Can You Paint Tile Backsplash in a Kitchen?

Painting the tile backsplash in your kitchen can completely transform the look and feel of the space. With some preparation and the right materials, you can paint over existing tile to give it an affordable makeover. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to paint a tile backsplash in your kitchen.

Overview of Painting Tile Backsplashes

Painting over existing tile backsplashes offers a budget-friendly way to update the look of your kitchen. It allows you to change the color and style without the expense and mess of removing and replacing the tiles. With proper prep and materials, you can paint tile backsplashes in a range of finishes from solid colors to faux finishes.

Benefits of Painting a Tile Backsplash

  • Cost-effective – Much more affordable than replacing tile
  • Quick update – Finish in just a weekend
  • Customizable look – Choose any color or finish
  • Conceals flaws – Covers cracked or outdated tiles
  • Renews space – Completely transforms the kitchen

Things to Consider Before Painting Tile

  • Porosity and texture of tiles
  • Need for extensive surface prep/cleaning
  • Paint adhesion and durability
  • Matching grout color after painting
  • Loss of sheen and color over time
  • Inability to remove paint completely

How to Prepare the Tile Surface

Proper prep is crucial for the paint to adhere correctly on the tile surface. Here are the key steps:

Clean and Degrease

Remove all grease, soap residue, dust and grime from the tile using a degreasing cleaner or ammonia-based soap. Rinse thoroughly.

Sand Glossy Tiles

For glossy tile, lightly sand the surface with 220-grit sandpaper to remove the sheen and create a roughness for the paint to adhere to.

Use TSP Cleaner

Wash the tiles with a TSP (trisodium phosphate) cleaner and water solution. This removes any remaining residue. Rinse and let dry.

Remove Caulk

Carefully cut away existing caulk from tile grout lines. You will replace this after painting.

Patch and Fill Holes

Use spackle to fill any small holes, chips, or cracks in the tile to create an even surface. Allow filler to dry completely.

Prime the Surface

After ensuring the tile is clean, dry, and dull, apply a bonding primer to help the paint adhere. Allow the primer to fully dry.

Selecting the Right Paint

Choosing the right paint is key to achieving a durable and long-lasting finish:

Epoxy-Based Paint

Offer excellent adhesion and a hard, protective finish that stands up to cleaning. Ideal for high-traffic kitchens.

Urethane Paint

Also called polyurethane, provides a flexible yet highly durable finish. Resists chipping and stands up to moisture.

Acrylic Latex Paint

A budget-friendly option for painting tile, but may require more coats for good coverage and durability.

Textured Paint

Designed to create unique multi-dimensional finishes. Often used over epoxy paint.

Enamel Paint

A solvent-based alkyd paint that provides a very hard, glossy finish. Highly durable and stain-resistant.


Use a bonding primer specifically designed for tile and masonry surfaces to ensure paint adhesion.

How to Paint Tile Backsplash

Follow these key steps for a long-lasting painted tile finish:

1. Prepare Your Workspace

  • Spread plastic drop cloths under the backsplash area.
  • Tape off walls, countertops and cabinets around the backsplash.
  • Have paint supplies (roller, brush, trays) and clean rags ready.

2. Apply Primer-Sealer

  • Pour primer into paint tray and saturate the roller. Apply a thick, even coat on all tiles and grout lines.
  • Allow primer to dry completely according to manufacturer directions.

3. Paint Backsplash

  • Using a small brush, cut in along edges and corners with your topcoat paint.
  • Roll on the topcoat using a 4-inch mini foam roller, applying even coats.
  • Apply 2-3 coats for best coverage, allowing proper dry time between coats.

4. Re-Apply Caulk

  • Once paint is fully cured, apply fresh caulk between the backsplash and countertops/walls.
  • Smooth the caulk with a finishing tool for a polished look.

5. Clean Up

  • Allow caulk to dry before cleaning any paint drips or overspray with a razor.
  • Remove all masking and drop cloths and wipe down the area.

Maintaining a Painted Tile Backsplash

To keep your painted backsplash looking like new:

  • Allow paint to cure fully, generally 5-7 days. Avoid wiping or submerging in water during this time.
  • Use gentle cleaners like dish soap and water rather than abrasive scrubbers.
  • Immediately wipe up spills and splatters to prevent possible staining.
  • Reapply fresh caulk sealant if gaps appear between the tile and countertops.
  • Consider applying a fresh coat of paint periodically to refresh the color.

Painting over tile backsplashes offers an easy weekend project to quickly and affordably transform the look of a dated or dingy kitchen. With proper prep and paint selection, you can achieve a dramatic makeover. Take care to properly maintain your painted backsplash so it stays looking fresh and new.

Frequently Asked Questions About Painting Tile Backsplash

Can I use regular latex wall paint on a tile backsplash?

Regular wall paint often does not adhere well directly to tile surfaces. Epoxy-based tile paint or urethane paints provide much better adhesion and a more durable finish.

What sheen of paint works best?

A satin or semi-gloss sheen offers the right balance of durability and easy wipe-down for kitchen tile backsplashes. Flat paints tend to stain more easily. Avoid high-gloss which shows imperfections.

Should I take down upper cabinets to paint behind them?

In most cases, you can tape off the bottom of upper cabinets and paint the exposed backsplash without taking cabinets down. Use an angled brush for cutting in.

How do I match existing grout color after painting?

Take a sample of your current grout to the hardware store. They can do a color match and provide you with a tube of colored caulk to match after painting.

Can I paint natural stone or marble backsplash tiles?

Painting over stone or marble is not recommended as paint will not adhere well and can trap moisture, leading to deterioration of the stone surface.

What preparation is needed for glossy ceramic tile?

Glossy tiles must be properly sanded with 220 grit sandpaper prior to painting to remove the sheen and create a rough surface profile for paint adhesion.

How long does a painted tile backsplash last?

With proper surface prep and using durable epoxy or urethane tile paints, a painted backsplash can easily last 3-5 years before needing a refresh. Proper maintenance also extends the life.


Painting over existing tile backsplashes offers a budget-friendly kitchen makeover. With the right prep and paint products, you can easily transform the color, look, and feel of your backsplash over a weekend. Be sure to use bonding primers and durable tile paints to ensure long-lasting adhesion. Maintain your painted backsplash by promptly cleaning spills and avoiding abrasives while curing. Approach this project with patience and care, and you can completely change the look of your kitchen in a few easy steps.