Can You Paint a Kitchen Backsplash? The Complete Guide

Painting your kitchen backsplash can completely transform the look and feel of your kitchen. With some careful planning and preparation, you can easily paint your existing backsplash tiles or drywall to achieve a fresh new look. Painting is an affordable and easy kitchen upgrade that allows you to change colors and styles quickly. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about can you paint a kitchen backsplash from prep work and materials to techniques and maintenance. With these tips and recommendations, you’ll end up with a stunning, on-trend backsplash paint job that makes your kitchen shine.

Prepping and Planning Your Backsplash Paint Project

Before you start slapping paint on your backsplash, careful prep work and planning is required to ensure success. Rushing in without proper preparation can lead to a sloppy, uneven finish or paint that chips and peels quickly. Follow these essential prep steps:

Clean the Surface Thoroughly

The first step is thoroughly cleaning the backsplash surface. Make sure it is free of all grease, grime, and soap scum which can interfere with proper paint adhesion. Use a degreasing cleaner and scrub with a stiff brush and rinse clean.

For glossy tile, rough up the surface a bit with sandpaper to help the paint adhere. Wipe off any tile dust afterward.

Choose the Right Paint and Supplies

The type of paint and tools you’ll need depends on your existing backsplash material:

  • For tile: Use 100% acrylic latex paint formulated for bathrooms/kitchens. An enamel paint will provide a durable, glossy finish. Purchase high-quality mini paint rollers, angled brushes, painters tape, and sandpaper.
  • For drywall: A general interior latex paint will suffice. Gather mini rollers, paintbrushes, painters tape, and sandpaper. Primer will also be needed.

Make sure to buy enough paint to cover the entire backsplash area with 2-3 coats.

Protect Surrounding Areas

Use painters tape and drop cloths to mask off and cover any nearby surfaces like countertops, floors, and cabinets. This keeps them protected from drips or splatters.

Fill Any Cracks and Holes

Inspect the backsplash closely and fill any cracks, chips, seam lines, or holes with spackle compound. Let dry completely and sand smooth. This provides a flawless painting surface.

Sand Down Glossy Surfaces

If your existing tiles have a glossy glazed finish, scuff sand them up a bit using fine 220-400 grit sandpaper. This facilitates better paint adhesion. Avoid sanding natural stone tiles. Wipe away any dust after sanding.

Clean and Dry the Surface

Give the backsplash one final wipedown to eliminate any remaining debris or dust. Let it dry fully before starting to paint.

Choosing the Best Backsplash Paint Colors

The paint color you choose can make or break your kitchen. With endless options to pick from, narrowing it down can be tricky. Keep these tips in mind when selecting backsplash paint colors:

Colors That Complement Your Cabinets

Choose a backsplash color that complements your existing cabinet finish for a cohesive look. For light cabinets, opt for lighter backsplash hues like grays, taupes, and whites. Go bold with deeper colors against dark cabinetry.

Match Your Countertops

Select backsplash paint colors that work with your countertop finishes as well. For example, whites, beiges, and grays pair nicely with white marble. Black, navy, and charcoal gray complement granite.

Consider the Amount of Natural Light

The amount of natural sunlight your kitchen receives should factor into your color selection. Soft, light hues help brighten dark spaces while deep, bold colors work best in sunlit rooms.

Favorite Color Palettes and Schemes

If you’re drawn to certain color schemes, choose backsplash paint colors that align with them. Popular options include analogous, complementary, monochromatic, and triadic.

On-Trend Shades

Some current trending backsplash paint colors include forest green, navy blue, burnt orange, sage green, soft pink, and rusty red. Go bold or subdued!

Test Paint Swatches

Paint several large swatches on your backsplash and view at different times/lighting. This helps ensure you pick a shade you’ll still love after living with it.

Preparing and Priming the Backsplash Surface

Proper prep work is crucial for getting flawless backsplash paint results. Here are the key steps:

Lightly Sand and Clean the Surface

Give glossy tile a light sanding to scuff it up using 220 grit sandpaper. Clean away any debris or dust afterward using a tack cloth.

Fill Any Holes and Imperfections

Inspect the backsplash closely and use spackle to fill any holes, cracks, or uneven areas with compound, letting it dry completely. Sand smooth.

Mask Off Nearby Surfaces

Use painters tape and rosin paper to mask off countertops, cabinets, floors, etc. This prevents paint splatters and drips.

