Do You Paint the Ceiling or the Walls First?

When you’re standing in a room that you need to completely repaint, figuring out where to begin isn’t always easy. Do you paint the ceiling or walls first? What about all of this trim? And the doors. When do you get to those? It’s enough to throw you for a loop.

When it comes to whether you paint a ceiling or walls first, the ceiling is the better starting point. After that, it’s crown molding, walls, baseboards, other trim, and doors, in that order. That way, you speed up the project while decreasing the harm caused by drips.

If you’d like to learn more about the best order to paint a room, here’s everything you need to know about the reasons behind why you paint the ceiling or walls first.

Do You Paint the Ceiling or Walls First

Do You Paint the Ceiling or Walls First?

When you need to paint a room, you handle the ceiling first. You can speed up the project a bit by sticking to a top-down strategy for most of the space. It allows you to eliminate certain kinds of prep work, such as having to tape off crown molding or the tops of walls. Since those are getting painted soon after you tackle the ceiling, you can just cut in instead.

Similarly, by painting the ceiling first, you don’t have to worry about any drips hitting a freshly painted surface. Instead, any dripping paint hits a trim and walls that you’ll be painting later, allowing you to cover any drips if they occur.

What Is the Correct Order to Paint a Room?

Correct Order to Paint a Room

When you’re painting a room, the order you use impacts efficiency and alters the broader impact of drips. If you want to make your project quicker and easier, here’s the correct order to paint a room.

1. Ceiling

When painting a room, it’s best to start with the ceiling. That way, you reduce the impact of drips and limit some of your prep work, making you more efficient.

You’ll need to begin by cutting in with a brush. Work carefully, ensuring you don’t accidentally get paint on the connecting walls or molding. Even if you’re painting those soon after, it’s always better to keep the paint where you want it. That way, you aren’t dealing with random splotches of damp paint or differences in the underlying color when you start painting those surfaces.

If you’re concerned about hitting your trim or wall, you can cover it slightly with painter’s tape. Just be aware that it adds time, so your project will take a bit longer to finish.

After that, use a roller to fill in the middle. If you’re going with a flat or matte paint, a classic W technique works well. For glossier finishes, you’ll need to work in a series of overlapping stripes, reducing your odds of streaks.

If you get any drips on the crown molding or wall, wipe them up quickly. That way, even if it leaves behind some of the ceiling color, it keeps everything as flat and smooth as possible. Otherwise, if the drip dries with some depth, it may stand out in a way you don’t appreciate.

2. Crown Molding

Once you’ve done the ceiling, it’s time for any crown molding. In many cases, you’ll want to make sure the ceiling is dry first. That way, you can use painter’s tape to protect it.

Apply painter’s tape along the ceiling edge. If you’re worried about getting the paint on the walls, you can add painter’s tape there, too. However, depending on the type of paint you’re using on the walls, that may be unnecessary.

Since molding tends to be thin and usually isn’t flat, you’ll want to use a brush. That makes it easier to get into any nooks and crannies, ensuring there’s full coverage.

3. Walls

After you get through with any crown molding, it’s time to focus on the walls. Since you want to keep paint off the newly painted ceiling or crown molding, waiting until that paint is dry and applying painter’s tape is wise. Additionally, if you want to avoid getting paint onto baseboards and windows and doorframes unnecessarily, you can use painter’s tape there, too.

Once that’s handled, you’ll want to start by cutting in with a brush in a few spots. First, you’ll want to tackle where the wall meets the ceiling or crown molding. After that, you’ll need to cut in around window and door frames, followed by the baseboards.

When you’re done cutting in, it’s time to paint the walls. The technique you’ll want to use typically depends on the finish of the paint. When the sheen is higher – usually anything in the satin, semi-gloss, or gloss levels – streaking is more likely, so you’ll want to work in a series of overlapping stripes.

Get paint on the roller and then do one pass, starting at the cut-in point for the ceiling and moving down to the one at the baseboard. Refresh the paint on the roller, then do another vertical stripe, overlapping about midway through the first one. Continue with that general strategy until the room is done.

If the paint is flat, matte, or eggshell, you can usually use a classic W technique. Just make sure there’s some overlap as you work, creating an even coat and achieving full coverage.

4. Baseboards

When the walls are finished, you’ll shift to the baseboards. Again, you’ll want to let the walls dry first. Then, you can safely apply painter’s tape to protect the walls.

If you’re worried about getting all of the way down to your flooring without getting paint onto your floors, craft paper may help. You can slide sheets under the edge of your baseboards, giving you a bit of a shield without impeding your ability to work.

Like crown molding, using a brush is typically best. That way, you have plenty of control and can get into any recesses with ease, leading to an even result.

5. Window and Door Frames

After finishing the baseboards, you can tackle the door and window frames. Again, you’ll apply painter’s tape to the walls, so you need to make sure those are dry. With the tape in place, use a brush to go over all your trim.

If you’re painting window sills and casings, too, you may want to apply painter’s tape to the windows. That way, you can avoid getting paint on them.

6. Doors

If you’re also painting doors while updating the room, those go last. Before you begin, position a drop cloth or craft paper underneath the door, opening it to approximately a 45-degree angle. That way, you’ll have easier access to the top and side edges.

Removing the hardware is wise as well. However, you can also try protecting it with painter’s tape if you prefer. If you go with the latter approach, make sure to cut in around the doorknob with a brush before painting the surrounding area.

