When painting on a ladder or platform, thoroughly check that the ladder and platform cannot slip. If you are uncomfortable with the process, hire a professional. Wear old clothes, protective gloves, hat and goggles when painting.
Step 1: Prepare the staircase and ladder. Put a drop cloth on the length of the stairs. Take care when walking on the drop cloth, as it can make for slippery conditions. Position an extension ladder with the feet firmly against the stair riser, and lean the top of the ladder back against the second story wall. Be sure the tops of the ladder are covered with foam tips to avoid damaging the wall.
Step 2: Position a 2x6 board in place. Slide a 2x6 board or boards through the rungs of the ladder. Rest the other end of the board on a staircase step so that the board is level. You can put some padding under the board to avoid damaging the step. By adjusting the height of the board, you should be able to reach the ceiling and the highest parts of the stairwell wall.
A board resting on the ladder rung and the stair will grant access to higher points.
Step 3: Affix protective sheeting to the wall. If painting the ceiling first, tape plastic sheeting to the wall to protect it from splatter. Mask the edge of the walls with masking tape. Mask around light fixtures and detectors in the ceiling.
A long length of masking tape will mask the wall and hold the plastic sheeting up.
Step 4: Paint the ceiling. Using a paint roller with an extension, paint the ceiling. Roll slowly to avoid splatter. When the paint has dried, remove the masking tape and protective sheeting from the walls. Pull slowly on the tape to keep the paint from tearing.
Use a roller with an extension to paint the ceiling.
Step 5: Paint the edges of the walls. Use a sash brush to "cut in" to the edges where the wall meets the ceiling. The bristles on the sash brush are cut at an angle, allowing you to guide the brush along the edge of the ceiling without the need for masking tape. Only dip the sash paintbrush 1/2-inch into the paint, and gently remove excess paint from the sides of the brush. Use slight pressure when cutting in, and work slowly.
Use the edge of the sash brush to cut in where the wall meets the ceiling.
Step 6: Paint the rest of the stairwell walls. Once the edges are painted, use a roller to finish applying paint to the rest of the stairwell walls. The dried, finished project will breathe new life into your stairwell.