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Welcome!

 ...and thanks for stopping by. I'm Claire Douglas,  DIY and home interiors writer specialising in money-saving and creative home interior projects. I've spent years developing my 'bespoke on a budget' approach to DIY and home interiors and I love sharing all my tips and tricks in tutorials and posts here on my blog, in articles I write for some of the leading titles, in the press, on Instagram, Tiktok and my online course

How to smooth a textured/Artex ceiling

Updated: Mar 25

Artex be gone!

smoothing over artex

Actually, it's not gone at all, more like 'safely covered over but left fully intact due to the risk of asbestos exposure' (but that's not nearly as catchy a strapline, is it!?)


When I smoothed over my artex ceiling a few months back, I did not anticipate the degree of interest this DIY project would receive. The Tiktok I shared documenting the process went viral and I had hundreds of people get in touch because they too had a ceiling of doom that they wanted rid of but couldn't afford to pay for a professional so were keen to know how to smooth a textured ceiling safely.  

Props to plasterers

I respect and admire professional plasterers; in fact, I'd go so far as to say that fresh, new plaster is one of my favourite things; a perfectly plastered wall or ceiling is a thing of beauty. Plastering is a highly skilled job and takes time and dedication to master and I'm in no way undermining that. In an ideal world, people would have endless home renovation and maintenance budgets and could hire professionals to come in and undertake every home-related job, but that's just not real life, especially at the moment when the cost of living in the UK has been defined as an actual crisis so I decided to share my experience of smoothing over artex and my top tips for a good finish as well as all the safety considerations that shouldn't be overlooked.  


Smoothing over artex - should you attempt this DIY?


The harsh reality is that many people around the UK have resigned themselves to the fact that they'll just have to live with certain undesirable features of their home interiors (like textured coatings or artex ceilings) because they don't have the funds to change them. And that's where I come in... to suggest which jobs lend themselves to a DIY effort & to point out which definitely don't (anything plumbing or electrical, for a start). I would say that skimming over Artex to get a nice flat ceiling probably belongs somewhere in the middle (that doesn't sound very helpful, does it? Bear with me!), and the deciding factor, in this case, comes down to the individual DIYer, rather than the task itself. 


For example, if you are an avid DIYer, with plenty of previous experience patching, smoothing, and skimming walls, then this is a no-brainer, grab your tools and crack on! But if your DIY experience is limited to a bit of light painting and you've never teetered on the top step of the ladder, let alone grappled with a plastering trowel and pan at the same time, then this is a job best to avoid, or at least one to work up to by gaining loads of practice (with the products, tools, and technique) on every square inch of bumpy wall in your home. 

In addition to DIY experience, with this task, I would say mindset is key because the perfect, smooth surface relies on a combination of attention to detail and tenacity as well as a bit of good old-fashioned grit and determination... oh and not having an issue with being stuck up a ladder for literally hours and hours with your neck craned in all manner of unnatural angles! And if that little pep talk hasn't put you off, then steel yourself as here comes the Health & Safety briefing...


⚠️SAFETY NOTE: if skimming over untested Artex make sure not to disturb it (eg drill, sand, or scrape) in case it contains asbestos. Asbestos Artex is not harmful if left intact, but if the fine dust form is breathed in it can cause life-threatening illness. ⚠️ 


At this point, if you're still with me, then you're my kind of DIYer... let's get into the step-by-step.


To smooth a textured ceiling

Textured artex ceiling

YOU WILL NEED

-Dust sheets 

- Sponge

- Bucket of cold water 

- Cleaning spray (if ceiling is greasy or dirty)

- Plastering pan (or plastic tub like this one I picked up from B&Q )

- Skimming spatula / DIY plastering tool

- You might like to use a roller or squeegee to apply the product, but not essential. 

- Gloves

- Eye protection is a good idea 

- Ladder


A flatlay of DIY tools and materials required to skim a textured ceiling.

