Can I Use Wall Paint on Ceiling? – Wall Paint vs Ceiling Paint 

Author: Pat Freling | Updated: | Affiliate links may be present.

It may come as a surprise that there are paints specifically for ceilings. Before you start your research, you might be wondering what the difference is between these two paint types and if you are able to use wall paint on your ceiling, and vice versa.

You can use wall paint on your ceiling, but extra care should be taken when doing so. Wall paint is thinner and more prone to dripping. It is not recommended to use wall paint on your ceiling if your ceiling is extremely textured or has excessive damage.

What’s the Difference Between Wall Paint and Ceiling Paint?

It’s important to understand the difference between the two varieties and why manufacturers make paint specifically for ceilings.

Wall Paint

This is the paint you are probably most familiar with. With a wide variety of colors and finishes, there are endless options when it comes to paint for your walls.

Wall paint has low viscosity, meaning it’s thinner. This is great for being able to brush a few fresh coats on your wall but can prove to be a nightmare if used incorrectly on ceilings. If not properly applied, wall paint on your ceiling will drip easily causing an unsightly finished product and doubling your workload when you have to start over.

Ceiling Paint

Unlike wall paint, ceiling paint is a higher viscosity, making it less prone to dripping than wall paint. Because it’s thicker, it’s beneficial not only for non-drip projects, but covers imperfections easier than wall paint will.

Most ceiling paints are also manufactured to dry to a matte finish so they don’t reflect a lot of light. This helps the finished product scatter light and hide imperfections and also makes it easier to clean.

One downside to ceiling paint is that most varieties come in only white or some shade similar. This can be fixed by adding tiny from your local hardware store, but adding too much will change the viscosity and thin it out.

Type of Paint for Your Ceiling

If you’re still deciding the best type of paint to use for your ceiling, there’s a few options you can consider.

Ceiling Paint

This is the most obvious answer as this is specifically for ceiling painting projects. Although matte finish is the most common, you have the option of getting an eggshell or satin finish as well. All options help to scatter light and not draw the eyes upwards while also hiding imperfections.

Flat Latex Paints

This is another great option if you decide not to use ceiling paint. Boasting the same finish as most ceiling paints, it would still have a low sheen and scatter light well. It’s also preferred over other types of wall paint because it dries quicker and is low-odor.

It will be more prone to dripping than paint formulated for ceilings so take care to apply thin, even layers to avoid any runs.

Flat Acrylic Paints

This is usually the second choice for professional painters when painting a ceiling. It dries quickly and offers great durability. It also can open up your color options. Just be sure to use paint thinner or thickener accordingly.

Textured Paints

This is the perfect option if your ceiling is flat or bare drywall. This paint dries with a slight texture to it so you can avoid spray texture but still achieve a slight popcorn-ceiling look. One consideration is that you cannot use this over already textured ceilings.

Considerations for Painting Your Ceiling

Just as you would when you paint any other room in your house, a few things should be kept in mind when deciding what kind of paint to use on your ceiling.

The Current State of Your Ceiling

If your ceilings aren’t excessively damaged or your house is fairly new, you have a wider range of options. Ceilings that have smoke damage, water damage, excessive cracks, or stains will need more finesse when choosing your paint.

For severely damaged ceilings, starting over with a fresh base of ceiling paint and primer may be your best bet.

The Texture of Your Ceiling

Just like with new or pristine ceilings, having bare and non-textured ceilings opens up your possibilities. For ceilings that already have texture, you will need to purchase paint that will adhere to textured walls and ceilings or else you will have an uneven finish.

One option is to remove the texture and give yourself a flat base to start with. You can do this by scraping or sanding away the current texture and laying down a good primer before you continue painting.

The Humidity of Your Room

If you are painting a ceiling in your living room or bedroom, you have more flexibility when choosing a paint. Ceilings in bathrooms, showers, or certain areas of the kitchen are going to see more moisture and will need paint that can withstand humidity.

When painting these water-prone areas, flat paint should be avoided as it won’t hold up as well as other varieties. Instead, opt for a satin or semi-gloss paint for added protection and easier cleaner.

The Thickness of Your Paint

While it’s true that thicker paint is the best choice for ceilings, paint that is too thick can also be a problem, no matter what kind of paint you choose.

Because you cannot fight gravity, failing to properly thin paint that is too thick will not only cause drips, but can cause entire paint layers to peel off from being too heavy. If you notice this problem, you should thin your paint out by about 20% before trying to reapply it.

Can You Use Ceiling Paint on Walls?

Just as you can use wall paint on your ceilings after doing the proper prep, you can also use ceiling paint on your walls! Because it’s quick-drying and thicker than wall paint, it can be a good choice for speeding up a project.

The most common, and recommended, use for ceiling paint on walls is to use it in place of a primer. Because it’s thicker, it can usually be applied in one coat. It can help hide imperfections better than regular primer, giving you a solid base to put your new color on top of.

Because it usually only comes in white, it can limit your color options if you choose to use it as a top coat. Also, the finish may make it more prone to scuffs and handprints.

The Best Way to Paint Your Ceiling

Painting your ceiling is pretty straightforward if you take the proper steps before and get prepped correctly.

Protect Your Surroundings

Lay a drop cloth over the whole floor to protect your floors from splatters and drips, should they occur. Tape off the top paint of the wall that is adjacent to the ceiling to avoid accidental paint transfer.

If possible, paint your ceiling before you paint your walls so any accidental transfers can be easily painted over.

Prep and Prime

Clean your ceilings with soap and water then wipe down once more with a plain wet cloth and allow it to dry completely.

Opt for an oil-based primer for your ceiling to avoid pulling moisture into the material. Start around the edges of the room and the edges of fixtures first, then paint outward, meeting in the middle of the ceiling. Allow it to dry completely before adding your paint.

Paint With a Roller

Before you proceed, it’s important to assess the thickness of your paint at this moment. Use a thinner or thickener at this stage and get the correct consistency.

Use a telescopic roller (or a ladder if you don’t have a pole) and roll the paint on in smooth, even strokes. Avoid going back and forth as this can create lap marks which are apparent once the paint dries.

Instead, roll in one direction, slightly overlapping and feathering the edges of each stroke. Once it is completely dry, assess for areas you missed and cut these in with a small hand brush and light, quick strokes.

Final Thoughts

Many paints are versatile and can be used in a variety of paintable surfaces. Ceiling paint has the advantage of being thicker, with less splatter and quicker dry times. But wall paint is a suitable option as well if you are wanting to add your own personal touch to a room.

About Pat Freling

Pat has been into DIY painting since he was 14 years old. He's painted interior walls, decks, patio, and even the first car that he'd purchased at 18.

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