Woman Painting Ceiling With Paint Roller

Ceiling Textures: 7 Types And Ideas To Finish Your 2021 Project

Carey Chesney8 Minute Read
July 24, 2021

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Ceilings can often be overlooked, as most of us don’t spend a lot of time standing in our living room staring upward. However, if you take the time to glance up for a bit and decide you’d like to have your ceilings make little more of an impact, a texture may be worth considering. From formal to casual and complex to simple, the possibilities are endless. Choosing the right ceiling textures can add a bit of aesthetic joy to your daily home life and make the house pop a little more for potential buyers when it’s time to sell.

What Is A Textured Ceiling?

When the ceiling has some sort of dimension to it beyond just flat, undisturbed drywall and paint, it is considered a textured ceiling. Homeowners and painters achieve this look on drywall ceilings by working with drywall mud or other textured materials mixed with paint to create any number of desired effects. Recently, textured ceilings have been gaining more and more popularity as homeowners look for ways to spice up their space. In addition, home buyers typically perceive the textured style as a value add when looking for their next house. That said, textured ceilings aren't for everyone, and sometimes home buyers looking for a simpler look can be turned off by them. More specifically, some buyers think certain types of textured ceilings are dated. Popcorn ceilings (more on them later) were big in the ’60s, for example. 

7 Ceiling Texture Types To Inspire Your Paint Job

When it comes to textured ceilings, the sky (or ceiling?) is the limit. From common approaches to unique styles, understanding some of the ways you can change this part of your home can help you choose the right style to meet your individual tastes. Here are some of the common textured ceiling designs to get your creative juices flowing:

1.  Popcorn Ceilings

2.  Orange Peel Texture

3.  Skip Trowel

4.  Knockdown Ceiling Texture

5.  Stippled

6.  Swirl

7.  Lace

 Popcorn Ceilings

Popcorn Ceiling With Flush Mount Lighting

Looking for a blast from the past into the 1960s? Popcorn ceilings might be the move to make. Getting the look and feel of crumbled popcorn above your head can be done by spraying on or painting on treatment. Mixtures are available in fine, medium and coarse grades so you can choose your own specific “flavor.” In addition, if you inherited this type of textured ceiling and aren’t really feeling it, learning how to remove popcorn ceilings might be on your to-do list.

Pros Of Popcorn Ceilings

  • The bumpy surface is created by tiny particles of vermiculite or polystyrene, which gives the ceiling sound-deadening properties
  • Unique style

Cons Of Popcorn Ceilings

  • Easily collects dust
  • Some think this type of textured ceiling is dated

 Orange Peel Texture

Orange Peel Textured Wall With Exposed Painted White Brick Wall

Resembling the scattering of orange peels, this texture can be easily applied with a sprayer or a roller using thinned drywall mud.

Pros Of Orange Peel Ceilings

  • Easy to apply
  • Moderate sound-deadening properties

Cons Of Orange Peel Ceilings

  • Hard to clean
  • Some consider it a bad look, as it can resemble a cracking ceiling.

 Skip Trowel

Close Up of Stucco Ceiling

Named after the tool used to apply drywall mud to get the texture, this look is one of the more popular forms of textured ceilings.

Pros Of Skip Trowel Ceilings

  • Variety of different skip trowel designs
  • Well-done skip trowel can be very aesthetically appealing

Cons Of Skip Trowel Ceilings

  • Relies on skill with trowels
  • Results can vary greatly

 Knockdown Ceiling Texture

Like skip trowel but not exactly the same, knockdown ceiling texture consists of wide blots of drywall mud. It is not quite as spaced out as skip trowel, which some find more appealing.

Pros Of Knockdown Ceilings

  • Easy for DIYers
  • Commonly well-liked

Cons Of Knockdown Ceilings

  • Can collect smoke stains
  • Hard to clean

Stippled Ceiling Texture

Stippled Ceiling

The stipple ceiling texture is made using a soft brush with long bristles, which you can use to create uneven shapes on the drywall.

Pros Of Stippled Ceilings

  • Covers ceiling imperfections well
  • Not too difficult to apply

Cons Of Stippled Ceilings

  • Very messy to apply
  • Hard to clean

 Swirl Ceiling Texture

Swirl Paint Texture

Like stipple in its application, the swirl ceiling texture is unique in that it produces a circular repeating design.

Pros Of Swirl Ceilings

  • Masks ceiling imperfections well
  • Many consider this style one of the most appealing

Cons Of Swirl Ceilings

  • Requires some artistic skill to get it right
  • Hard to clean

 Lace Ceiling Texture

Lace ceiling texture

Widely considered the prettiest design, lace ceiling texture involves applying a coat of paint and drywall mud followed by a second coat of a different color.

Pros Of Lace Ceilings

  • Covers ceiling imperfections well
  • Many consider this style the prettiest

Cons Of Lace Ceilings

  • Requires the most skill and artistry
  • Hard to clean

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How To Texture A Ceiling

Once you have found the specific ceiling texture you prefer, making it a reality is well within your reach. While some styles are a little more labor intensive than others, with the right tools and approach, you’ll be able to get the job done. You can always adjust your goals to coincide with your skill level as well. Not sure you can handle the brush delicately enough for a swirl ceiling or the skip trowel well enough for a lace ceiling? No worries, the orange peel approach might be one you are more comfortable with.

