Can You Paint Ceramic Tile Kitchen Backsplash?

Painting ceramic tile backsplashes is a popular DIY project for renovating kitchens. With the right prep work and paint products, you can easily transform outdated or damaged tile by painting it. There are a few considerations to keep in mind when painting ceramic tile, but with some time and effort, you can paint your ceramic tile backsplash and give your kitchen an updated, fresh look.

Should You Paint Ceramic Tile Backsplash?

Painting ceramic tile backsplash can provide a quick, affordable kitchen update. Here are some of the benefits of painting ceramic tile:

  • Cost-effective – Buying paint and painting supplies is much cheaper than removing and replacing tile. Painting tile can save thousands compared to a full tile replacement.
  • Quick project – Prepping and painting tile can be completed over a weekend. Much faster than re-tiling an entire backsplash.
  • Easy update – Just cleaning and painting existing tile can give your kitchen a whole new look. No need for complex tile work.
  • Customizable color – Paint allows you to choose any backsplash color you want. Match your cabinets, walls, or decor.
  • Conceals damage – Painting over cracked or chipped ceramic tile provides an easy fix. Paint disguises imperfections.
  • New look – A fresh coat of paint makes dated or worn tile look brand new again. Paint modernizes the look of old 80s or 90s era tile.

So if your ceramic backsplash tile is still in good shape structurally, painting it can provide a simple and fast kitchen refresh.

Things to Consider Before Painting Ceramic Tile

While painting ceramic tile can give great results, there are some things to keep in mind before starting:

  • Old tile may have layers of grease and dirt that require thorough cleaning beforehand. Be prepared for heavy scrubbing.
  • Glossy or slick tile may require special prep and primer for paint to properly adhere.
  • Paint may chip or scratch off more easily than original ceramic glaze. Touch-ups may be needed.
  • Grout may be harder to paint. More coats and careful application with small brush may be required.
  • Painted tile is not as heat and water resistant. Avoid direct heat on painted tile from pots and pans.
  • Overspray or splatters may be harder to remove from textured tile surface. Use painters tape and drop cloths.

With proper prep and technique, these issues can be minimized. But expect to put in some elbow grease. Painting tile backsplashes still saves a ton of time and money compared to replacing tile.

What Type of Paint Should Be Used?

Choosing the right type of paint helps ensure success when painting ceramic tile. Here are top paint options:

Epoxy Paint

Epoxy paint for tile provides the most durable and long-lasting finish. Epoxy formulations are tough enough to withstand kitchen conditions. Advantages of epoxy paint include:

  • Extremely durable and scratch resistant finish
  • Sticks to slick and glossy surfaces well
  • Resists grease, splatters, and heat
  • Long-lasting color that won’t fade over time
  • Wide range of color options

Professional painter’s often recommend epoxy paint for kitchen backsplash tile. While epoxy paint costs a bit more than other options, the results are worth it.

Acrylic Latex Paint

For those looking for a more budget-friendly option, acrylic latex paint can also work well for ceramic tile. Benefits include:

  • Much cheaper than epoxy paints
  • Provides decent adhesion and durability
  • Can find matching colors for walls or cabinets
  • Good flow and coverage over textured tile

Downsides are that acrylic paint is less resistant to wear, splatters, and high heat. Touch ups may eventually be needed. But for cost savings, latex paint is a viable option.

Specialty Tile Paint

There are specialty paint products designed specifically for glazed ceramic tile. These provide superior adhesion and mimics the hard finish of factory tile. Brands like Rust-Oleum Tile Transformations offer full tile painting kits. Benefits of these paint kits include:

  • Paints made to bond directly to slick tile
  • Match grout color paints for full makeover
  • All materials (cleaner, etch, paint) included
  • Can mimic real tile finishes like stone and marble

While more costly than regular paint, these tile paint kits take the guesswork out and provide professional quality results.

How to Prepare Ceramic Tile for Painting

Proper prep is crucial for tile paint to adhere correctly. Here are key steps for prepping ceramic tile before painting:

1. Clean Surface

Scrub tile thoroughly with an abrasive cleaner or ammonia solution to remove all grease, soap scum, and surface dirt. Rinse and let dry fully.

2. Scuff Glossy Surfaces

Use 100-150 grit sandpaper to lightly scuff and dull ultra-shiny or glossy tile. This helps the paint grab onto slick surfaces. Don’t grind down too much, just scuff the top gloss layer.

