Ceiling Paint vs. Wall Paint: What’s the Difference?

Yes, I know talking about paint may not be the most exciting of topics. Especially when people have phrases like “It was exciting as watching paint dry.” However, we’re here for a reason. When it comes to home improvement, especially painting, you need to know not only the color of paint you want to use but also the type of paint that you need to use. Can you use the wall paint on the ceiling or no?

Ceiling paint vs. wall paint: What’s the difference? Both ceiling paint and wall paint are very similar to each other in that they are both interior wall paint, but the differences are:

  • Ceiling paint is thicker
  • Ceiling paint is a very flat interior paint
  • Ceiling paint is often tinted with a pale pink or blue color
  • Wall paint is designed to be more durable to handle scrubbing and soap

In this article, we are going to talk about the differences in ceiling and wall paint and also help you in making a decision in selecting the best wall and ceiling paints for your next project. Whether it’s painting your new home or doing touch-ups on your current home, this quick guide will help you out.

What Do I Need to Know About Paint?

Painting is the most popular Do-It-Yourself project that people undertake. People tend to take on projects like painting interior ceilings, walls, and ceilings on their own instead of hiring a professional due to the reduced cost and implied simplicity of the project.

However, it is not the simplest of tasks. Painting walls and ceilings can be hard work, and if you don’t know how the paint works or what type of paint that you will need for the task at hand, it can leave you stressed out, frustrated and with more work than you originally started off with. First and foremost, you need to know about paint itself and which is a good one to use on your project.

Choosing the Right Type of Paint for Your Surface

Before we can go into the differences in detail of what the differences are between wall and ceiling paint, we need to cover what exact paint is made of. There are 4 basic and essential ingredients to paint. These 4 ingredients are as follows: pigments, resins, solvents, and additives. Below is a description of each of these ingredients.

  • Pigment: This is what makes up the color of the paint. Pigments can be various hues and shades of blue, green, red, pink, yellow, etc.
  • Resin: This is what allows the paint to stick to a surface once it is applied
  • Solvents: Solvent is the carrier within the paint that makes it a liquid and keeps it from becoming a solid while it is within its container. Once the paint is applied to a surface or paint is left exposed for a period of time, it begins to evaporate, and the paint hardens.
  • Additives: Additives are what gives paints their special properties and characteristics such as stain blocking to keep stains from showing up on a surface where it is applied or the ability to kill mold that comes into contact with the paint.

You Get What You Pay For: Choose Your Paint Wisely

When it comes to choosing the paint that is the best option in both cost and performance, it is important to do your best to avoid the cheap bargain buys. Cheap and low quality is not always the best when it comes to painting your home.

The lower end “bargain” paints will actually cost you more money in the long run due to its higher solvent content. Cheap paints tend to have a 50% solvent makeup of the paint which will make it extremely runny.

This extra runny paint will cause you to have to apply extra coats of paint. This also means that you are using more paint than you need to, which will require you to purchase more paint to perform the same job.

When choosing a quality paint, be sure to look at paint that has about a 45% solvent makeup. Aside from that, make sure that the manufacturer of the paint has a good reputation first, so be sure to do your research before you buy!

Painting on a budget?

Instead of buying a low-quality paint, check your store’s “mis-mixed” shelf. Most home improvement stores have them. This is where paint ends up if, after it’s mixed, the customer or store staff is unhappy with the pigment. If you are flexible in your color choice, you can get some high-quality paint on this reject shelf! For more information about choosing the right color for you, we cover that in full detail here.

What is Different About Ceiling Paint?

When it comes to ceiling paint, it is a very special paint designed to do one job: paint your ceiling.

Ceiling paint has a much higher viscosity (thickness) than your average wall/ office paint. This allows the paint to be utilized with a significantly lower risk of drips and splatters so that you can focus on putting the paint on the ceiling and not whether you have enough plastic on the floor to catch dripping paint. The viscosity also lets you know which application tools you can use with success.

