Can You Paint Glass Backsplash Tiles?

Painting glass backsplash tiles can completely transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom. With a fresh coat of paint, you can update tired tiles without the mess and expense of a full remodel. There are a few things to keep in mind when painting glass tiles to ensure a successful project.

An Introduction to Painting Glass Backsplash Tiles

Glass tile backsplashes were extremely popular in the 80s and 90s. Often colorful and retro, these glass mosaics eventually fell out of favor. Rather than tearing out perfectly good tile, many homeowners opt to paint their glass backsplashes for a budget-friendly makeover.

Painting over glass tile allows you to change the color easily. It also provides a unified look if you have multiple tile finishes or an outdated combination of materials. With proper preparation and technique, glass tiles take paint beautifully and offer a custom, trendy look.

While painting tile sounds straightforward, there are some specific considerations when the tile is glass. The smooth, non-porous surface requires bonding primers and paints designed to adhere to slick surfaces. The techniques also differ from painting ceramic or natural stone tiles.

This guide will walk through everything you need to know to successfully paint glass backsplash tiles. We will cover:

  • Benefits of painting vs. replacement
  • How to determine if your glass tile can be painted
  • Step-by-step preparation and painting techniques
  • Tips for choosing paint sheens and colors
  • Common mistakes and how to avoid them
  • Aftercare and maintenance of painted tile

Equipped with the right information, materials, and techniques, you can easily breathe new life into your outdated or damaged glass backsplash.

Benefits of Painting Glass Backsplash Tiles

There are many advantages to painting glass tile versus replacing it:

Budget-friendly – Painting existing tile costs a fraction of what new tile installation would. Tile removal and disposal is also very costly.

Minimal mess and demolition – Painting is much cleaner than a total remodel. It also avoids closing off your kitchen or bath for an extended renovation.

Refresh the look – A new paint color revives the look of your tile without needing new materials. You can also hide flaws, stains, or uneven grout lines with a coat of paint.

Work with difficult spaces – It can be challenging to replace backsplash tile around windows, outlets, and cabinets. Painting avoids this complexity.

Preserve underlying structure – Removing glass tile risks damaging the wall surface and waterproofing. Painting avoids this risk while covering up old tile.

Quick project – Painting tile goes much faster than re-tiling. The transformation happens in hours or days instead of weeks.

If your goal is a simple refresh or color change, painting is likely the smartest route for glass backsplashes. Even if replacing the tile is still in your future plans, a coat of paint can buy you some time at very little cost.

Can All Glass Tile Be Painted?

While paint can adhere to glass backsplash tiles in many cases, not all glass tile is an ideal candidate for painting. Certain factors determine whether paint will properly bond and hold up over time:

Tile finish – The rougher the texture, the better paint adheres. Smooth glass and large shiny tiles are the most difficult. Etching smooth tiles can help the paint grab on.

Tile size – Smaller mosaic tiles provide more grout lines for the paint to key into. Large tiles are more prone to chipping or peeling.

Grout condition – Crumbling, missing, or uneven grout should be repaired for best results. Intact grout gives the paint something to anchor to.

Tile location – Paint holds up better on vertical backsplash areas than horizontal countertops or floors. Areas with no walking/water exposure are best.

Glass type – Clear glass, frosted glass, or colored glass all can work. Iridescent glass has a coating that resists paint. Metallic or glossy finishes also may repel paint.

Tile age – Older glass tile is more likely to have minor defects in the top layer that paint can adhere to. Newer tile may be too smooth.

Amount of tile – Painting small sections is fairly low risk. Entire walls or floors involve greater surface area and wear.

With the right tile in sound condition, paint provides an affordable way to refresh your backsplash’s look. We’ll cover more soon on how to prepare problematic tile. First, let’s look at what type of paint works best.

Selecting the Right Paint for Glass Tile

Since glass lacks the microscopic pores that paint sinks into on other materials, you need a coating specially formulated to bond to slick, non-porous surfaces. Paint also needs to hold up to cleaning, moisture, and the movement that occurs in backsplash areas.

The best options are:

Epoxy paint – Epoxy forms a durable, water- and stain-resistant coating. Two-part epoxy paints provide the strongest bond on glass tile. They come in many sheens and colors.

Bonding primers – Water-based bonding primers like Kern Primer 600 provide excellent adhesion on glass. Used under acrylic paints, they help the finish coat stick tightly.

Specific glass and tile paint – Some acrylic paints are designed for glass, tile, metal, and ceramic surfaces. Behr Premier Glass & Tile Paint is one brand formulated to adhere well and resist moisture.

