How to Paint Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Painting a ceramic tile backsplash can completely transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom. With some preparation and the right materials, you can easily update tired, dated tile and give it new life with a fresh coat of paint. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to successfully paint ceramic tile backsplash.

Choosing Paint for Ceramic Tile

The type of paint you choose is crucial for getting great results painting over ceramic tile. Here are some tips on selecting the right paint:

  • Use 100% acrylic latex paint – This high-quality acrylic formulation adheres best to slick surfaces like ceramic tile. Avoid cheaper latex paints, which may not bond well.
  • Get interior paint with satin, semi-gloss, or gloss sheen – These less flat sheens are more durable and scrubbable for kitchens and bathrooms. Stay away from flat/matte paint that stains easily.
  • Choose primer and paint from the same brand – Primer and paint are formulated to work together for maximum adhesion. Purchase both from the same manufacturer.
  • Opt for mildew-resistant bathroom paint – The high-humidity environment of bathrooms requires mold and mildew resistant paint. Look for bathroom paints that offer this protection.
  • White is ideal for achieving a bright, clean look – White paint colors best disguise any cracks, chips, or imperfections for a seamless finished look.

Prep Work for Painting Tile Backsplash

Thorough preparation is absolutely essential for success painting over glossy ceramic tile. Follow these steps:

Clean the Tile

Grease, dirt, and soap scum prevent proper paint adhesion. Use a degreasing cleaner to thoroughly clean tiles. Rinse and let dry completely.

Lightly Sand Tile (Optional)

For maximum paint grip, very lightly sand tiles. Use fine 220 grit sandpaper to rough up the slick glazed ceramic tile surface. Do not sand entirely through glossy finish.

Repair Grout Lines

Re-grout any cracked or missing grout so it is level with existing grout. Let dry completely before painting.

Fill Holes and Imperfections

Use spackle to fill any holes, chips, or cracks in the tile to create a smooth surface. Let patching dry completely before painting.

Remove Outlets and Switch Plates

Unscrew and remove all outlets, switch plates, and fixtures from the backsplash area prior to painting.

Tape Off Surrounding Areas

Carefully apply painter’s tape around the outer edges of the backsplash. This protects the countertops and walls from drips and splatters.

Apply Primer

Use a high-quality 100% acrylic latex primer designed for tile and masonry. Apply an even coat according to the manufacturer’s directions. Let dry.

How to Apply Paint to Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Follow these steps for flawless painted tile:

Use a Good Paintbrush

Invest in a high-quality nylon or polyester bristle brush for best results. The brush should have tapered edges to cut in around grout lines.

Roll On an Even Base Coat of Paint

Using a smooth medium nap miniature paint roller, roll on an even base coat of latex paint over the entire primed backsplash area. Work in sections and maintain a wet edge.

Cut in Around Grout Lines and Corners

Using the tapered paintbrush, carefully cut in around all grout lines and corners. Avoid getting paint on grout.

Apply Second Coat and Let Dry

Apply a second finish coat of paint in the same manner with roller and brush. Allow to dry fully before use.

Replace Plates and Fixtures

Once paint is completely dry, replace outlet plates, switch plates, and any fixtures.

Seal Grout Lines (Optional)

If desired, apply grout sealer to protected painted grout from stains. Let sealer dry fully before using backsplash.

Tips for Achieving a Flawless Painted Tile Backsplash

Follow these tips and tricks for getting the highest quality results painting over ceramic tile:

  • Take time to properly prepare tile – This is the most important step for good adhesion and smooth finish.
  • Apply painter’s tape precisely – Carefully tape off edges and backsplash perimeter to prevent drips and smudges.
  • Paint in natural daylight – Bright natural light shows any imperfections during application for an even coat.
  • Work in small sections – Painting in 2-3 foot wide sections at a time prevents paint from drying too quickly.
  • Maintain wet edge when rolling – DON’T allow roller edges to dry before coating the whole section. Keep adjacent areas wet and blend together.
  • Load roller evenly and gently – Avoid over-loading the roller or pressing down too hard which can create heavy brush stroke marks.
  • Use light, even strokes when brushing – Gently cut in around grout lines and edges with light brush pressure to avoid pulling up paint that’s already applied.
  • Use high quality applicators – Invest in a good nylon/polyester brush and smooth nap mini paint roller for applying paint smoothly and evenly.
  • Don’t skimp on paint coats – Applying two coats ensures fully opaque coverage and a durable finish.
  • Be patient – Allow proper dry time between coats and before use. Rushing the process can ruin the paint job.

