What Kind of Paint and Primer Is Best for Ceiling Stains?

Stains on the ceiling can be an eyesore and often occur due to water damage. While repairing the source of the problem is essential, covering up the stain itself can be challenging. Painting over the stain with regular paint is never a good idea, as it will only temporarily conceal the mark.

For ceiling stains, water-based stain-blocking paint is recommended. Water-based paint is more effective than oil-based paint and does not have the health risks associated with it. It also dries faster, so you can finish your project sooner. It’s also important to use a stain-blocking primer before applying the paint.

In this article, you will learn:

  • The 4 factors to consider when choosing paint for ceiling stains
  • What type of paint to use
  • What finish is best
  • My top picks for the best paint and primer for ceiling stains

The 4 Factors to Consider When Choosing Paint for Ceiling Stains

1. Type of Stain

Before choosing a paint manufacturer, you should know the type of stain you want to hide. Different ceiling stains require different types of paint. For instance, if the stain is caused by water, you must purchase paint specifically designed for water stains.

Similarly, paint made for grease or smoke may differ significantly from traditional paint. Therefore, your first step when choosing paint for ceiling stains should be identifying the type of stain you want to cover.

2. Ceiling Material

The ceiling material is critical in determining the type of paint you should use. For example, you would need a different type of paint if your ceiling is made of plaster or drywall.

Some materials absorb paint more quickly than others, and different paints adhere to different materials differently. Make sure to choose a paint suitable for your ceiling’s material type.

3. Quality

The paint quality you choose is the most important consideration when buying paint for ceiling stains. Do not choose cheap, low-quality paint because it could cost you more in the long run.

Poor-quality paint is prone to chipping, cracking, or flaking, which leads to more maintenance or fix-up work.

On the other hand, high-quality paint hides the stains completely, is easy to apply, and lasts considerably longer. Choosing a high-quality paint is important to avoid staining issues and save money in the long run.

4. Application

Different types of paint are best suited for different applications, making it essential to consider where you will apply the paint. Not all paints are designed to be used on a sprayer, roller, or brush. You must select a paint type compatible with the applicator you plan to use.

What Type of Paint Is Best?

Water-based Paint

Water-based paint is a popular choice for ceilings and is the best for covering up ceiling stains. Water-based paints are easier to work with, than oil-based paints and dry faster.

Furthermore, they don’t emit as many volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere and are relatively easy to clean up.


  • Low Odor: Less smell than oil-based paints, making them more comfortable to work with.
  • Quick Drying: Dries faster than oil-based paints.
  • Easy Clean-Up: Can be cleaned with water.
  • Less Flammable: Safer for use in confined spaces.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Contains fewer volatile organic compounds.


  • Durability: May show scuff marks and chips over time.
  • Multiple Coats: May require more coats to cover stains effectively.
  • Not as Smooth: The finish may not be as smooth as oil-based paints.

Oil-based Paint

Oil-based paint is another popular choice for painting stained ceilings. It is known for being more durable and providing a smoother finish than water-based paint. However, it takes longer to dry and emits more VOCs into the atmosphere during application.


  • Durable: Dries harder, making it more durable and longer lasting.
  • Smooth Finish: Will look smoother due to the long dry times (allowing the paint to level).
  • Stain Resistance: Provides better protection against stains.
  • Water Resistance: Offers good resistance against water damage.
  • Better Hiding: Tends to cover stains and old paint better than water-based paints.


  • Smelly: The main disadvantage of oil-based paint is the strong odor, which is quite invasive.
  • Long Dry Time: Takes significantly longer to dry, requiring care with any dusty work and ensuring that nothing makes contact with the wet surface.
  • Clean-up: Requires solvents like mineral spirits for clean-up.
  • Less Eco-Friendly: Contains more VOCs than water-based paints.

What Paint Finish Is Best?

Flat or matte finishes are traditionally recommended for ceilings since they are not subjected to heavy traffic.

However, eggshell finishes are also a great option if you want to achieve a more visually appealing result while simultaneously concealing ceiling stains.

Eggshell finishes offer a slightly glossy appearance while maintaining a subtle texture that can help mask imperfections in the ceiling surface.

This finish can also reflect more light, making the room feel brighter and bigger compared to using a flat finish.

The Best Paint and Primer for Ceiling Stains

Best Paint

Behr Premium Plus Interior Paint & Primer is hands down the recommended paint for painting ceiling stains.

This advanced formula combines the power of primer and paint in one, making it the ideal solution for easily tackling stubborn ceiling stains.

Its stain-blocking paint and primer technology provides the ultimate protection against unsightly stains, ensuring a beautiful and flawless finish that lasts for years to come.

Whether dealing with watermarks, smoke stains, or any other difficult ceiling stain, this versatile paint and primer is up to the challenge.

In addition to being tough on stains and scuffs, Behr Premium Plus Interior Paint & Primer is also specially formulated with an antimicrobial mildew-resistant paint finish.

This means that it will help prevent the growth of mold and mildew, keeping your ceiling looking clean and fresh for years to come.

Best Primer

For painting over ceiling stains, Rust-Oleum (Zinsser) Cover-Stain Oil-Based Primer is the best primer for the job.

Its oil-based formula provides excellent penetration and flexibility, allowing for a smooth application and seamless coverage of stubborn stains.

Not only does it have exceptional adhesion and stain-blocking properties, but it also easily adheres to dense, glossy surfaces without the need for sanding or de-glossing. It can effectively cover stains on enamel paints, varnishes, paneling, laminates, and ceramic tile.

Choosing Rust-Oleum (Zinsser) Cover-Stain Oil-Based Primer for painting ceiling stains ensures an effective and seamless coverage of stains and allows for a long-lasting and durable finish. Its superior formula and exceptional properties make it a top choice among professionals and DIYers.

Joshua Milton

Joshua Milton is a passionate DIY and home improvement enthusiast. With his expertise in various projects, he provides practical tips, step-by-step guides, and creative ideas for transforming your living space.

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