Spray paint – High-adhesion spray paints like Krylon Fusion for Plastic provide a quick coating on glass tile. Multiple light coats prevent pooling and dripping.

Avoid standard interior latex paints. While they work well on drywall and wood, they lack the bonding power needed for glass tiles in moist environments.

No matter what paint you choose, reading the manufacturer’s instructions is essential. Follow all requirements for surface prep, dry time between coats, and recommended top coatings.

How to Prepare Glass Tile for Painting

Preparing your glass backsplash tile well is the most important step for success. Effective paint adhesion starts with giving the surface some “tooth” for the coating to grab onto.

Follow these steps to get your tiles ready for paint:

Clean thoroughly – Use a grease-cutting degreaser to remove any residue from cleaners, oils or food. Rinse well and let dry completely.

Sand lightly – Very gently scuff the finish of smooth or glossy tiles using fine (220-400 grit) sandpaper. Don’t actually remove any glass. Just rough up the surface a bit.

Repair grout – Re-apply grout in any gaps or cracks and let cure per manufacturer instructions. This provides a stronger base.

Etch glass – Use an etching product specifically made for smooth glass surfaces. This eats away a tiny layer of the glass finish. Thoroughly rinse off any haze and let dry.

Wipe with solvent – After etching, wipe down the tile with denatured alcohol to remove any remaining residue. Let dry completely.

These steps help the paint mechanically adhere to the glass tile surface, rather than just relying on the paint’s bonding properties. Don’t skip any prep steps even if using the strongest epoxy paint. The extra effort leads to much better results.

For badly damaged tile or very smooth glass, you may need to take additional steps like applying a separate bonding primer prior to painting. The goal is to completely degloss the surface so the final paint can grab hold.

Step-By-Step Guide to Paint Application

Once your tile is prepped, you can begin transforming it with paint. Work slowly and focus on quality results. Rushing through the job leads to runs, drips, brush marks, or peeling paint.

Follow these best practices:

1. Select your paint – Choose a high-adhesion epoxy, bonding primer, or paint formulated for glass and tile. Ensure it offers your desired finish – gloss, satin, or matte.

2. Tape off edges – Use painter’s tape to mask off any nearby walls, countertops, or cabinets. This keeps them protected from drips or splatters.

3. Apply primer – For acrylic paints, first apply a thin, even layer of bonding primer according to the manufacturer directions. Let dry fully.

4. Paint coats – For epoxy paint, no primer is needed. Carefully brush or roll on the first coat of paint. Apply in thin, even strokes avoiding pooling or drips. Allow proper drying time before adding the next coat.

5. Inspect and add coats – Check for any thin or uneven coverage and touch up as needed. Most surfaces require two to three coats of paint for best opacity and adhesion.

6. Remove tape – Once the final coat has fully cured, carefully remove all masking tape from surrounding areas. Avoid pulling any dried paint up.

7. Seal paint – For added durability and washability, apply one to two coats of clear tile and glass sealant on top of the paint.

8. Let cure – Do not use the backsplash for at least three days after painting. This allows the paint to fully harden before cleaning or exposure to moisture.

The project takes some time and patience as you apply multiple coats and sealers. But the wait is worth it for a revitalized backsplash that looks like new tile!

Tips for Choosing Paint Color

The great thing about painting a tile backsplash is you can select any color you like! Contrasting or complementing your existing kitchen decor opens up many possibilities.

Here are tips for selecting a paint color for your backsplash:

  • Hold paint chips up to cabinets, countertops and floors to visualize the color combinations.
  • Pick a lighter or brighter color than cabinets to make the backsplash pop.
  • Tie in accent shades from appliances, rugs, window treatments or other finishes.
  • Consider the amount of natural and artificial light in the space and how it affects the paint color.
  • Stick to the same color family as your cabinets for a cohesive flow.
  • Use an opposite color on the wheel, like green if you have red cabinets, for contrast.
  • Limit bright or dark colors to backsplashes under 18 inches high so they don’t overwhelm.
  • Choose darker paint if your counters and cabinets are light for balance.
  • Add some whimsy and personalization with an unexpected pop of color.

Be sure to purchase sample sizes and paint mockups on the wall before committing to a color. This helps ensure it looks as intended under your actual lighting conditions.

Common Painting Mistakes and Problems

Painting glass tile has a learning curve. Mistakes can happen, especially for first-timers. Being aware of common problems allows you to avoid them with your project:

Not cleaning tiles – Grease, dirt, or soap on the tile prevents paint from properly adhering. Always clean thoroughly first.

