Can I Paint Over Tile Backsplash?

Painting over an existing tile backsplash can completely transform the look of your kitchen. With some preparation and the right materials, painting tile is an affordable DIY project that allows you to update your backsplash without the time and expense of a full re-tiling job. Here is a comprehensive guide to painting over tile backsplash.

Should I Paint Over My Tile Backsplash?

Painting over tile has become a popular DIY project, but it’s not necessarily the right choice for every situation. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Condition of existing tile – Paint adheres best to tiles that are in good shape. Cracked, damaged, or loose tiles will show imperfections after painting.
  • Surface texture – Smoother tiles like ceramic and porcelain take paint better than highly textured tile surfaces. The paint can appear uneven on rough surfaces.
  • Grout condition – Painting over grout is challenging. Crumbling or dirty grout will likely show through the new paint.
  • Color/pattern – Solid colored tiles or simple patterns paint over easier than busy patterned tile. Some existing tile patterns may still show through the paint.
  • Ventilation – Paint fumes need proper ventilation. Limited air flow behind a backsplash makes spraying difficult.

If your backsplash is generally in good shape, painting tile can provide a like-new look for a fraction of the re-tiling cost. Carefully consider the tile surface and your ventilation before deciding to paint.

How to Prepare Tile for Painting

Proper preparation is crucial for getting paint to properly adhere to the tile. Here are the key steps:

  • Clean thoroughly – Use a deglosser or tile cleaner to remove any grease or soap residue. Rinse and let the tile dry completely.
  • Lightly sand – For glossy tile, lightly sanding creates texture for the paint to grip. Use 220 grit sandpaper.
  • Fill any grout lines – Use caulk or grout to fill any missing grout so it looks smooth. Remove excess caulk when dry.
  • Prime the surface – Priming helps the paint better adhere to the slippery tile surface. Use a tile bonding primer or adhesion promoter.
  • Apply painter’s tape – Tape off any edges you don’t want painted, like the countertop or ceiling. Remove tape immediately after painting.

Proper prep takes some work, but it helps the new paint job last longer and prevents peeling or chipping down the road.

What Type of Paint Should I Use?

Oil-based enamel paints provide the most durable finish on tile and are less prone to chipping or peeling over time. Some good options include:

  • Epoxy paint – A two-part epoxy paint bonds tightly to create an extra-hard finish. Good for high traffic areas.
  • Acrylic enamel – Dries to a hard, glossy finish. Thins with mineral spirits for spraying.
  • Alkyd enamel – Provides a durable and dirt-resistant finish. Easy clean up with soap and water.
  • Latex paint – Not ideal for tile but can work. Use a bonding primer and thin coats to help avoid peeling.

Semi-gloss or high-gloss sheens have a more wipeable finish. Flat or matte paints adhere less and show imperfections.

Spraying enamel paints produces the smoothest finish, but they can be applied successfully with a brush and roller as well.

Step-by-Step Process for Painting Tile

Once you have addressed any necessary tile repairs, selected the right paint, and thoroughly prepped the surface, you are ready to paint. Follow these steps:

1. Apply Primer

Use a brush or roller to apply a thin, even coat of tile bonding primer. Allow the primer to fully dry per manufacturer directions.

2. Lightly Sand Primed Surface

Gently sanding the primed tile removes any drips or roughness and creates extra texture.

3. Clean and Dry Surface

Wipe away any sanding dust with a damp cloth. Allow to fully dry before painting.

4. Apply First Coat of Paint

Using a brush, roller, or paint sprayer, apply the first coat using long, even strokes. Allow to dry completely.

5. Lightly Sand Paint and Clean

Gently sanding between coats fills any holes or drips in the paint. Wipe clean before the second coat.

6. Apply Second Coat of Paint

The second coat of paint provides desired color depth and finish. Allow the final coat to cure fully before use.

Applying paint carefully, with proper drying time between coats, helps create a durable, professional painted tile backsplash.

How Long Does Painted Tile Last?

With proper prep and application, painted tile can last 3-5 years or longer before needing touch ups. Using durable enamel paints and allowing proper cure times gives the longest lasting finish.

Here are some tips for maintaining painted tile:

  • Avoid abrasive cleaners that can wear down the paint. Use gentle dish soap instead.
  • Immediately clean up spills to prevent possible staining.
  • Consider applying a clear polyurethane over the paint for added protection.
  • Touch up any nicks or damage as soon as possible to prevent moisture getting under the paint.

Tips for Painting Tile Backsplash

  • Cut in edges first – Use a brush to carefully paint where the tile meets countertops, ceiling, or walls before rolling the main area.
  • Work in sections – Paint a few tiles at a time working from top to bottom. This prevents drips from drying before they can be smoothed out.
  • Work quickly – Enamel paints dry fast, so work in small sections to blend and smooth the paint before it dries.
  • Thin coats – Multiple thin coats create a smoother finish than trying to apply too much paint at once.
  • Allow proper cure time – Most enamels take 1-2 weeks to fully cure and become scratch resistant. Avoid cleaning or wiping during this time.

With some careful prep and patience during the painting process, you can completely change the look of your kitchen backsplash on a budget. Properly painted tile can hold up for years of cooking and cleaning. If your existing tile is sound but feels dated, try painting as an easy update before undertaking a full tile replacement.

Frequently Asked Questions About Painting Tile Backsplash

Can I use regular latex paint on a tile backsplash?

Latex wall paint does not adhere well to tile surfaces in the long term. Enamel paints like alkyd or epoxy create a much harder, more durable finish. Using a tile bonding primer with 100% acrylic latex paint can work, but still carries a higher risk of peeling or scratching.

Should I scuff up the tile before painting?

Lightly sanding with 220 grit sandpaper creates texture for the paint to grip. This is especially important on very glossy tile. Be careful not to sand too aggressively. The goal is just to rough up the surface a bit.

How long does it take for painted tile to dry?

Most enamels will dry to the touch in 1-2 hours. But the curing time for painted tile is usually 5-7 days before it becomes scratch resistant and can be cleaned. Allowing the full cure time is crucial for creating a long-lasting paint finish.

Should I use painter’s tape when painting backsplash tile?

Yes, painter’s tape helps create nice clean edges and prevents paint getting where it’s not wanted. Be sure to remove the tape as soon as you are done painting before the paint fully dries. Allowing tape to remain too long can pull off pieces of the fresh paint when removed.

Can I spray paint my tile backsplash?

You can use spray paint, but the overspray from aerosol cans creates a mess. Airless paint sprayers allow for a smooth professional finish, but also require masking off the entire kitchen. Brushing and rolling enamel paints can produce good results on tile if applied carefully using thin coats.


Painting over existing backsplash tile offers a budget-friendly way to refresh your kitchen’s look. With some tile repairs, proper priming and paint selection, adequate surface prep, and careful application using thin coats, you can achieve a long-lasting like-new finish. Allowing adequate drying and cure time between steps helps create a durable final result. Approach tile painting methodically, and in phases if needed, to produce professional looking results and a revitalized space.