Ceiling Paint Vs Wall Paint (Key Differences Explained)

There are a wide variety of different paints available, and it can be challenging for homeowners to know which is most suitable for them 

In this guide, we'll discuss ceiling paint vs wall paint and help you understand the similarities and differences of both.  

This should hopefully help you decide which is best for your wall and ceiling paint job.  

We've given a quick breakdown of these two types of paint, but there are still quite a lot of similarities. Here's a list of the key factors to consider so you can determine which is best for you: 

1. Type Of Paint  

Most paints tend to be oil or water basedWater based paint is easier to manipulate, less toxic, and dries very quickly. Water based paints can be used on most surfaces because it won’t dry out, and it even provides some resistance to mildew.  

Oil paint is more difficult to handle. It has a higher toxicity and takes longer to dry.

However, it also gives a much more even look without any visible brush strokes, and it is water-resistant.

Oil based paints are best for surfaces that see a lot of contact, but most DIY projects will only need water-based paint.

If you're painting anywhere except your bathroom, you should stick to water-based paint tray, which will hold its color for longer.   

2. Surfaces

Ceiling paint is thicker and, therefore, easier to apply to a range of different surfaces. It will grip even or uneven surfaces and one coat it thoroughly to cover stains. 

Wall paint is thinner and will struggle to apply one coat on rough surfaces. You will probably need to sand down the wall and provide several coats of paint if you’re using water-based paint for wall.  

If you have a rough, uneven, or worn surface, you’ll probably be better off with ceiling paint or oil-based wall paint.  

3. Viscosity 

Ceiling paint is more viscous and thicker than wall paint. This is to help give your entire ceiling an even look without the need for multiple coats, and to offer increased protection. 

In contrast, your wall paint is less dense, which is easier to manipulate and better for visual pieces. You may have to apply several coats, but there's more you can do with it.  

If you just want a smooth, even coverage, then high viscous ceiling paint is best. However, if you want a bit more flair, then you’re better with wall paint.  

4. Coverage 

Coverage means how smooth and even the paint will look when it's applied. It's much easier to get a full, even coverage with ceiling paint because it's much more viscous.

This means it will coat your home more effectively and hide unwanted stains and imperfections more easily.

In contrast, wall paint will take several coats to achieve the same effect, so if you know there's a lot to hide, you may be better off with a thick ceiling paint.  

5. Durability 

Ceiling paint is thick and durable. It applies evenly to almost any surface, and it won't crack or dry out in the sun.

On the other hand, wall paint tends to be thinner and slightly less durable, more prone to scratching and staining. However, there are normally many finishes available to choose from if you want that extra protection.  

Ceiling paint is definitely more durable than wall paint, but all oil-based paints go hard when they dry, so they're more durable and easier to maintain. If your number one priority is durability, then you should find an oil-based paint for your wall or ceiling white.  

6. Colors 

Ceiling paint comes in a range of paint colors, but there are far more choices when it comes to wall paints. Most major brands offer thousands of different colors and will even create a specific paint for you if they don’t stock it.

Color won't be a limiting factor in ceiling or wall paint, but there are definitely more options with wall paint.  

7. Finishes 

Ceiling paint tends to have a flat finish which gives off very little shine. You might often see eggshell finishes or satin finishes with some sheen, but it's not usually advisable to have too much reflection from your ceiling.  

In contrast, wall paints have a wide range of finishes available to choose from. The most common are matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and high gloss, flat paint each giving a different look to the wall. There are a lot more options with wall paint. 

8. Price  

Ceiling paint tends to be less expensive and will cost roughly $1.50-$4 per square foot.

Wall paint has a much broader price range, depending on the type of paint, color, and brand. You can pay anywhere from $3-$9 per square foot, so it's more expensive.  

Ceiling Paint Overview

Ceiling paint is specifically designed for painting ceilings. It’s typically latex based, which gives it a really smooth ceiling paint finish, and it's very easy to apply.

Ceiling paint usually has a low-gloss sheen, so it's not reflective, and it's definitely more functional than aesthetic.   

Ceiling paint is more durable than other paints. It's stain-resistant, smoke and gas resistant, and moisture-resistant.

This helps to protect your home and removes the need to repaint as regularly. Ceiling paint is also thicker and more viscous. This means you'll only need to apply one fresh coat, and there's less risk of dripping.  

Popcorn ceilings, in particular, will require more paint to ensure the full surface area is evenly covered.

There are similarities between flat white paint and ceiling paint, but flat white ceiling painted tends to have a matt paint finish. Flat white ceiling paint is great to cover imperfections, but it’s not quite as thick as light ceiling paints, so it doesn't offer as much protection.

The blue ceiling can add a more playful touch to an otherwise sophisticated space. Professional painter typically recommend flat, latex paint for textured ceilings painting process.

It's definitely advisable to use ceiling paint for your ceiling, and it will save you time and money to buy ceiling paint in the long run. 

white painted ceiling and walls

Wall Paint Overview

In contrast, wall paint comes in all shapes and sizes with different finishes, so you can decorate your room just as you like it.

The main varieties are matte, gloss, satin, masonry, and chalky.

Each gives a different look and create texture, which can really add to the overall look of your home. 

Wall paint tends to be thinner and less viscous. This makes it quicker to paint with, but it can run, and you usually have to apply several coats with paint roller to make it look even.

walls painted white

Overall, wall paint tends to be more about style and less about function. It's not as durable or tough as ceiling paint, but there are far more options to choose from.

It's inadvisable to use wall paint on ceilings because it will be more likely to drip and will offer less protection.  

Are Ceiling & Wall Paints Interchangeable? 

green paint and brush

There are no specific rules against using ceiling paint on your interior walls or exterior wall paint on your ceilings. However, because wall paint is thinner, it may drip when you apply it to the wall, and you won’t get the same level of protection on your ceiling.  

You can use ceiling paint on walls, and it's often a cheaper option. It works well if you have uneven surfaces or a lot of stains to cover up, and it can save you work because you won't need to apply several coats.

You will be limited with color choices, though, and you might not get the walls you really wanted.  

You can mix ceiling paint with wall paint if they are the same type. That means they need to have the same base, so you can't mix a water-based wall paint with an oil-based ceiling paint.

Mixing them allows you to get the color that you want but will make the ceiling paint thinner and more prone to dripping.  

Ceiling paint is best when you need a thick, solid paint to cover up an area. Wall paint is best if you want to bring some color to a room.

You can use them interchangeably, but you'll get different results, and while it won’t damage your home, it may impact the overall look.  

Ceiling Vs Wall Paint FAQs

Can you use ceiling paint as primer on walls? 

Yes, ceiling paint works well as a primer and can be sanded, so you can apply a high gloss wall paint on top.  

Should you paint the walls or ceiling first? 

Always paint the ceiling first. This lets you deal with any spray or dripping afterward when you're painting walls.  

Should I paint the ceiling the same color as walls? 

This totally depends on your preference, but painting your ceiling the same color as your walls will make the whole room seem bigger. Most interior designers recommend keeping them the same color but don't be afraid to break the mold.  

Can you paint the ceiling and walls on the same day? 

You should always make sure the ceiling paint is dried before painting the walls. If you're using ceiling paint, it tends to dry quickly, so you should be able to do both on the same day.  


Ceiling paint is thick and durable, but it generally isn’t very showy. On the other hand, Wall paint offers a lot more color and finish options, so you can bring a room to life.

They might seem similar, but they have some key differences that impact how you use them in your home. Hopefully this guide has given you some useful information, and you now know which type of paint is best for you.