Can You Paint Ceiling Tiles? (Pro’s, Con’s and Warnings!)

There’s a reason so many people choose to get a professional painter when it’s the ceiling that needs doing.

It can be a daunting task, especially for those who aren’t already familiar with the different styles of brushes and paints that there are to choose from.

And with ceiling tiles there's always the risk you start painting them and it looks terrible or the paint doesn't stick and you just end up ruining your roof.  

You might have already guessed, but yes, you can paint ceiling tiles. So now there’s no excuse not to roll up your sleeves and get the job done yourself. However...

It’s not as simple as just picking up the first paint pot and brush you see.

Arm yourself with all the gear but no idea and you'll know that you can’t paint ceiling tiles any which way, you have to do it right. 

So, let’s get right down to how and when it can be done...

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What Do You Need to Paint Ceiling Tiles?  

Before you can paint your ceiling tiles, they need to be in the right condition. If your ceiling is damaged in any area, you’ll need to have this repaired before you can paint them.

Likewise, the ceiling needs to be cleaned properly prior to painting to provide the best surface finish.

We’ve already mentioned that you’ll need a brush and some paint, but what kind? We’ll cover each of these in more detail below, but you’ll also need a few other pieces of essential equipment which we thought we’d mention. 

You’ll also need some primer as the ceiling will need a layer before you apply the paint unless you’ve opted for a paint that already contains a primer and doesn’t require this step.

A man painting ceiling tiles

What Type of Paint Should You Use for Ceiling Tiles?

If you’ve ever been to the hardware store, you’ll have seen the sea of paint pots that line multiple aisles.

It can be confusing at best, and completely overwhelming at worst, as there are so many different types and colors to choose from. 

Without even bringing finish into the conversation, you need to think about the type of application the paint is suitable.

There are paints for both interior and exterior painting purposes, and there are paints that are specifically formulated for ceiling use. 

Ceiling paint is typically thicker than traditional wall paint which can help to hide any uneven areas on the surface of the ceiling, and it doesn’t need to be as durable due to its high location that will be free from marks or scuffing.

But it’s not as simple as that.

The exact paint you’ll need for your ceiling tiles will depend on what style of tiles you have. 

Different Types of Ceiling Tiles

In order to choose the right paint, you’ll need to think about the ceiling tiles you’re going to be painting, as certain materials require specific paint formulas.

There are a few different materials that are used for ceiling tiles, including the following: 

  • Tin 
  • Faux-tin (PVC) 
  • Plastic 
  • Wood 
  • Fiberglass 
  • Mineral Fibers 

Fiberglass, for example, is not typically painted over, which you’d probably prefer to know before spending time on money on a pointless paint job. 

Tin and Faux-Tin Tile Painting 

The good news is, if you’re painting tin or faux-tin ceiling tiles, you can get the job done a lot quicker using spray paint.

You’ll still need to prime your ceiling, but you can find this in spray cans as well to make things easier. 

Spray painting your ceiling tiles if they’re made of (faux-)tin is a great way to ensure that you achieve an even coverage without laying on too thick, as a thin layer is all you need to paint over tin tiles.

One thing to watch out for is to choose a paint that won’t make the ceiling look too flat.

Sheer paints are great for this, whereas paints that have a matte finish can enhance the problem through a lack of shading or shadows.

Painting Plastic Tiles 

Plastic requires a bit more preparation as you’ll need to sand the ceiling so the paint has a rougher surface to cling to.

This is where the sandpaper or sanding sponge comes in. You don’t need to go crazy, just make sure you scratch away at the top layer of the tile’s surface. 

Oil-based primer is a necessary base for ceiling tiles, but this comes with its own issues.

The chemicals in this type of primer mean you should try to make sure the area you’re painting is well-ventilated.

If you don’t feel well after using an oil-based primer, contact your doctor. 

What About Wood Tiles? 

Ceiling tiles that are made from wood can also be painted, you’ll just need to follow a similar method to how you’d paint plastic tiles.

Like with the plastic, you’ll need to sand down the surface so the paint will stick.

You’ll also need to use an oil-based primer again, as otherwise, the paint won’t stick to the wood, so don’t be afraid to lay it on thick.

With that being said, there’s a chance the primer could bleed through the paint which can lead to discoloration in certain patches on the ceiling. 

Final Thoughts

Now you know that you can definitely paint your ceiling tiles, be they tin, faux tin, plastic, or wood.

You even know how to do it, and which paints and primers to look out for. The hardest decision left to make is what color to go for! 

A few final notes before we leave you to get started: 

  • If you’re using a sprayer to paint your ceiling tiles with, you might want to test it out first on a piece of cardboard or other material before you start on the ceiling. 

  • Remember to ventilate the room! Even if you’re not using an oil-based primer, it’s best not to work for too long in a room full of paint fumes.

  • If you have a drop ceiling or acoustic tiles, it’s sometimes easier to remove your tiles from the ceiling and paint them on the ground, then replace them when they’re fully dry. 

We hope you’ve found this article helpful!