How to Paint Your Ceiling With Contrasting Color

How to Paint Your Ceiling With Contrasting Color

Level: Beginner

White or other light, neutral shades are often the colors most chosen when painting a ceiling. They are great choices because they don’t distract from the colors on the walls and furnishings. They reflect light, as well as make a ceiling feel higher than it is, depending on the chosen colors and the room.

Done correctly though, you can get a dazzling effect by painting your ceiling in a color that contrasts with the walls or other colors in the room. You just need to know what works so things pop, but don’t clash…too much. Keep reading to learn how to paint your ceiling with a contrasting color.

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    • Step 1: Decide on a Color

      Contrasting colors — sometimes referred to as complementary colors — are opposite each other on the color wheel and add a dramatic touch to any room. Using contrasting colors together often can create a pleasing, yet slightly clashing effect. This clash is what you want; it enhances the temperature of each color, adding interest and energy to the room. For example, you can use a warm color like red against a cool shade, such as green — the color directly opposite red on the color wheel.

      When painting your ceiling with a contrasting color, one room color should be dominant, in a darker shade of that particular color, while the other color opposite from the dominant one on the color wheel should be in a lighter shade. For example, a dark green should be paired with a light red shade. Generally, a lighter color works best on the ceiling, if you want the ceiling to appear higher, while a darker shade makes a room feel cozier. Use whatever works best for your particular rooms and taste.

      The experts at your local True Value® hardware store can answer any questions you have about paint color and point you in the right direction, based on the look you’re going for. Pick up a Custom Mixed Color Sample to try out different colors on your ceiling. You can also pick up one of our helpful Idea Cards to help you choose your palette. Also check out the True Value Color Gallery to see all the potential colors and combinations.

    • Step 2: Prepare the Room
      drop clothextension pole

      Ceiling paint can drip, so you'll want to protect the floor and any furniture in the room. It's best to move all the furniture into another room. If that's not an option, cover everything with drop cloths or tarps. Remove any wall hangings and decorations. Take down any ceiling fans and light fixtures.

      Safety Alert!

      Before you remove any electrical fixtures, turn off power to the room by turning off the breaker for that circuit at the main electrical panel. Mark the switch with a warning tag (a simple piece of tape will do) to make sure no one flips it back on while you're working. Remove the light bulbs before you remove the fixture. Bring in portable work lighting if needed to help you see properly.

      Fill any cracks or holes in your ceiling. For holes larger than a dime, use premixed drywall joint compound and a roll of adhesive mesh tape. Scrape off any flaky ceiling pieces and use an old paintbrush to dust away any loose drywall dust. Wet the hole with a damp sponge and press in the compound with a putty knife. Smooth until it's flush with the ceiling, let it dry overnight, then sand using fine-grit sandpaper and dust until smooth.

      Safety Alert!

      Wear safety goggles when filling in ceiling cracks and holes. You don't want any loose particles to fall into your eyes.

      Once everything is cleared from the room, wash the ceiling using clean damp cloths, mild detergent and warm water. Let it dry thoroughly.

      Helpful Tip

      If you are working on a very high ceiling, it's a good idea to rent the appropriate scaffolding or use a ladder — it will make your job easier and help prevent injury.

      If you will be working from the floor, use a roller applicator with a long extension handle. If painting a textured ceiling, be sure to use a thick-nap roller to ensure full coverage over bumps on the surface.

    • Step 3: Paint the Ceiling
      Scotch blue painters tape

      Mask the perimeter of the ceiling with painter's tape where it meets the walls. It's also helpful to "cut in," or outline, the edge of your ceiling with a small, angled paintbrush before painting the whole ceiling. Paint with the brush for a short distance and then go back and roll into those areas to eliminate brush marks. Begin by priming the ceiling first with True Value EasyCare® Ultra Premium Interior Primer/Sealer. After the primer has dried, paint with True Value EasyCare® Ultra Premium Ceiling Paint in a flat sheen.

      Dip the roller in paint, in the deep section of the tray. Roll it back and forth in the shallow end to get rid of excess paint. When the roller is evenly covered, begin rolling out 6-ft. square sections on the ceiling. Use a series of overlapping "W" strokes from right to left, then back from left to right using horizontal strokes. Make sure to "feather" the edges of the squares, using less pressure when you get to the edges. This prevents creating a line when the paint overlaps from another square. Keep working with the 6-ft. squares until the entire ceiling is painted. Use a small brush to cover wherever a roller can't reach. You may need to apply a second coat of paint depending on the color and the coverage. The ceiling should dry in a few hours.

      Helpful Tip

      When doing brushwork along the perimeter, it's easier to use a smaller paint container. Pour paint into a coffee can, jar or a small paint cup to lighten the load.

    • Step 4: Clean Up

      Pick up your drop cloths or tarps and close up your paint cans. Dispose of empty paint cans appropriately. Clean your brushes and other tools with warm, soapy water. Thoroughly rinse your roller covers and brushes in water until the water runs clear, and then place them in a brush/roller spinner, if you have one, to remove excess liquid. Store in their protective sleeves or hang them on nails or hooks.

      Pick up drop cloths or tarps carefully, making sure you don't spread around any paint that may have gotten on them. Remove painter's tape at a 45-degree angle to avoid removing any fresh paint. Remember that the longer it stays on, the harder it is to remove.

      Good job! You’re ceiling color now contrasts with the walls for an unconventional but stunning room effect.

  • Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.

    Before you begin, use the shopping list below to uncheck the tools you already have to complete this project.

    Then, print or save your updated list and bring it to your local True Value hardware store, where an expert Hardwarian will give you the remaining tools and expert advice you need to complete this project.

    You can also shop online for these project items at and receive FREE shipping to a participating store.

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