I have a popcorn ceiling in my small dining area that needs repair. We had a water leak and husband cut out bad parts and replaced with drywall. I would like to paint ceiling but I need to match the smooth parts with the rest of the popcorn part. Is there something I can use that is quick and easy, without a lot of drama?
My experience is that the only method that will resemble the original sprayed texture is more sprayed texture. It is, indeed, messy. You have to assume that every square inch of surface can be struck with the overspray. The good news is that the sprayed mixture is nothing but a slurry of chaulk and water. Even if it gets on something, it readily wipes off with water. When it is used on new construction, the walls are not even masked, but the spots of popcorn that get on them are merely scraped off with a wide blade drywall knife after they are dry.
A few years ago, Home Depot used to sell a gadget that looked like a giant pump fly sprayer. It had a bottle on the end which held pre-mixed texture slurry. You would pump the cylinder and the popcorn would fly out. It actually did a pretty good job on small patches.
I am a big fan of "Holmes On Homes" on TV. He refuses to touch up textured ceilings, preferring to scrape the whole ceiling and start over. It is his opinion that textured ceilings cannot be touched up without the patch being seen. I agree that Holmes is a perfectionist for whom money is no object, but he is not completely wrong on this topic.
I have never been a fan of rolled on textures. They just don't roll out evenly. If they are used, at a minimum, the wall must be sealed first, otherwise the texture dries so fast that it cannot be evened out before the texture sets.
"Preventing the drama" of a popcorn ceiling repair?!?
You might try a little of the magic referred to in your screen name to ward off the drama ... but preparing for significant overspray and covering everything within ten feet of the repair using plastic might prove more beneficial.
Homax Popcorn Ceiling Texture spray is a simple repair for areas 4 feet by 4 feet or smaller.
As I've already indicated, overspray will occur up to ten feet outside your repair area, so cover everything with plastic.
The trick to using this product is to keep your hand moving while expelling the product. If you slow down or stop, the product will pile up and create a lump on your ceiling.
Larger repairs may require more than one application of the product mentioned above, or you may consider the roll-on Popcorn Finish from Behr.
You use a plastic loop Texturizer Roller Cover to apply this product and then paint after the repair dries.
This can also be difficult; the popcorn finish is very thick, can be difficult to load onto the texturizer roller, and may require several practice boards to learn a technique that will produce a pattern similar to your existing popcorn.
NOTE: The hopper gun/air compressor technique is usually suitable for new construction or very large repair areas. The product can be difficult to mix to the right consistency, and when applied can be both messy and difficult to match an existing pattern. So, unless you have experience spraying ceilings with a hopper gun or the repair area is much larger (8 foot square or larger), I would not recommend this approach.
How you repair the texture depends somewhat on how big the actual repair is. Small spots can be reasonably repaired with aerosol cans of popcorn touch-up spray. However, my experience is that they do not work that well for larger areas of several square feet or more. For larger areas, you would be well advised to rent the spray equipment used by the pros. The Home Depot rental department has such equipment. There are also small hoppers available for spraying popcorn and other textures if you have an air compressor of sufficient size. You do not need much air pressure, but you do need a lot of volumn of air.
First the patch has to be cleared past the actuall taped repair joints. The patch should look good enough to exist in its own right. Even popcorn texture will not hide a bad patch job. Ideally, the patch would then be sealed first. Then the popcorn slurry can be sprayed on and blended into the old finish. Even the pros have trouble to make the blend truly invisible. After the popcorn has dried, it would be sealed again.
Finally, a general coat of ceiling paint should be done. The dead flat sheen of a ceiling paint will not high light any imperfections, as would a higher sheen.