Soon I'll be repainting my ceilings. I'll have to do this at night when the kids are in bed, so I'll be relying on the light from my ceiling lights to figure out where I've already painted. This is pretty hard and relies on me trying to see which bits look wet.

There is a Magic White Matt product from Dulux that address this problem, which paints on pink and dries to white. But it's quite expensive compared to normal matt white paint. Any life hack suggestions to make this task easier while using normal matt paint?

  • Is the problem just that the ceiling lights don't shine much direct light on the ceiling itself? If so, wouldn't the simple solution be a lamp or flashlight?
    – TIO Begs
    Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 13:49
  • @Geobits Painting in the evening exacerbates the problem and brighter lights would help. But the general approach of trying to spot the wet areas is frustrating at all times of day and I'm looking for an alternative. Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 15:25
  • 1
    I've used the pink paint several times now... for ceilings I'll never go back... the Pink paint may cost more but to me it's worth it.
    – scunliffe
    Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 12:24

7 Answers 7


Using painter's tape, mark sections of the wall. Start in a corner. When you paint up to the tape mark, remove the tape. The areas that haven't been painted will still have tape on them.

  • 8
    You could do the same with pencil/chalk marks every so far (like a grid). No tape/removal necessary, since new paint will just cover up the marks.
    – TIO Begs
    Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 17:37
  • 1
    @Geobits: Please make that an answer. I have been doing this and is working well.
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 14:12

Since it is part of my job I must tell you that basically there is no way to see that especially in the evening/night when light is poor. Even professional wall painters sometimes miss the spot. There are two things that might help a little: firstly move the paint roller on a smaller distance, when you are done with one strip do not move it to the left or right by the whole roller length, so you wouldn’t create a gap between strokes. Second thing you can do is that during the day you look at celling and mark the spots which are poorly painted. Even those products wouldn’t help you much because they also require some time to dry, and I don’t think that’s convenient for you.

  • Can you clarify what your last sentence is referring to? Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 8:02
  • Well when you apply that product you would have to wait some time before it dries out and changes colour;and I don’t think that you want to sit in the middle of the night watch the ceiling waiting for it to change color right? On the other hand if you are concerned that you will not have enough time to finish one ceiling in one night, you really shouldn’t be. Even without experience you can paint at least 20-30 or even more m2 per night, so I don’t think that there is a chance that you will leave part of it unfinished. Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 21:25
  • Use another color to paint your ceilings - didn't you get tired of old color? :D

  • Remove old paint before putting new

  • Paint your ceiling in the daylight, when your children are either in school or in the kindergarten - it would be much easier to see the painted and unpainted parts of your ceilings.

  • Paint by some algorithm to be sure that, e.g. on the right hand (you're staying on the ladder, right?) you have painted everything, all after your left hand is unpainted


I haven't tried this myself, but could you wear a bright LED headlamp, which would reflect off the wet/shiny recently painted areas differently than the old ones?

  • 1
    I tried this, didn't work well. You need to have light that is in a very low angle "behind" the wall (~170°) to get optimal "wet/not-wet" results and having your light on your head (that is at about 0°) will not help. Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 10:24

I took some cheap florescent light fixtures that hold 2 long tubes each, and laid them on the floor pointing up. Some portable work lights ought to be in your DIY tools anyway.

I also added a bit of grey tint to the primer.


White over white paint in any light level is a nightmare.

First things first. Ensure all surfaces ready to be painted are rubbed down and dry. Are grease free. All caulk/filler used to fill gaps and cracks is dry.

With a straight level (builders level) mark out boxes onto the area to be painted. Use a pencil. Paint a box at a time . 2 coats. Follow instructions on the paint tin for drying times before applying your second coat.

You will end up with the small area where the pencil lines are that's unpainted. Paint over the pencil lines. 2 coats.

Been doing it years. Works every time. Biggest tip I can give you apart from the above is use a good quality paint. The best you can afford.


Use some strong flashlights for workshops1 and fix the to the wall next to the edges of the ceiling just below the hight of the paint roller.

That way you can still paint the ceiling up to the wall but you will have a strong light at a low angle to see where you have already painted. LED-staff-lamps work great because they make a (kinda) diffuse light which I found better when performing this task. You can wrap the LED lamp in white paper if you prefer to have more of an "indirect" light effect.

Alternatively: If you paint in straight lines (as you should) make markings on the walls (not the ceiling) with something that is easily removable (e.G. crape-tape). Then when you have painted that stroke remove the marker. I have used something similar (nails) before.

Another alternative is to use two red line lasers, like can be found on laser-water-level-bubble (or whatever Wasserwaage is in English) and shift them through the room while you paint. I have not used this myself.

1 I'm a regular customer at the linked shop.

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