How to Texture a Ceiling by Hand

How to Texture a Ceiling by Hand

Choosing your materials

Textures add an entirely new dimension to flat, smooth walls. Instead of a blank slate, you’ll have a surface that will attract attention, add visual interest and warm the room with an earthy, organic feel. This technique also helps hide minor imperfections, making it a great way to meld remodeled walls with existing ones—no small bonus to those of us still perfecting our drywall-taping skills!

Applying a knockdown texture is an easy, low-cost, low-tech project that can dramatically change a room’s appearance and simplify wall repairs. The name comes from one of the final steps in the project when you use a wide knife to knock down and flatten the peaks of the texture applied to the walls. This step gives the texture its stucco-like appearance. To texture the walls and ceiling of an average room, the rental sprayer, the joint compound and knockdown knife will set you back only about $70 to $80, and you’ll be finished in one day. These are the three components you’ll use:

Joint compound To make this project as easy as possible, use premixed all-purpose joint compound. These buckets contain about 60 lbs. of “mud” and are available at most home centers for $9 to $10 each. Don’t use the lightweight premixed compounds—you’ll be paying for a lot of air and the mix won’t be as “sticky” as the all-purpose. It generally takes 1-1/2 to two full buckets of mud to texture the walls and ceiling of an average size (12 x 12-ft.) room.

Knockdown knives Traditionally, knockdown textures were done with flat trowels or wide steel taping knives. However, the trowel technique is hard to master. A much better choice is to use one of the flexible Lexan knockdown knives now available at drywall supply stores (see Photo 5). These knives are 18 to 24 in. wide and cost $15 to $18.

Acoustical sprayer and gun. You’ll need to rent an acoustical spray gun, hopper and compressor from a rental center or paint store for this project. Although home compressors work fine for the initial orange peel coat, they won’t produce the volume of air you need for the heavier topcoat.

Expect to pay $25 to $30 for a one-day rental. While you’re still at the rental store, be sure to put the machine through a dry run to be certain it works. Also, remove the hopper from the gun and make sure the inside of the gun is clean. Look for a trigger adjustment on the gun It allows you to control the fluid flow. The recipes in this article will give you the just-right mixes for your project.

Tips: File any sharp edges off the blade mixer. Sharp edges will scrape little plastic curlicues off the side of the bucket, bits that can clog the gun or wind up on the wall. You will get mud in places you didn’t want it. Don’t worry! It cleans up easily with a wet sponge.

CAUTION! If you have ceiling texture applied before 1980, it may contain asbestos. Before you remove any ceiling texture, contact your state’s department of environmental protection, department of health, or a regional asbestos coordinator for information on asbestos testing and removal. For a list of regional contacts, click here. For general information on asbestos, click here.

4. Stippled Ceiling


Stipple Ceiling Texture

The Stipple ceiling or Slap brush finish texture type is made using the stomp brush (also called slap brush), a soft brush with long bristles, which you can use to create uneven shapes on the drywall.

This brush usually has a long handle so you can do much of the work even from ground level.

Start by applying the mixture with a roller or a paint gun.

Then press the brush against the ceiling, lift it back and proceed to move it across the ceiling until you have covered the whole surface in irregular shapes.

You can use a knockdown blade or a similar tool to press larger chunks, which don’t look stylish, but don’t forget to press the whole surface for a uniform look.

This style is easily one of the messiest, but it also helps greatly when covering imperfections in the ceiling.

Tools needed:

  • Stomp Brush

Materials needed:

  • Premixed Joint Compound


Why You Should Try a DIY Ceiling Texture

You can easily DIY ceiling texture, which will save you money. There are many different tutorials online with instructions on how to make your own ceiling texture. I will cover the most popular ceiling textures and some basic information about them.

Stamped Texture Ceilings

If you plan on adding texture to your ceiling, you can apply texture manually by “stamping.” You can choose any object you want to use as a stamp after you’ve applied drywall compound. Some examples are the bristles of a broom, a sponge, a brick or tiles.

Anything you can stamp on a wall that has texture can be used to make a textured ceiling. It is important to remember that if you are using an image, it will be the mirror of whatever you are stamping. This means texture that has words, for example, would be backward.