As with trim, you’ll usually want to use a brush to paint the entirety of any doors since they tend to have crevices. However, if there are large, flat areas, you could use a roller then, relying on the brush only in spots where it’s necessary.

What Is the Correct Way to Paint a Ceiling?

Correct Way to Paint a Ceiling

Generally speaking, the best way to paint a ceiling is to start with cutting in with a brush. That way, you can use a roller on the rest of the ceiling, speeding up the project. Plus, you’ll have a nice buffer between the wall and where you’re using a roller. With that, the odds that you’ll accidentally tap the molding or wall go down significantly.

Plus, cutting in lets you get solid coverage in that corner. In most cases, getting all of the way into the corner with a roller isn’t easy, especially if you want to avoid drips. By cutting in, you make sure you get an even coat across the entire ceiling.

After that, you can transition to a roller. You’ll want to fill in the ceiling using a method that’s appropriate for the type of paint you’re using. For example, if you’re going with traditional flat ceiling paint, you can use a classic W pattern. That strategy comes with built-in overlap, making it easier to get full coverage.

If you’re using a glossier paint, you may need a different technique. By applying a series of overlapping stripes – limiting the number of passes and working quickly – you can avoid streaking.

Do You Cut in First When Painting a Ceiling?

When you prepare to paint a ceiling, it’s best to start by cutting in before you do anything else. You’ll get a straight line near the walls or crown molding that’s wide enough to prevent a roller from getting too close to the other surface. Since that’s the case, there isn’t much need to tape off other surfaces.

Plus, rollers can’t always get into the corners where the ceiling meets walls. If you try to force it, you may squeeze the roller, causing the paint to drip. When that happens, the drips may run down your walls or could fall on your flooring (or you), which isn’t ideal.

Cutting in allows you to avoid all of those headaches. You’ll get solid coverage in the corners without risky drips. Plus, it keeps the ceiling paint off of the walls.

Do You Paint Trim or Walls First?

Generally speaking, you’ll paint the walls before you handle trim. However, crown molding is an exception. Since it’s above the walls, you typically want to handle it first. That way, any drips don’t fall on a freshly painted surface.

For all other kinds of trim, it’s typically best to handle the wall before painting it. If you have a picture rail, you may want to paint the wall above the trim, allowing it to dry so that you can apply painter’s tape. Then, you can paint the picture rail, letting it dry before you tape it off, and proceed with the lower parts of the wall. The same can be true of a chair rail.

However, if you’d rather not break up the wall painting into segments, then take care of the walls before moving onto any picture or chair rails. Then, tackle the baseboards before moving onto the window and door trim.

How to Paint a Wall Without Touching the Ceiling

How to Paint a Wall

If you need to paint a wall without touching the ceiling, you’ll want to make sure that the ceiling is completely dry if you’ve recently painted it. Next, take painter’s tape and apply it to the ceiling right where it meets the wall, giving you a physical buffer.

Then, you’ll use a paintbrush to cut in, starting at the painter’s tape line and moving out at least four to six inches, depending on the size of the paint roller you’re using. That way, you can be methodical about the area closest to the ceiling, and you won’t have to get as close to the wall with the roller, reducing the odds of a mistake.

If you’re concerned about cutting in, choose an angled paintbrush to make it easier. You can also try a pad edger painter to get a crisp line. However, regardless of the tool, it’s best to apply painter’s tape just to be safe.

Can You Paint the Ceiling and Walls the Same Day?

Whether you can paint the ceiling and walls on the same day depends on a few factors.

First, if you’re using the same color on the walls and ceiling and there isn’t crown molding, then you can handle them both in quick succession. Similarly, if there is crown molding between the walls and trim, and it’s either all being painted the same color or you’ll be doing the crown molding on a later date, then you can do both in one day.

Otherwise, the drying time and whether you need to apply painter’s tape to any freshly painted surfaces determine if painting the ceiling and walls on the same day is an option. With painter’s tape, you don’t want to put it on painted surfaces that aren’t completely dry. Otherwise, it may take the paint off when it’s removed or leave odd smudges. As a result, you usually need to wait at least 24 hours before applying painter’s tape to any freshly painted surface.

If you’re not using painter’s tape, then painting the walls and ceilings on the same day may be possible. Just make sure you exercise caution when cutting in with brushes. That way, you have a solid buffer area and reduce the odds of accidentally getting wall paint on the ceiling and vice versa.

Can I Paint a Ceiling After Walls?

Yes, you can paint a ceiling after the walls; it’s just not the ideal order. When you handle the walls first, you have to exercise extreme caution when painting the ceiling.

If you don’t, you may end up with drips falling onto the freshly painted walls. Depending on the color differences or whether the wall paint is completely dry, this can be hard to clean up, potentially leaving uneven coloration in the area of the drip. While you could touch up, if the walls are a higher gloss sheen – such as satin, semi-gloss, or gloss – the touchup may stand out, making the surface look a bit uneven.

If you’re painting the ceiling after the walls, make sure the walls are completely dry. Then, use painter’s tape to protect the wall where it meets the ceiling.

If you want to go the extra mile, you could use painter’s tape to hang brown craft paper – the type in big roles – from the corner of the ceiling. Make sure the painter’s tape fully connects with the wall along the entire seam, creating a barrier. Then, the craft paper can act as a shield against drips.


At this point, if you were wondering whether you paint the ceiling or walls first, you should have your answer. In most cases, a top-down strategy is best, so you’ll begin with the ceiling. However, if you need to paint your walls, causing you to get to the ceiling later, that’s okay. Just use the right approach to prevent drips.

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