Prepare the room
When the shopping is done and you're ready to go, clear as much out of the room as possible so it's safer and easier to work. You will be moving a ladder around and using extension poles to reach the ceiling and the tops of the walls. The less there is to bump into or trip over, the better. Use painter's drop cloths to cover what can't be moved. Paint will seep through newspaper, and plastic is slippery and could cause an accident.
For the best results, it's important to prepare your surfaces properly before you start to paint so that the paint will adhere and your work will last.


If walls have been previously painted, sand away any loose paint and dried paint drips, wash with a damp sponge, and let dry. Brush any loose material from cracks and holes, fill with spackle, and let dry. Sand repaired areas smooth. If the crack or hole is deep, apply two or more thin coats and let dry between coats. This will make a cleaner repair that won't split or pull away from the wall.
To remove wallpaper, begin with a commercial wallpaper remover gel. Wet the paper with a sponge, make long slits through the paper with the edge of a spatula, and apply the gel. Wait IO to IS minutes and then use the spatula to scrape off the paper. Don't dig or scrape too hard or you will scar the wall surface; it is better to repeat the process if nec- essary. For tough jobs, commercial steamers will speed the process along. Wear rubber gloves and take care, as both the steamer and the water get very hot. Once the paper is off, wash the walls to get rid of any bits of paper and glue. Let dry and repair as for previously painted walls.
If the old paint is latex and it is a light color, there is no need to apply a primer. If you are not sure whether it's latex or oil, then apply an oil- based primer. You can apply latex paint over an oil-based primer, but you cannot apply latex paint over oil paint.
Note: If you live in a home that is more than 25 years old, the paint may contain lead. Sanding off lead paint is dangerous because the lead dust becomes airborne. Wearing a mask when working, scrape any loose or chipped paint, sweep up the particles, and dispose of them as your area designates for toxic materials. Wipe the walls with a damp sponge, let dry, and then apply an oil-based primer.
If the walls have previously been painted with a semi- or high-gloss sheen, sand to rough up the surface, and use a high-adhesion primer to give the surface the tooth required for paint to adhere.
Freshly plastered walls and new drywall must be primed first. If your base coat is a dark color, have the paint store tint the primer. Darkening the prime coat will reduce the number of base coats needed.


Always wear eye protection when working on the ceiling. Prepare the ceiling as you would the walls: Clean, fill any cracks, and prime any dark-colored ceiling or fresh plaster, including repairs. Ceiling paint is a flat or matte white and has a chalky texture. It is less expensive than regular paint, but is far less durable and not meant to be cleaned. Ceiling paint doesn't take dark tints very successfully. If you are going to paint a dark color or apply a paint finish to the ceiling, then prime with a water-based primer and use regular paint. Never use ceiling paint on walls.
The stucco ceilings common to new buildings are a challenge. Even cleaning with a damp cloth can pull away the pointy bits. However, it's quite a job to scrape and sand the ceiling smooth. You must use an oil- based primer over this type of stucco. A water-based primer will soak into the stucco and cause it to pull away from the ceiling, making quite a mess.