Painting a room is one of the easiest and quickest ways to give it a new look and make the space feel fresh. However, that doesn’t mean painting is an easy task. It can be time-consuming and frustrating. With a little prep work and a well-organized plan, you can get it done with less work and frustration, and it will go quicker as well!

If you have a painting job ahead of you, you might be wondering if you should paint the ceiling or walls first.

When it comes time to put the paint-filled brush to the wall, you should start with the ceiling first. That way, if any drips fall or run down from the ceiling, they are not getting onto your freshly painted walls and trim.

However, there is a lot more to consider when painting the walls and ceiling of a room. Use the process below to get the job done quickly and with less frustration!

Prepare the Tools and Materials

Tools

These are the items you will use to prep your space and do the actual painting. You want to gather them all together at the start.

Here are the tools you are going to need:

  • drop cloth(s)
  • rags
  • screwdrivers
  • sandpaper
  • paint scraper
  • putty knife
  • telescopic paint roller handle
  • paint rollers
  • paint tray
  • paintbrushes
  • sponge

The screwdrivers you will need depend on the hardware attached to the ceiling and walls in the room you are painting. Check your light fixtures, light switches, electrical sockets, and door hardware to see which type of screwdrivers you will need.

Make sure you get a large enough drop cloth to cover the floor. If the room is large or you will leave some larger items of furniture in the space while you paint, you might need several drop cloths to cover everything.

A putty knife is only necessary if you have to repair areas of drywall. Otherwise, you won’t likely need this tool.

Material

These are the consumable items you will use to get the job done. You will want to gather them into one space as well. Make sure you have an area here to open and mix paint.

Gather these materials before starting:

You will only need the drywall tools and materials if there are small imperfections or damage to the walls that you want to repair.

Prepare the Room

The first thing you need to do is prepare the room. This can be done a few days before you start painting if you want to spread the work out and take your time. If you want to get it done quicker, do this right before you plan to paint.

First, remove any furniture from the room. If there are larger items, you can pile them in the middle of the room.

Apply masking tape to about a ½ inch of the baseboard with the rest running down onto the carpet and smooth it down. The tape will protect the edge of the floor from paint splatters and drips.

Next, cover the floor and any furnishing left in the room with your drop cloth(s).

Remove any light fixtures or other hardware attached to the ceiling, walls, and doors—if you are painting the doors. If you are not painting the doors, you can cover the hardware with the masking tape as well.

Move all the tools and materials you have gathered to one section of the room where you can mix the paint and pour it into your paint trays.

Repair and Prepare Surfaces

Now you need to repair any damaged surfaces.

If you have stains on your ceiling, use the ceiling stain sealer. You will want to make sure whatever stained the ceiling is taken care of, or the stain will reappear.

If there is any damage to the drywall, you will want to repair that now using the drywall tape, compound, and putty knife. There are several useful videos on YouTube.

Next, sand down any wooden surfaces that are too be painted using the 100-grit sanding sponges. Sanding will not only smooth out any small scratches and imperfections, but it will also make the surfaces rough, which will increase paint adhesion.

Paint does not stick well to smooth hard surfaces. So, these need to be scuffed or have paint adhesion helpers to help.

WARNING: If your house was built pre-1978, you need to test the paint for lead, using a lead paint test kit. Breathing in the dust from sanding lead paint can be EXTREMELY dangerous to your health.

Prime & Paint

Now you need to prime any surfaces that you are going to paint. Primer is not always required depending on the surface you are painting, the existing color, and the new color. In general, if the old color is a bright, dark, or otherwise deep shade, you will need to prime it. New drywall also needs a basecoat of primer.  

If you are finishing any woodwork or trim with a clear finish or stain, you should do that before you begin to paint the ceilings and walls. Wait until you are sure it is dry and then cover it with the masking/painter’s tape.

Now you can prime the ceiling first, then the walls. Priming does not have to be as accurate as painting, but you don’t want any drips or large splotches of paint.

You also want to be sure you cover the entire surface with primer. Areas not covered with primer will dry to a different hue or shade than the rest.

Next, you want to paint the ceiling first followed by the walls in the same order that you primed them. The basecoat on the ceiling and walls will have had some time to dry as you worked through priming everything.

By painting them in the same order, you will be starting with the driest sections first, giving the last surfaces primed more time to dry. Following this order will save you time, rather than having to wait for the entire room to dry before starting to paint.

When painting, you want to first “cut-in” the corners and any tight areas around hardware, windows, doors, and fixtures that the roller can’t get to.

“Cut-in” means to use a brush to apply paint to tighter areas that rollers can’t reach. Do not do this for the whole room at once. Do it for each surface you are about to paint.

If you do all of the cutting-in and then roll, the brushed areas will be dry before you begin to roll paint, and the color won’t match, giving your walls and ceiling a framed look.

Video below will help you learn the cut-in technique.

Once you have cut-in the edges on your first surface, use the roller to paint the broad areas.

Check out this video on how to paint the ceiling with a roller and this one on how to paint a wall.

Repeat this process until all of your surfaces are covered!

If you are painting trim, now is the time to remove the tape from and use a brush to apply paint. Again start from the top of the room and work your way down to the bottom.

Enjoy Your New Space

Okay, you might need to give a bit of time to dry first, but then you can arrange the room the way you want and begin to enjoy the space. By following a simple process and starting at the top and working your way down (i.e. ceiling first then walls), you can get the job done quickly, and it will look better!

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