How To Paint A Plaid Pattern On The Ceiling

How To Paint a Plaid Ceiling | Need a way to disguise an uneven ceiling? Or maybe you just want to add some pizzazz to your room. Click here to get the step by step instructions on how to paint a plaid ceiling.
How To Paint a Plaid Ceiling

In my house, the living and dining room ceilings are stucco over lath and plaster construction. The surface is in good condition, but it is very wavy. This was very apparent when painted a plain color. The unevenness bothered me.

The blue gingham ceiling
The blue gingham ceiling

When I saw Wanda’s monochromatic blue gingham ceiling (you can see the whole room here), I got inspired and decided that I could “feature” the waviness and hence disguise them.

Choosing colors that go with the fabrics in the room makes the plaid ceiling fit right in
Choosing colors that go with the fabrics in the room makes the plaid ceiling fit right in

I chose colors based on the fabric and paint colors already in the rooms. In fact, for the main color, I added glaze to leftover satin finish paint, which I had used on the walls. This is a time consuming project that is well worth the effort in dramatic results.

My ceiling gets a lot of comments and many ‘how to‘ questions from guests, so I thought I would share the steps with everyone.  Keep reading to find out how to paint a plaid ceiling (and it really is not that difficult).

What You Need

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1. Determine the type of plaid pattern and colors you would like to use on your ceiling.  My pattern contained wide stripes in 2 colors and smaller lines of another color.  If you are having trouble deciding, find a sample piece of fabric or picture that looks like what you want and use it as a template.

2. Once you know what the pattern should look like, you will need to determine how large to make each of the stripes.  The actual size of each one is not terribly important (other than it needs to be big enough to see it and the smaller the stripes, the more work it will be), but the proportions are.  Generally, plaid will have wide stripes that are all the same size (but may be different colors) and some smaller lines running through it.  For ceilings, using 6″ or 8″ wide stripes with 1″ or 2″ wide lines usually works pretty well.

3. Next you will need to determine your colors.  If you are using a fabric sample that you like, you can take it to the local paint store to have them match the colors for you.  You will need one color for the background, and at least 2 colors for the stripes (one for wide stripes and one for lines).  I used 3 stripe colors…2 different ones for wide stripes and 1 for the lines.

4. You might want to draw a sample on a piece of paper using the measurements and colors that you have come up with to make sure you like it (it’s much easier to re-draw it than having to re-paint on the ceiling!)

5. To figure out how much paint you need, measure the length and the width of the ceiling.  You will need enough of the background color to paint this entire space.  For the stripes, a pint of each color is generally enough (unless you have a really large space or are doing very large stripes).  A gallon of glaze is usually enough for most spaces.

Draw the Lines

A plaid ceiling adds a new dimension to the room
A plaid ceiling adds a new dimension to the room

1. If you want the background color of your plaid to be a different color than your ceiling is now, you will need to paint the entire ceiling the background color before you start this process. Wait for it to dry before continuing.

2. Measure the length of the ceiling and divide the number in half to determine where the half-way point is. Your first stripe will be centered on this measurement.  For example, if your ceiling is 10′ long, the half way point would be at the 5′ mark.  The reason for starting in the center is to have your pattern equally spaced on the ceiling at all edges.

3. Use chalk or a pencil to mark this point on both of the end walls.

4. Divide the main stripe width in half to determine where the center of the stripe is…this will determine how much of the stripe will fall on each side of the center line.  For example, if the stripe is 8” wide, the sides of the stripe will be 4’’ on each side of the center mark.

5. Use chalk or a pencil to mark where the two sides of the stripe will be at each end of the ceiling.

6. Use the chalk line to mark these two sides of the stripe all the way across the ceiling.  It is easier to do this if you have a second person…each of you can hold an end of the chalk line at either end of the ceiling and snap it to mark one side of the stripe, then do the other side. However, to do it solo, you just need to tack the end of the chalk line at one end of the ceiling and pull it across to the other side.

7. From the middle stripe work your way out to both edges of the ceiling.  Repeat steps 5 and 6 to mark the edges for each of the wide stripes in the pattern.  In our example, these marks would fall every 8″ from the edge of the center stripe.

8. Repeat steps 2 – 7 for the width of the ceiling (marking the stripes for the other direction).

Paint the Ceiling

The finished plaid ceiling
The finished plaid ceiling

1. Mix the paint and glaze in the proportions of 1 part paint to 4 parts glaze for your first color.

2. Apply the glaze mix to the main stripe in a smooth flowing motion with an EZ painter or brush, paying attention to following the chalk lines as straight as possible. I used the straight edge and damp sponge to correct any errors (holding the straight edge with one edge along the line prevents the sponge from wiping away paint that you want to leave there).

3. Paint all of the stripes using the same color in both directions on the ceiling first.  If you are alternating colors like I did, make sure to skip alternate stripes so that you can go back later with the second color.  Note: Glaze dries quickly, so complete each stripe before starting the next, to avoid darker over lapping lines. Choose pause points on the main color squares that overlap in both directions because they will be the darkest places in the pattern (i.e. they get 2 coats of glaze and so the joins will be less obvious. Variations in color are unavoidable and are part of the artistic effect.

4. If you are using a second color for the wide stripes, repeat steps 9 – 11 to fill in the alternate wide stripes that you skipped in the first pass.

5. Repeat the same line-drawing process as before to create the chalk lines for the narrow stripe.  In my pattern, the narrow lines were 2″ wide and were placed 1″ away from either side of the main color.  Paint them using a 2” nylon or foam brush in the third color.

Sit back and admire!

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Have comments or questions on how to paint a plaid ceiling?  Tell us in the section below.

This post was originally published on January 28, 2015 but was updated with new content on February 28, 2022.

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  1. Is the glaze what give the see through look to the stripes? The stripes are not solid in that you can see the underlying color.

    1. Yes, Darlene, the glaze makes the paint opaque. If you do not want to see the underlying color, just use undiluted paint in your choice of colors.