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My guess is that a paint sprayer might be easiest, but are the other ways that won't remove the popcorn?

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Have you considered removing the popcorn first and finishing the ceiling smooth or textured? If you change your mind, it's going to be a lot harder to remove after you've painted. diy.stackexchange.com/questions/431/… –  Doresoom Aug 11 '10 at 19:04
    
I did. In fact, it was the first thing I wanted to do. After I read on the exchange about what it would take, I wasn't sure I could handle the job. Oh, and the asbestos thing really scares me since the property is 27 years old. I just see money flying right out the window. –  Brandy Scott Aug 11 '10 at 19:51
    
Getting in a professional plasterer to skim the ceiling over the top of the popcorn is another option - one that may well be less expensive than you think. –  Jeremy McGee Aug 11 '10 at 20:43
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4 Answers

You can but, ... it's a one way street. Once you paint it, you'll never be able to scrape it off. So think carefully before you paint it.

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I beg to disagree with the poster who said you cannot remove painted popcorn. I did and I am a diy'er. It just comes off in sheets that look like lace. It isn't any messier than non-painted. You are still left with unfinished ceiling that needs taping and plastering. –  user8791 Oct 16 '12 at 17:48
    
-1 this is not accurate. You'll never be able to scrape it off? It certainly becomes more difficult to remove, but it can be done with a little water. –  Matthew Oct 16 '12 at 18:20
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I think he meant that you will never be able to scrape off the paint and leave the popcorn in place. Still, it's not one-way, you could paint over it with another color. –  Bratch Oct 16 '12 at 23:09
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Yes, you have to use a segmented foam roller. I didn't have to thin the paint and I don't think that is necessary.

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I have done it and you need to lay out large amounts of drop cloth to prevent popcorn from falling down. Paint in one direction only otherwise the popcorn will peel.

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You can use a really thick-napped (1" nap) roller, but make sure to go very slow, or you will fling paint everywhere.

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Wear glasses and clothing you don't care about - you're GOING to fling paint everywhere, no matter what you do on a job like this. Just accept that, prepare for it (cover everything) and go on with the job. –  Michael Kohne Aug 11 '10 at 17:59
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@Michael: I agree with that. Even worse when rolling on a new popcorn ceiling. Very messy. –  staticx Aug 12 '10 at 15:54
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Like you said, a paint sprayer would be easiest, but you can do it with a roller as well:

  1. Use a foam roller.
  2. Thin the paint out a bit, say 80/20 paint/water or so.
  3. Roll in one direction only - if you roll back and forth you'll likely knock off the popcorn. If one "roll" doesn't cover it, just put on another coat after the first one dries.
  4. Be gentle with the roller!
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