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Home Improvement Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for contractors and serious DIYers. We also don't really want to slap another layer of drywall on top of it, because we don't want to give up any more height than we have to. So we are torn between sanding it down with a very coarse paper on an orbital sander or just skim coating the entire thing (and yes I do know how much effort that is, I skim coated a whole wall once to eliminate the texture). Edit: The stipple I mention is joint compound which, while wet, was pulled down upon with a wet sponge, creating lots of peaks.
Alternatively, a drywaller can skimcoat over the top of it, then re-texture to your liking. I think brute force is going to be the way to go but I'm going to try dampening it per your suggestion as we go along. Take great care if you set to it with a sander as other answers have suggested, as old Artex can contain asbestos. The two ways I've dealt with it previously have been to either skim over it or to remove it by first using a scraper to knock the tops off the peaks then to steam it with a wallpaper stripper and to scrape the Artex off the ceiling.

The problem with re-hanging the drywall on the ceiling is the risk of getting halfway across the lid and finding that the framing no longer aligns with the joints. Scrape out only the high points with a floor scraper--don't go crazy and tear up the rock--then for speed use a drywall texture pump to spray an even coat of mud to cover old texture.
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Note: If you intend to use an image you find here for commercial use, please be aware that some photos do require a model or property release. If so, spray it with water from a spray bottle until you think it's saturated enough then take a wide drywall knife and see if you ca scrape it off.
I think I would do what Matthew suggests and see if it can be knocked down some with a scraper first. This has happened to me several times, forcing me to abort the re-hang and just skimming the texture already in place. Don't remove too much base, then spray texture again with thin mud on small dial on hopper. You can wet it to keep down dust, but I doubt it will soften it since its covered with 40 years of paint.

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