What Is the Best Ceiling Paint?

Traditional Flat Drywall Ceiling
A Traditional Flat Drywall Ceiling Works for All Styles of Homes. Oktay Ortakcioglu / Getty Images

Ceiling paint is one of those rare paint products (along with bathroom paint) that announces right there on the label where it is supposed to be applied. Search all you want: you will not find a product designated living room paint or home office paint. As long as a few basic conditions are met, interior acrylic-latex paint knows no boundaries.

One way companies thrive is by splintering core products into specialty niche products.

This is a familiar trend, even in the home improvement industry. Is this a desire to create necessary niche products or just a desire to sell more of the same thing? It's your call.

Ordinary flat (or matte) sheen white latex paint that is not labeled ceiling paint can be applied on the ceiling. But will using ceiling paint result in a better-looking ceiling, with fewer drips and splatter along the way? In this case, it does help to pay attention to the label.

Greater Viscosity to Slow Drips, Splatter

Higher viscosity paint with more solids means that you can paint above your head and expect less dripping. Not only do drips make a mess below (no matter how clean a painter you feel you are, always use a drop cloth), they create unsightly areas on the ceiling that are difficult to fix after drying.

Other than greater thickness, or viscosity, niche ceiling paint is the same as ordinary white flat latex paint.

It may be helpful to compare two types of ceiling paint with one type of wall paint. Both types of ceiling paint surpass the wall paint in terms of viscosity, total weight per gallon, and solids by weight. In short, ceiling paint has roughly the same consistency as thinned-out honey. 

Type of PaintViscosityWeight of 1 GallonSolids by WeightComments
Valspar Professional Interior Latex Eggshell Series90-100 KU10.6 pounds45%Valspar is an exclusive brand found at Lowe's Home Improvement.
Valspar Ultra Interior Flat Ceiling White Latex-Base Paint and Primer in One96-104 KU11.7 pounds52%Tip: 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 & Primer95-105 KU11.3 pounds (+/-) 0.259.9% (+/-) 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, as used by a machine called a viscometer. Viscometers measure the thickness of paint. 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.

Better at Hiding Stains

One benefit of thicker paint is its 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.

Should Ceiling Paint Always Be White and Flat?

Some creative homeowners want ceiling colors that are anything but white. They might even go so far as to paint the ceiling a dark color, while keeping the walls light.

Yet most homeowners want white, or near-white, ceilings. This isn't necessarily a case of limited creativity. White makes sense for your house's "sky" because anything darker acts as a visual stop. When the illusion of infinity is desired, white does a great job of depriving the eye of this visual anchor, thus letting the eye wander upward. It's only the frame of the surrounding walls, a ceiling light fixture, or a shaft of light beaming across the ceiling that breaks this illusion.

Additionally, it's guaranteed that ceiling paint's finish is flat--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 far more than on walls and should be avoided.

With both factors, white color and flat finish, you can certainly find these attributes outside of ceiling paint. But purchasing the ceiling paint does mean that you do not have to hunt for and select either quality; they are already in place for you.

Should You Buy Ceiling Paint or Not?

Ceiling paint is a worthwhile purchase. Ceiling paint's slightly higher cost than wall paint, plus thick consistency and flat finish, make it useful when painting rooms. If you happen to be running your paint through a paint sprayer, this greater viscosity will mean less to you than when you are painting overhead with a roller.