How to Paint a Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Painting a ceramic tile backsplash can completely transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom. With a fresh coat of paint, you can update tired, dated tile for a fraction of the cost of replacing it. Painting tile is an easy DIY project that adds a pop of color and new life to your space. This complete guide will walk you through all the steps for successfully painting ceramic tile.

Assessing Your Tile and Choosing Paint

Before starting your tile painting project, you’ll need to make sure the tile is properly prepared and that you have the right type of paint. Here are some key tips for choosing paint and getting the tile ready for painting:

Evaluate the surface – Make sure the tile is clean and grease-free. Use a degreasing cleaner and scrub brush to clean off any dirt or oils. The tile should be dry before painting. Check for any cracked, chipped or missing grout and repair if needed.

Choose the right paint – For ceramic tile, use a high-quality acrylic latex paint made specifically for tile. Avoid using lower quality craft acrylics, as they may not adhere as well. Some good brand options include Rust-Oleum Tile Transformations, INSL-X Cabinet Coat, and Benjamin Moore Fresh Start.

Consider a primer – Priming first can help the paint adhere better and provide added protection. Use a bonding primer or tile paint primer before applying acrylic paint.

Decide on color – Pick a shade that coordinates with your cabinets, countertops, flooring and overall decor. White and light neutral colors work well for a clean, updated look. Bold colors make a statement.

Get the right supplies – In addition to paint and primer, you’ll need painting supplies like angled brushes, foam rollers, painters tape, and drop cloths.

Prepare for mess – Lay down tarps or plastic sheeting to protect floors and countertops. Remove switch plates and hardware. Tape off adjacent surfaces. Work in a well-ventilated area.

Cleaning and Prepping the Tile Surface

Proper prep is crucial for getting paint to bond successfully to the slippery tile surface. Here are the key steps:

Deep clean the tile – Use a degreaser or ammonia-based cleaner to remove all dirt, grease and soap residue. Scrub entire area with a stiff brush. Rinse well and let dry fully.

Sand for better adhesion – Lightly sand the tile with 220 grit sandpaper to rough up the surface. This helps the paint adhere better.

Wash again – Wipe down with a tack cloth one more time to remove dust.

Fill any cracks or gaps – Use caulk or grout to fill any cracked grout lines or missing grout spots. Allow to fully cure before painting.

Apply primer – After cleaning, apply a quality tile primer and let dry completely per manufacturer’s directions.

Lightly sand primer coat – Once dry, do another light sanding with 220 grit sandpaper. This helps paint bond to the primer.

Remove dust – Wipe the surface with a tack cloth again. The tile is now ready for paint!

Painting Techniques and Application

Follow these tips for flawlessly painting tile:

Use angled brush for grout – Use an angled brush to carefully paint down into the grout lines. Avoid getting paint on adjacent surfaces.

Roll paint onto face of tile – Use a high density foam roller in 3-4” widths to roll paint onto the front tile surface. Roll in different directions for even coverage.

Work in sections – Paint in smaller 3-4 foot sections to avoid paint drying too quickly. Work from top to bottom of walls.

Two coats for best look – Apply two thin, even coats of paint for optimal coverage and durability. Let first coat dry completely before adding second coat.

Smooth out drips – Carefully smooth out any drips or sags in the paint before it dries using a lightly dampened brush or roller.

Let paint fully cure – Allow painted tile to cure for several days before use. Avoid cleaning or wiping walls for at least a week while paint hardens.

Seal with polyurethane (optional) – Applying 1-2 coats of water-based polyurethane sealant will add extra protection and washability.

With the right prep and application, you can end up with a gorgeously painted backsplash that looks professionally done!

Cleaning and Caring for Painted Tile

Once your tile backsplash is painted, you’ll need to care for it a bit differently than regular glazed tile. Follow these tips for keeping painted tile looking fresh:

  • Use gentle cleansers like dish soap and water. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Blot spills quickly to prevent staining. Don’t aggressively scrub.
  • Reseal with polyurethane every 1-2 years for added protection.
  • Limit use of tape or adhesives on the freshly painted surface.
  • If paint is chipped or damaged, touch up spot immediately to prevent moisture getting underneath.
  • Heat from coffeemakers, pans, etc may damage paint over time. Use protection when needed.
  • Consider using a magnetic strip or rack to hold kitchen tools vs drilling into painted tile.

