My Best Tips To Wallpaper The Ceiling (Step-by-Step Guide)


Our bedroom ceiling is wallpapered and I can’t get over how freakin’ cool it is. I’ve stared at the tray ceiling in our bedroom for a year and a half now, trying to visualize something really fun up there. I mean, it is the fifth wall in a room so why not do something different?

Once I finally settled on wallpaper, I couldn’t “unsee” it. I just wanted a bit of color, pattern, and texture up there in the big sea of white drywall. So I went for a bold ceiling and it was the best.decision.ever.our main bedroom design plan

9×12 Rug // Cream Bed // Gold Sconces // Wallpaper

Yesterday, I shared the design plan for our bedroom and told you how wallpaper on the ceiling was the first big DIY project for the space. Today, let’s dive into the step-by-step for this DIY project.

Now, I know not everyone is going to go out and wallpaper their ceiling, although, I think it’s a fantastic idea for any of your homes! So,  just know that most of these tips apply even if you’re just wallpapering a normal wall with traditional wallpaper.

I’ve wallpapered a few times over the years (Rory’s closet, Jan’s closet, and my office wall), and each time I get a tiny bit better. If this is your first time, I recommend going with a small space like a closet or powder room to get your feet wet!

Erin, from Relativity Textiles, knows everything there is to know about wallpaper and installing it, so I learned so much during our day together. Let’s dive into her professional tips…

Wallpaper SuppliesBuy the correct supplies to wallpaper the ceiling

Tips to Wallpaper the CeilingChoosing wallpaper for our ceiling

I ended up carving out an entire day for this project and I’d say it took about five to six hours, total. The ceiling made things a lot trickier and more time-consuming, so if you’re wallpapering a regular wall I don’t think it would take quite that long. But, I think it’s best to set aside an entire day for this DIY project.

I’ve never hired out a wallpaper project, so I wasn’t sure about the cost to use a pro. Erin told me that a good rule of thumb is to expect to pay the cost of the paper in labor. So if the paper is $300 total  – add all of the rolls together –  you could expect to pay about $300 for the installation too.

Oh, and I’m sure it would be a bit more for a ceiling, as opposed to vertical walls.

Buy Enough WallpaperDecg to wallpaper the ceiling

First, choose your wallpaper and buy enough of it. It was hard to narrow down all of the amazing choices from Relativity Textiles (I’m already eyeing other patterns with darker tones and geometric patterns for a future project!), but in the end, I settled on “Peacock” in gold. The cream, blue, and gold sold me and I adore the organic shapes in the pattern.

I highly recommend ordering samples if you’re trying to decide between a few patterns. It helped me narrow things down. Choosing a wallpaper pattern from Relativity Textiles

Wallpaper rolls from Relativity Textiles are sold in double rolls, which means they’re 30 feet long and 27 inches wide. My ceiling is about 7 feet by 10 feet, so I ended up using two rolls for my project. Keep in mind, there will be waste from having to match up the patterns. So you’ll need more than you think! This is a great wallpaper calculator that can help you figure out how much to buy.

If you have questions before you start your wallpaper project, Erin recommends calling the wallpaper manufacturer. She said she is often fielding lots of questions every day over the phone…so don’t be afraid to call the shop where you buy your paper for tips!

Primer FirstWallpaper primer

Before our day of wallpapering, Erin instructed me to use this specific primer on the ceiling. (Don’t use a regular primer that you would use before painting!) She said that it helps the wallpaper stick and creates a smooth surface for the paper to adhere.

About a week before we installed the wallpaper, I painted the entire ceiling. This specialty primer is a lot thinner than paint and it’s clear, so it was easy to use. I probably got the entire ceiling done in about 25 minutes.

I also removed our canned lights and ceiling fan at this time so we could have an blank canvas for the wallpaper installation.

Recruit Some FriendsErin and Finn working on the ceiling

I thought that Erin and I would be able to tackle this project together as a duo, but she mentioned that another set of hands might be helpful. I had Finn block off his calendar so he could help us out.

Three people ended up being much-needed for this DIY project. So grab some friends and get to work! Oh, and wear crappy clothes because you’re bound to get glue on them. Bonus points for wearing an apron (it’s a good spot to hold your supplies when you’re up on a ladder!).

Set up a Table & Lots of LaddersSet up a table to work

Because this paper calls for the “paste the paper” technique (more on that below), we needed a work surface to cut and paste on. We ended up setting up a folding table right in our bedroom and it worked out great. This was not something I anticipated needing, so we had to dig it out of storage. Learn from me and have it on hand. My best tips to wallpaper the ceiling

If you’re wallpapering the ceiling, also be sure to have lots of ladders and stepstools on hand. At first, we kept the bed in place and stood on that, but we quickly realized that we needed to be closer to the ceiling. I think we had about four ladders and step stools in place for this project.

The easiest way to get it down would be to rent some scaffolding so you can all be on the same level with your tools!

Figure Out Your PatternFiguring out our ceiling pattern

Because we were wallpapering the ceiling and not a wall, we had to figure out how exactly we wanted to lay the paper. Which way was up?

Finn and I went back and forth and we finally decided that we wanted it to look best when we were laying in bed. So that way, when we looked up, it was like we were looking at a wall straight on with the beautiful pattern. Once we had that figured out, we could plan how to install it up there. Drawing a straight line across

Okay, so here’s the biggest challenge – figuring out all of the math and how the heck to get your paper straight. When the paper goes on a wall, it’s a lot easier because you can use a level and gravity!

