosol can of popcorn texture is the easiest and most cost-efficient approach.

Typically, aerosol cans cost less than $15, making them the most cost-efficient solution. For larger areas, pneumatic hoppers are used, which are small spray guns that cover a larger area. These come in around $25-$75. Lastly, aerosol powder costs around $20.

How to Paint a Popcorn Ceiling

How to Paint a Popcorn Ceiling

The time has come to apply a fresh coat of paint to your popcorn ceiling! To paint over the popcorn ceiling, we are breaking down the steps to the easiest way to paint the popcorn ceiling to help you get the best results. Follow these steps for a successful project.

Step 1: Use Primer If Necessary

If you are using paint that doesn’t include primer, you’ll want to start by applying primer to the edges of your ceiling and around any light fixture openings. You can do so by using your angled paintbrush for your popcorn painting.

For larger areas of your ceiling, the easiest way to paint popcorn ceiling is to use a roller and paint in straight lines that overlap on the edges. Ideally, start in a corner and work in small sections until the entire ceiling is evenly covered with a layer of primer.

Step 2: Let the Primer Dry

The next step for how to paint a textured ceiling is to let this layer dry. Allow the primer to completely dry before determining if you need a single coat or if your ceiling needs another coat of primer. Make sure to let the primer fully dry before moving on to painting your ceiling.

Step 3: Apply Paint

Start by painting along the edges of your ceiling and around any objects or light fixtures, just as you did with your primer. From there, you can work on painting a base layer of paint on your ceiling.

When painting a textured ceiling, you’ll want to use the same technique as you did with your primer, painting in straight lines that overlap on the edges.

Step 4: Let the Paint Dry

Before you determine whether you need another coat of paint, let the first layer completely dry. This will help you recognize any spots that could use more paint. We warned you - painting textured ceilings requires patience! Most ceilings require at least two coats of paint.

Step 5: Repeat as Necessary

If you can still see through to the base of the ceiling after the first round of paint, repeat the above steps as necessary. If your ceiling wasn’t painted, to begin with, you might need to use more paint to achieve the look you want. However, allow it to fully dry to avoid using too much paint.

The Best Color for Painting Popcorn & Stippled Ceiling

The most used color for ceilings is white or a shade of it. This is done because white makes rooms feel larger and brighter. Additionally, it is best for adapting to different light sources as light brightens and fades throughout the day.

If you want a color other than white, light grays and yellows are another great alternative that won't draw too much attention to the popcorn finish. However, avoid bright primary colors that will highlight the "cottage cheese" look.

While some dark shades will enhance certain spaces, they can bring down the height of the room. Darker hues are particularly complimentary in warm tones to create a cozy vibe.

Additional Tips for Painting a Popcorn Ceiling

Now that you know how to paint popcorn ceilings, there are a few additional tips so you can paint popcorn ceiling the best way.

  1. Keep an eye on the amount of paint on the roll cover. While a popcorn texture needs a thick coat of paint, excess paint will soak the texture and cause it to fall.
  2. Be gentle when cleaning the ceiling. Only use a soft brush attachment.
  3. Since a second coat and more paint are used, popcorn ceiling painting is messier than a flat surface, so be sure to cover the room before you begin painting.

Do It Yourself vs. Hiring a Skilled Contractor

Painting is a tedious, time-consuming task, especially on a popcorn ceiling. While it is entirely possible to paint your popcorn ceiling on your own, you’ll have to first invest in the right tools and equipment if you don’t have them on hand.

Consider the physical costs of painting your popcorn ceiling as well, as it is a physically tolling task that requires strength and stamina.

When opting for a professional company like Oahu Pro Painters, you can: 

  • Guarantee prep work and clean up are taken care of for you.
  • Less of a chance of damaging the substrate.
  • Work is guaranteed.
  • Avoid injuring yourself.
  • Avoid exposure to health-inflicting asbestos.

Of course, you can always opt to have a professional take care of this task instead, and this is precisely the type of service that we offer. At Oahu Pro Painters, our professional painters are specialized in both residential and commercial painting projects, always offering competitive pricing and flexible scheduling.

Located in Honolulu, Kahala, Manoa, Pearl City, and Waipahu, we are proud to be your local Hawaiian painting service. Take advantage of our complimentary estimates, and we’ll be happy to provide you with a quote.

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

How to Paint Popcorn & Textured Ceiling: a Complete Guide
Written By:
Karl Van Zadnt

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