Can You Paint Over Kitchen Backsplash Tile?

Kitchen backsplashes not only protect the walls from water damage and stains, but they also add style and visual interest to the kitchen. However, tastes change over time, and you may get tired of looking at the same backsplash day after day. Painting over existing backsplash tiles can provide a quick, easy, and affordable way to update the look of your kitchen. Here is what you need to know about painting over kitchen backsplash tiles.

Should You Paint Over Backsplash Tiles?

Painting over existing backsplash tiles is certainly an option, but there are a few factors to consider first:

  • Tile material – Ceramic and porcelain tiles are generally fine to paint over, but natural stone, metal, glass, and specialty tiles may not take paint well. The paint could end up peeling or flaking off over time.
  • Tile condition – Paint adheres best to clean, grease-free tiles in good condition. Cracked, damaged, or loose tiles should be removed and replaced.
  • Desired look – Paint can disguise the existing tile, but some of the grout lines, texture, and dimension will still show through. The result may not look as smooth or uniform as new tile.
  • Longevity – Painted tiles likely won’t last as long as new replacement tiles. You’ll need to be prepared to refresh the paint in the future.

If your backsplash is in good shape structurally, painting tiles can still achieve a “facelift” effect in the kitchen. However, be realistic about the painted tile finish. Proper prep and application are key to longer-lasting results.

How to Prepare Existing Backsplash Tiles for Painting

Careful preparation is crucial for painted tiles to turn out well and achieve maximum adhesion. Here are the key steps:

  • Clean thoroughly – Grease, grime, and soap scum can interfere with paint adhesion. Use a degreasing cleaner and scrub tiles and grout to remove any residue.
  • Fill any grout lines or cracks – Use a sanded grout or flexible sealant to patch any cracked or missing grout. This provides a smoother surface for the paint.
  • Sand tiles (if needed) – Lightly sand glazed ceramic, porcelain, or metal tiles to roughen up the smooth surface so the paint can grip better.
  • Prime the tiles – Apply a primer made for tile or other slick surfaces before painting. This helps the paint bond tightly.

Proper prep should leave you with a clean, dull, uniform tile surface ready for top-coating with paint.

Selecting the Right Paint for Tile

Choosing the wrong type of paint is one of the most common mistakes when painting over backsplash tiles. Using the right formulation improves adhesion and durability:

  • Epoxy paint – A two-part epoxy paint bonds incredibly tightly to surfaces. It’s resistant to moisture and stands up to cleaning.
  • Acrylic latex tile paint – Paints made specifically for tile application provide better adhesion than standard wall paints. Look for urethane-fortified acrylics.
  • Enamel paint – High-gloss oil-based enamel paints create a bright, shiny, durable finish.
  • Specialty spray paint – Spray paint designed for tile, metal, or masonry works well for quick DIY jobs.

Avoid standard interior wall paints or multi-surface paints. Stick with paint products intended for tile, masonry, and metals.

How to Paint Tile Backsplash

Once you’ve prepped the surface and have the right paint products in hand, you can move on to the painting process:

  • Apply primer – Use a brush to work primer into the grout lines and corners. Let primer fully dry per manufacturer directions.
  • Apply two coats of paint – Use a brush, roller, or sprayer to apply the top-coat paint over the primed tiles. Allow the first coat to dry before adding the second for best coverage.
  • Let paint cure – Give paint time to fully cure and harden before use, typically 2-3 days. Avoid cleaning or putting items on painted tiles during this period.
  • Seal with polyurethane (optional) – A satin water-based poly will add extra protection and washability to the surface.
  • Refresh grout lines – Use a grout pen or epoxy grout paint to freshen up any discolored grout against the new tile color.

Patience is required throughout the process – allow sufficient drying time between each stage for a professional looking finish.

Maintaining and Touching Up Painted Backsplash Tiles

Painted tiles require some special care and maintenance:

  • Avoid abrasive cleaners or scrubbing pads, as they can wear down the painted surface faster. Use gentle cleaners and soft cloths instead.
  • Immediately wipe up any spills or splatters to prevent possible staining.
  • Consider using a food-safe sealant annually to add protection to high-use kitchen surfaces.
  • Touch up any paint chips or damaged areas as soon as possible to prevent moisture getting underneath.
  • Be prepared to fully repaint the backsplash every 2-4 years or whenever the paint appears worn, damaged, or discolored.

Key Takeaways When Painting Over Backsplash Tiles

Painting over backsplash tiles can be a weekend project that makes a big visual impact. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Proper prep and primer are crucial first steps for success.
  • Select quality epoxy, tile, or enamel paints designed for slick surfaces.
  • Allow adequate dry time between steps – don’t rush the process.
  • Maintain painted tiles gently to maximize their lifespan.
  • Be prepared to reapply new paint coats every few years as needed.

With the right prep and paints, painting over backsplash tile offers a temporary but transformative facelift for your kitchen! Carefully weigh whether replacement tiles are the longer-lasting option, or if painted tiles can provide the affordably refreshed look you desire. Either way, you can update the style without removing and replacing the entire backsplash.

Frequently Asked Questions About Painting Over Backsplash Tiles

Can you use regular paint on backsplash tiles?

It’s best to avoid standard wall paints. Paints made specifically for tile, masonry, metal, and other slick surfaces provide superior adhesion and are formulated to withstand moisture and routine cleaning.

What kind of paint adheres best to ceramic tile?

Epoxy paint bonds incredibly tightly to surfaces like ceramic and porcelain tile. Urethane-fortified acrylic latex paints also perform very well. Stay away from thinner paints like milk-based or chalky paints.

Should tile be sanded before painting?

Lightly sanding glazed ceramic, porcelain, and metal tiles with 220-400 grit sandpaper creates a slightly roughened surface for paint to adhere better. Just be careful not to remove too much of the glaze.

Can painted backsplash tiles be cleaned like normal tiles?

Painted tiles require gentler cleaning than standard tiles. Avoid abrasive scrub pads or strong cleaners which can degrade the painted surface faster. Use soft clothes and mild cleaners designed for painted surfaces.

How long does painted tile backsplash last?

With proper prep and application, painted backsplash tiles can last 2-4 years before needing a fresh coat of paint. Epoxy paints provide the greatest durability and longevity. Expect to refresh painted tiles more often than a brand new tile backsplash.


Painting over existing backsplash tiles allows you to inexpensively refresh the look of your kitchen. With careful preparation, high-quality paints, and proper maintenance, painted tiles can mimic the look of a brand new backsplash temporarily. However, painted tiles likely require more frequent touch-ups than new replacement tile. Weigh your options carefully to determine if painting provides the affordably updated look you want until you’re ready for a full backsplash replacement. What option makes the most sense comes down to your goals, timeframe, and budget.