How to Paint a Coffered Ceiling? [10 Steps]

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Coffered ceilings are growing in popularity, as they can offer stunning decorative detail to homes and create a bit of depth within a room. But what’s the best way to go about painting them? Well, we’ve found the answer to this question for you. In this post, we will outline the best method to use when painting your coffer ceiling.

Here are the steps to paint your coffered ceiling:

  1. Set up your painting area.
  2. Apply primer cut-ins to the ceiling within each coffer.
  3. Use a roller brush to apply primer to the ceiling within each coffer.
  4. Apply primer to the side molding within each coffer.
  5. Apply paint cut-in lines to the ceiling within each coffer.
  6. Apply paint to the ceiling using a paint roller.
  7. Apply a second coat of paint to the ceiling (if needed).
  8. Apply paint to the side molding within each coffer.
  9. Apply the second paint coat to the side molding (if needed).
  10. Clean up the area.

Painting a coffered ceiling can be a time-consuming task, especially if you’ve never painted a ceiling before. It’s also a task that is better executed after it has been thoroughly planned out. Please read on for an in-depth look at each step, and some helpful information about paint finishes and how coffered ceilings can transform the look of your room.

Stunning kitchen room design with large bar style island and coffered ceiling, How to Paint a Coffered Ceiling? [10 Steps]

How To Paint A Coffered Ceiling?

Painter painting the coffered ceiling in the bedroom of a home that is being redecorated

Here is the easiest way to approach painting a coffered ceiling. We’ve also included a few techniques used by the pros to help you finish your job successfully and as quickly as possible. After all, painting a ceiling can be pretty taxing on the arms and shoulders. Now, let’s get started!

The tools that you’ll need:

  • Interior latex paint
  • Interior latex paint primer
  • Dish soap
  • Extension pole for paint roller
  • Painter’s tape
  • Roller spinner
  • Paintbrush comb
  • Canvas drop cloths
  • Ladder
  • Paint roller
  • Sponge
  • Roller tray
  • Paintbrush

Step 1. Set up your painting area

Before starting the job, be sure to clear everything out of the room. Then, place your drop cloths over the entire surface area of the floor to prevent sprays and splatters, making sure to cover all four corners. Lastly, cover any remaining furniture in the room that may be too heavy to move for the job.

Buy drop clothes on Amazon.

Step 2. Apply primer cut-ins to the ceiling within each coffer

Take your ceiling primer and pour it into the paint tray. Start in one corner of the room and apply the primer to the ceiling of the first coffer. You’re going to take your trim brush and paint a two to three-inch line along the edge of the ceiling within each coffer. Start in one corner of the coffer, and paint the line to the other end. Continue to do this until you’ve painted all four sides.

Check out this trim brush on Amazon. 

Step 3. Use a roller brush to apply primer to the ceiling within each coffer

Now it’s time to roll the primer on the remaining portion of the ceiling within the coffer. Doing so will prevent visible lines from showing where the cut lines are (and the same will be true for the paint application).

While the primer cut lines are still wet, use your roller to apply the primer evenly on the ceiling (use your extension rod if needed). Be sure to apply the primer thoroughly to provide the best stain barrier, especially if you only plan to use one paint coat.

Next, move to the adjacent coffer and use your trim brush to paint around the perimeter of its ceiling as well (for the cut-in). Then, again take your roller brush and apply the primer to the ceiling within the coffer while the cut-in lines are still wet. Continue this process until you’ve applied primer to the ceilings of all of the coffers.

Check out this roller brush combo on Amazon.

Step 4. Apply primer to the side molding within each coffer

Now it’s time to prime the molding of each confer. Take your trim brush and start at the first coffer, applying the primer first to the molding corner and painting it using horizontal strokes. Once you’ve completed all four sides of the molding within the coffer, move on to the adjacent coffer. Once all of the coffers’ moldings have been primed, give the primer about 30-minutes to an hour to dry.

Note: The next section applies to projects using the same color/type of paint for the entire ceiling. If you plan to paint the crown moldings within your confers a different color, it’s best to wait a day or two for the primer to dry completely so that you can apply painter’s tape (some tape will peel off the paint) to the molding before painting the ceiling. However, if you are a skilled painter or simply don’t feel the need to use painter’s tape on the molding when creating the cut-in lines on the ceiling, you can paint the molding the same day.

Check out this painter’s tape on Amazon.

