How To Paint A Ceiling Without Roller Marks [9 Pro Tips!]

When you decide to jump in and paint your ceilings, it's meant to be an upgrade. However, you don't want to put in the work only to end up with disappointing roller marks in fresh paint. How can you avoid this?  We've put in the time and research to find the best ways to avoid those pesky roller marks while painting the ceiling.

Unsightly roller marks can mar an otherwise good paint job. This is a common problem and one that can be avoided with some care. Some of the tricks of the trade include:

  1. Use a primer
  2. Spray your ceiling
  3. Apply thinner coats
  4. Use less paint on the roller
  5. Do not press on the roller
  6. Overlap roller strokes
  7. Apply in an alternating pattern
  8. Use flat paint 
  9. Only use quality products

These tips will go a long way in ensuring that your paint job dries blemish-free. As we continue, we will discuss each of these points in more detail. Additionally, we will go over a few more commonly asked questions related to this topic.

A man using a roller to paint his ceiling white, How To Paint A Ceiling Without Roller Marks [9 Pro Tips!]

Use A Primer

Ceilings are made of porous material, usually drywall. Because of this, they will absorb the paint, and often it is absorbed unevenly. Some parts will absorb a lot more paint than another area. This can result in patchy paint distribution and excess paint left to dry, leaving roller lines. Using a primer will help to seal the drywall so that the paint is evenly distributed. Find a good quality primer, and apply one or two coats to your ceiling before painting.

Click here for this primer on Amazon.

Spray Your Ceiling

Of course, the ultimate way to eliminate any chance of roller marks on your ceiling is not to use a roller. Spraying your ceiling is the easiest way to avoid roller marks and has additional benefits. Many ceiling textures are too delicate to paint with a roller.

Click here to see a paint sprayer on Amazon.

For example, popcorn type textures can actually be ruined by this method of application. Popcorn ceilings can become bogged down with too much paint. They tend to literally fall off of the ceiling if this happens. A paint sprayer delivers light, even coats. However, if you use a paint sprayer, be sure to thoroughly cover everything in the room to protect from overspray residue.

Apply Thinner Coats

Thick coats of paint tend to be uneven coats. It is hard to keep a uniform amount of paint when you apply it too thickly. Additionally, paint that is too thick will dry unevenly, and very thick areas will not dry fully. If you're unevenly applying paint, you are sure to leave roller marks. Remedy this by rolling several thin coats instead of one thick one. This rule can be applied to most paint jobs. More is rarely better when it comes to painting.

Use Less Paint On The Roller

This one goes hand in hand with the last tip. Your roller should never be dripping with paint. Always use a paint tray. This is a slanted tray with a paint well on one end and a textured, ridged surface on the other. Dip your roller in the well and gently roll it on the ridges to distribute the paint evenly. This will help to eliminate excess paint on your roller.

Click here to see disposable paint trays on Amazon.

Do Not Press On The Roller

It is tempting to try and squeeze every last drop of paint out of your roller. If you have only a small area left to paint, this can be especially tempting. However, pressing on your roller will cause the extra paint on either end of your roller to ooze out. This will leave roller marks across your ceiling. Resist the urge to push on your roller, and refill it instead.

Overlap Roller Strokes

There will inevitably be slightly more paint on each end of your roller when you paint with a roller. Paint gets between the roller cover and the roller cage and can "refill" your roller's ends. These ends can leave a trace more paint than the middle of the roller.

If you line up your roller strokes right next to each other, this excess paint will compound. Even though it is only slightly more, it adds up and will leave roller marks. To prevent this, overlap your roller strokes. Begin your second stroke slightly overlapping the first. In doing this, you even out any extra paint that was applied in the last pass.

Click here to see a roller cage on Amazon.

Apply In An Alternating Pattern

One simple way to reduce visible roller marks is to alternate the direction of your roller. For the first coat, you could roll down the length of the room. Once that has dried, you can apply the second coat by rolling across the width of the room. This can help to keep the paint job even and camouflage any marks that do occur.

Use Flat Paint

For most of your house, you probably chose a gloss or semi-gloss paint finish. These finishes are popular because they are easy to clean. Additionally, they allow colors and details to figuratively pop and stand out. The downside to these high shine finishes is that they accentuate any blemishes that exist, including roller marks.

For a ceiling, flat finishes are usually best. Ceilings do not need a finish that is easy to clean. They do not typically have a problem with fingerprints and scuffs that need to be cleaned. Flat paint will hide most roller marks that you may have.

Click here to see flat ceiling paint on Amazon.

If you're looking for ceiling paint, you may find this article interesting "Should Ceiling Paint Match Trim? [Design Options Explored]."

Only Use Quality Products

Quality products include primer, paint, rollers, and brushes. A subpar primer will not perform its job as a sealant and will fail to properly bond with your paint. Poor paint is often too thin, and be difficult to apply. Cheap rollers and brushes sometimes hold too little or too much paint. Each of these problems can lead to roller marks, so choose your products wisely.

Click here to find these roller covers on Amazon.

Will roller marks go away when the paint dries?

As we have seen in this article, many causes contribute to the appearance of roller marks. There are also varying levels of roller marks, and most will not go away. However, roller marks in wet paint are often just the result of varying levels of moisture. There will always be a degree of uneven application, and the thinner parts will dry more quickly. For the most part, though, roller marks do not go away when the paint dries.

Do I need to wet the roller before painting?

No, you do not need to wet your roller before painting. Some painters prefer to wet their new roller, and this will indeed conserve paint to some extent. However, this is not necessary.

Dry paint rollers can be dipped directly into your paint. If you choose to wet your roller, be sure to dry it thoroughly before you begin to paint. Using a paint spinner can be very helpful in drying out your roller. The roller should be merely damp, as a wet roller can dilute your paint and potentially cause drips.  Additionally, water should never be used if you are using oil-based paint.

Click here for this handy paint spinner on Amazon.

Why does my ceiling look patchy after painting?

There are three main reasons why your ceiling may look patchy after a cover of paint.

  1. It was not primed properly. Drywall will absorb moisture and should always be primed to seal it before painting.
  2. It was painted unevenly. Some areas received more paint than others.
  3. It needs another coat. It usually takes a minimum of two coats to paint your ceiling properly.

Can you paint a ceiling in sections?

Yes! You can paint your ceiling in sections as small as 3' x 3'. Doing this can help ensure a quality paint job, as you are focusing on a small area. As you begin each new section, overlap the previous section slightly to avoid an obvious pattern.


There is nothing more frustrating than finishing your paint job and realizing that you have roller marks across your ceiling. However, armed with the information provided in this article, you can now confidently paint your ceiling with satisfactory results. 

Before you navigate away, you may be interested in one of these articles!

How To Paint A Coffered Ceiling [10 Steps]

How To Make Ceilings Look Higher? [5 Practical Solutions]

One comment

  1. One way I eliminate roller marks in a ceiling is by using a thinner nap microfiber roller cover. They seem to give the smoothest finish and it holds the right amount of paint.

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