Applying paint too thick – Thick coats are more likely to drip or puddle, causing uneven finish or curing issues. Do multiple thin coats.

Rushing drying time – It’s tempting to hurry and get the kitchen or bath usable again. But paint needs proper drying time between coats and for curing or it may fail prematurely.

Choosing the wrong paint – Using standard latex wall paint or the incorrect type of application can lead to peeling or chipping paint down the road.

Not repairing grout – Crumbling grout underneath means the paint has no solid foundation to grip. Fix grout first.

Insufficient surface prep – Skipping steps like sanding or etching smooth tile fails to give the paint enough texture to mechanically adhere as it should.

Painting over dirt or oily residue – Any remaining contaminants block proper bonding and cause paint failure. Ensure tiles are immaculately clean before painting.

Applying too thin – Inadequate coverage looks streaky and inconsistent. Balancing proper thickness while avoiding drips takes practice.

With care and patience, none of these common mistakes are unavoidable. Now let’s look at caring for painted backsplashes so they maintain their freshly updated look.

Caring for Painted Glass Tile Backsplashes

Paint provides a protective coating for the tile that keeps the surface sealed from moisture penetration or staining. To keep your painted backsplash looking freshly applied:

  • Allow the recommended curing time before cleaning or use, generally 3 to 7 days.
  • Use only gentle liquid detergents or soap and water for routine cleaning. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive pads/sponges.
  • Rinse backsplash thoroughly after cleaning. Any soap residue left on the surface can cause paint failure over time.
  • Reseal painted tile every 1 to 2 years with an appropriate tile and glass sealant for added protection and water resistance.
  • Immediately clean up any food, oil or grease splatters to prevent stains on the painted finish.
  • Avoid hanging wet towels or clothing directly on freshly painted tiles while the paint fully cures.
  • Address any spots of damage or chipping by sanding the area smooth, then repainting. Multiple new coats may be needed just in that section.

With proper care and maintenance, your painted glass backsplash should maintain its freshly updated look for years before needing a touch up. Use gentle cleaners and timely spot repairs to keep the paint looking its best.

Frequently Asked Questions

Many homeowners have additional questions when considering a tile painting project. Here are answers to some of the most common FAQs:

Can you paint over cracked or damaged glass tile?

Yes, paint can conceal cracked, chipped or scratched glass tiles. Be sure to fully clean damaged areas first. Use painter’s caulk to fill any narrow cracks and allow to dry before painting. Several coats may be needed for best coverage.

Does the tile have to be sanded or primed first?

Almost always, yes. Sanding and priming are crucial preparation steps for paint to properly adhere to the glass long-term. Exception is using a specifically designed glass and tile paint or epoxy that bonds without priming.

How long does painted tile last compared to new tile?

With proper prep and application, painted glass tile can last 5 to 10 years before needing touch ups. New tile may last 10 to 20 years before replacement is needed. Painting buys years of use before a full remodel is required.

Can tile be painted with a roller instead of brush?

Yes, a small foam roller or tapered brush designed for smooth surfaces can be used to apply glass and tile paints. Roll in thin layers, being careful not to overload the roller and risk drips. Back-brush for most even results.

What kind of paint is safe for kitchen and bathroom backsplashes?

Epoxy paints, bonding primers and acrylic paints made specifically for glass and tile work best. They provide a hard, scuff and moisture resistant finish able to withstand heat, grease, and frequent cleaning.

Is there a big difference between $10 and $35 per gallon paints for tile?

Yes, the more expensive paints contain epoxy resins or bonding additives crucial for glass and tile adhesion. Without these ingredients, cheaper paint is far more likely to peel, chip, or quickly wear away with cleaning.

Can countertops, shower walls, or floors be painted instead of just backsplashes?

Painting horizontal surfaces is riskier than vertical backsplashes only. There is greater exposure to wear, water, hot pans, and damage. Use extra preparation and coats for these high traffic areas if painting.


Painting provides an affordable, temporary upgrade to revitalize the look of outdated or damaged glass tile backsplashes. With proper materials and application technique, glass mosaic tiles can be attractively and affordably updated.

Preparing the tile surface well and using bonding paints designed for slick surfaces produce the best results. Allowing the proper drying and curing times makes the paint finish more durable. Address any problem areas first and avoid applying paint too thickly.

Painting glass backsplash tile enables you to refresh the color and style until you’re ready for a complete remodel. In just a weekend, you can give your kitchen or bath a fresh new look and add years of life to your existing tile.

With the strategies and advice covered here, you can confidently paint your glass backsplash tiles like a pro!