How to Paint a Galaxy on the Ceiling

Dream under a swirl of glittering constellations so bright you could almost reach up and touch the stars -- from the safety and comfort of your own bed. City lights, gathering clouds and tree canopies won't interfere with the view when you paint a galaxy on the bedroom ceiling. Special glow-in-the-dark paint lights up the room at night. A more prosaic star pattern is visible in a playroom during the day.

fantastic space
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Glow-in-the-dark planets and stars.

Happy Birth Sign, Little Libra

Launch that baby into the cosmos with a soft blue nursery ceiling, painted in pale phosphorescent paint to depict the stars aligned on her birthday over the crib. Continue the space ceiling with swirls of galaxies vanishing into the distance at the far side of the room. Phosphorescent paint is nearly invisible in the daytime, but it absorbs natural and black light and will gleam for hours after the lights are out. A galaxy ceiling is a dreamy nightlight for a dark nursery, more magical than a crib mobile for a wide-eyed sleepless infant and an early science lesson for your precocious toddler.

Like a Diamond in the Sky

The immensity of a galaxy means the stars and planets appear like minute dots in the heavens. You achieve this effect by flicking paint from a brush at the ceiling -- be sure to cover the room with dropcloths because you will make a mess. Highlight shooting stars by dotting a brush with glow paint on the ceiling and dragging the brush lightly, with decreasing pressure, away from the "star" to make a vanishing tail. Create a gas cloud by dipping a damp, rolled rag in a thin layer of glow paint on a flat dish, then delicately pressing the rag against the ceiling to make the cloud. A black hole appears in the galaxy when you lightly dab the rag around a circle of cardboard. Remove the cardboard, and the unpainted circle is dark.

Beam Me Up, Scotty

Paint a backdrop of the galaxies and a few larger planets for your Star Trek fans and space explorers. You can find kits with accurate galactic swirl patterns, constellation maps and planet and moon stencils. Alternatively, make your own, modeling patterns on NASA photographs for accuracy, or just free-forming the shapes for fantasy. A pattern or moon is glow-paint sponged around a circle to create the light halo from the sun's reflection, and then sponged sparingly inside a circle cutout. Use a natural sponge and leave only rough traces of paint inside the circle to approximate the variegated appearance of light falling on a surface of mountains and canyons. Glow paint is made with phosphorescent powder suspended in an emulsion. Apply it in a well-ventilated room and keep the powders away from children to avoid any inhalation hazards.

Count the Stars

Budding astronomers will be counting stars by day when you decorate the playroom ceiling with real constellations and a fantasy galaxy. Print several star and galaxy patterns to use as models and tackle the ceiling section by section to paint quadrants of star maps and a central galactic swirl, visible at high noon. Draw the thin connective lines between the stars in real constellations, using a ruler and metallic silver-gray paint. Once the lines are dry, stamp large and small stars at the star points on the map of lines to form the Big Dipper, the Southern Cross or the Pleiades. In the center of the ceiling, flick a stiff paintbrush and a toothbrush to create spirals of large and tiny stars in a galaxy. The star ceiling is visible but not overwhelming overhead, and it will gleam softly at night due to the metallic paint.