2. Orange Peel


Orange Peel Texture For Ceiling

Orange peel is a texturizer, usually found in a can, which sprays different sized ovals.

They are not raised enough to be unpleasant to the touch, and produce a more uniform feel and look than most of the other texture types.

Orange peel is easy to make: just spray it on the ceiling in short bursts from half a meter or more, then wait for it to dry, prime and paint.

It is a good idea to try the ceiling texture spray on a cardboard first and experiment to make sure you have chosen the best angle and distance. Play around with it until you like the results

The orange peel texture add character to the surface and goes well with natural or softer colors.

However, it is difficult to clean, because there are tiny spaces between the ovals, which are almost impossible to reach.

For that reason the orange peel finish is better not used for a kitchen or bathroom.

Tools needed:

  • Spray Gun

Materials needed:

  • Orange peel spray texture

Ceiling Texture and Home Value

A ceiling texture can also help improve your home’s value. Homes with an updated ceiling texture can often sell up to $4000 more than a home with the same features but a dated ceiling.

Before You Begin

By its very nature, texturing is a messy operation that results in wet texture material flying in all directions. When stippling a ceiling, even the most careful painter will need to cover the floors and adjoining wall surfaces, including door and window trim. Use drop cloths for the floor and plastic sheeting for vertical surfaces, hanging it with painter's tape.



Wall texture effects can vary depending on how the material is applied and rolled. Practice the technique on scraps of drywall or even sheets of cardboard before moving to your walls and ceilings. Practice with both thin coats and heavy coats. Try different drying times between coats.

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Featured Video

1. Scraping off a textured ceiling

This approach manually removes the texture from the ceiling.

Suitable for: Popcorn, Stucco or Artex ceilingsNot suitable for: Wood chip paper, Anaglypta-style paper

How to do it

  1. If the textured ceiling hasn’t been painted, use a spray bottle filled with room temperature water to lightly dampen small sections – don’t overdo this or you’ll make your ceiling itself wet and heavy!
  2. Use a drywall scraper to chip and scrape away the texture to create a smooth surface
  3. Finish with a thin layer of joint compound or problem wall paint to cover imperfections


  • Cost-effective
  • One person can do it solo
  • You can DIY it without a tradesperson


  • Very time-consuming
  • Messy
  • Finish may not be as even
  • If paper has been painted over, it will not dampen which may make scraping hard or even impossible

NOTE: textured ceilings installed before 1979 may contain asbestos or lead (read on to see what to do if you think this may apply to your home). If you’re worried about the possible presence of asbestos or lead and considering this approach, employ professional testers or order at-home kits to confirm or deny the presence.

How to tell which type of textured ceiling you have

You can easily identify woodchip by the look of the finish – small, irregular splinter shapes behind a satin-finish layer of paper.

You can confirm other textured paper by looking for joins in sheets. However it is possible to expertly hide these joins (or simply obscure them with layers of paint) so try lifting a corner with a scraper.

In contrast, spiky ‘popcorn’ or Artex-style ceilings can be identified by the absence of paper. If there are no lines or creases, or the effect seems to extend in some places of your coving, that’s a painted/sprayed finish.

Creating a Popcorn Ceiling

During the boom of suburban housing developments, builders looked for a cost-effective way to finish the ceilings of the homes they were building that would cover any cracks or possible imperfections that occurred during the building process. The solution was to make an acoustic ceiling, better known as a popcorn ceiling.

To create a popcorn ceiling, you will need to first coat the ceiling with a stain-blocking primer. This will help the texture to stick. You should also be sure that you have properly cleaned and prepped the ceiling to ensure that it is ready for paint.

After you’ve primed the area, mix 2 gallons of water with a bag of popcorn ceiling spray. This usually comes in 13-pound bags. Once you’ve finished, the mixture will be slightly liquidy but will resemble cottage cheese. You will use a texture gun to spray the mixture onto the ceiling.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Air compressor
  • Air hose
  • Corded drill
  • Dust mask
  • Hearing protection
  • Safety glasses
Mixing paddle, acoustical sprayer and gun (rental), Lexan knockdown knife.


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