Before you start

To smooth an artex ceiling, wear gloves, make sure the room is well-ventilated, and eye protection is a good idea. First, you want to clear the room and move as much out of the way as you can, and cover the rest with dust sheets. 



1. Clean the ceiling

Hand holding a yellow sponge and wiping a textured ceiling clean
Wiping the ceiling clean

When smoothing a textured ceiling, the last thing you want is lumps of fluffy grey dust mixing into your beautiful layers of finishing plaster, so it's important to ensure the surface is clean, dry and dust-free. 

You also don’t want to get it very wet as it can cause the Artex to start breaking down - which we definitely want to avoid.


You can use a soft broom or duster to remove any cobwebs etc, first, then, wipe a damp sponge (dipped in cold water and then squeezed out) over the whole ceiling, and allowing it to dry should do the trick. You could hoover if you have a suitable attachment. If your ceiling is greasy or dirty then you'll want to clean it (again without getting it wet) so perhaps add some dish soap or sugar soap to your cold water. 


2. To prime or not to prime before smoothing over artex?

This transpired to be a controversial topic (I was surprised too!) when my post blew up on Tiktok as I didn't prime the ceiling first and here are my reasons why... 


- My living room Artex was not very pronounced, so the grooves which needed filling were very (approx 2mm) deep. 

- The ceiling was heavily painted and non-porous. 

- I'd done this exact process years before and had absolutely no issues with it afterwards. 

- The total thickness upon completion would be approx 2-3 mm. 

- The product is more akin to a jointing compound than say a multi-purpose plaster. 

- The manufacturer's guidelines state the product can be applied directly. 


Claire Douglas skimming her artex textured ceiling
An action shot!

If your ceiling is unpainted, or the texture has a very deep profile, then I would say you might like to err on the side of caution and apply a bonding coat or diluted PVA. If the texture is deep, then you might be better off using the sister product in this range, which is designed for rough surfaces. If your ceiling is greasy, this could reduce the adhesion of the product, so a coat of PVA adhesive might be a good idea. I've got a post about how to prime before skimming which you can read here if required. 




3. Prepare the product (of dreams!)


A tub of finishing plaster being used for a DIY project

Which product did you use? This is the question I get asked the most about how to smooth a textured ceiling. 

I've tried several products in the past and previously thought the best solution was Polycell's 'Smooth Over', but now I've found this interior smoother (finishing plaster), I won't go back as it's half the price but just as effective and definitely the best thing I've tried.


Dilute plaster for smoothing artex ceiling


If you dilute it a bit in a plastering pan to a yoghurt / smooth creamy consistency, it’s easier to use - just add a little cold water and stir it in, I find it better to add small amounts and keep checking the consistency is better than putting too much in and it being too runny. 



4. Apply the first / base coat

When smoothing over artex, work on small areas at a time and apply it thinly to the ceiling. For this task you could use a roller but I'm not a fan of this approach as it's too messy in my opinion and I prefer to use my trusty skimming tool for initial application and spreading.

Plastering tools

Alternatively, if you don't want to hold the plastering pan or heavy tub of plaster whilst on the ladder, you can position it on the top step and use a taping knife as a kind of hawk board to keep product on and dispense the amount required onto your spreader. The taping knife can also be used to reposition the product to the edge of your spreader to keep the application neater. This is why I recommend practising on walls and smaller areas first as it allows you to trial different combinations and find out what really works for you. 


textured artex ceiling being smoothed by Claire Douglas
First coat being applied

Start at the edge of the ceiling and smooth in towards the centre to give a smooth finish adjacent to the wall or coving depending on your room.


Continue smoothing in towards the centre of the room in a straight, sweeping motion. Apply uneven pressure on the spreader with one side down more than the other so you only get seams (trowel marks) on one side and don’t put too much product on it – you want it to be thin and too much can be too heavy for the ceiling. 


