Painting question-- two colors, uneven surfaces -- paint up or down?
December 2, 2013 12:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm painting a wall dark blue and re-doing the ceiling in white. The place where wall and ceiling meet is very uneven, and I'd like a nice clean line between the two. This seems to be a pretty common problem, and the standard solution seems to be creating a neat line somewhere other than the actual wall-ceiling joint. But some say paint the wall color up a bit onto the ceiling and some say paint the ceiling color down a bit onto the wall. Given the colors I'm dealing with, which will look better?
posted by neroli to Home & Garden (15 answers total)
Is the wall uneven itself? If so, I'd work up into the ceiling a bit.
posted by xingcat at 12:13 PM on December 2, 2013

Best answer: Personally, if I did this I'd paint the ceiling color down a bit onto the wall. The uneven-ness of the wall to ceiling join will be a lot less noticeable in white than it will be in dark blue, it'll be a little less dark blue to paint over in the future, and (without close inspection) the eye will be more likely to skip over it as a detail, as with cove ceilings, while a border of dark blue on the ceiling is very much a "WTF is THAT" kind of detail. Plus, if you decide it looks weird, you can always put a thin molding on the wall around the room at the color transition, which is something you'll see in lots of homes.
posted by davejay at 12:14 PM on December 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I think the white (versus the blue) would look better at the joint and be less noticeable.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:15 PM on December 2, 2013

Response by poster: Just FYI, the other three walls in the room are going to be a pale grey, so we are dealing with one dark accent wall in a relatively light room. I am leaning towards bringing the white down past the join -- just wanted other opinions and warnings before I committed to anything.
posted by neroli at 12:22 PM on December 2, 2013

Here's an idea that's more work than just painting, but it might be worth it:

I had an old house with this problem. I painted the white down the walls about 8 inches, and installed a picture rail along the line where the 2 colors met. I painted the picture rail the wall color. You don't even have to use an actual picture rail; some simple flat molding would work as well.
posted by The Deej at 12:26 PM on December 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

Paint the ceiling first. (Use the ceiling paint that goes on purple and dries white, makes life SO much easier.)

Paint it a bit down the wall.

Then paint your walls, stopping ever-so-close to the ceiling.

That's how we did it with our wonky walls in our house.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:28 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think that it's a no brainer given that you're doing one wall a different color. bring the ceiling down on the walls. If you bring the wall up into the ceiling, what are you going to do on the ceiling at the corners where the ceiling is white, one wall is pale grey, and one wall is blue? Something weird, that's what.
posted by duckstab at 12:37 PM on December 2, 2013 [9 favorites]

It seems to me that painting up into the ceiling will make the room seem taller. Painting down into the wall will make it seem wider.

My version assumes that you'll be consistent with all four walls, in the pattern, if not the colors.
posted by mule98J at 12:39 PM on December 2, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks all -- I think duckstab's point is pretty unassailable.
posted by neroli at 1:00 PM on December 2, 2013

If you paint down, you will not only see white paint, but you will notice more clearly where mistakes and uneven lines are present. Painting the wall color up and slightly into the ceiling works better because it is easier to hide inconsistencies and people look at walls, not ceilings.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:51 PM on December 2, 2013

I painted one of my heavily textured living room walls an accent color. My first attempt at the corners looked awful, but I found a method using tape to make a really sharp line. I'm not sure if my problem was the same as yours, but here is an example of the method I used.
posted by counterfeitfake at 2:12 PM on December 2, 2013

A digression: if your walls are really uneven, and it's a central area like a living room or dining room, and if you have the budget, then consider getting crown moulding trim installed across the top. Crowns are a lot more work, but they help bring everything together... in the right situation.
posted by ovvl at 5:08 PM on December 2, 2013

I have plaster walls. There is no crisp ceiling-wall joint -- it's a small radius curve, and a textured one at that. I've painted my entire home at this point and become very good at this -- we aggressively use color, and maintain white or off-white ceilings, so I've done this everywhere in my home. This is how you do it right:

0) Clean the walls and ceiling and prime everything. Use high quality primer that can be used on top of oil or latex, and can be painted over with oil or latex. Using said primer will save you with certain contaminants on the walls (e.g., smoking tar) that do not come off during casual cleaning.

1) Paint the ceiling. Run the roller right into the top of the wall -- you're going to be painting over it anyway.

2) Use a 2.5" or 3" sash brush to cut your wall color into that cove. The key is to use the edge of the sash to cut a solid line of paint between the two parts of the wall. This takes some practice, but it's easy to go over things a couple times. You will want to cut in the straight line, and use the brush to paint the wall color down the wall 4-5 inches. Make sure you have good lighting in the room -- the way the light falls in those coves is going to naturally create a demarcation that you'll want to follow when cutting in. There's a very good chance the ceiling color will end up being the dominant color of the cove where the sides meet -- darker colors catch the shadow in the corners and look like they're going too far up.

3) If you cut too far up into the ceiling, use a small sash brush to cut your ceiling color down into wherever you messed up.

4) Paint your walls and make sure you roll up into the brushed 4-5" band near the top -- otherwise you'll end up with a "hatband" around the top of the room that will stand out from the texture of the rolled paint.

5) Replace/paint/install trim as needed.
posted by bfranklin at 5:33 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and seriously, go to the hardware store and buy the most expensive brush they have. When you're cutting in, it's _so_ worth it.
posted by bfranklin at 5:34 PM on December 2, 2013

I have found it works better to paint the wall colour a little bit onto the ceiling - since you're doing the ceiling white, when it hits the uneven area at the join of ceiling and wall, you will really notice where the light reflects differently - you'll see a shiny extra-bright patch anywhere the ceiling paint goes too low. Basically, you want to hide any uneven areas in the darker paint.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:45 PM on December 2, 2013

« Older The nicest flatcap... in the world!   |   Visiting Peru? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.