With a ceiling, it’s a lot tougher to make a level line. Our ceiling is far from even and straight, as most ceilings are, so we ended up using a laser level to visualize the long line across the ceiling.Drawer a straight line across the ceiling

We then went 13.5 inches off of that center line, which is half the width of the wallpaper, and drew a straight line all the way across the ceiling. This would be our guide for the first strip of wallpaper. As long as that first strip was aligned with the line we drew, it would be straight and the rest of the strips could follow suit.

Cut Each Panel FirstCut your strip of wallpaper

With our gameplan marked on the ceiling, it was time to get to work on the wallpaper. We measured the length of the ceiling and added a few inches on each side, just in case. Erin then used a razor and a straight edge to cut that first strip.

Now, instead of going ahead and putting that piece up on the ceiling, we decided to cut the rest of our strips. It’s a heck of a lot easier to match the patterns on the ground than it is up high near the ceiling, so we were able to cut strips two and three right then and there. This is key!

Paste the Paper & “Book It”Paste the paper

This next step was new to me. I’ve only used peel-and-stick wallpaper or “paste the wall” wallpaper, where you put the glue on the wall and then apply the dry wallpaper. This wallpaper calls for a “paste the paper” technique, where you put all of the glue on the back of the paper first, “book it”, and then apply it to the dry ceiling.

We went ahead and poured the glue into a paint tray and then rolled it onto the back of the wallpaper with a smooth foam roller, being pretty generous with the glue and making sure the edges were covered. Here is the exact glue that Erin recommends for this particular wallpaper.  How to book wallpaper

Okay, so what the heck is “booking the paper”? Essentially, you fold the paper onto itself for about five minutes to allow the paper to relax before applying it to the wall. Set up a table to workWe brought the end of each sheet into the middle and let it hang like that for five minutes before adding it to the wall. Don’t wait longer than that! Erin warned us that once the glue is on, the timer begins! You want to be ready to hang so it doesn’t book for too long.

Apply Your First PieceTips to wallpaper the ceiling

With the clock ticking, the three of us got up on our ladders and started from the “top” to apply the paper, smoothing it the best we could with the brush. Gravity did make this a bit trickier, but with six hands we were able to keep the paper from falling to the ground.

One person was the holder (usually me or Finn), another person worked to smooth it, and the other made sure it was aligned. I’m not gonna lie, Erin did most of the hard work here! Finn and I were her assistants and we just did as we were told. Thank goodness for her expertise!

The glue should grab the wallpaper and keep it in place. Erin recommends testing a piece first to make sure that it really holds it to the wall. That way you’ll know the glue is working properly.

Also, be sure to turn off your fans or heaters as that will dry the glue out! It was a cold day when we installed it, but we kept the heat off upstairs so our air vents weren’t blowing on the wet paper.  Cutting around the ceiling fanThat first wallpaper strip went over the ceiling fan area, so we had to cut around it the best we could. You’ll want to create little slits in the paper to fit the piece through and then you can go back over the area to cut the excess and get the wallpaper smoothed around the object. The ceiling fan

Here’s what it looked like around the ceiling fan box before we trimmed the excess and smoothed the paper around it.

Trim Excess with a RazorTrim the excess wallppaer with a razor

On the corners, you’ll want to use a straight edge and razor to cut the excess wallpaper on both sides. Just put the edge into the crease and run your razor across it gently. In the past, I’ve used a snap-off razor blade that worked well. Erin just went for it with small razor blades. She is a pro!

Work on the SeamsWork on the seams

We got our second piece of wallpaper up, just as we did the first. This time, we lined up the new piece, making sure the pattern matched the first strip all along the way. There will be a seam between the two pieces, so you’ll want to use a seam roller to get the edges pushed down flat.

There were a few spots where we needed to add extra glue under the edges too, so a paint brush came in handy for that. Between the extra glue and the seam roller, our seams were much less visible.

Wipe Off Extra GlueOur second piece of wallpaper on the ceiling

You’re bound to get some glue on the front of your wallpaper and that’s a-okay. Wallpaper is much more durable than you might think and most are wipeable. You can just take a damp sponge and wipe the excess paste off.

I even found a few spots of glue the next day, when I was staring up at my gorgeous new ceiling, and I took a sponge and got them off long after they had dried on top.Teamwork to hang wallpaper on the ceiling

For that third panel, we followed the same steps…glue the paper, book it, apply it to the ceiling, smooth it out, and trim!

Our New Wallpapered Ceiling

Ok, let’s take a look at the new ceiling! It’s the perfect wallpaper with that small-scale pattern.

Tips to wallpaper the ceilingTips to wallpaper the ceiling with the gold peacock paper from relativity textilesTips to wallpaper the ceilingIsn’t it so cool?! Honestly, it’s much more subtle than I anticipated and I love that it makes the high ceilings a focal point.

The colors are perfect and it adds a great texture to the ceiling. Now, it doesn’t feel like a big sea of white up there. And my goodness, laying in bed staring up at this beauty is my new favorite pastime. Our bedroom has a cozier feel already!

What’s Next?How to wallpaper a ceiling

I’ve gotta say, this wallpaper makes me even more excited to paint in here. I think because the background of the wallpaper is cream, it doesn’t stand out as much with the cream walls and white ceilings.

I’ll be painting the ceiling and walls all the same color in a warm grayish-blue paint colors, so the paper will be the star of the show. I cannot wait.

Casey

Tips and tricks to wallpaper the ceiling

Catch Up on the Main Bedroom Makeover

Our main bedroom in our finn fixer upper
Main Bedroom Makeover Reveal

The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.

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