How to paint suspended ceiling tiles

Updated February 21, 2017

Suspended ceilings can have a number of advantages over regular ceilings. Also known as drop ceilings, these coverings hang from the actual roof structure by a set of metallic grids. This space between the structure and the ceiling tiles allows for acoustical changes (including partial soundproofing from noise from above) and fire resistance, among other advantages. Painting these tiles may change these fire and sound characteristics, but can also allow you to customise your tiles to fit the style and design of your room.

Remove the ceiling tiles from the grid. Lay them flat on a dust sheet or other protective covering to stop paint from ruining floors.

Clean surface dust and dirt from the suspended ceiling tiles with a soft brush vacuum cleaner attachment. Do not paint before cleaning, as the dust and dirt will get stuck in the paint and ruin the look of your ceiling tiles.

Ventilate the area well by opening windows and doors, or using vans to circulate fresh air into the area. Paint fumes can be harmful if inhaled over long periods of time, and circulating air will also speed up the drying process.

Thin your paint product with paint thinner per the product's instructions. If you decide to use a paint sprayer, the paint may need to be thinned even further for use in the sprayer. Follow all instructions; thin only as instructed, as paint that is too thin will require more coats and will not adhere to the tiles as well.

Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from paint spray or splatter. Fill your spray gun with paint, or pour the paint into a rolling pan.

Paint the tiles. If you use a paint roller, use one with a 6 mm (1/4 inch) nap; this small nap means that the surface is smoother and it will apply the paint in smoother layers. If using a paint spray, spray perpendicular to the surface and use smooth, back-and-forth motions for an even coating.

Allow the first coat of paint to dry for 24 hours, and then inspect the work. If necessary, apply another coat of paint. Allow the paint to dry for at least 24 hours before reinstalling the tiles.


Check with your ceiling's manufacturer before painting to be sure you know what material was used to make your tiles. Use material-specific paint if possible.


Painting ceiling tiles may change the acoustical effects, fire resistance or other characteristics of suspended ceiling tiles. Painting may also void any warranties you have on your ceiling tiles. Consult your ceiling manufacturer before painting if you have questions regarding these or other painting issues.

Things You'll Need

  • Dust sheet
  • Vacuum cleaner with attachment
  • Fans
  • Paint
  • Paint thinner
  • Safety goggles
  • Spray gun or paint roller
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About the Author

Samantha Volz has been involved in journalistic and informative writing for over eight years. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, with a minor in European history. In college she was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and completed a professional internship with the "Williamsport Sun-Gazette," serving as a full-time reporter. She resides in Horsham, Pennsylvania.