Can You Paint Textured Tile Backsplash?

Textured tile backsplashes can add visual interest and dimension to your kitchen or bathroom. However, over time the grout lines may become stained and the tiles themselves can start to look dated. If you’re renovating on a budget, painting over existing tile backsplashes offers an affordable facelift. But can you paint textured tile?

The short answer is yes, you can paint textured backsplash tiles with the right preparation and paint products. While smoothing over the dimensional surfaces of textured tiles takes a bit more effort than painting flat tile, it can be done to give your backsplash a fresh new look. Here’s what you need to know about the process of painting textured tile backsplashes.

Evaluating Your Existing Textured Tile Backsplash

Before deciding on painting, take a good look at your existing textured tile backsplash and consider the following:

Tile Condition

  • Check for any cracks, chips or missing grout that will need repairing prior to painting.
  • Make sure the tiles are firmly adhered to the wall and not loose or hollow sounding when tapped. Any loose tiles will need to be removed and replaced.
  • Clean the tiles thoroughly to remove any grease or dirt that could impede paint adhesion.

Tile Texture Type

  • Does the tile have an irregular 3D shape and dimension like stone or brick? This dramatic texture will require more prep work.
  • Or is it a simpler pattern like dots, circles or squares that impart modest texture? Paint adheres more easily to less dramatic texture.

Grout Condition

  • Make sure grout lines are clean and free of mildew or stains which require grout refreshers or sealers.
  • For wider grout lines, you may want to apply grout caulk to float over the recessed lines and create a smoother surface before painting.

Tile Color

  • Do your existing tiles have a color you’d like integrated into the new painted finish? Opt for a complementary sheer paint that allows some of the original tile color to show through.
  • Or if fully obscuring the old tile, an opaque solid colored paint will provide the best coverage.

Once you’ve thoroughly inspected the tile and determined painting is the right project option, then you can move onto prepping and painting.

Cleaning and Prepping Textured Tile for Painting

Proper prep is crucial for getting paint to adhere evenly and permanently to textured tiles. Follow these important steps:

1. Wash the Tile

Use a general household tile cleaner or degreaser and a stiff scrub brush to thoroughly clean the tile and grout lines. Rinse well and let dry completely.

2. Remove Loose Paint or Coating

If there are already other failed attempts at painting the tile, you’ll need to strip the surfaces down to the original texture using chemical paint strippers or by sanding.

3. Fill Grout Lines

For wider grout lines, apply a tub & tile caulk to fill the recessed gaps level with the tile surface. Tool smooth with a wet finger. Let dry completely.

4. Sand Surface

Lightly sanding will roughen and degloss the tile’s surface so the new paint can adhere. Use fine 120-150 grit sandpaper and avoid scrubbing so hard you remove the texture.

5. Spot Prime as Needed

Use a pigmented shellac primer like Bulls Eye 1-2-3 on any unpaintable surface areas like metal trim or silicone caulk.

6. Apply Primer Coat

Use a high-adhesion primer specifically made for tile and masonry surfaces. Allow to fully dry.

7. Fill Holes or Imperfections

If there are divots, holes or cracked grout lines in the tile, fill with a thin coat of lightweight spackle compound, allow to dry and sand smooth.

With the tile prepped, you can now proceed to painting.

Paint Products Recommended for Textured Tile

Painting textured tile backsplash surfaces requires specially formulated paint products:

  • Primers – Adhesion promoting primers like Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 and XIM UMA Premium Tile Primer dig into textured surfaces better than basic wall primers.
  • Paints – Look for exterior masonry and stucco paints, or specific tile paints like Rust-Oleum Specialty Tile Transformations Kit. These are more flexible and high build.
  • Enamels – Oil-based enamels like Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations provide the hardest, smoothest finish on dramatically textured tile.
  • Application Tools – For working paint into the grooves and dimensions of textured tile, opt for good quality dense foam mini rollers and angled brushes vs. regular bristle brushes.

Buying the right supplies is key, but so are proper application techniques.

How to Apply Paint to Textured Tile Backsplash

Painting textured tile backsplashes like stone, brick, or irregular ceramic tiles requires diligence to cover all the uneven surfaces. Follow these tips:

1. Cut-In Grout Lines and Edges

Use a small angled sash brush to first cut-in around the tile edges and paint grout lines. Get paint down into the grooves. Allow this initial coat to dry.

