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

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Planning on painting a ceiling but aren’t even sure the difference between ceiling paint vs. wall paint? Have all your questions answered in this post!


Ceiling Paint vs. Wall Paint – Is there even a difference?

Luckily we have only had to paint a ceiling once, but while we are talking about opening up our wall between the living room and kitchen, we will most likely be taking out the drywall in the ceiling because we have to add a steel beam and can lights.

This means we’ll be painting a ceiling again, which got me down the rabbit hole of researching ceiling paint. I learned a lot of things I thought might be helpful for you if you’re trying to figure out the difference between ceiling paint vs. wall paint, if there even is one.

(Hint: There are definitely differences).

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What Is Ceiling Paint?

Ceiling paint is more viscous (thicker) than wall paint. Most ceiling paint is latex-based and is designed to have a smooth, even finish that can be easily applied. Ceiling paint is typically available in either a flat or a low-gloss sheen.

One of the benefits of ceiling paint is that it is formulated to resist staining and soiling from smoke and cooking vapors, whereas wall paint is not. Ceiling paint is also designed to resist mildew.

You can usually get away with only painting one coat with ceiling paint because of its higher viscosity, and ceiling paint is also made to dry quicker.

When discussing ceiling paint vs. wall paint, typical latex wall paint is much thinner in consistency.

Is Flat White Paint the Same as Ceiling Paint?

I wanted to know whether or not flat white paint was the same as ceiling paint.

The answer is not exactly. Flat white ceiling paint will generally work in most homes. It has a matte finish and hides imperfections, which you want in a ceiling paint.

hands holding paint roller

Wall paint also comes in a flat white finish, but it’s not marketed as ceiling paint for a few reasons. This is primarily because ceiling paint has less sheen so that light reflection is minimized. Too much gloss on ceiling paint will reflect light all over the ceiling.

Wall paint is not always a good idea to use on a ceiling because it may create too much brightness on the ceiling. If you really want to use flat white on your ceiling, that’s fine. Just know it wasn’t designed for that type of application.

Can You Use Wall Paint on the Ceiling?

You can technically use wall paint on a ceiling if you want. There just may be some drawbacks to doing this.

It’s not going to be as thick, which means you’ll probably have more drips than if you were to use actual ceiling paint. There will either be more prep work on the front end, or you’ll have a lot more splatter and stuff to clean up on the back end.

Ceiling paint is thicker consistency (more viscous) than wall paint, so if you want to use the wall paint on your ceiling, be prepared for drips everywhere.

This may be your best option if you have textured ceilings like popcorn or another texture. It may also be a better option if you use a paint sprayer rather than a paint roller.

Though ceiling paint cannot cover every single type of stain, it’s significantly better at doing so than your typical wall paint. Some brands of wall paint, like my favorite brand I used in the girls’ room and in our primary closet makeover, are formulated to be durable, easily wiped/cleaned, and technically could be used on a ceiling just as well as a paint specifically designed for a ceiling.

Can You Use Ceiling Paint On The walls?

Using ceiling paint on a wall can make the painting process as a whole go a lot smoother, as it minimizes the time needed to fix noticeable drip spots because of its thickness.

However, you are very much limited in colors when it comes to ceiling paint because it’s typically designed for, as you may have guessed, ceilings.

So yes, you can use ceiling paint on interior walls. That said, the result is better when you use ceiling paint as a primer.

hand holding paint roller with white paint

However, there may be specific scenarios in which using ceiling paint on a wall may be a better option.

If you’re painting high-traffic areas that may be subject to more “dirty” traffic, having thicker ceiling paint may be a better option.

Think basements in the north or the midwest coming in and out from snowy days. Or a mudroom where you’re going to be taking off muddy soccer cleats or rain boots. Having thick, plain ceiling paint on walls may be a better option there.

Can You Mix Ceiling Paint and Wall Paint?

person in white pants and shoes standing in front of 5 gallon paint bucket

You can mix ceiling and wall paint, pending they’re the same sheen.

You wouldn’t want to mix satin wall paint with flat ceiling paint. Before you paint the whole project, you should do a test to see if there will be any issues. In addition, I would only recommend mixing small quantities of ceiling and wall paint so that if you do run into any problems, you’re not wasting a ton of your paint.

Ceiling Paint Finishes


Flat (or matte) is the most low-maintenance because it doesn’t scuff and requires little cleaning. Using flat paint is easy to touch up if you make mistakes, and it has a very smooth texture to it. Jordan has said that he will add flat paint to the walls in any flip house we do in the future.

Flat paint has no reflection, which helps hide any imperfections you may have in your ceiling as we have in ours. Since we scraped our popcorn ceilings, some spots in our ceiling have slight imperfections like uneven areas or even dents and things.


Eggshell is our go-to finish in paint. It’s not totally matte like flat paint, but it’s also not glossy.

When choosing a ceiling paint finish, an eggshell finish is typically a safe choice if you’re unsure about the sheen. Eggshell will reflect slightly more than flat, but not too much to notice.

In choosing a ceiling paint finish, don’t paint anything above a satin. Satin has a low sheen but is more reflective than eggshell. This will make your ceilings shiny and will draw the eye to it.

According to the pros, it’s a good idea to use the same sheen on your walls as you do on your ceiling, or perhaps one sheen difference.

What Type of Paint is Best for Ceilings?

Every paint has a certain amount of solvent, which thins it out to roll more easily on the walls. Since you want a thicker paint for your ceiling, that means when shopping for ceiling paint, you want to make sure that you choose one that has no more than 45% solvent, according to Home Depot (who I consider paint experts).

Here are some of my favorite types of ceiling paints:

KILZ Color-Change Stainblocking Interior Ceiling Paint – Kilz is one of the best-selling brands of primers and is an excellent ceiling paint. A ceiling primer will actually help the ceiling paint cover more evenly and make it easier to cover imperfections.

This paint goes on a very light pink color, is dry to the touch within 1 hour, and then will fade to white when it’s fully dry after about 2 hours.

Behr Premium Plus Interior Ceiling Paint – We love Behr paint over here. It’s really good quality paint, and the price is excellent as well.

The Behr ceiling paint is tintable to lighter colors, so if you didn’t want the ceiling to be stark white, you could tint it a light color or a more creamy white.

Bonus: Zinnser Ceiling Spray Paint and Primer in One – This is great to have for touchups.

Zinnser has a regular paint as well, but this is a can of spray paint and primer that is specific for ceilings. Its nozzle shoots directly up, so you stand under the spot you need to be touched up and spray to cover.

Beware when you use this because you can get overspray, and you can have drips easily with this, so you’ll want to make sure you cover anything underneath areas where you use this spray.

ladder covered with paint leaning up against a white wall

All in all, ceiling paint vs. wall paint doesn’t have to be a difficult decision. As long as you know what sheen you want for your ceiling, you can find the ceiling paint that will go with it perfectly.

Armed with the proper information should help you along your way.

Best of luck!

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