When compared to ceiling paint, latex wall paint has a significantly lower viscosity. This lower level of thickness does not make it ideal for painting ceilings as you run the risk of the paint not drying fast enough and having a lot of paint dripping on the floor. This paint will tend to drip off of the roller more readily than wall paint, too.

The low-viscosity paints can leave drips on your ceiling. This can be very difficult to correct and will leave the area looking a bit unsightly. Using the ceiling paint with higher viscosity will provide a better all-around look and will also prevent fewer drips and less paint mist.

Here is a table detailing the difference in viscosity between wall and ceiling paints (provided by www.thespruce.com):

The Best Ceiling Paints, by Viscosity

Paint Brand Viscosity (KU) Type of paint/notes

(exclusive brand found at Lowe’s Home Improvement stores)

90-100 Professional Interior Latex Eggshell Series

·         Ultra-flat finish ideal for ceilings

·         Spatter-resistant paint

Valspar Ultra 96-104 Interior Flat Ceiling White Latex-Base Paint and Primer in One

·         on as a light purple color but dries to a white, allowing you to keep track of where you start and stop with each coat.


(Sold widely in stores and online)

95-105 Ceiling Paint – Stainblocking Paint & Primer s

·         One coat is meant to paint and prime in one coat on difficult surfaces

·         Stain-blocking

The KU (Kreb Units) are the standard measurements used to determine viscosity levels in paints. To get an idea of what this means, here is a commonly used comparison: honey’s viscosity is roughly equivalent to a range of 100-500 KU. Ceiling paint would compare to thinned-out honey.

Ceiling Paint Is Better at Providing Stain Protection and Hiding Stains

The higher viscosity a paint has, the better it is at hiding stains. The thickness helps here. When you use a thinner type of paint or a cheaper paint with a high solvent ratio, you will need to reapply the paint 2 or more times to cover the stain that is there. This is because the paint isn’t thick enough to cover the blemish with one coat.

Therefore, stain-blocking is a benefit of ceiling paint’s high viscosity. Since it is so thick, it does not take multiple applications to cover up stains on a surface. Ceilings in areas that have poor ventilation tend to develop mildew spots. This can be corrected by installing a bathroom fan or heat lamp and covering the area with ceiling painting.

Cigarette and cigar smoke, insects, cooking splatter, and water spots tend to collect on ceilings. Ceiling paint, while it is not capable of covering all stains, it is significantly better suited than normal latex paint.

 Oil or Water Based Paint? What Should I Use?

It is important to realize that all paints, whether it is a ceiling or wall paint, fall into one of two solvent categories: Oil or water. In water-based paint, water acts as the solvent. This is your “latex” paint. It does not contain latex, however.

Most water-based paints are made with acrylic and are also known as “acrylic latex.” When it is an “oil-based” paint, it isn’t actually made of oil either. The solvent is actually composed of mineral spirits also known as paint thinner or alkyd resin.

Water-Based/ Latex (Wall Paint)

Water-based or latex paint is most commonly known as wall paint. It is the most common type of paint used for painting the interior of the home and is utilized for several important reasons:

  • It is durable and easy to clean with soap and water, which will help maintain the look of the surface that you have applied the paint to without worry or risk of causing damage to the painted surface.
  • It is environmentally friendly and does not contain many volatile or harmful chemicals if any at all. This is beneficial in that it helps with a piece of mind in case children or pets come into contact with the wet paint, and you also don’t have to worry about harmful fumes when painting.
  • Latex paint also provides excellent performance. With the proper conditions, it is able to be used in almost any situation.
  • It’s very flexible. This contributes to its durability. With the ability to move with the flexing of a surface and not become warped or cracked makes it invaluable to interior painting.
  • It’s mildew-resistant. Latex paint has special properties that allow it to prevent mildew and build-up of moisture. This will help keep your interior in the best condition it can be.
  • It is able to dry very quickly. This is a great benefit to using latex paints due to the fast evaporating solvent (water) used. This is perfect for quickly covering a surface and not waiting for a long time for the paint to dry.
  • It is available in many colors and finishes/sheens. This is excellent for individuals who want unique color or even a variety to utilize in their interior painting project.

