How to Paint a Backsplash to Look Like Tile

Painting a backsplash is an affordable and easy way to update the look of your kitchen without replacing the existing tile or backsplash material. With some preparatory work, creativity, and the right painting techniques, you can make your backsplash look like brand new tile – all with a simple can of paint! Follow this guide to learn how to paint a faux tile backsplash that rivals the real thing.

Supplies Needed

  • Paint brushes (angled brush recommended)
  • Paint roller and tray
  • Primer
    -Latex paint in your desired “tile” color
  • painters or masking tape
  • Drop cloth

Prep the Surface

Proper prep is crucial for a backsplash paint job that will look crisp and last. Here are the key steps:

  • Clean the surface thoroughly with a degreaser to remove any dirt, oil or grime. Rinse and let dry fully.
  • Apply painter’s tape around the edges and where the backsplash meets countertops, cabinets etc. This will create sharp paint lines against the other surfaces.
  • Lightly sand glossy surfaces to rough up the texture so the primer and paint adhere well. Wipe away any dust.
  • Apply 1-2 coats of high quality primer to the entire backsplash surface. Allow to fully dry between coats. The primer helps the paint stick and provides an even base.

Once primed, inspect the surface for any imperfections you may want to fill or smooth out with spackling compound. Allow any repairs to dry fully before painting.

Paint Your “Tile” Pattern

Now comes the fun, creative part – painting on your faux tile look! Here are some approaches:

  • For a brick lay pattern, use painters tape to mark off “grout lines” in a brickwork pattern across the surface. Paint your grout color between the tape lines first, let dry, then paint your main tile color in the areas you masked off.
  • To replicate small mosaic tiles, use a small angled brush to paint on tile-sized squares in neat rows using your “grout” and “tile” colors.
  • For a more random, varied tile look, start painting your main tile color in irregular squares, rectangles or other shapes all over the surface. Let dry fully then go back with the contrasting grout color and paint lines between the shapes.
  • For rectangular or subway tile, use thin strips of painters tape to delineate the “grout lines” and paint within the straight tape edges.

No matter the technique, take care to keep the grout lines straight and edges crisp for the most legit tile effect. Apply 2-3 coats allowing drying between coats for rich color.

Finishing Touches

To complete your faux tile backsplash:

  • Carefully remove all painters tape after the final coat has dried.
  • Clean up any smudges or imperfect edges between paint colors with a damp rag.
  • Apply a clear polyurethane sealer to protect your painted backsplash and enhance the glossy tile-like finish.
  • Consider adding a few highlights like metallics, faux cracks or aged effects with specialty glazes and paints. Get creative!
  • Stand back and admire your handiwork – and the brand new focal point in your kitchen!

With some strategic prep, painting techniques and a little artistry, you can achieve the visual impact of tile on a backsplash for a fraction of the cost and labor. Your painted backsplash is sure to wow guests and add a major style punch to your kitchen.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of paint should I use to paint a backsplash?

Latex paints are best for painting backsplashes. Look for interior latex paints that offer good hide, durability and scrubbability. Semi-gloss or satin finishes will give you a nice subtle sheen.

How do I get clean lines when painting a faux tile backsplash?

Use painter’s tape around all edges and where the backsplash meets countertops, cabinets etc. Take care when applying the tape to get straight lines and smooth adhesion. Painting a grout color first in taped off areas also helps define those tile edges.

Can I paint over an existing tile backsplash?

Yes, with proper preparation. Thoroughly clean and lightly scuff the glazed tile surface with sandpaper so the paint can adhere. Apply a bonding primer designed for slick surfaces before painting.

What about a stained or damaged grout – can I paint over it?

Absolutely. Apply a grout primer or sealer first if the grout is at all porous. Then apply your topcoat paint in your desired grout color. This will create a fresh new grout look.

How do I paint a backsplash to look like subway tile?

Use painters tape to mask off straight horizontal and vertical lines where the “grout” would go. Paint the grout color first, let fully dry, then paint your main tile color in the exposed areas. Use multiple thin coats for an even finish.

What sheen of paint should I use on a backsplash – gloss, satin or semi-gloss?

A satin or semi-gloss finish offers a nice subtle sheen that mimics real tile. Semi-gloss will be a little more shiny. Use a product labeled as “scrubbable” for easy cleaning.


With some basic materials and tools, creativity and prep work, you can transform the look of a tired backsplash by painting it to resemble tile. Approach the project systematically – proper cleaning, priming, taping off edges, and using painting techniques like starting with grout color in taped shapes or lines. The end result is a fresh, slick backsplash with major visual impact at a fraction of the cost of a full tile replacement. Get creative with fun tile shapes, varied patterns, metallics and specialty paints to take your faux tile backsplash to the next level.