Can You Paint Mosaic Tile Backsplash? The Complete Guide

Painting a mosaic tile backsplash can completely transform the look and feel of your kitchen. But before you break out the paint brushes, it’s important to understand the dos and don’ts of painting tile. Read on for a complete guide to painting mosaic tile backsplashes.

What is a Mosaic Tile Backsplash?

A mosaic tile backsplash is a decorative wall treatment made up of small pieces of tile arranged in a pattern. Mosaic tiles come in a huge variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and materials like ceramic, porcelain, glass, and natural stone.

Mosaic tile backsplashes add visual interest, color, and texture to kitchens, bathrooms, and other spaces. The small scale of the tile pieces allows for intricate designs and artistic arrangements. Mosaic tiles have been used decoratively for centuries and remain a popular backsplash choice today.

Can You Paint Over Existing Mosaic Tile?

Yes, you can paint over existing mosaic tile backsplashes. Painting tile is a common way to update the look of a backsplash without having to remove and replace the tile.

There are a few things to keep in mind when painting mosaic tile:

  • Tile condition – The tile surface needs to be in good shape for proper paint adhesion. Cracks, chips, missing grout, and other damage should be repaired prior to painting.
  • Glossy tiles – Glossy or shiny tiles need to be scuffed up before painting to help the paint adhere. Use sandpaper or a deglossing agent.
  • Clean tiles – Grease, grime, and soap scum should be cleaned from the tiles so the new paint will stick. Use a tile cleaner or vinegar solution.
  • Paint type – Not all paints adhere well to tile. Use a high quality 100% acrylic latex paint made specifically for tiles.
  • Prep work – Proper prep work like cleaning, sanding, and priming is key for a long-lasting paint job.

As long as the tiles are in good shape and proper prep work is done, nearly any mosaic tile backsplash can be painted over successfully.

Can You Paint Mosaic Tile Without Sanding?

It’s best not to paint mosaic tile without sanding first. Sanding the tiles helps “rough up” the smooth glazed surface so the paint can properly adhere.

Paint may peel or chip off untreated glossy or ceramic mosaic tiles over time. For the most durable painted finish, always scuff sand each tile prior to painting.

Here are some options for sanding mosaic tile before painting:

  • Sandpaper – Get sandpaper in various grits like 120 and 220 and sand each tile using circular motions. Finish with a light overall sanding.
  • Sanding sponge – These sponges have embedded grit material to safely sand tile surfaces. Work in sections for even sanding.
  • Power sander – A palm sander with fine grit paper can make quick work of sanding. Use care not to remove the glaze.
  • Deglossing agent – Deglossers are liquid solutions like acids that etch the glossy tile surface for better paint grip. Follow product instructions carefully.

Once tiles are dulled and scuffed from sanding, the paint finish will be much more durable. Don’t skip this important step when painting mosaic tiles.

What Kind of Paint Adheres Best to Mosaic Tile?

Acrylic latex paint is the best type of paint for mosaic tile. Compared to oil-based paints, acrylic latex paint adheres better to slick non-porous surfaces like ceramic and porcelain tile.

Here’s what to look for when choosing paint for mosaic tile:

  • 100% acrylic latex formula
  • Gloss or semi-gloss sheen
  • Tiles & Tub” or “kitchen/bath” specialty paint
  • Paint + primer formulated for tile
  • Mold/mildew resistant finish

Top quality acrylic latex paint contains vinyl or acrylic binders that form a flexible breathable paint film on tile surfaces. The adhesive qualities help the paint grab onto smooth tiles.

Additionally, gloss or semi-gloss sheens are more durable and scrubbable than flat sheens. Using a tile-specific paint + primer product also eliminates the need for a separate primer.

Look for brands like Behr Premium Plus, KILZ Adhesion, Rust-Oleum Specialty, and INSL-X Cabinet Coat at your local home improvement store.

What Sheen Is Best for Painting Mosaic Tile?

Gloss and semi-gloss paint sheens work best for painting over mosaic tile backsplashes. The higher sheen levels provide a scrubbable, stain-resistant finish.

Here’s an overview of how the different paint sheens perform on mosaic tile:

  • Gloss – Very shiny and smooth. Most durable and stain-resistant finish. Enhances colors.
  • Semi-gloss – Medium-high shine. Easy to clean. Resists moisture and stains.
  • Satin – Low-luster soft sheen. Holds up fairly well to cleaning.
  • Flat/Matte – No shine. More prone to stains. Harder to clean.

Gloss and semi-gloss enamels are the toughest, most water and moisture-resistant sheens for high-traffic and humidity-prone surfaces like backsplashes. They highlight the tile colors and designs.

Satin works well too but doesn’t offer quite the same stain protection. Flat finishes look nice but require gentle cleaning. They show more wear over time.