Allow that first coat of plaster to really fully dry – I didn’t do any sanding at all because of the dust and the aforementioned risks of asbestos (even if I knew the ceiling was clear I still wouldn't have sanded as the dust is just unbearable and keeps appearing for weeks after) but you could very carefully and very lightly sand with fine sandpaper to smooth any imperfections just on the very top layer of smoother, being very careful not to disturb the ceiling underneath. 

5. Coat two

Once dry, do the same thing again with the next coat, but in passes going in the opposite direction (eg if you went north to south first, then go east to west on the 2nd pass if that makes sense) as this will reduce the chance of lines showing up. 


Pay careful attention to the smoothness of the finish and apply firm pressure with the spreader to ensure that there aren't lumps and bumps. I found that if you miss any, you can wait for the smoother to almost dry and carefully knock the odd bump out using the spreader blade of a palette knife. Another top tip is to use a damp cloth of sponge on any imperfections, wait until the plaster is almost dry and gently smooth out any lumps or bumps with the sponge or cloth and you can blend them in to create a perfectly smooth surface. 

I had to do three layers in places on the ceiling, but not everywhere. 

smooth ceiling in modern living room with bay window.
Starting the second coat of smoother


Which tool for skimming?

I used my trusty Concrete Lab spreader, that I bought when I microcemented the unit I built for our fridge

because it is brilliant. I love the roll grip and the flexible blade as it makes light work of creating a smooth finish and feathering edges etc.


Do you need to paint over a ceiling skim coat?

Yes, this product needs to be painted. You might elect to water down the first coat of paint (mist coat) although this product doesn't specify that it is required because it's not as porous as plaster, I find it's a good idea regardless as it gives a smoother finish.

Smoothed artex ceiling after DIY project

Tips & Tricks

  • Don't let the product dry on the side and edge of the pan (as seen in the image below) because it will chip and flake into your wet product and cause lumps on the ceiling. Keep cleaning the spreading tool and the pan throughout the process.

  • Work in small areas and get them looking really good before moving the ladder to the adjacent area and repeating. 

  • Keep the layers really thin tp prevent cracking once dry. 

  • Remeber the health risks associated with asbestos if you haven't tested your artex and be VERY sure not to disturb the artex surface in any way. 

  • Be sure to notify contractors or new owners of the work (if you come to sell) unless you have ruled out the presence of asbestos.  

tub of finishing plaster for smoothing an artex ceiling
  • Tape off any light fittings you have on the ceiling to avoid covering them in finishing plaster.

  • If you spill or drop any plaster, wipe it up promptly with a damp cloth because it will be much harder to clean once it's set. 

  • Allow each layer to dry fully before starting the next one.

  • Turn the lights on and off when inspecting the ceiling as this helps you identify any patches still requiring attention. 


Artex textured ceiling smoothed by DIY skimming
The smooth results

Remember to rule out or mitigate the risk of asbestos


Ideally, before starting work on an Artex ceiling, you should have it tested for asbestos because, for decades, white asbestos (chrysotile) was added to Artex until it was finally banned in the UK in 1999. If you choose not to have your ceiling tested, you should take the same precautions as you would for a positive result and be certain not to disturb the artex when you skim over it.


Asbestos poses a minimal risk when undisturbed; however, if asbestos fibres are released into the air in fine dust particles through activities like sanding, drilling, or scraping, it becomes hazardous if inhaled or ingested. Exposure to asbestos fibres can lead to severe and even life-threatening health issues, including cancer, making it imperative to err on the side of caution. 


Never attempt to remove the textured coating of an artex ceiling if you aren't sure whether it contains asbestos or not, this includes using a wallpaper steamer to soak and remove it. You'll see lots of posts in DIY forums where people say not to worry about the presence of asbestos in artex but they are wrong. 


Where next?

If you're a keen DIYer or just started out, you might find the following posts about plasterboard and skimming useful...



DIY skimming


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