Step 5. Apply paint cut-in lines to the ceiling within each coffer

If you’ve determined that the primer is dry, start the same cut-in process, but using the paint this time. Start in the same confer as before and use your trim brush to paint a two to three-inch line along the edge of the ceiling within each coffer. Start in one corner of the coffer, and paint the line to the other end.

Continue to do this until you’ve painted all four sides.

Step 6. Apply paint to the ceiling using a paint roller

Next, load your paint roller with the ceiling paint and apply the paint to the coffer’s ceiling. When applying paint to the roller, be sure not to submerge it in the paint completely, but glide over the top of the paint and roll it back and forth until it’s completely covered. Since paint is usually thinner than the primer (unless you have a paint/primer combo), it will help prevent dripping when applied to the ceiling.

Step 7. Apply a second coat of paint to the ceiling (if needed)

If you’re applying two coats of paint to the ceiling, wait for the paint to dry and then start at the first coffer, first applying the cutting lines and then using the paint roller.

Pro Tip: When applying the paint roller to the ceiling, use a zig-zag pattern to ensure coverage for each stroke. Make sure that your paint strokes are controlled and try to avoid leaving visible lines. Remember not to saturate the roller too much when dipping it in the paint to avoid paint drops falling on your face.

Step 8. Apply paint to the side molding within each coffer

Now that all of the coffer ceilings are painted, it’s time to go back and paint the side molding within each one. If you’re using the same paint, you’ll just need to grab the brush you used to paint the cut-in. If not, you’ll want to grab a new brush.

Pro Tip: If using a previously used brush, be sure to wash and dry the brush well. It doesn’t need to be completely dry (in fact, it should be a little damp to allow for good paint transfer), but it shouldn’t be dripping with water.

Using your trim brush, start in the corner of the first coffer that you painted when you initiated the project. Position your trim brush so that the brush’s long edge is at the top of the molding and use sweeping horizontal strokes to paint the molding. Once you’ve completed all four sides of the molding in the first coffer, continue down the row until the molding within each coffer has been painted.

Step 9. Apply the second paint coat to the molding (if needed)

Once you’ve applied the first coat of paint to the molding within each coffer, go back and apply a second coat as needed. Again, you’ll want to start in the same order as the previous paint applications. Make sure that the first coat of paint is completely dry before applying the second coat. You can usually find the drying time on the back of the paint can.

Check out this ceiling paint on Amazon.

Step 10. Clean up the area

After you’ve painted all of the coffers, you can now clean your paint roller, brushes, and tray (if it’s not disposable) with mild soap (dishwashing soap will work fine) and warm water. If you have paint left over in any of the cans, be sure to secure the lids on them by tapping the top with the handle of your paintbrush or a hammer (not too hard, though).

Buy dish soap on Amazon.

Pro Tip: It’s also helpful to take a permanent marker and note where the paint was applied–for future touch-ups. For example, “first-floor ceiling molding.”

Should ceiling paint be flat or eggshell?

Empty room with wood paneled walls and coffered ceiling

It’s worth mentioning that you’ll find that using a flat finish is the best choice for the ceiling in most cases. However, there aren’t any set rules for home design; it has more to do with your decor goals and personal preferences. A ceiling with a flat finish will not reflect any light, which is ideal if you want to focus on other areas of the room (it’s also great at camouflaging ceiling flaws).

An eggshell finish will have a bit of sheen, so it will reflect some light. It will be an ideal option if you’re looking to add a bit of texture to your ceiling or bring more attention to it for other reasons.

Do coffered ceilings make rooms look smaller?

Coffered ceilings actually create the opposite visual effect. They typically make ceilings appear higher than they actually are.

What is the difference between a coffered ceiling and a tray ceiling?

The term “ceiling tray” is often used interchangeably with “coffered ceilings,” though they are two different types of ceiling designs. Tray ceilings are typically made with drywall and plaster, while coffered ceilings are often made using various building materials, including brick, wood, and metal.

Also, a tray ceiling usually features a single raised area (which is often the room’s shape). In contrast, a coffered ceiling usually has more of a grid-style setup, inclusive of recessed multiple areas of the ceiling, which are separated (i.e. the coffers).

Wrapping Things Up

Stunning kitchen room design with large bar style island and coffered ceiling

Painting a coffered ceiling may seem a bit tricky at first. However, once you outline the method that you will use to start the task, you’ll find that it’s actually fairly simple to accomplish. We hope that this guide has helped you learn how to tackle this DIY task!

Before you go, be sure to check out our other posts:

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