A stipple texture offers one of the easier ways to hide imperfect seams in your ceiling drywall, as well as to cover other defects, and it's also one of the easiest textures to apply. You can use dilute all-purpose joint compound to create this texture -- although topping and texturing compound are even better -- and you need a special hard-bristle brush called a stomp or slap brush. The texturing technique is often called stomping.
Applying a stipple texture entails a two-part process. In the first part, you cover the ceiling with joint or texturing compound, using a roller with a long-nap cover, and in the second part, you create a random or regular pattern by stomping or slapping the ceiling repeatedly with a brush. Crow's feet and rosettes are among the patterns you can make, but whether the pattern is regular or random, it's known as a stipple once it dries.
The texturing compound -- or mud -- you use must be thin enough to spread like paint, but thick enough to form nodes when you stomp it. Mix enough in a 5-gallon bucket to cover the entire ceiling, adding water and stirring until the mixture is just thin enough to be pourable.
If you're texturing over old paint, wash the ceiling with a sponge and a mixture consisting of 1/2 cup of trisodium phosphate per gallon of water. This dulls the sheen of the paint while removing dirt and grime. Wear rubber gloves and goggles while doing this.
Apply painter's tape to the upper edges of the walls around the perimeter of the room and hang masking paper from the tape. Cover the entire floor with drop cloths. Canvas drop cloths are best -- they slip less and provide better traction for your feet than plastic. As an alternative, spread out paper-backed plastic drop cloths.
If the ceiling is covered with new drywall, you need to prime it to seal it, and if the ceiling is already painted, you need to prime to aid adhesion of the texture. Either way, use PVA drywall primer.
Apply the texture with a long-nap roller, as if you were painting the ceiling. Roll around the perimeter, then fill in the middle with parallel strokes that extend between opposite walls. Apply the texture generously -- avoid leaving hungry areas devoid of material.
Give the texture an hour or so to stiffen. If you stomp it while it's fresh, it may not hold the pattern well, and you'll end up removing material with the brush.
Prime your stomp brush -- which should be connected to a 4-foot extension pole -- by spreading texture on the bristles. Push the bristles repeatedly into the ceiling texture to create the stipple effect. Work systematically from one corner outward if you're trying to create an effect, such as crow's feet. Otherwise, begin anywhere and have at it.
Run a drywall knife over the texture to knock it down, or flatten it. The purpose of this procedure -- which is optional -- is to eliminate sharp peaks and edges and make the ceiling easier to paint.
Apply one more coat of PVA primer to the ceiling before you paint. The primer seals the texturing material and ensures color uniformity of the topcoat.