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How to Paint Ceiling Downlights

Updated February 21, 2017

Downlights are a type of recessed lighting installed within holes in the ceiling. Often, there is a frame around these lights, which is left exposed. Painting this frame allows the downlights to blend better with the ceiling. Unfortunately, because downlights are metal, they reject paint. A quality metal-etching primer guarantees lasting coverage. The proper application method ensures a professional finish, free from noticeable brush marks.

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  1. Turn off the downlights in the room. Access the downlights using a stepladder.

  2. Wash metallic portions of the downlights using a sponge soaked in degreasing soap and water. Harsh cleansers may contain chemicals that could affect adhesion.

  3. Rinse the downlights with rags damped with water. Allow the downlights to air-dry, or use towels to dry them.

  4. Shield the light bulb and adjacent ceiling from overspray by carefully applying masking paper to these areas, using painter's tape.

  5. Wear a dust mask and goggles to protect your face from wafting spray-paint particles.

  6. Condition the ceiling downlights with galvanised metal-etching spray primer. Apply in a side-to-side motion. Maintain 8 inches between the downlight and the spray nozzle. Allow the downlights to dry for three hours.

  7. Paint the ceiling downlights as you primed them. Use a flat latex spray paint or spray enamel.

  8. Tip

    Use a flat latex spray paint if you'd like the downlights to blend in with the rest of the ceiling. Use an acrylic spray enamel if you'd like them to stand out.


    Never finish unprimed ceiling downlights, or peeling will result. Ordinary primers won't adhere to ceiling downlights. Always use an etching base coat.

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Things You'll Need

  • Stepladder
  • Sponge
  • Degreasing soap
  • Rags
  • Towels
  • Dust sheets
  • Masking paper
  • Painter's tape
  • Dust mask
  • Goggles
  • Galvanised metal-etching spray primer
  • Flat latex spray paint or spray enamel

About the Author

Ryan Lawrence is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado. He has been writing professionally since 1999. He has 10 years of experience as a professional painting contractor. Lawrence writes for High Class Blogs and Yodle. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and public relations with a minor in history from the University of Oklahoma.

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