With proper care, your painted tile can look vibrant for many years before needing a refresh!

DIY painted tile ideas

Painting tile opens up endless possibilities for customizing your space. Here are some gorgeous ways to utilize painted tile:

Paint a single wall as an accent

Use paint to highlight a single backsplash wall behind a stove or sink for visual interest. Try bold colors like navy blue, emerald green or brick red paired with white upper cabinets for retro contrast.

Create a tile “rug”

Paint a fun pattern, like a striped or checkered design, on the bottom portion of a backsplash to imitate a tile rug effect. Use painters tape to create sharp edges.

Paint inside glass front cabinets

Paint the backsplash inside glass cabinetry a dark color like charcoal or gunmetal for an eye-catching detail. Try adding coat hooks for hanging utensils.

Incorporate textures and shapes

Add extra dimension by painting patterns, geometric shapes, stripes or faux finishes like wood grain onto the tile using stencils or freehand techniques.

Use specialty painting tools

Try painting tile with a large feather duster, sponges, rags or other tools to create soft mottled patterns, ombre gradients or moroccan-style textures.

Paint border tiles a different color

Paint the outer tile border along countertops or around edges of a backsplash area in a contrasting tone for a framed effect.

The design options are endless! Painting tile gives you a low-commitment way to update a backsplash to match your personal style.

Pros and Cons of Painting Ceramic Tile

Painting tile has many advantages but also some aspects to keep in mind before starting:


  • Extremely affordable way to update existing tile
  • Huge selection of colors and finishes to choose from
  • Freshens up tile and makes spaces feel cleaner
  • Easier and less messy than regrouting or total tile replacement
  • Great way to cover ugly or dated tile


  • Paint may chip, peel or scratch over time with heavy use
  • Risk of tint from strongly colored foods like spices, coffee and tomato sauce
  • Maintaining painted tile requires more care than traditional tile
  • Grout lines still need regular cleaning to keep mold-free
  • Glossy tile may require extensive sanding/prep work
  • Darker paint colors show flaws more than light paint

Overall, painting tile delivers an amazing facelift for very little investment. With proper prepping and care, painted tile can transform the look of a space for years before needing a refresh.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have some questions? Here are answers to some common queries:

What type of paint should I use on ceramic tile?

Use high quality 100% acrylic latex paints formulated specifically for tile like Rust-Oleum Tile Transformations or Benjamin Moore Fresh Start. Avoid craft paints.

Is it OK to paint over grout?

Yes, paint can adhere to sanded grout lines. Make sure grout is clean before painting and use an angled brush.

How long does painted tile last?

With proper prep and application, painted tile can last 3-5 years before needing touch ups. High usage areas may require more frequent maintenance.

Can I use painter’s tape on newly painted tile?

Avoid tape or adhesive items directly on painted tile for 2-3 weeks to allow paint to fully cure. Test tape on a small spot first.

Should tile be primed before painting?

Primer isn’t mandatory but provides excellent adhesion. Use a quality bonding primer made for tile and masonry.

Can I use a paint sprayer on tile?

Yes, an airless paint sprayer with a fine finish tip can be used to paint tile backsplashes quickly and evenly.

How do I paint behind a stove?

Use a paint edger tool or small trim roller to cut in behind stove. Pull stove out to access area fully. Use painters tape to protect stove.


Painting outdated ceramic tile offers a budget-friendly way to give a backsplash or countertops a fresh new look. With proper preparation, technique and quality acrylic latex paint, even beginners can transform the kitchen or bath. Take time to clean and scuff up tile for best adhesion. Apply in thin, even coats using angled brushes and small paint rollers. While painted tile requires some occasional maintenance, you can change up the color any time for an instant update. With a little creativity, painted tile backsplashes provide an easy DIY opportunity to increase style without increasing your remodeling budget.