Can You Paint Tumbled Stone Backsplash? The Complete Guide

A tumbled stone backsplash can add a gorgeous, natural touch to any kitchen. The textures and colors of the stones create depth and visual interest. However, over time, the stones may fade or discolor. You may want to freshen up your backsplash with a new coat of paint. But can you paint over tumbled stone?

An Overview of Tumbled Stone and Backsplashes

Tumbled stone refers to small pieces of decorative stones that have been rounded and smoothed through a tumbling process. This process tumbles the stones with sand, pebbles, and water, which wears down their edges and gives them a natural, worn appearance.

Common types of tumbled stones used for backsplashes include:

  • Travertine – A form of limestone with tan, rust, or gold coloring. It has natural pits and holes.
  • Marble – A metamorphic stone known for its veining and variety of colors like white, gray, pink, or green.
  • Granite – An igneous stone that is very hard and comes in speckled colors like black, pink, white, or gray.
  • Slate – A metamorphic stone with a layered, slightly shiny appearance. Popular colors are black, gray, purple, and green.
  • Quartzite – A hard metamorphic stone, usually beige, gray, or white.

Backsplashes not only protect the wall from water damage but serve as a stylish focal point in the kitchen. Tumbled stone backsplashes create texture and a nice complement to countertops and cabinets.

The Challenges of Painting Over Tumbled Stone

At first glance, painting over a tumbled stone backsplash may seem like an easy DIY project. However, there are a few challenges to consider:

Tumbled Stones are Porous

Tumbled stones like travertine, marble, and limestone have naturally porous surfaces with holes, pits, and dips. This makes it difficult for paint to properly adhere. The paint is likely to chip or peel.

Stones Won’t Sand Down Smooth

Sanding rough stones smooth takes special equipment not readily available for DIYers. The natural dips and texture of tumbled stone do not provide a suitable surface for paint.

Stones Have Color Variation

The color variations of natural stone can create an uneven, splotchy look when painted over directly. The underlying stone color may show through the paint in spots.

Glossy Paint Could Look Unnatural

The porous, matte finish of natural stones contrasts with the sheen of glossy paint. The glossy paint will accentuate the textural differences rather than camouflaging them.

Preparing Tumbled Stone for Painting

If you do wish to paint over your tumbled stone backsplash, careful preparation is crucial for success:

Clean and Degrease the Stones

Use a degreasing cleaner or mix of vinegar and water to thoroughly cleanse the backsplash. This will remove any oils or waxes so the paint can properly adhere.

Use a Roughening Product

Specialty etching or bonding liquid solutions can chemically roughen the stone surface. This gives the paint something to “grip” onto.

Apply a Sealing Primer

Use a quality primer specifically made for masonry or stone. An acrylic-based primer will seal the surface and help the topcoat of paint stick.

Caulk Any Cracks or Holes

Fill in any crevices between stones with caulk to create an even surface. This prevents paint from seeping through cracks.

Proper sealing and priming is the most critical step when prepping for paint. The right products form a barrier between the porous stones and the topcoat of paint.

Best Paint Options for Stone Backsplashes

After thorough prep work, the next step is selecting the right paint for the job. Here are the best options:

Epoxy Paint

Epoxy paint contains resins that cure into a hard, plastic-like finish. This provides a protective barrier over textured stone that resists chipping or peeling. The durability and thick coverage of epoxy make it ideal for backsplashes.

Acrylic Latex Paint

For interior use, high-quality acrylic latex paints offer excellent adhesion, durability, and color retention. Choose one with a “granite-grip” primer formulated especially for masonry surfaces.

Urethane Alkyd Paint

Urethane alkyd paints are modified alkyds containing urethane for greater toughness and flexibility. They provide a hard yet slightly elastic coating.

Silicone-Modified Acrylic

These paints have silicone additives for enhanced adhesion and water resistance. The silicone allows the paint to flex rather than chip or peel.

For any of these paints, a satin, flat, or matte sheen will look most natural over stone. Stay away from glossy finishes.

Painting Techniques for Backsplashes

Once you have addressed prep work and chosen the right paint, the actual painting process requires care and patience:

Apply in Thin Coats

Thick coats of paint are prone to chipping or peeling, especially over uneven stone surfaces. Multiple thin coats create a more flexible, durable paint layer.

Allow Proper Drying Time

Rushing the job leads to tacky paint that won’t adhere correctly. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying time between coats.

Use Small Paintbrushes

For filling in all the nooks and grooves of the stone, small trim brushes and artist brushes are ideal. Avoid using large-bristled brushes.

Work Methodically Section-by-Section

Paint a few square feet at a time, completing each section fully before moving on. This prevents lap marks or inconsistencies in the paint job.

Maintain Proper Ventilation

When painting indoors, open windows and use fans to circulate air. Some stone paints contain strong fumes or odorless toxic vapors.

Patience and meticulous technique allow the paint to smooth over the stone texture. Proper drying times produce a cohesive, durable finish.

