Most textured ceilings are coated in a material called spackle, and the two most commonly used application methods to texture a ceiling are hand application and using a tool called a texture sprayer. A texture sprayer is a type of blowgun that sprays the texture material directly onto the ceiling. Using a sprayer is usually a less labor-intensive way to texture a ceiling. Adding texture by hand requires the use of a spreading tool, such as a trowel. Texture sprayers typically require the use of an air compressor, and both of these tools can usually be rented from home improvement centers or companies that specialize in tool and equipment rental.
Before attempting to texture a ceiling, you need to be sure the surface of the drywall is clean and primed. Primer is usually applied just like paint and has about the same drying time. Applying spackle to raw drywall may cause the color to mottle when it dries. You should also be sure there are no loose pieces of drywall tape, because the weight of the spackle may cause it to further loosen and fall from the ceiling.
Spackle can usually be bought ready mixed, but you may be able to save some money by mixing it yourself. It is a dry powdery substance and you add water until you achieve the desired thickness. Ideally, mixed spackle should be about the consistency of soft mud. Once mixed, you can add foam beads or glitter if desired. Adding foam beads will allow you to create a bubbled texture, which is a good way to cover drywall flaws.
Using a texture sprayer saves time and usually achieves a more even finish. The sprayers come with a tank that holds the spackle. Once filled, you attach the sprayer to an air compressor and simply pull the trigger to dispense the material. You will need to experiment with distance and thickness until you get the look you want.
To texture a ceiling by hand, you will need to use a trowel for your initial application. After you slather on the spackle, you will need to go back over it and create the type of design you want. You can do this in a variety of ways, depending on the look you want. Using a sponge gives a rough stucco look, or you can create horizontal or vertical patterns using a wide brush or comb. It is usually important to work with one small area at a time, because if the spackle begins to dry it makes it more difficult to work with.