Prime Absorbent Surfaces

For drywall or porous tile, apply a coating of high-quality multi-surface primer using a small paint roller. Let the primer dry fully before painting.

Follow Paint Manufacturer’s Recommendations

Read all prep instructions on the paint packaging and follow any special steps noted for best results. Proper prep leads to better adhesion.

Allow any recommended drying time for spackle, primer, or paint between coats. Rushing the process can ruin the paint job.

Painting Tile Backsplash Surfaces

When painting an existing tile backsplash, follow these tips and techniques:

Work in Small Sections

Paint just a few tiles at a time in a grid pattern. This prevents drips from drying before you brush them out.

Use Angled Paintbrushes for Grout Lines

Use a high-quality angled brush to carefully paint down into the grout lines. Rollers can’t reach properly.

Apply Paint Evenly

Maintain a wet edge and distribute the paint evenly across tiles. Work top to bottom in columns while pausing between sections.

Two Coats Minimum

Apply at least two coats of latex paint for coverage, letting the first coat fully dry first. Add a third coat if needed for even coverage.

Clean Up Drips

Keep a wet rag handy to immediately wipe up any paint drips or splatters as you work before they can dry.

Remove Tape Promptly

Pull off all painters tape promptly after painting before the paint dries fully around it. Allow paint to cure 48-72 hours before cleaning.

Painting Drywall Backsplash Surfaces

For drywall backsplashes, follow these recommendations:

Lightly Sand and Fill Imperfections

Lightly sand to scuff up the surface a bit and fill any gouges, cracks, or holes with spackle compound. Let dry and sand smooth.

Tape Off Surrounding Areas

Cover nearby surfaces with rosin paper and blue painter’s tape to protect them from paint splatter or drips.

Prime the Drywall

Use a small foam roller to apply a coat of high-quality multi-surface primer. Let it fully dry.

Use Mini Paint Rollers and Brushes

Use 4-inch mini foam rollers and angled brushes to paint the backsplash, working in columns. Maintain wet edges between sections.

Apply At Least Two Coats

Paint two to three coats for best coverage, allowing proper drying time between coats according to manufacturer’s directions.

Remove Tape and Clean Up

Peel off tape immediately after painting. Touch up any edges. Allow paint to cure fully before cleaning the backsplash.

Paint Finish Options For Backsplashes

When choosing a paint finish for your backsplash, consider:

Matte Finish

A flat or matte paint finish minimizes reflections and hides imperfections well. It offers a modern, sleek look. However, it scuffs easily.

Eggshell Finish

Slightly more durable than matte, eggshell paint has a soft glow with minimal shine. It wipes clean fairly easily.

Satin Finish

With a smooth, subtle luster, satin paint finishes resist moisture and stains better than flat. They hold up well in kitchens.

Semi-Gloss Finish

Semi-gloss paint is very wipeable and easy to clean. It has moderate shine and works well for backsplashes prone to grease.

Gloss Finish

A glossy paint finish creates a shiny, smooth surface that’s extremely durable and moisture-resistant. However, it shows imperfections easily.

Consider your backsplash location, use frequency, and desired aesthetic when selecting a paint finish.

Tips for Painting Backsplash Tile Patterns

If your backsplash contains intricate tile patterns and designs, take special care when painting:

  • Outline Tile Edges First: Use painter’s tape to outline the edges of each tile before filling them in. This keeps patterns sharp.
  • Work Slowly and Meticulously: Take your time painting to avoid bleed-through between tiles. Precision is key.
  • Use Angled Brushes: Use small angled brushes to paint around grout lines and edges neatly.
  • Touch Up Carefully: Use a thin brush to touch up any paint that bleeds onto adjoining tiles.
  • Maintain Wet Edges: Don’t let sections dry out before completing tiles. Maintain wet edges as you work.
  • Seal Grout Lines After: Once tile paint is dry, seal grout lines using a clear waterproofing sealer.

Patience and care will allow you to achieve flawless results when painting intricate backsplash tile designs.

How Long Does Backsplash Paint Last?

