Stencil a Fun Pattern on Your Ceiling

Discover a playful way to add interest to a boring ceiling with these step-by-step instructions.

By: Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien

The Scoop on Stenciling

Stencils give you the drama of wallpaper with the freedom of paint to work in any room, without the risk of peeling and mold.

Oriental Flair

We picked this Moroccan tile stencil from Cutting Edge Stencils and chose a gray and blue color palette.

Materials List

For this project you'll need a stencil; a stippling brush; 2-inch dense foam rollers; spray adhesive; painter's tape; a paint tray or plastic plate; a piece of cardboard or paper for sample board; paper towels; large zip-top bags; small plastic containers for paint; and latex paint.

Get Started: Prep, Stick and Paint

It’s a good idea to practice your stenciling technique on paper or a sample board, like a piece of cardboard, rather than moving straight to painting your ceiling. Getting your stencil technique down first will save you time and frustration in the long run. You can try out color combinations for your stencil pattern, too. After your stencil test run, map out the design by making pencil marks where each stencil pattern will be positioned.

Prepare the Surface

Clean walls to prep your surface for a clean-edged stencil. A solution of water and dishwashing liquid with a sponge works well to clean dust and dirt off your ceiling.

Stick Up the Stencil

When you’re stenciling a wall, you can use either painter’s tape or spray adhesive to secure and reposition your stencil as you paint the pattern. Stenciling a ceiling is trickier because you’re working against gravity. It’s best to use a spray adhesive for stenciling the ceiling or for intricate designs. Then add a few pieces of painter’s tape around the edge of the stencil to keep it firmly in place. You’ll want to start your stencil on a section of the ceiling that lets you paint an uninterrupted column of the pattern. Then you’ll have a perfect vertical pattern from which you can extend out from.

Paint the Edges

Always start with the edges. Pour some paint onto a plate or paint tray. You don't need a lot of paint (maybe two to three tablespoons of paint to start), and you'll want your stippling brush to be almost dry as you paint. Use a dabbing motion with your stippling brush to start painting in from the edges of your design. You'll use the stencil brush for filling in any gaps where the ceiling meets the trim.

Fill In With Paint

Grab a two-inch foam roller and mini paint tray. Pour a little paint onto your paint tray and load up the foam roller with paint. Keep moving the roller over the paint a few times until it absorbs most of the paint, and then blot any excess paint with a paper towel. When you start applying the roller to the ceiling, you should see no visible paint on the roller surface — it should look almost dry. Use painter's tape on the narrow edges of the stencil to prevent paint rollovers. Let the paint dry, and then apply a second coat. Quick tip: When you're working with a stencil, it’s always best to have less paint on your roller or brush rather than too much.

Tape, Paint, Repeat

Reposition your stencil, lining it up with the painted pattern. Continue on with the pattern. Let the stencil dry overnight. This stencil comes with an additional top-edge stencil — the upper part of the design cut as a smaller separate stencil. This helps make it easy to fill the gaps by your ceiling line after the main section is stenciled.

Bag Your Roller

Painting a stencil on a ceiling is definitely more challenging than painting a wall. When you need to take a painting break, put your roller cover in a zip-top bag and store it in the refrigerator. Check to be sure there’s no excess air in the bag. Then you'll be able to pick up where you left off — no dried-up paint on the roller — without needing to clean your roller cover.

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