Can a Tile Backsplash Be Painted?

Painting a tile backsplash can completely transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom. With the right preparations and techniques, you can paint over existing tile to give it a fresh new color. Here is a detailed guide on how to paint a tile backsplash, the supplies needed, and tips for achieving the best results.

Is Painting Over Tile Possible?

Yes, it is possible to paint over existing ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tile backsplashes. With proper cleaning, surface preparation, primer, and paint, you can give tile a brand new look for a fraction of the cost of replacing it.

There are specialty tile paints formulated for adhesion and durability on tile surfaces. Be sure to use a high-quality acrylic latex paint specifically made for tile and follow all manufacturer’s instructions. Test paint adhesion on a small area first.

Supplies Needed to Paint a Tile Backsplash

To properly prep and paint tile, you will need:

  • Tile cleaning solution or TSP substitute
  • Scrub brushes and scrub pads
  • Painters tape
  • Drop cloths
  • High-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Tile primer
  • Acrylic latex tile paint
  • Paint tray, roller, and angled brush
  • Rags and paper towels

Choose paint and primer specifically formulated for tile and ceramics. Make sure all supplies are clean and materials are in good condition.

How to Prepare a Tile Backsplash for Painting

Proper tile cleaning and surface prep is crucial for paint adhesion. Follow these key steps:

1. Clean the Tile Surface

Mix a tile cleaning solution or TSP substitute according to package directions. Scrub tiles thoroughly with a stiff brush and rinse well. Allow to fully dry.

2. Lightly Sand Tile

Use 220-400 grit sandpaper to lightly scuff up the glazed tile surface. This helps the paint grip. Avoid sanding natural stone. Wipe away dust with a tack cloth.

3. Apply Primer

Apply a thin, even coat of tile primer. Allow to fully dry per manufacturer’s instructions. Primer improves paint adhesion.

4. Use Painter’s Tape

Apply painter’s tape around the edges for a crisp paint line. Press firmly to seal the edges. Remove tape immediately after painting before the paint dries.

How to Paint a Tile Backsplash

Once prepped, use these tips for a smooth painted finish:

1. Cut in the Edges

Use an angled brush to cut in around the edges and corners. Get paint into the grout lines. Allow to dry.

2. Roll on Paint

Apply two coats of tile paint using a short nap paint roller. Roll in “W” and “M” shapes for even coverage. Allow each coat to fully dry before adding another.

3. Use an Extension Pole

Use an extension pole to comfortably reach high backsplash areas without a ladder. Load the roller or brush on the end for easy application.

4. Apply Thin Coats

Tile paint should be rolled on in thin, even coats. Thick paint will not adhere correctly and can crack or peel. Allow proper drying time between coats.

5. Check Grout Coverage

Ensure paint is getting down into the grout lines. Two coats should fully cover grout. Touch up if needed with an angled brush.

Tips for Achieving a Smooth Painted Tile Finish

Follow these tips and tricks for getting an attractive and durable painted tile backsplash:

  • Avoid painting in direct sunlight or if temperatures are too hot. This can cause paint blistering.
  • Consider applying a clear sealer for added protection and sheen if desired after paint has fully cured.
  • Use long, smooth strokes and minimal pressure with the roller to prevent bubbles in the paint.
  • Work top to bottom and do just one section at a time for the smoothest finish.
  • If tile absorbs paint unevenly, apply a third thin coat focusing on those spots.
  • Clean brushes and rollers promptly in soap and water after use for easiest cleanup.
  • Allow paint to fully cure for 2-3 days before use of kitchen or bath. Avoid hanging items over freshly painted areas.

Frequently Asked Questions About Painting Tile Backsplashes

Can any paint be used to paint tile?

No, tile requires specially formulated paints like acrylic latex or epoxy paints designed for adhesion and durability on tile surfaces. Using regular wall paint could result in chipping or peeling.

Does the tile need to be sanded before painting?

Lightly sanding with a 220-400 grit sandpaper helps the paint grip the glazed tile surface better. Be very gentle to avoid scratching tile. Do not sand natural stone tile.

Should tile grout be re-grouted before painting?

Re-grouting is not necessary but any cracked or missing grout should be patched and leveled before painting for best results.

How long does it take for tile paint to fully cure?

Most tile paints take 2-3 days to fully cure and reach maximum durability and adhesion. Avoid hanging kitchen items or using bath fixtures during this time.

Will painted tile need ongoing sealing or maintenance?

Most quality acrylic latex tile paints do not require sealing or waxing after application. Applying a clear sealer can add extra protection if desired.


Painting over existing tile backsplashes is an affordable and effective way to refresh the look of your kitchen or bath without replacing tiles. With proper preparation, high-quality tile paint, and careful application using painting tips, you can achieve a smooth, durable finish. Take time to properly clean and prime the tile, then use thin, even coats of paint. In just a weekend, you can transform your backsplash on a budget.