When properly prepped and applied, quality acrylic latex paint can last 3-5 years on kitchen backsplashes on average. However, longevity depends on several factors:

  • Surface Prep: Proper sanding, cleaning, taping, and priming lead to better adhesion and extended paint life.
  • Paint Quality: Higher quality kitchen/bathroom paints last longer than basic wall paints. Enamel paints are very durable.
  • Application: Multilple coats and proper drying time between coats maximizes durability. Proper brushing and rolling techniques also help.
  • Cleaning Method: Gently wipe painted backsplashes clean using soft sponges/rags and mild non-abrasive cleaners. Avoid harsh scrubbing.
  • Use Frequency: Backsplashes around stoves see more wear and tear. Touch ups may be needed more often. Minimize moisture exposure.
  • Sunlight Exposure: Direct sunlight fades paint faster. South or West facing backsplashes may need repainting sooner.

With the right prep work and application methods, a quality painted backsplash can maintain its beauty for years before needing a refresh.

Painting Backsplash Maintenance and Touch Ups

To keep your painted backsplash looking freshly applied for as long as possible:

  • Let paint cure fully for several days before cleaning. Use only soft sponges and mild cleaners.
  • Immediately wipe up any food splatters or greasy messes to prevent stains.
  • Reseal grout lines annually using a clear waterproofing sealer made for kitchens.
  • Spot paint over any chips, cracks, or damages as soon as possible to prevent moisture access.
  • Wipe spills quickly and avoid abrasive scrubbing which can wear down the paint.
  • Apply a fresh coat of paint every 3-5 years, or whenever it appears worn, dull or stained in areas.

Proper maintenance and prompt touch ups lets your painted backsplash retain its vibrant color and flawless appearance for years before needing repainting.

Best Paint Brands for Kitchen Backsplashes

When selecting paint for your backsplash, choose top quality brand names known for performance and durability:

Behr Premium Plus – Acrylic latex bath/kitchen paints with stain-blocking primers. Durable and affordable.

Benjamin Moore – Offers cabinet, tile, and multi-surface paints that are moisture and mildew resistant when cured.

Rust-Oleum Zinsser – Known for their mold/mildew resistant paints and primers ideal for bathrooms and kitchens.

PPG Diamond Interior – Durable acrylic paints made with Advantage 900 Technology for easy cleaning.

Sherwin Williams Pro Classic – Waterbased acrylic-alkyd paints create hard, glossy finishes that resist stains.

Valspar Reserve – Quality enamel paints provide rich color and resist moisture, stains, and UV damage.

Stick with these top brand name paints made specifically to withstand kitchen conditions for a long-lasting finish.

FAQs About Can You Paint a Kitchen Backsplash

What kind of paint should I use on a kitchen backsplash?

Use 100% acrylic latex paints formulated for bathrooms and kitchens as they resist moisture, grease, and stains. Enamel paints also provide very durable finishes.

How do I choose a backsplash color?

Consider colors that complement your cabinets, countertops, and overall home decor. Neutrals like white, gray, and beige work well.

Can I paint over glossy ceramic tile?

Yes, but scuff sand the glossy finish first using 220 grit sandpaper so paint will properly adhere, then clean well before painting.

Do I need to prime before painting a backsplash?

Priming is a must for drywall to aid adhesion and coverage. For tile, prime only if the surface is very glossy, porous, or absorbent. Consult paint manufacturer’s recommendations.

What sheen is best for a backsplash – matte or gloss?

That depends on your preferences. Gloss creates a shiny surface that’s very easy to clean. Matte hides imperfections well but scuffs more easily. Satin or semi-gloss are good compromises.

How do I paint existing tile patterns without bleeding?

Carefully tape off each individual tile before painting to keep the pattern crisp and prevent colors from bleeding together. Take your time!

How soon can I clean a freshly painted backsplash?

Wait at least 2-3 days before cleaning to allow adequate curing time. Always use gentle, non-abrasive sponges and mild cleaners.

How often will I need to repaint my backsplash?

With proper prep and application, a quality painted backsplash should last 3-5 years under normal kitchen conditions before needing a fresh coat of paint.


Painting kitchen backsplashes is an easy DIY upgrade that can quickly give your cooking space a stylish new look. With proper planning, surface preparation, high quality paint, and careful application techniques, you can achieve restaurant-worthy results. Use the tips outlined here for choosing colors, prepping tiles or drywall, applying paint smoothly, and maintaining your finish. With some time and care devoted to the process, you can gain an eye-catching, on-trend backsplash on a budget. Just think how renewed and inspired you’ll feel cooking in a kitchen with a fresh new backdrop!