Papering a Ceiling

In most cases it is better to paint a ceiling rather than papering it. Applying wallpaper to ceilings is tricky as you are working at awkward angles and against gravity. Any imperfections will also show up as the ceiling of a room is usually well lit and the light source is close to the surface and liable to create shadows along any raised edges. However, there are times when you might wish to paper a ceiling, for decorative effect or to cover hairline cracks. Following this guide will help you to achieve a good finish and reduce the chances of the problems mentioned above.


Papering a ceiling can be very messy, so the first thing you should do is clear the room (if possible) and cover everything with dust sheets. You now need to set up a sturdy working platform which will give you easy access the ceiling without having to stretch. Two trestles or stepladders with a double layer of scaffolding boards laid across them is perfect. With your platform in place you can have a good look at the ceiling and fill any holes or cracks, and seal any stains. Allow any filler or sealant to dry before continuing.

Where to start

You should start hanging the paper along the wall which contains the window. If your room has two or more windows, start along the narrowest wall. Measure the width and write the measurement down so you don’t forget. Check the width of the paper and make a mark this far out from the wall (minus 1cm), along the ceiling. You can use a chalk line pinned to the ceiling to do this. Brush the whole ceiling with glue size to help with adhesion and create good slip (allows the paper to be moved whilst in place).

Hanging the Paper

Cut the first length of paper slightly longer than your measurement and apply paste as you would if papering a wall. As you add the paste fold the paper into a concertina every 500mm (making sure you leave the folds loose and do not crease the paper). Hold the folded paper in your left hand (assuming you are right handed) and start at the right hand end of the room. peel off the first fold of paper and hold it up against the ceiling so that it lines up with the chalk mark you made, overlapping onto the walls along the length and at the end. smooth the paper into the corner once you are happy that it is in the correct position and gently brush over this first section with a paperhanging brush.

Now carefully move your left hand holding the paper along the ceiling to release the next fold, smoothing it down with the paperhanging brush as you do so. As long as you keep your hand close to the ceiling as you move it away, the paper should not come unstuck. If the paper slides as you gently pull to release the folds, you need to make up some thicker paste with less water, apply this to the ceiling and start again.

When the whole length is smoothly stuck to the ceiling, you can trim the edges and ends. Press the paper into the angle of the wall and ceiling with the back of a pair of scissors (or other object which won’t cut the paper), pull the paper slightly off the ceiling and cut along the crease line with some sharp scissors.

You can now start the second strip of paper in exactly the same way, butt joining the edges to the previous piece. You can also use a seam roller along the edges if they are looking a little raised. Continue across the ceiling in the this way until it is covered.