Painting Grout vs. Leaving Grout Exposed

When painting ceramic tile backsplash, you have the option of either painting the grout lines the same color as the tile or leaving the grout unpainted in its original color. There are pros and cons to each approach:

Painting Grout the Same Color as the Tile


  • Provides a smooth, seamless look
  • Makes grout stains and discoloration disappear
  • Ideal for outdated colored grout that clashes with new tile color


  • Grout can show through thin paint, requiring extra coats
  • Painted grout needs frequent touch-ups as paint wears off of grout over time

Leaving Grout Unpainted in Original Color


  • Less painting time and work without need to cut in around grout
  • Grout maintains texture and depth versus appearing flat when painted
  • Unpainted grout doesn’t require touch-ups; original color remains intact


  • Can create a choppy look with grout lines breaking up tile color
  • Dated or stained grout remains visible

Consider your own goals, the condition of the existing grout, and the desired finished look when deciding whether to paint grout or not. Many homeowners choose to paint grout when updating from a bold colored tile to a light neutral shade for the most cohesive updated look.

Removing Paint from Ceramic Tile Backsplash

In the future, if you wish to remove the painted finish from your backsplash tiles, it is possible to do so by following these steps:

Gather Appropriate Supplies

You will need solvents designed for paint removal such as paint thinner, mineral spirits, or commercial chemical stripper. Have grout cleaning supplies available as well.

Perform a Patch Test

Test the paint remover in a small, inconspicuous area first. Ensure it removes the paint effectively from both tile and grout without damaging surfaces.

Apply Remover and Wait

Spread or spray remover liberally on the tile and grout according to product directions. Wait the required amount of time for the remover to soften the paint.

Scrub Off Paint

Use a stiff scrub brush or plastic scraper to scrub the tile in order to scrape off the softened paint. Take care around grout lines.

Rinse Thoroughly

Rinse the backsplash several times with clean water to remove all traces of the paint remover and loosened paint residue.

Clean Grout

Use a grout brush and tile cleaning solutions to thoroughly clean grout once paint is removed. Rinse completely and allow tile to fully dry.

Prime and Repaint (Optional)

If desired, apply new primer to bare tile and repaint with your new color choice after removing old paint.

Hiring a professional to chemically strip or media blast the tile is another option if you are unable to fully remove the painted finish on your own.

Common Questions About Painting Tile Backsplash

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about painting a ceramic tile backsplash:

What kind of paint adheres best to ceramic tile?

100% acrylic latex paint is specially formulated to bond tightly and permanently to slick non-porous surfaces like ceramic tile. Be sure to use a high-quality acrylic latex paint from a reputable brand.

How long does it take for paint on ceramic tile to dry?

Allow at least 24 hours drying time between paint coats. Let the final coat dry for a full 48-72 hours before use and cleaning. Drying takes longer in cooler, humid environments.

How long will painted ceramic tile backsplash last?

With proper preparation and application, painted ceramic tile can last 3-5 years or longer before needing touch-ups, especially in low-traffic kitchen areas. Use satin or semi-gloss paint for the most durable finish.

Can you use interior house paint on tile backsplash?

Any high-quality 100% acrylic latex interior paint designed for use on walls, trim, and cabinets will also adhere well to ceramic tile with proper priming and application.

What kind of primer should be used on ceramic tile?

A 100% acrylic latex primer formulated specifically for painting over tile, masonry, and glass will provide the strongest bond when painting ceramic tile.

Can painted ceramic tile be cleaned regularly?

Yes, allow at least one week for paint to fully cure before cleaning. Then use gentle, non-abrasive cleaners and soft sponges or cloths when cleaning painted tile backsplash.

Will paint stick to shiny glazed ceramic tile?

Scuffing the glossy tile lightly with sandpaper and applying an etching primer allows paint to grip the slick surface. Unglazed tiles can be painted without etching.


Updating a tired ceramic tile backsplash by painting it is an affordable and dramatic way to give your kitchen or bathroom a fresh new look. Follow the recommendations in this guide on selecting the right paint and priming products, proper surface preparation, application techniques, and cleanup to achieve stunning, long-lasting results. Painting ceramic tile backsplash provides a stylish facelift and custom color accent for your space.