2. Roll on Base Coats

Use a 4”-6” dense foam mini roller to apply the first coat of paint in sections, working it into the texture. Apply in thin coats allowing drying in between.

3. Check for Missed Spots

Inspect the tile surface after the first coat, touching up any areas the roller didn’t hit like inside grout lines or divots in the texture.

4. Apply Additional Coats

Continue applying further coats of paint using both brush and mini roller until the paint build achieves a smooth, opaque surface sealing the tile’s textural dimensions.

5. Cure and Protect the Finish

Allow the final coat of paint to cure fully, then apply a clear acrylic sealer for added protection and washability.

Applying paint properly takes finesse. Rushing through or using inferior application tools can result in an uneven finish accentuating rather than masking the tile texture. Take your time and use the right products for success.

Ideas and Inspiration for Painted Textured Tile Backsplashes

If done right, painting textured tile can give your backsplash or shower surround a brand new look. Here are some great ways to use painted tile:

Solid Coverage Color

  • For a seamless color impact, coat tile in a glossy solid paint hue like navy blue, charcoal gray or soft white.

Faux Finish Effects

  • Make tile mimic natural materials like marble or travertine using faux finishing paint techniques and glazes.

Stenciled Patterns

  • Add interest by stenciling designs like geometric shapes or Moroccan motifs over a colored painted tile base.

Partial Cover Accents

  • Paint stripes or framed boxes of color to create a focal point while leaving some original tile showing.

Sheer Wash Overlay

  • Use thin translucent paints like artisan acrylic glazes to tint the tile color without losing all its texture.

With the right approach, painting offers an affordable way to transform the look of dated or damaged textured tile backsplash surfaces. Just be sure to properly evaluate and prep tiles prior to coating them with the appropriate paint products. Your efforts will be rewarded with a renewed backsplash that looks completely customized. Let your painted tile project provide inspiration for the rest of your kitchen or bath redo!

Frequently Asked Questions About Painting Textured Tile Backsplashes

Many homeowners have questions about the process of painting textured tile backsplashes. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:

Should I use spray paint or brushed on paint?

For painting textured tile, a mini roller and angled brush work best to get the paint worked down into the grooves. Aerosol spray cans can leave an uneven finish on heavily textured surfaces.

How many coats of paint are needed?

Expect to apply at least 2-3 base coats with a roller, plus additional cut-in coats with a brush to get full coverage over texture. More dramatic 3D tile may require 4-5 coats.

How long does it take to prep and paint a tile backsplash?

In total, allow 2-3 days from start to finish. Day 1 for cleaning and priming. Day 2 for painting coats. Day 3 for optional protective sealing. Drying time between coats impacts the timeline.

Should I remove the tile before painting it?

Removing and re-tiling is one option, but not mandatory. Painting over existing tile is a valid timesaving shortcut. Just ensure tiles are soundly adhered before painting.

Can I paint over cracked or missing grout?

Cracked or missing grout should be re-grouted prior to painting. Unrepaired these can allow moisture issues behind the tile over time.

What kind of primer works best?

Look for primers specifically formulated for painting tile like Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 and XIM UMA Premium Tile Primer for best adhesion.

How do I prep and paint textured shower surround tile?

Use the same cleaning, priming, caulking, sanding and painting techniques recommended for backsplash tile. Enamel paints provide maximum water resistance.

Should I caulk between the countertop and painted tile?

Yes, use a flexible silicone caulk. Unlike grout, caulk accommodates movement between surfaces without cracking or allowing water intrusion.

Preparation is key to getting great painted results on textured tile backsplashes. Following these painting tips and techniques will help your project go smoothly.


Painting over existing textured tile backsplashes offers a budget-friendly kitchen or bath makeover option. With proper evaluation of the tile condition, careful surface preparation, and use of the right painting products and tools, even dramatically dimensional tile can be given a refreshed, unified finished look. While painting textured tile requires more finesse than flat smooth tile, the end results are well worth the effort. A bright new backsplash can entirely transform the feel of your cooking or bathing space. With some planning and effort, the answer is definitively yes – you can paint textured tile backsplash surfaces to renew your home in stylish, affordable fashion.