How to Paint a Backsplash Tile in Your Kitchen

Kitchen backsplashes not only serve to protect the walls from splashes and stains, but they can also add beauty, color and personality to your cooking space. While many choose tile for their durability and easy cleanup, sometimes tile backsplashes can start to look dated, dingy or just not suited to your new kitchen decor. Rather than go through the expense and hassle of removing and replacing the tile, consider freshening up your backsplash with a coat of paint. Painting a tile backsplash, when done properly, can give your kitchen a whole new look for just a fraction of the cost. Here is an in-depth guide on how to paint a backsplash tile in the kitchen.

Choosing the Right Paint for Tile

When considering how to paint a backsplash tile in the kitchen, using the proper type of paint is key to getting great results. Here are some of the best options:

Epoxy Paint

Epoxy paint is a two-part paint product that consists of an epoxy resin and a polyamine hardener. When mixed together, these components undergo a chemical reaction that results in a tough, durable and water-resistant coating when dried. Epoxy paint bonds extremely well to surfaces like tile, concrete and metal. It provides a smooth, glass-like finish that holds up well to cleaning, moisture and everyday wear and tear. Epoxy paint is available in many colors and finishes, from shiny to matte.

Acrylic Latex Paint

For tile that is in good condition with no cracks or damages, a high-quality acrylic latex paint can work well. Opt for an interior satin acrylic paint formulated for use in kitchens and bathrooms. Acrylic latex dries to a more matte, subtle finish. It may require additional coats compared to epoxy to fully cover the grout lines. Acrylic latex paints are easier to apply than epoxy and they clean up with soap and water.

Specialty Tile Paint

There are also specific tile paint products made for painting over ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tile. These often have primer and paint combined in one product, such as Rust-Oleum Tile Transformations Kit. Specialty tile paints are designed to bond well and cover tile while withstanding heat and moisture. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely when using a specialty tile painting product.

Avoid Regular Latex Wall Paint

It’s not advisable to use regular wall paint over tile backsplashes. The porous grout lines will absorb the paint unevenly and regular paint does not adhere well directly to slick surfaces like ceramic tile. Epoxy, acrylic latex or a specialty tile paint will all provide much better, long-lasting results.

Preparing Tile for Painting

Proper prep work is vital for getting great results when painting over a tile backsplash. Here are the key steps:

Clean the Tile and Grout Thoroughly

Use a scrub brush, sponge and degreasing cleaner to thoroughly wash the tile and grout lines. Rinse well and allow it to fully dry before painting. This allows for better paint adhesion.

Lightly Sand Glossy Tile

If the tile has a high-gloss finish, lightly sanding will help the paint stick better. Use 220-grit sandpaper to scuff up the glazed tile surface. Avoid sanding natural stone tiles. Wipe away all sanding dust.

Apply Grout Sealer

Sealing the grout first will help prevent the porous grout lines from absorbing too much paint and causing uneven results. Use an epoxy-based grout sealer and apply according to product directions.

Fill Any Cracks or Chips

Inspect the grout lines and tile edges for any cracks, chips or missing grout. Fill any damaged areas with spackle or caulk to smooth the surface before painting. Allow repairs to dry completely.

Apply Primer or Paint additive

For acrylic latex paints, apply a primer made for tile and grout first. If using a specialty tile paint, it may already include primer. For epoxy paints, stir in an adhesion promoter or additive to help the epoxy better bond to the slick tile surface.

By properly prepping your tile before painting, you’ll help ensure the paint sticks well and provides a beautiful, lasting finish.

How to Paint Tile Backsplash Step-By-Step

Once you have selected the right type of paint and prepped the surface, follow these steps for painting tile:

Step 1: Plan Your Approach

Removing hardware, taping off edges and laying down drop cloths will make the painting process easier and cleaner. Gather all painting supplies and protect surrounding surfaces.

Step 2: Apply First Coat of Paint

Pour paint into a paint tray or roller pan and use a small foam roller and angled brush to apply the first coat. Apply in thin, even coats allowing time to dry between coats.

Step 3: Allow Paint to Dry

Give the first coat at least 24 hours to fully cure and harden before applying the second coat. This helps prevent drips or uneven paint.

Step 4: Apply Second (or third) Coat

Carefully apply additional coats to achieve full, opaque coverage and your desired color results. Gently remove any paint drips with a razor.

Step 5: Remove Tape and Reattach Hardware

Once the final coat has dried, remove painters tape from edges and reinstall any hardware, towel bars, etc that were removed prior to painting.

Step 6: Seal and Protect the Painted Tile

For added durability and stain resistance, apply 1-2 coats of a polyurethane sealer formulated for kitchens. Avoid wax sealers.

By following these simple backsplash tile painting steps, you can easily renew a dull or damaged tile backsplash with much less time, mess and money than a full tile replacement.

Tips for Painting Tile Backsplash Like a Pro

Follow these helpful tips and tricks to get professional looking results when painting over kitchen backsplash tile:

  • When taping off edges, press the painters tape down firmly to prevent bleeding. Remove tape as soon as possible before paint fully dries.
  • Work in small sections and maintain a wet edge as you paint to prevent lap marks and uneven coverage.
  • Use angled trim brushes to carefully paint into corners and along grout lines. Q-tips help tidy small mistakes.
  • Apply thin and even coats of paint. Thick paint will drip and take longer to dry.
  • Allow each coat to fully dry overnight before adding more paint. This prevents drips and tacky paint issues.
  • Stir paint frequently to maintain an even color and thickness as you work.
  • Apply a quality sealant once paint has cured for a few days to add durability and washability.
  • Have adequate ventilation as some paint products can produce strong fumes. Keep pets away until paint is fully cured.

With some careful prep work, patience and the right supplies, you can paint a tile backsplash and give your kitchen an affordable new look.

FAQs About Painting Tile Backsplashes

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about painting over kitchen tile backsplashes:

How long does it take for painted tile to dry?

Most painted tiles require 24 hours drying time between coats. Allow the final coat to cure for 2-3 days before cleaning or using the kitchen again. Specialty epoxy paints may require up to 7 days curing time.

Does painted tile scratch easily?

Quality paints like epoxy and specialty tile paints cure to a durable, scratch-resistant finish. Using a polyurethane sealer adds extra protection. Acrylic paint is less durable than epoxy.

Can you use spray paint on a tile backsplash?

Spray paint adhesion tends to be less reliable on slick tile than brush painting. It also provides less control for neatly painting grout lines. Brush painting is recommended over using spray paint.

What kind of primer should be used on tile?

An epoxy-based primer made for tile provides excellent adhesion for painting. Some tile paint kits contain a built-in primer. Avoid regular drywall primers which won’t bond well to slick tile.

Can any tiles be painted?

Porcelain, ceramic, glass and natural stone tiles can all be painted but may require different preparation like sanding or priming first. Avoid painting asbestos tiles – it is best to have these removed by a professional.

How long will painted tile last?

When proper products are used and correctly prepped, painted tile can last 3-5 years or longer before needing touch ups, depending on usage and wear. Use a durable epoxy paint for longest lasting results.

Transform Your Kitchen Backsplash Beautifully

Tired of your outdated, damaged or dull kitchen backsplash tile? With some effort and the right painting techniques, you can give it new life with a custom colored makeover for a fraction of the cost of a full tile replacement. Be sure to use specialty paints designed for slick and heat-resistant surfaces like tile, and properly prep the surface for success. Follow the techniques outlined here for how to paint a backsplash tile in the kitchen and you can easily refresh your space with beautiful, long-lasting results.