Learn how to paint a ceiling so that it stands out as a focal point or recedes neatly and allows the rest of the room to shine. For a jewel-box effect in a cozy living room, match the ceilings to the walls, choosing a dark color such as crimson or deep ochre. To make a room seem more intimate, go darker on the ceiling than the walls; try navy blue ceilings with lighter blue walls in a large nursery. White ceilings are the standard; vary them by first installing tongue and groove wood paneling to create a nautical feel. To make a ceiling seem taller, paint in in two tones: extend the wall color onto the ceiling by a foot or two all around the room, and then make the center white.
Calculate your paint needs. Most ceiling pant covers between 300 and 350 square feet. Check the paint you intend to use to find out exactly how much coverage it gives. Remember that darker colors will take more coats for an even finish than lighter colors. Buy a separate ceiling primer if you need it; this is especially useful to provide an even base coat when you have replaced sections of the ceiling due to water or other damage.
Turn off the electrical circuits in the room. Remove all of your overhead light fixtures to ensure that you do not get paint on them and to allow you to get complete coverage.
Remove all of the furniture from the room. If you can't remove a piece, cover it completely with a plastic drop cloth. Cover the floors with drop cloths. Ceiling paint can drip; be very careful to remove your shoes if you leave the room while you are painting, so that you don't leave tracks in the rest of your house.
Carefully remove the molding around the top of the ceiling if you have any. This will provide a much neater finish that taping it off and painting around it. Additionally, re-paint the molding before you replace it; molding can appear dirty when contrasted with a fresh coat of ceiling paint.
Ensure that you have good ventilation so that paint fumes do not disturb you or others in your household. Open windows and turn on fans.
Attach an extension pole to your paint roller. This will allow you to reach the ceiling without strain. You will also want a very tall, very study ladder. For particularly high ceilings, 25 feet high or more, consider renting a scaffolding to reduce strain on your shoulders and neck and allow you to see more clearly what you are doing.
Pour paint into the paint tray so that it does not quite fill the cavity. Load the roller evenly with a moderate amount of paint. Roll excess paint off in the grooves on the tray; you do not want a roller that is heavy and dripping, or your coverage will be uneven. Starting in one corner of the room, use the roller to apply the paint to the ceiling. Apply the paint in an M pattern, creating a zigzag several feet square, and then spread it out by painting another M or zigzag over it at a 90 degree angle. Proceed to cover the entire ceiling in this way.
Use a paintbrush to cut in the corners of the room and around the light fixture hole. The paintbrush is smaller and gives you more control to create neat edges.
Allow the paint to dry completely, normally 24 hours, before adding a second coat. Two coats may be enough for a white ceiling; darker ceilings may require 3 or even 4 coats.
Add decoration, if desired. Paint a ceiling medallion if you like an ornate or art nouveaux look and have the skills to create the design you envision. Start by tracing a circle around the overhead light fixture, using the fixture as the center point. Place one end of a piece of string at the light fixture and pull it taut; use a pencil to trace all the way around. Use small paintbrushes and acrylic paints to transfer your design to the ceiling. Or add decorations in a more random fashion with stencils. Try using a stencil in a paisley shape and metallic gold paint for an Eastern feeling. Paint stars in constellations, a smiling moon and clouds in a child's bedroom. Several simple stripes each an inch or two wide around the periphery of the ceiling can look smart and contemporary. Try them in high contrast pink, green and blue for a tween girl's bedroom or red, black and gold in a guest room.