Best Ceiling Paint: What to Know Before You Buy

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Ceiling paint is a rare niche paint product, such as bathroom paint, that announces its intentions right there on the label. Most other paints are not location-specific. You will not find a product designated specifically as a living room paint or a home office paint. As long as some basic conditions are met, interior acrylic-latex paint knows few boundaries; it can go anywhere.

Is this another example of companies relabeling familiar products and calling them something else? Or is ceiling paint a real thing that is worth purchasing?

Ceiling Paint's Greater Viscosity Slows Drips, Splatter

If you want a flat, white ceiling, then ordinary flat sheen white interior latex paint that is not labeled as ceiling paint can be applied on the ceiling. But using ceiling paint will make the process go smoother; will result in a better-looking ceiling; and will produce fewer drips and splatter.

Ordinary latex paint is low in viscosity or thickness. So when you paint the ceiling with it, not only do you end up with big paint drops but something even more difficult to clean up: an ultra-fine paint mist capable of traveling by gusts of air, beyond your drop cloth. Higher viscosity paint with more solids means that you can paint above your head and expect fewer drips and little paint mist. Not only do drips make a mess below, but they create unsightly areas on the ceiling that are difficult to fix after drying.

Compare two types of ceiling paint with one type of wall paint. Both ceiling paints surpass the wall paint in terms of viscosity, total weight per gallon, and solids by weight. When compared with a viscometer against other substances, ceiling paint has roughly the same consistency as thinned-out honey.

Ceiling Paint vs. Regular Latex Paint Viscosity
Type of Paint Viscosity Weight of 1 Gallon Solids by Weight Comments
Valspar Professional Interior Latex Eggshell Series 90-100 KU 10.6 pounds 45% Valspar is an exclusive brand found at Lowe's Home Improvement.
Valspar Ultra Interior Flat Ceiling White Latex-Base Paint and Primer in One 96-104 KU 11.7 pounds 52% Valspar offers a ceiling paint that changes color from light-purple to white. This helps you keep track of areas that you have already painted.
KiLZ Ceiling Paint - Stainblocking Paint & Primer 95-105 KU 11.3 pounds (+/-) 0.2 59.9% (+/-) 2% Found at Home Depot stores, KILZ is a Masterchem paint brand that specializes in difficult surfaces such as concrete, decks, ceilings, and weathered wood.

Kreb's Units (KU) are a standard of measurement for viscosity. By way of comparison, honey's viscosity begins at 2,000 centipoise, roughly equivalent to 106 KU, and ranges as high as 10,000 centipoise.

Ceiling Paint Is Better at Hiding Stains

With greater viscosity comes greater hiding ability. Ceilings in poorly ventilated bathrooms are prone to mildew spots. After fixing the ventilation problem with a bathroom fan or heat lamp, you can clean the mildew spots and then cover remaining stains with ceiling paint.

Ceilings also tend to act as collection paints for cigarette and cigar smoke, cooking splatters, insects, and water spots. While ceiling paint cannot cover all stains, it does a better job at covering stains than ordinary latex paint.

Ceiling Paint Color and Sheen Options

White is the most popular color for ceilings. Your ceiling is like your home's sky, and similar to the real sky outside, you want your indoor sky to feel large and limitless. Painting the ceiling in darker colors acts as a visual stop. When the illusion of infinity is desired, white deprives the eye of this visual anchor and lets the eye wander upward. It is only the frame of the surrounding walls, a ceiling light fixture, or a shaft of light beaming across the ceiling that breaks this illusion. Some creative homeowners want ceiling colors that are anything but white. One alternative is to paint the ceiling a dark color while keeping the walls light, a startling contrast that catches attention.

Most ceiling paints have a flat finish, often the very flattest finish that the paint manufacturer produces. Any kind of glossiness, even the slight eggshell or satin sheen, shows up on ceilings. But as another attention-getting device, ceilings are sometimes painted in high-gloss sheens. One benefit of a high-gloss ceiling is that more ambient light is reflected throughout the room.

Should You Buy Ceiling Paint or Not?

With most projects, ceiling paint is a worthwhile purchase, especially if the ceiling has problems such as mold or if it is painted in a dark color. Ceiling paint's slightly higher cost than wall paint, plus thick consistency and flat finish, make it useful when painting entire rooms.

If you have decided to paint your ceiling with a paint sprayer, ceiling paint's splatter-reducing greater viscosity will mean less to you than if you are painting overhead with a roller. Paint spraying demands that all surfaces be covered unless you are spraying in a non-furnished new-construction home.