Water-based paint is widely used due to being so flexible in its use that it can be applied to almost every area in the interior and exterior of a home including walls, door frames, woodwork, and baseboards. This quality is what has made it so popular and widely used among DIYers all over.

Is Ceiling Paint a Worthwhile Purchase?

Ceiling paint is definitely a worthwhile purchase when it comes to getting a project done. While it is labeled as “ceiling paint,” it can be used on any interior of the home and is especially suited to deal with mold and mildew on ceilings.

The cost is not a turn away, either. It is only a little more expensive than your normal latex paint and has a higher viscosity as well as a flat finish that makes it suitable for painting not only ceilings but entire interiors as well.

Keep this in mind: If you decide that you want to use a paint sprayer to paint your ceiling as opposed to using a roller, the high viscosity of ceiling paint will not be as important since the drippage will be minimized. However, you will need to make sure all surfaces in the area that you are painting are covered to avoid them being sprayed by the paint.

Do You Have Any Tips for Using Ceiling Paint?

Yes, we do! Below we are going to give you a few tips on using ceiling paint so that you can make your purchase confidently and get on your next DIY project without worry of not knowing what you should do and if ceiling paint is a good selection for what you’re trying to accomplish!

  1. Make sure that you use a roller. Earlier, we talked about using a paint sprayer and how it negates the need to have to use ceiling paint because the risk of dripping is eliminated. However, if you’re going to use to paint your ceiling, you should use a roller.

Wrapping everything up to prevent paint spray from getting on it is time-consuming, and you could have finished painting the ceiling by the time you got done covering everything up.

  1. Make use of quality ladders. People tend to use scaffolding due to the fact that it is great to work from when painting a ceiling. However, it can take an extremely long time to build scaffolding for an entire room, and it is not the most maneuverable piece of equipment. 

Be sure to use a quality ladder when painting your ceiling. It is safer and much easier to move around with. If you are going to use any scaffolding, it should come from a rental yard, not a DIY from the things you have at the house.

  1. Be sure to pick the right extension pole. Extension poles come in different extendable lengths and are great for painting the ceiling from the floor. If you have a pole that is 8, 9, or 10 feet long when extended, depending on the height of your ceiling, you will be able to paint most of the ceiling from the floor reasonably. 

However, if you happen to choose a 17-foot long extension pole instead and your ceiling is nowhere near that height you will make yourself work a little harder than you need to due to the extra weight that you are carrying.

  1. Treat the ceiling as a separate painting project. After you have completed painting the walls in your home, don’t fall into the trap of trying to paint the ceiling as well. That is a whole other ball game in itself. Ceilings are designed differently than walls and need to be approached as such. That being said, it is a project that needs to be completed separately.
  1. Paint the ceiling a flat white. A lot of people, when they are undertaking a painting project, want to paint their ceiling all types of cool or outrageous colors. While it might seem like a good idea at the time, you’ll end up regretting the decision later.

When painting your ceiling, keep it white. Below are the reasons why you should:

  • It will allow the room to have more lighting. White is a very reflective color and will make your room that much brighter and more enjoyable to be in after your project is completed.
  • It gives the room the illusion of having more space. This is due to the effect that the color white has on the eyes. It is extremely difficult for the eyes to pinpoint distance when looking in a white space, so it appears farther and deeper than what it really is. This is what creates the illusion of a room being roomier than what it is.

In addition to staying with a white ceiling, also use a flat finish or matte sheen. When using flat white ceiling paint, it adds to the perception of there being more space in the room. Anything that provides a reflection, like a gloss finish, will let the eyes know that the surface has an ending point. This will make the room feel smaller than what it is.

In Conclusion

We hope that this guide has gotten you on the right path as to know how to choose your paints and the pros and cons of both wall and ceiling paints, so you get on with your next (or even first) DIY project. Thanks for reading and until next time! Paint on!

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