Alternative Ideas Beyond Painting Stone Backsplashes

For those concerned about attempting to paint over the textured surface of tumbled stones, some alternative options include:

Tile Over It

Installing new ceramic, porcelain, or glass tile over the existing stone is easier than painting. Use caution to properly adhere the tile without damaging the stone.

Wallpaper Over It

Certain durable, cleanable vinyl or acrylic wallpaper sheets provide an inexpensive way to cover up the dated stone backsplash.

Install New Thinset Over It

Applying a fresh coat of new thinset or a skim coat of mortar can create a smooth, uniform surface for repainting or retiling.

Install New Backsplash

As a last resort, replacing the backsplash completely avoids any challenges of painting. But this requires more demolition and installation work.

With creativity and proper planning, an existing stone backsplash offers plenty of possibilities for refreshing the look without requiring full replacement.

Frequently Asked Questions About Painting Stone Backsplashes

Many homeowners have additional questions about painting their stone backsplash. Here are answers to some of the most common queries:

Should I use primer before painting stone?

Yes, a quality masonry primer designed for stone surfaces will provide the best base layer for paint. The primer seals the porous stone and allows for improved paint adhesion.

What kind of paint adheres best to stone backsplashes?

Epoxy paints and urethane/acrylic paints with silicone additives are formulated to stick well and flex with stone surfaces. Avoid exterior house paints inside.

How do I get paint out of the crevices between stones?

Use small trim brushes and artists’ brushes to meticulously work the paint into all the textured nooks. Patiently applying numerous thin coats will produce the most seamless finish.

Can I use the same paint I used on my kitchen cabinets?

Generally, no. Paint for wood cabinets is too thin and flexible for proper coverage on rough, porous stone. Stick with thick epoxy or acrylic paints designed for masonry.

How long does painted stone backsplash last?

With proper surface prep and application of quality paint, a painted stone backsplash can easily last 3-5 years before needing touch ups. Epoxy paint may last 5-10 years.


Painting over an existing tumbled stone backsplash is possible with careful preparation and the right paint choices. For best results, thoroughly clean and etch the stone, apply sealing primer, and use specialty paints like epoxy or silicone-modified acrylics. Multiple thin coats worked meticulously into the textured stone will produce the most seamless painted finish. Consider alternatives like tiling, wallpaper, or replacing the backsplash if painting stone does not suit your skill level or preferences. With some effort and TLC, you can give your dated or damaged stone backsplash new life with a fresh coat of paint.

How to Prep Tumbled Stone for Painting

Prepping a textured tumbled stone backsplash for painting is the most crucial step if you want the paint to properly adhere. Rushing into painting stone without proper prep will likely result in peeling, chipping, or flaking paint. Here is a thorough step-by-step preparation guide:

Cleaning the Stone Surface

  • Mix a degreasing solution of trisodium phosphate (TSP), water, and a small amount of household cleaner.
  • Using a sponge or scrub brush, wipe down every inch of the backsplash with the degreasing solution.
  • Rinse thoroughly with clean water and allow to fully dry.
  • Repeat the washing process using just clean water to remove any soapy residue.

Thoroughly degreasing eliminates any waxy buildup so the paint can stick.

Etching the Stone with Acid

  • Purchase a pre-mixed muriatic acid etching solution and follow instructions carefully.
  • Use gloves, goggles, and a mask to protect yourself when handling acid.
  • Apply the etching solution evenly across the entire surface of the backsplash.
  • Let it sit for 5-10 minutes maximum, then rinse thoroughly with water.

The acid slightly roughens the top layer of the stone so the new paint can grab hold.

Applying Primer Sealer

  • Choose a high-quality primer specifically formulated for masonry and stone surfaces.
  • Use a paintbrush to apply a coat of primer over every inch of the backsplash surface.
  • Allow the primer to fully cure for at least 24 hours.

The primer seals the porous surface and creates a uniform base layer for the new paint.

Filling Cracks and Crevices

  • Inspect the backsplash closely and use caulk to fill any cracks, crevices, or gaps between stones.
  • Tool the caulk with a putty knife or finger to create a smooth, even fill.
  • Allow caulk to dry fully before painting.

Filling gaps prevents paint from seeping through and creates a more cohesive surface.

With proper cleaning, etching, priming, and caulking, the tumbled stone backsplash will now have a paintable surface ready for your new color.

