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How to Paint the Edges of a Ceiling

Updated on January 30, 2013

So you need to freshen up the paint in your room or perhaps you've just built and you need put a new paint on new ceiling and now you have to figure out what's the best way of getting paint on edges of the ceiling without getting paint on your walls. It's a challenge for sure. Cutting in on edges and corners are no easy task and for many it is the most challenging part of painting. And unless you're painting the ceiling and walls the same color and finish mistakes show up quickly and clearly. However, here are four different ways to tackle this task.


This is the most obvious and most challenging for sure. Using a brush you dip just a small amount of paint and cut in the edges. I always use and recommend at least a 1 1/2 inch brush to cut in. Giving yourself a large cut in width means that you can roll the rest of the ceiling without worrying about overshooting your edging and hitting the wall.

Freehanding is no easy task though. Too much paint on the brush and as you work the corner some paint will always glide into the corner and then down onto the wall. If you use too little paint you'll be cutting in until the next day. Plus keeping a straight line while freehanding is very challenging unless you are a steady eddie.

A benefit of freehanding is that you don't have to worry about taping off the wall edges and then removing a tap. This is a time intensive process for sure. If you do decide to freehand I recommend using at least a 1 1/2 inch angled brush. The angle will help since you'll be standing on a ladder or chair and will be painting at an angle. Plus the angle will help you work the paint in the corner. I would recommend using a stright edge like a drywall blade to help keep paint off the wall if you are a novice.

Finally, if you do decide to use a paint brush to edge the ceiling remember this tip. When painting with a brush you are pushing the paint. If you try to drag the paint you'll end up having thin spots where you can see the underlying paint, primer or unfinished ceiling material.

Taping Off

Taping off works with any of these recommendations or with what ever gadget you find to edge with. Use Painter's Tape, its usually blue and resembles masking tape, to create a border on the walls. This border gives you protections as you edge the ceiling from any miscues or meandering rollers.

To tape off simply start at a corner and stick the tape to the wall right at the corner where the wall and ceiling meet. As you are unrolling the tape work the edge of the tape as tight into the corner as you can. This will give you a straight line, or as straight as the ceiling drywall or other material is. The nice thing about Painter's tape is that it is sticky enough that as you stretch it out and stick it to the wall you can let the roll dangle as you move down and continue painting. However, it is not so sticky that removing the tape later becomes a challenge.

There are a few negatives with taping off. First, it can be a bit expensive. Painter's tape can cost upwards of $7.00 USD a roll, which is a little bit of money for something you are going to ultimately throw away. Secondly, taping off is time consuming. It takes awhile to tape a few feet of edge and then move down reset and tape a few more feet. Finally, on some occasions (and only some) the paint will get under the edge of the tape and will dry above and below the tape and as you remove the tape a little bit of take will come off causing a jagged saw blade look where you tape it.

To prevent this you can either remove the tape before the paint is dry, which can lead to some running or a mess on the floor. You can precut, with a utility knife, a line between the edge of the ceiling and the tape. This will help remove the tape and not the paint but you may end up with little bits of tape on the ceiling. Or you can use Frog Tape or something similar. It's pricier than Painter's Tape but seals much better.

The Whizzer cutting in on walls.
The Whizzer cutting in on walls. | Source


When edging a ceiling you might not think about rolling it and truth be told in general I wouldn't recommend it. However, there are tools and special rollers out there that work wonders, if you tape off first. The one I like the most is the whizz. This isn't a plug it's just the one I like. The whizz is a roller but unlike typical cage rollers with cages that roll, the whizz is a simple bar that a slender roller slides on. Here the roller and not the cage rolls. There are several different roller that can be purchased for the whizz but in order to cut in you have to get the ones with the nap (the fluffy stuff) on the edges. This way paint goes right to the corner. If you're careful and tape off first you can cut your cut in time by at least half.


Finally, if you plan on doing a lot of painting you can purchase edging tools. These tools have an edge that prevents paint from dripping down or onto opposite corners while also having wheels or small rollers that allow the edger to move fairly effortlessly along the wall. They have pads that can be dipped into paint and hold the paint fairly well. They do run the risk of drips sometimes as well as not getting into the corner but if you tape off then you're generally pretty safe.

Sure-Line Paint makes a good edger with replacement pads if you're in the market. It is a bit much if you plan on only painting one or two rooms. However, if you plan on doing a lot it can be a decent investment.


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    • SaffronBlossom profile image


      6 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      I wish I had read this before I painted my bedroom...I did it freehand and now I have little blue smudges along my ceiling. :) Great hub!


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