Can You Paint a Tile Backsplash?

Painting a tile backsplash can completely transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom. With a simple coat of paint, you can update dated tile or create an entirely new look. But before you break out the paintbrush, it’s important to understand what’s involved in painting tile and how to get the best results.

What to Consider Before Painting Tile

There are a few key factors to think through before painting a tile backsplash:

Type of Tile

The tile type will determine if paint will properly adhere. Paint adheres best to smooth, non-porous tile like ceramic, porcelain or glass. Rougher tile like stone or terracotta are more challenging.

Glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles need to be scuffed up with sandpaper first to help the paint bind. Unglazed tiles don’t need any prep since they have an inherent texture.

Condition of Grout

Grout should be in good shape before painting. Cracks or missing grout will need to be repaired and re-grouted. This provides a smooth, consistent surface for paint.

Desired Final Look

Consider the finished look you want. Paint can give tile a completely different look like marble or metal. It can also simply change the color. Determine the color, finish and technique before prepping and painting.

Paint Type

Choose the right paint for the tile type. Latex paint works for ceramic, porcelain and glass. Epoxy paint is best for stone, terracotta and Outdoor tile since it adheres better. Tub and tile paint is another good option for tile backsplashes.

How to Prepare Tile for Painting

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

Clean the Tile

Start by cleaning the tile thoroughly with an ammonia-based cleaner. Rinse and let it dry completely. This removes any grease, soap residue or dirt.

Remove Caulk

Carefully scrape or sand away all existing caulk from tile joints and corners. This allows you to caulk again after painting.

Scuff Up Glazed Tile

For glazed ceramic, porcelain or glass tile, scuff up the surface using 150 grit sandpaper. This helps the paint bind better. Focus on sanding the raised glossy areas.

Repair Grout

Fix any cracks or missing grout so the surface is level. Let new grout cure fully before priming and painting.

Wipe Away Dust

Wipe all dust and debris away with a dry cloth. The tile needs to be completely clean before painting.

Apply Primer

For best adhesion, apply a primer like kilz to the tile and let fully dry. This also helps the paint color go on evenly.

Step-By-Step Guide for Painting Tile

Once prepped, it’s time to start painting. Follow these steps:

Apply First Coat

Use a small paint roller or brush to apply the first coat of latex, epoxy or tub & tile paint. Work in small sections and maintain a wet edge.

Let First Coat Dry

Allow the first coat to fully dry according to the manufacturer’s directions. This usually takes 1-2 hours.

Apply Second Coat

Next, apply the second coat of paint using a small foam roller or brush. The second coat provides full, even coverage.

Remove Paint from Grout

While the paint is still wet, use a small angular brush to carefully remove excess paint from the grout lines. This keeps the grout exposed.

Allow Paint to Cure

Give the paint several days to fully cure and harden before using the area. Avoid scrubbing or placing anything on the surface during this time.

Re-Caulk Joints

Once cured, use silicone caulk to fill all joints and corners. Wipe away excess caulk for a neat appearance.

Add Sealant (Optional)

For added durability and stain resistance, apply a polyurethane sealant. Two thin coats are ideal for maximum protection.

And that’s all it takes! Just a few simple steps can give tile a brand new look and color.

Tips for Achieving the Best Painted Tile Results

To get a great finished look from painting tile, keep these pointers in mind:

  • Take time to clean and scuff the tile so paint adheres well. Rushing prep can cause peeling issues later.
  • Tape off any adjacent surfaces like walls, cabinets or countertops with painter’s tape to prevent splatters and smudges.
  • Apply paint in thin, even coats using a high-quality mini foam roller or angled brush.
  • Maintain a wet edge and work in small sections to prevent lap marks as you paint.
  • For dark colors, apply a grey primer/base coat first so the shade goes on smoothly.
  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions for dry and cure times. Allowing paint to fully dry between coats ensures proper bonding.
  • When removing paint from grout lines, take your time and be precise. Use a small angled brush and gently scrape excess paint away before it dries.
  • Seal painted tile with polyurethane for added protection and longevity, especially for backsplashes near stoves.

Paint Finishes to Consider for Tile

Beyond just changing the color, paint allows you to give tiles different finishes:


A shiny gloss finish can lend a glamorous or high-end look. Use semi-gloss or high-gloss latex paint.