How Do You Prepare Mosaic Tile for Painting?

Proper tile prep is crucial for getting paint to adhere correctly to mosaic tile backsplashes. Follow these key preparation steps:

Clean the Tile Surface

Use a specialized tile cleaner or a homemade solution of vinegar and water to thoroughly clean the tile and grout. This removes any dirt, grease, soap scum, or grime so the paint will stick.

Rinse well and allow the tile to fully dry before painting. Spot clean any remaining stuck-on debris with a scrub brush or scraper.

Sand the Tiles

Scuff sand each tile using fine 120-220 grit sandpaper. This roughens up the glossy tile surface so the paint can grip better. Sand just enough to dull the finish – be careful not to fully strip the glaze.

Sanding sponges also work well for gently scuffing the tiles. Make sure to sand evenly across all tiles.

Repair Any Tile Damage

Inspect the tiles and grout lines for any cracks, holes, missing grout, or chips. Repair any damage so those areas don’t detract from the painted finish.

Use grout sealant or caulk to patch grout lines as needed. Fill any cracks or holes with spackling paste or caulk.

Degrease and Clean Again

Give the tiles one final wash with a degreasing cleaner like TSP substitute to remove any greasy residue left from sanding or repairs. Rinse thoroughly and let dry.

The tiles need to be completely clean before priming and painting. Address any remaining glossy spots by sanding again.

Apply Primer

Use a high-quality tile primer to help the paint better adhere to the tile surface. The primer coat also allows for superior topcoat coverage.

Apply the primer in a thin uniform coat across all tiles using a paintbrush or paint roller. Let the primer fully dry before painting.

What Paint Colors Look Best on Mosaic Tile?

The color options are nearly endless when painting a mosaic tile backsplash. From bright and bold colors to soft neutrals, any paint color can work beautifully.

Here are some popular paint color choices for mosaic tiles:

  • Neutrals – Black, white, gray, beige, or tan
  • Jewel tones – Navy blue, emerald, rich purple
  • Earth tones – Olive green, rusty red, brown
  • Brights – Glossy yellow, turquoise, vibrant orange
  • Metallics – Gold, silver, copper, bronze darker paint colors tend to highlight the tile design since they provide contrast with the grout lines. Lighter colors like white can downplay the mosaic pattern for a more uniform look.

Consider colors already used in your home decor and cabinetry. Complementary or contrasting shades usually look best against your existing color scheme.

The color options for painted mosaic tile backsplashes are virtually unlimited. Pick a shade you’ll love looking at for years to come.

What Finish Option is Best for Painted Mosaic Tiles?

A gloss or semi-gloss enamel paint finish is best for painted mosaic tile backsplashes. The shiny gloss finish enhances the colors and tile pattern. The hard gloss surface is also the easiest to keep clean.

Here’s an overview of each finish option:

  • Gloss Enamel – A shiny, highly reflective finish. Most stain and moisture resistant.
  • Semi-Gloss Enamel – A sleek radiant sheen that resists staining. Easy to wash.
  • Satin Enamel – Subtle luster. Withstands light scrubbing. More prone to stains.
  • Matte/Flat – No sheen or reflection. Can scuff and stain easily. Harder to clean.

To highlight the mosaic tiles, gloss is the best finish. Gloss paint brings out the vibrancy of the colors and makes the individual tiles stand out boldly. The glossy surface also repels water, grease, and stains.

For a slightly muted effect, semi-gloss offers excellent stain resistance as well. Both gloss and semi-gloss can be easily cleaned using mild soap and water.

Do You Need to Seal Painted Mosaic Tile?

Applying a clear tile sealer is an optional extra step that can provide added protection for painted mosaic tile backsplashes. Sealers aren’t mandatory but can be beneficial.

Here are the key advantages of using a sealer on painted tile:

  • Provides extra moisture resistance
  • Helps prevent stains from penetrating the paint
  • Makes cleaning and maintenance easier
  • Enhances paint colors with a glossy wet look
  • Extends the life of the paint job overall

Look for a sealer specifically formulated for glossy tile rather than brick or natural stone. Water-based polyurethane or epoxy sealers work well to protect painted tile surfaces.

Apply 2-3 thin, even coats of sealer following the manufacturer’s directions, allowing proper drying time between coats. Reapply the sealer every 1-2 years for continued protection.

Can You Use a Paint Sprayer on Mosaic Tile?

Yes, you can use a paint sprayer to apply primer and paint to mosaic tile backsplashes. Paint spraying provides fast full coverage of the tiles, grout lines, and crevices.

When spray painting mosaic tile, follow these guidelines:

  • Use light, even passes to prevent drips and runs
  • Follow the overlap rule of 50% to ensure uniform coverage
  • Use drop cloths or masking for a tidy job
  • Allow for proper ventilation
  • Be extremely careful if spraying near cabinets or countertops

HVLP (high volume, low pressure) sprayers give the best control for indoor tile painting projects. Make sure to practice and get comfortable handling the sprayer before starting on the actual backsplash.

