How to Paint a Tray Ceiling

Tray ceilings are among the most popular ceiling treatments in homes, new and old alike. Whether it features an angled or a multi-stepped design, the tray ceiling in your home may cause you to wonder about the best way to paint it. Make a weekend project of painting your tray ceiling and you may find yourself amazed at what a little paint can do for this great architectural feature.

  1. Prepare the room in which you wish to paint by covering or removing all the furniture and draping the floor with painter's cloths or a plastic tarp. You can secure the tarp in place with painter's tape to ensure that your floor or carpet is not damaged by paint splatters.
  2. Select a couple of shades of paint for your tray ceiling in order to make the most of its structure. You can use paints one shade lighter and one shade darker than your wall paint.
  3. Wipe down the ceiling with a damp cloth or duster to remove any excess dust or dirt before painting. A vacuum cleaner with a long brush attachment can also be used to prep the area for painting.
  4. Apply a coat of primer which prevents stains from seeping through before you paint the ceiling. It is important that you use the right kind of primer for the kind of paint you choose. An oil-based primer should not be used with a latex top coat.
  5. Create a sharp line marking the transition in your tray ceiling by using painter's tape to tape off the edges of the angled or stepped features before applying the darker paint to the center of the ceiling.
  6. Paint using a zig-zag motion to get the most coverage when working with an extendable paint roller. This technique should be applied to both the center of the ceiling and the angled sides.
  7. Repeat the same taping process for the angled section once the center of the ceiling has dried. If you have a steady hand, you can also use a sponge brush to create a smooth line of the lighter shade of paint between the two surfaces.
  8. Paint the angled portion using the lighter of the two shades of paint. You may also wish to embellish this portion with decorative stencils such as flowering vines or geometric shapes to create a more customized look.

Things You Will Need

  • Drop cloths or plastic tarp
  • Painter's tape
  • Primer
  • Two colors of paint
  • Paint roller with extendable handle
  • Ladder


  • Always wear goggles when painting a ceiling. This will help you to avoid possible injury to your eyes caused by drops of paint from above.

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