Choosing the Right Paint for Stone Backsplash

When researching paint options for your stone backsplash, you’ll encounter many choices. With the wrong paint, you risk peeling, yellowing, or ideas not adhering properly. Here are the best paint types for backsplash surfaces:

Epoxy Paint


  • Creates an exceptionally hard, protective finish
  • Resists scratches, chips, and heat damage
  • Provides a thick, textured coating that hides surface flaws
  • Long-lasting durability, 5-10 years


  • More difficult to apply than regular paint
  • Strong odor during application requires ventilation
  • More expensive than acrylic paint

Acrylic Latex Paint


  • Formulated specifically for masonry surfaces
  • Provides excellent adhesion and durability
  • Resistant to cracking, peeling, and fading
  • Water-based for easy cleanup
  • Available in all sheens from flat to semi-gloss


  • Not as durable as epoxy for a backsplash area
  • Requires careful surface prep for best results
  • Multiple coats required for good coverage

Urethane Alkyd Paint


  • The urethane adds flexibility and adhesion
  • Harder and more durable finish than regular alkyd paint
  • Excellent flow and leveling over textured surfaces
  • Good abrasion and chemical resistance


  • Strong odor requires proper ventilation
  • More difficult application than acrylic paints
  • Requires mineral spirits for cleanup

Silicone-Modified Acrylic


  • Silicone additives allow paint to flex and grip stone
  • Maintains adhesion and color even in high humidity
  • Resists mold, mildew, and staining
  • Easy soap and water cleanup


  • Limited color selection compared to regular acrylic
  • Won’t cover flaws as well as thick epoxy paint

For most DIYers, a high-quality acrylic latex masonry paint will provide the best balance of adhesion, durability, and ease of use on a stone backsplash.

How to Paint a Stone Backsplash

Once you’ve properly prepped the surface and chosen the right paint, apply it carefully with these steps:

Ventilate the Area

Turn on exhaust fans, open windows, and use box fans to keep air circulating. Some paints have strong fumes.

Use Small Paintbrushes

Trim brushes and angled artist brushes allow you to work paint into the grooves. Avoid thick brushes.

Apply Thin, Even Coats

Don’t slather it on thick. Thin coats build gradually to create a flexible paint film.

Work Methodically in Sections

Paint a few square feet at a time, completing each section fully before moving on.

Allow Proper Dry Time

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, typically 4-6 hours between coats. Rushing causes problems.

Inspect Closely Between Coats

Check for any thin spots or drips and touch up before adding another coat.

Apply a Minimum of Two Coats

For best coverage and durability, two or three coats are ideal for stone surfaces.

Painting stone requires more precision than painting flat drywall. but with the right tools and techniques, you can achieve beautiful results. Take your time and don’t cut corners.

Stone Backsplash Paint Ideas

Once you commit to painting your stone backsplash, an exciting new world of color and design possibilities opens up. Here are some striking paint ideas to transform your kitchen:

Modern White

For a clean, contemporary look, paint the backsplash bright white. This creates a sleek, minimalist style and makes the space feel larger.

Bold and Vibrant

Make a dramatic statement by painting the backsplash an energetic color like tomato red, vibrant turquoise, lime green, or golden yellow. This transforms the kitchen into a fun, colorful focal point.

Neutral Tones

Soft neutral earth tones like tan, gray, and taupe project a soothing, elegant vibe. Contrast them with brighter cabinet colors.

Metallic Shimmer

Specialty paints with flecks of gold, silver, copper, or bronze add a touch of glam and luxury. They reflect light beautifully.

Faux Finishes

Get creative with sponge painting, rag rolling, or stippling to achieve artistic, textured finishes like travertine, brick, marble, or limestone.

Ombre Effect

Paint the upper part of the backsplash a lighter tone that fades gradually into a darker shade near the bottom for a trendy ombre look.

With the right choice of color, sheen, and artistic technique, painting opens up diverse design possibilities for your formerly drab, dated stone backsplash.

Tips for Achieving a Seamless Painted Stone Backsplash

Achieving an evenly painted, seamless finish over the rough texture of stone requires skill and finesse. These tips will help you successfully paint your backsplash:

Mind the edges – Use a small trim brush to carefully paint around the outer edges and any backsplash seams. Prevent drips.

Work top to bottom – Paint the upper part of the backsplash first, then work your way down methodically. No drips staining lower sections.

Follow caulk lines – If you filled seams with caulk, run your brush neatly along the caulk line to avoid overlapping.

Blur lines organically – At any seams or caulk lines, gently feather out the paint on each side to create a blurred transition.

Check for pinholes – Inspect for any tiny missed spots after each coat and touch up with dabs from a small brush.

Watch paint thickness – Don’t overload the brush. Thick globs will not penetrate the stone properly. Thin coats only.

Get all angles – Check sides and corners closely. Use angled brushes to coat any paint-starved edges.

Re-coat glossy spots – If the stone repels paint anywhere leaving glossy spots, add another coat to increase coverage.

Tone down sheen variations – Satin or flat paints helps minimize the appearance of uneven absorption of the paint.

With close attention to detail and meticulous brushwork, you can achieve a beautifully seamless painted stone backsplash.

How to Clean and Care for a Painted Stone Backsplash

Once your stone backsplash is painted, you’ll want to properly care for it to maintain the beautiful finish. Here are some simple maintenance tips:

  • Allow the paint to cure fully for 2-3 weeks before cleaning. Test a small spot first.
  • Use a