Get The Right Tools For The Job

While each textured ceiling style starts with paint and drywall mud or another textured material, the materials and tools can vary greatly from there. Popcorn ceilings require a grainy mixture with varying levels of coarseness. Lace ceilings require two different colors of paint. And the list goes on. As far as tools, some will require a skip trowel or other mud application tools and others require only brushes. Some can even be simply sprayed on. Be sure to investigate the details for the specific style you want before slapping that mud on the ceiling.

Carefully Consider Which Room To Texture

Dining rooms and living rooms are the most common, but bedrooms can be livened up with some ceiling texture as well. It all depends on the home and how you use it. Which places within the house do you want to add some flare to? Which ones don’t really need it? Think long and hard about which rooms to work on and which styles will fit well for each room. Also, think twice before using a textured ceiling application in the kitchen. They are often hard to clean and can trap smoke and dust. With lots of cooking and baking going on in your kitchen, this can become a problem over time. Bathrooms pose a similar threat with steam and humidity.

Cover Up Furniture And Tape Walls

Similar to painting, drips can happen when adding texture to a ceiling. And since the entire canvas you are working on is overhead, the potential for drippage and spillage increases. First, remove as much furniture as possible from the room. Next, cover the remaining furniture, as well as the floors, with drop cloths. Next, tape plastic sheeting around the ceiling’s perimeter to protect your walls, and tape off all ceiling fixtures. Finally, remove any faceplates on the ceiling, such as vent covers. It may seem like a lot of prep, but you don't want drywall mud and paint mucking up all your stuff.

Repair Cracks in the Ceiling

You will want the base layer of your ceiling in pristine condition before applying your texture. Repair cracks and try to get the ceiling as smooth as possible. Depending on what type of texture you use, sometimes they can make cracks that worsen over time and become more visible. Some cracks can be fixed with drywall mud, but others may be structural and should be addressed by a professional.

Use Primer First

Put a coat of paint primer on your ceiling before adding the texture. This serves two key functions: 1. It will help mask the appearance of a previous color that the ceiling was painted; and 2. It will go a long way in helping the new paint and textured mixture adhere to the ceiling. It's best to choose a primer in a color as close as possible to your final color to avoid any inconsistencies with your desired color choice once the project is complete.

Mix Your Paint And Texture

Unless you are buying pre-textured paint (yes, they make that – how easy!) you are going to need to mix the drywall mud or other texture material with the paint. The texture materials can be added to either latex or oil-based paint, but make sure you are using the right material with the right paint. Look for labels that indicate a specific material is meant for texturing paint, such as special sand or drywall mud, and mix it according to the manufacturer’s instructions, as well as your own unique style. Generally speaking, you will usually mix one part of the texture material to every 10 parts of the paint. This works out to roughly 1½ cups of texture for every gallon of paint. Still, read the labels and follow the instructions on the container of the specific materials and paints you decide to use.

Test It First

Once you think you have the perfect mix of texture and color, test it on a small part of the ceiling before slapping it all over the room. Choose a corner that might be a bit less visible than the rest of the space in case it doesn't look quite right. Then tweak your mixture if needed. This may mean a different color, a different texture, or even a different application tool. Once you think that dark corner of the ceiling looks great, you’re ready to cover the whole thing.

Paint the Ceiling

Regardless of whether you are using a roller or a brush to paint the ceiling, always apply the paint in a N, X or W shape in order to make sure that paint is applied in all directions. Also make sure to remove excess paint from the brush or roller before applying it to the ceiling so it doesn't drip. Even though you've covered all the furniture and floors, you can still get a splat or two on your face, which is no fun. If the paint is too thick to go on your roller, put it on a trowel and spread it on before switching to a roller or brush to even the texture. For certain types of textures, like orange peel or lace, you’ll likely just start with the trowel.

Let It Dry

When you are finished painting, make sure to let it dry before removing tape, putting fixtures back in and getting on with your life under that beautiful new ceiling. This can take several hours. If you are applying a second coat of paint and texture (like for lace style) waiting for the first coat to dry is even more important. Getting too excited to get that second coat on and applying it while the first coat is still wet can turn a work of art into a muddled mess.

The Bottom Line: Texture Is A Quick Way To Revamp Your Space

From lace to popcorn and everything in between, the possibilities for textured ceilings are as broad as your imagination. When chosen wisely and applied correctly, they can be a great way to add some style to your home both for you to enjoy and to up the resale value when it’s time to move. The fun doesn't stop at textured ceilings either, as there are lots of types of ceilings that home remodelers might be interested in. Do the research, get the tools and start livening up your space!

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Carey Chesney

Carey Chesney brings a wealth of real estate sales and marketing experience to his buyers and sellers as they navigate highly competitive markets. Carey and his wife Ilze work together as Realtors® in Michigan.