I'm having problems painting a ceiling. It was already painted, but I decided to freshen it up (which I regret) as I was painting the walls. I get alternating patches of a light roller texture and completely smooth regions. This wouldn't be so bad but they are extremely irregular and very easily catch the light. I don't have problems with lap marks or anything else, just these weird smooth vs textured patches. The texture result I don't mind but the angled lighting makes it seem patchy. See photo: textured to left, smooth to right. This is actually white (photo has wrong colour balance). It's not clear from the photo but the texture is pock-marked (like the moon) not drippy, like a meringue.

ceiling texture

  • I Sanded in medium and fine sandpaper before applying;
  • I washed the surface down with a detergent and let it dry;
  • I washed it again with clean water and let it dry;
  • I used a high quality trade vinyl matt emulsion;
  • I mixed the paint well before applying;
  • I used a clean 9" roller with fabric (of some kind);
  • I made sure the roller was smoothly and evenly charged with copious paint;
  • I was careful not to over-roll drying paint;
  • I applied light pressure;
  • I kept a wet edge;
  • I rolled in one direction only, away from the light;
  • I've applied two coats (since last time I sanded down to start again).

I didn't apply any skim coat because the ceilings were smooth before I made the mistake of trying to paint them.

I still get the result in the photograph. Any advice? Am I doing any of the above wrong, or not as well as I think I am? As you can see above, I have tried doing my homework in advance, but to no avail, it seems.

I've painted quite a lot in the past, including walls with the same setup, and I've used the same paint (from the same tin) on things other than the ceiling, largely without issue.

The main decision to make at the moment is whether I need to start again (again) or if a third or fourth coat would fix this issue? Because:

  1. I know a lot of texture issues can only be fixed by starting again, but;
  2. If I don't try adding more coats, I will never know if that's the answer.
  • 2
    It looks as if the texture was already on the surface and you may have smoothed some areas down by sanding. ( I never found a need to sand a ceiling before painting) OR you are using a roller cover with too thick a nap.
    – RMDman
    Feb 28 at 22:33

1 Answer 1


Copious paint

Texture when roller rolls, no texture when roller slides due to loss of friction caused by copious paint acting as a lubricant.

This can be worse on ceilings than walls because you have to hold the roller up and apply pressure to it, where on a wall it will stay on the wall, and then you can apply more pressure to it. If you are not holding it up as hard, it will be more prone to slide than roll.

There is such a thing as too much paint on a roller. There's also such a thing as a roller that does not roll well (or evenly) due to dried paint or rust build-up.

  • Thank you. I will look at ways around this. I'm happy with going for "all texture", all anything is fine. Is this fixable with a new coat where I apply less paint and do other things to avoid sliding (eg frequent fresh roller cover, less paint), or is it best to sand and start over? I'll not hold you to your answer re do-over vs carry on: I've just got to jump one way or the other.
    – Dan
    Feb 28 at 22:43
  • 1
    Should not need "a fresh roller cover" until you're wearing the nap off the original. if it's wet in use (not allowed to get crunchy) and washed promptly and throughly one will last many jobs. Only reason to use a new one would be to try and affect the texture you're getting by changing the nap length or type of cover. Just leave the sloped/textured part of the paint tray you're supposed to roll the excess off on clear of paint, and use it. I suspect you can add a coat and hope to fix it. I guess some folks do plastic-wrap and freeze the roller covers & brushes. I wash and rinse, myself.
    – Ecnerwal
    Feb 28 at 22:56
  • Thank you for your help. I sometimes naughtily leave the cover wet in a bag between the 4hr re-coats, and I had been suspicious of it as a result ("does it seem as fluffy as it did last time?" "Is it a bit slick?") I always wash it properly each day and make sure it's fluffy again and all traces of paint are gone, but maybe this makes the second coat slide a bit. Will make sure I do the tray thing diligently, and cross my fingers! Will probably accept this, but will give a decent day for other answers.
    – Dan
    Feb 28 at 23:03
  • 1
    You might yet get a better answer, sure - I can paint things effectively but I'm hardly making claims of pro-level skills, just the basic looks better than it did before results.
    – Ecnerwal
    Feb 28 at 23:15

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