Use a brush or small roller for touching up uneven areas as needed after spray painting. Allow sufficient drying time between coats when spraying multiple layers of primer and paint.

What Are Some Painted Mosaic Tile Design Ideas?

Paint opens up loads of possibilities for altering the look of an existing mosaic tile backsplash. Here are some painted mosaic tile design ideas to inspire your project:

  • Update colors – Simply paint the tiles a fresh new hue like light gray or robin’s egg blue.
  • Create shapes – Paint squares, rectangles, diamonds or other shapes using tape and primer.
  • Paint patterns – Make stripes, geometric patterns, or a moroccan-style design.
  • Stencil designs – Apply intricate designs using stencils and two paint colors.
  • Highlight sections – Paint out portions of the mosaic tile design for a partial color effect.
  • Paint the grout – Choose a contrasting grout color to make the tile pattern pop.
  • Distress it – Soft white paint and light sanding can give a timeworn look.
  • Metallic accents – Brushed metallic glazes add modern sparkle.

Get creative with painted patterns, shapes, colors and textures. Painting opens up a whole new world of options for customizing a mosaic tile backsplash.

Step-By-Step Instructions for Painting a Mosaic Tile Backsplash

Painting a mosaic backsplash tile-by-tile may seem daunting, but just follow these step-by-step instructions for a foolproof paint job:

Step 1: Wash and Prepare the Tiles

Thoroughly clean and scrub the tile surface using a tile cleaner or vinegar solution. Sand the tiles to rough up the glaze. Repair any damaged areas. Apply primer.

Step 2: Tape off Accent Sections

If creating a pattern with paint, use masking tape to tape off the tile sections that will remain unpainted.

Step 3: Paint the Perimeter Tiles

Use a small trim roller or brush to paint the tiles around the outer edges. Cut in with a brush around cabinets, countertops, and moldings.

Step 4: Fill in the Middle Section

Use a roller or brush to paint the interior tiles in sections working from top to bottom. Apply paint liberally and evenly.

Step 5: Tape Design Patterns

If using a stencil or creating geometric designs, carefully tape patterns on tiles. Apply the second paint color.

Step 6: Remove Tape and Reapply Paint

Carefully remove all tape immediately after painting before the paint dries. Touch up edges with trim brush.

Step 7: Apply Second Coat

Allow the first coat to dry fully overnight. Sand any drips or uneven areas and apply the second finish coat.

Step 8 (Optional): Apply Clear Sealer

Allow paint to cure for 2-3 days, then apply 1-2 coats of clear sealer for added durability and stain resistance.

Take your time taping patterns and applying paint carefully for the best results. Seal the finished paint job for longevity.

FAQs About Painting a Mosaic Tile Backsplash

Get quick answers to common questions about painting mosaic tile backsplashes:

Should mosaic tile be primed before painting?

Yes, always apply a primer designed for tile before painting for superior paint adhesion and coverage. The primer coat helps the paint stick.

Can you use bathroom paint on a tile backsplash?

Yes, bathroom paints formulated for high-moisture areas like tile and tubs work well for backsplashes. Look for 100% acrylic latex bathroom paint.

How do you paint a mosaic tile backsplash without streaks?

Work in small sections and maintain a wet edge as you paint. Use a small trim roller and brush for cutting in. Avoid drips. Go slowly and carefully.

What paint finish will stick to ceramic tile?

Gloss and semi-gloss 100% acrylic latex enamels provide the most durable, stickable finish on ceramic and porcelain tiles.

How do you paint mosaic glass tile?

Gently scuff glass mosaic tile with fine sandpaper before painting. Use thin coats of quality acrylic latex paint and allow proper drying time between coats.

How long does it take for paint to cure on tile?

Most tile paints fully cure in 2-3 days. Avoid scrubbing or heavy cleaning during this period. Handle gently as the paint finish hardens.


Painting over an existing mosaic tile backsplash offers an easy weekend upgrade to kitchens and bathrooms. With the right paint products and preparation, even novice DIYers can achieve a successful painted tile finish.

Focus on properly cleaning and sanding the tiles first to ensure the paint will properly adhere. Then apply two coats of a top quality 100% acrylic latex paint in a semi-gloss or gloss sheen for the most durable result.

Additional protection can be achieved by applying a clear tile sealer after painting. Prior proper planning prevents poor performance when painting mosaic tile backsplashes.

With a little time and care taken during the process, your painted mosaic makeover can deliver a whole new look without the mess and expense of a full tile demolition and replacement. Get creative with colors, shapes and designs to refresh your space affordably.