Painting a ceiling may seem like a daunting task, but it is only a tiny bit more difficult than painting a wall - it just requires more preparation.
You may need special equipment in order to reach the ceiling. You will most likely need an extension for your paint roller, which is like a broom handle that screws into the paint roller handle (some are telescoping, which is convenient). For a lower ceiling, you can use a step ladder or sturdy chair. For average ceilings, you will need a traditional step ladder. For very tall ceilings, you will need an extension ladder. If you have a very tall ceiling and have to paint around things in the center of your ceiling, you will need scaffolding. If you are painting a large area, you might want to rent a scissor lift to make the process faster, easier, and safer. You might also want to wear something on your head so you don't get paint drips in your hair.
Prepare Floor and Walls
If your ceiling paint drips, it will drip down on the floor and maybe the walls, so every inch of floor space must be covered and anything protruding from the walls must be removed. Larger pieces of furniture can stay in the room as long as they are covered by a drop cloth, but make sure they will allow your ladder access to reach all parts of the ceiling. If you can't remove the larger pieces of furniture, try to push them towards the center of the room so you can access the edge of the ceiling with a paint brush. You may wish to use painter's tape to stick the drop cloth to the wall to ensure it does not shift while painting.
Check your ceiling for any cob webs, insects, and dust. Clean any parts of your ceiling with soap and water if necessary. Make sure it is completely dry before proceeding.
If you noticed any cracks or holes in your ceiling when cleaning it, now is the time to repair them. Use drywall compound to fill any cracks. Follow the manufacturer's directions on the particular drywall compound you purchase.
Use painter's tape to tape off the top of the walls. If you are planning on painting the walls a similar color after you have painted the ceiling, this step can be skipped.
If your ceiling has never been painted, using a primer is necessary. If you are painting the ceiling a much lighter color or a much darker color than it currently is, primer is necessary. If you are painting the ceiling a similar color and the current paint job is in good condition, you can skip the primer step or use a paint with primer added.
To prime the ceiling, start by using a roller to roll on primer to as many parts of the ceiling as possible. You may want to add an extension pole to your paint roller to allow you to have more reach (but it adds a little weight to the paint roller). Do not put too much paint on the roller else you will end up with paint dripping on your head. Use a wet cloth to remove any paint that drips. Make sure you do not paint smoke detectors else they may not function properly. After the paint has been rolled on, use a paint brush to cut in the remaining sections around the perimeter of the room and around light fixtures and other items that will not be painted.
Using the same technique as above, apply the paint to your ceiling. You may need more than one coat to get your desired richness of color.
You might also like the article Ceiling Paint Color Ideas.