Maintain a consistent distance from the ceiling—most professionals spray from between 2 and 4 feet. Walk sideways to spray the first stripe of texture, then slightly overlap it with the second stripe. Continue until you reach the end of the room. Apply the second coat at right angles to the first.
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Prime the ceiling to prevent uneven drying of the texture (either water- or solvent-based primer is fine). Thin the all-purpose joint compound with water until it's about the consistency of latex paint. Experiment with an airless paint sprayer on scrap drywall, varying the distance and speed of application until you get the result you want. Spray the ceiling with two coats applied at right angles to each other.
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Wait until the ceiling has lost the sheen of moisture—about 10 minutes under average conditions. Hold a wide wipedown blade nearly parallel to the ceiling, and very lightly drag it to flatten the tips of the sprayed texture. Vary the direction of the blade on each pass so you don't create a pattern. If you don't have a 24-inch wipedown blade as shown in the photo, use your widest drywall knife
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Before applying texture, stuff fiberglass insulation or a wad of newspaper into ceiling canisters. Otherwise, the sprayed material can foul the socket and also make trim rings difficult to install. You can use the same materials to protect wiring in ceiling boxes. You'll be glad you did this when you get to the electrical work because it's a challenge to wire circuits when all of the wires have been sprayed white. For safety, make sure power is turned off to electrical boxes. The texture is wet and conductive enough to cause the circuit to short out.