Can You Paint Backsplash Tiles?

Backsplash tiles can add a stylish, decorative touch to your kitchen or bathroom. While some homeowners opt to install new backsplash tiles, others may wish to refresh their existing tiles with a fresh coat of paint. Painting over backsplash tiles is possible in many cases, but it requires some preparation and technique to achieve the best results.

An Overview of Painting Over Backsplash Tiles

Painting over backsplash tiles allows you to update their color and appearance without going through the trouble and expense of removing and replacing them. With the right prep work, paint can adhere well to most tile surfaces and materials. However, not all tiles can be painted successfully. The porosity and texture of the tile will determine how well the paint adheres.

When considering painting backsplash tiles, keep the following overview in mind:

  • Smooth, non-porous tiles like glass and ceramic may require specialty etching or bonding primers so the paint can grab hold.
  • Porous tiles like terracotta and natural stone often accept paint more readily.
  • Glossy or shiny tiles need to be scuff sanded and primed first for best adhesion.
  • Grout between tiles will likely need multiple coats of paint to cover fully.
  • Expect 2-3 coats of paint for full, even coverage over the tile.
  • Enamel or epoxy paints provide a more durable finish than standard latex paint.
  • Proper prep and primer can allow painted tiles to be easily cleaned without the paint wearing off.

Steps for Preparing and Painting Backsplash Tiles

If you decide that your backsplash tiles are good candidates for painting, follow these key steps for success:

Clean the Surface Thoroughly

Use a degreasing cleaner or solution to remove any dirt, oil or grease from the tile surface and grout joints. Rinse well and allow to fully dry. This allows the paint to bond directly to the tile rather than any residue.

Sand and Scuff Glossy Tiles

For shiny, non-porous tiles like ceramic, use 220-400 grit sandpaper to scuff up the glazed tile surface. This helps the paint adhere better. Be sure to sand grout joints as well.

Apply a Bonding Primer

Choose a specialty primer made for tile like a bonding, etching or epoxy primer. Apply an even coat to the tiles per manufacturer directions. The primer will help the paint grab onto slick surfaces.

Caulk Around Edges and Grout Lines

Run a thin bead of silicone caulk around the outer edges of the backsplash and allow to dry. Then fill grout joints with caulk as well, tooling into lines smoothly. This seals any gaps and prevents paint bleeding.

Add Two Coats of Paint

Apply two coats of interior enamel, epoxy or acrylic paint, allowing proper dry time between coats. Thicker paints or spraying may provide best coverage over grout lines and texture.

Optionally Apply a Clear Top Coat

For added durability and washability, apply one or two coats of a polyurethane sealer. This protective top coat prevents paint wear and makes cleaning easier.

Tips for Achieving the Best Painted Tile Results

To help ensure your painted backsplash tiles look great and hold up well over time, keep these useful tips in mind:

  • When cleaning, use gentle scrub brushes and mild soap to avoid wearing off paint in high-contact areas.
  • Consider lightly sanding the tiles and reapplying a fresh coat of paint every few years as needed.
  • Paint a test tile first with your chosen paint and primer to ensure good adhesion and coverage.
  • Using painter’s tape around edges helps avoid messy paint lines and drips on walls or countertops.
  • For best results, apply paint with a small foam roller and angled brush for grout lines.
  • Spray painting the tiles can work well if the tiles are heavily textured or etched for bonding.
  • Make sure to use mold and mildew resistant interior paint in moisture-prone areas.

Frequently Asked Questions About Painting Backsplash Tiles

Can you use regular latex paint on backsplash tiles?

While possible, regular wall paint does not adhere as well to slick tile surfaces compared to specialty epoxy or enamel tile paints. Priming well is essential for latex paint.

Do you have to etch porcelain, ceramic or glass tiles before painting?

Etching or sanding smooth tiles allows paint to bond mechanically for the most durable finish. Always test adhesion on a small spot first.

Should backsplash tiles be cleaned with TSP before painting?

Yes, TSP (trisodium phosphate) helps remove grease buildup. Rinse thoroughly after cleaning tiles with TSP before painting.

What type of primer works best on shower tiles?

Moisture-resistant epoxy primers or those made specifically for bath and kitchen tile work great in shower installations.

Can you paint over cracked or damaged backsplash grout?

Caulking and painting over existing grout lines is recommended instead of painting directly over damaged grout.

How long does painted tile backsplash last?

With proper preparation and paint products, a painted tile backsplash can last 3-5 years or more before needing touch ups, especially in low-moisture areas.


Painting over existing backsplash tiles allows you to refresh the look of your kitchen or bath without a full tile replacement. With careful prep work and the right primer and paint for tile, even glossy or non-porous surfaces can be successfully painted. Be sure to thoroughly clean and scuff or etch tiles first for paint adhesion. Specialty epoxy enamel paints provide a durable finish that can stand up to cleaning and moisture when applied properly. Approach the project with patience, and your fresh painted backsplash can deliver a stylish updated look.