This story covers masking and painting a ceiling as well as the physical demands these projects bring.
Painting a ceiling presents a slightly different challenge than painting a wall. That's because you're constantly working overhead -- actually, upside down. Aside from some resulting perceptual differences that might take a little getting used to, ceilings will put different physical stresses on your body too. Painting ceilings can quickly tire neck, back, and arm muscles. Stay as relaxed as you can and stop for a moment as soon as something starts aching. Pushing through this period will only quicken your fatigue, and if you take short stops, you'll get used to the work faster.
Use a 4- to 6-foot extension pole on your roller and keep the roller head working out in front of you, not directly overhead. You'll find that position more comfortable and you won't get spattered as much. When the handle starts to approach vertical, step back so the work is in front of you.
When you're done write the paint color, the room, and the date you painted it on the back of a switchplate with an indelible marker. That will save the information if you need to touch up the surface in the future.
From 2 to 3 hours to paint a properly prepared 10x12-foot ceiling
Paintbrushes, roller, extension handle, ladder, paint buckets, safety gear
Painting with brushes and rollers
Clean surface, repair holes and cracks, sand glossy paint, remove dust
High-quality interior latex paint
If the walls and ceiling will be painted different colors, use 2-inch painter's tape to mask off the wall at the top where it meets the ceiling. This will keep the ceiling paint from getting on the wall when you cut in the edge of the ceiling. To protect the entire wall from spatters, slide a plastic sheet under the bottom edge of the tape, press the tape to the sheet, and let the sheet drape down across the wall. If the walls and ceiling will be painted the same color, you can omit this step.
Using a 3-inch brush appropriate to the kind of paint you're applying (natural bristles for oil-base paints and synthetic bristles for latex paints), cut in the corners of the ceiling. Apply the paint liberally and brush it smooth. Paint a band about 2 inches wide and 3 to 4 feet long on both legs of a corner. Proceed to step 3 while this band is still wet.
Using a roller equipped with an extension handle, roll the paint on the open corner section of the ceiling, blending it with the edges you just cut in. Proceed across the surface in sections approximately 3x3 feet, alternately cutting in and rolling to a wet edge until you've covered the entire ceiling.