3. Use Etch Solution

Wipe tile down with an etching solution or mild acid like vinegar or phosphoric acid. This chemically etches the glazed tile surface for better paint adhesion.

4. Remove Mildew Stains

Treat any existing mildew or mold stains with bleach, letting it sit before rinsing. Or use specialized mildew stain blocker primer.

5. Apply Primer

After prepping, apply a quality primer designed for tile like Rust-Oleum Tile Transformations Primer. Primer improves paint adhesion and prevents grout from absorbing paint.

Proper prep prevents paint peeling or chipping later. Don’t skip steps for best results!

Step-by-Step Guide for Painting Ceramic Tile

Follow this detailed process for successfully painting a ceramic tile backsplash:

1. Clean and Remove Appliances

Clear countertops and remove heat sources like stoves. Thoroughly clean tile with ammonia and water mix. Rinse and allow to fully dry.

2. Tape Off Areas

Use painters tape to mask off countertops, walls, and cabinets around the backsplash area. This protects surfaces from drips and overspray.

3. Sand and Etch Tile

Lightly scuff glossy tile with sandpaper to improve adhesion. Wipe with etch solution. Allow tile to dry completely.

4. Apply Primer

Follow primer directions for application and drying time. Primer provides an optimal base for paint.

5. Paint Coats

Using a small trim brush or foam roller, apply two coats of quality tile paint allowing proper dry time between coats. Work methodically section by section.

6. Remove Tape and Reinstall Appliances

Carefully remove all painters tape after paint has dried. Reinstall stove, range hood, and any appliances that were removed.

7. Seal and Protect Finish

After a week when paint has fully cured, apply a clear sealer or finish coat for added protection and sheen if desired.

Be sure to use drop cloths and work carefully to avoid spills and overspray. Take your time and follow all product instructions closely.

Tips for Painting Tile Backsplash Like a Pro

Here are some additional pointers to help ensure your backsplash paint job comes out perfectly:

  • When choosing paint color, grab a tile sample and test paint colors on the tile before committing to a full batch.
  • Work in small sections when painting. Cut in edges with brush then quickly roll the section before moving to the next portion.
  • If brush dragging occurs, wait for paint to dry longer between coats.
  • Roll or brush perpendicular to the last coat to ensure proper coverage in the recesses of tile.
  • Try to keep a wet edge and avoid going back over areas already painted.
  • Epoxy paint is thick like spackle or glue. Thin with a small amount of water if needed for easy application.
  • Pour paint into roller trays versus directly on the backsplash to avoid mess and wasted paint.
  • Be extremely careful to avoid getting paint on walls or cabinets near the backsplash. Taping well prevents extra clean up.
  • Minimize odors and ventilate the area during and after painting by opening windows.

Patience and caution lead to perfectly painted tile that looks like new again!

FAQs About Painting Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Still have some questions? Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about painting a ceramic tile backsplash:

Should grout be sealed before painting tile?

Sealing grout first is recommended to prevent the porous grout from absorbing paint unevenly. Use a clear grout sealer to guard grout lines.

Can any color paint be used on ceramic tile?

Yes, any high-quality acrylic, epoxy or urethane based paint can adhere to tile. Match existing wall colors or choose any backsplash color you desire.

How long does painted tile last?

With proper prep and application, painted tile can last 3-5 years or longer before needing touch up. Using high performance epoxy paint provides the most durable result.

Can painted ceramic tile withstand heat?

Painted tile is not as heat-proof as original ceramic tile. Avoid direct high heat exposure. Run range hood when cooking and keep hot pans from touching painted tile.

How soon can painted tile get wet?

Most tile paints fully cure in 5-7 days. Avoid cleaning or getting the area wet for at least 72 hours. Check specific paint product instructions for cure times.

Painting existing ceramic backsplash tile is an easy, low cost way to refresh your kitchen. With the right prep and painting technique, even beginners can achieve professional-looking results. What color will you paint your backsplash tile?


Painting over ceramic kitchen backsplash tile offers an affordable, fast way to update the look of any kitchen. With proper cleaning, sanding, etching, and priming of the tile surface before painting, even glossy or slick ceramic tile can be painted successfully. Advancements in tile paint technology, like single component epoxy paints, now allow for long-lasting and durable painted tile surfaces that resist heat, grease, and moisture. With some time and care taken to prep and apply the paint properly, homeowners can paint their outdated or damaged ceramic backsplash tile and enjoy a fresh, like-new kitchen again.