For an understated, subtle finish, flat or matte paint gives tile a uniform matte look.


Special metallic paints can make tile look like copper, silver, gold or other metals for an eye-catching effect.


Use faux painting techniques like glazing or ragging on with paint to achieve a marbleized stone appearance.


After painting, add intentional worn spots by gently scraping paint away. Great for a vintage style.


Use stencils and two paint colors to create a hand-painted tile motif across your backsplash.


Paint the tile an ombre effect, with lighter colors at the top that gradually get darker towards the bottom.

Paint Color Ideas for Tile

Paint allows you to transform the entire vibe of your tile backsplash. Here are some stylish color ideas:


Crisp whitepaint gives tile a light, airy look. Use bright white for contemporary style or antique white for farmhouse charm.

Light Grey

Light grey backsplash paint can provide a neutral yet stylish backdrop in any kitchen or bath. Try greige for a warm twist.

Navy Blue

For dramatic contrast, glossy navy blue painted tile pops against brass fixtures and white cabinetry.

Forest Green

Rich forest or olive green on tile adds earthy vibes to a room. Layer in natural elements like wood or rattan accents.


Make a bold statement by painting tile black. Use semi-gloss paint so it doesn’t feel too stark or flat.


Warm terracotta orange painted backsplashes pair perfectly with natural wood countertops and tile floors.


Cheerful daisy yellow or lemon sorbet painted tile brightens up any dreary space. Use it in subtly shaded tones.

Brick Red

Use brick red paint on backsplashes to give areas a cozy, vintage diner feel. Add retro accents to complement it.

Can You Paint Tile Floors?

While backsplashes are the most common use, you can also paint tile floors to give them a whole new look. The process is largely the same, but there are a few additional considerations:

  • Make sure to use epoxy floor paint for durability since it gets more abuse than a backsplash.
  • The floor paint application process is a bit more extensive, with the need to etch the tile and apply several coats.
  • Expect the painted floor to take 2-3 days to fully cure and harden before regular use. Avoid walking on it during this time.
  • An anti-slip additive, like Shark Grip, can be mixed into the floor paint for better traction.
  • For high-traffic areas, apply a clear polyurethane sealant over painted floors for added protection.
  • Test paint colors on a small section first to ensure the shade works with your overall home decor.

So with proper prep and paint, you can give dull tile floors some new life! The epoxy paint provides a hard-wearing, walkable surface.

FAQs About Painting Tile Backsplashes

Still have some questions about painted tile backsplashes? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Does all tile need to be sanded before painting?

Glazed tile needs a light sanding so paint will bond. Unglazed tile is naturally porous and doesn’t require sanding before painting.

What kind of paint adheres best to tile?

Latex paint works for ceramic, glass and porcelain tile. Epoxy paint has the best adhesion on stone, terracotta and outdoor tile surfaces.

Should tile be sealed before or after painting?

Sealing is recommended after painting, once the paint has fully cured. This provides an added layer of protection.

How do you get paint out of tile grout lines?

Use a small stiff bristle brush while the paint is still wet to gently scrape excess paint out of the grout lines.

Can any color paint be used on a tile backsplash?

Yes, any color paint can be used. But dark colors may require a grey primer base for even coverage.

Is painting over tile permanent?

Painting tile is considered a permanent change. If attempting to remove paint later, be prepared for potential damage to the tile surface.

How durable is painted tile?

When proper prep is done and a quality latex or epoxy paint is used, painted tile is quite durable, especially with a sealant applied.

Painting a tile backsplash or floor offers an affordable, damage-free way to refresh the look of your space. With the right prep and application, tile paint can produce a long-lasting, quality result. Give your outdated tile new life with a simple coat of paint!


Painting over tile backsplashes and floors provides an easy makeover for a fraction of the cost of a full tile replacement. By following key preparation steps and using the appropriate paint for your tile type, you can achieve professional-looking results. Consider possibilities like glossy finishes, bold colors or faux techniques to create a unique new look. With some vision and effort, your outdated tile can be transformed into the eye-catching focal point you’ve been dreaming of for your kitchen or bath. So don’t be afraid to pick up a paintbrush and give your tile a fresh new coat!