How to Paint Kitchen Backsplash

Painting your kitchen backsplash can completely transform the look and feel of your kitchen. With a fresh coat of paint, you can update dated tile, protect damaged areas, or just give your kitchen a new, modern look. Painting the backsplash is an affordable DIY project that can make a big visual impact. This comprehensive guide will walk you through all the steps for successfully painting your kitchen backsplash.

Choose the Right Paint for Your Backsplash

Choosing the correct type of paint is the most important decision when preparing to paint your backsplash. The wrong paint could peel, chip or wear away too quickly. Consider these factors when selecting paint:

Paint Sheen

The sheen refers to the paint’s finish or glossiness. For kitchen backsplashes, semi-gloss or high-gloss sheens are best. They are most durable and easiest to clean. Avoid flat or matte paints – they stain too easily.

Enamel Paint

Enamel paints provide a hard, glossy finish that is easy to clean. They are ideal for kitchen surfaces like backsplashes. Be sure to choose enamel paint specifically made for interior use.

Epoxy Paint

Epoxy paint has a thick, glossy consistency. It adheres especially well to slick surfaces like ceramic tile or laminate. Epoxy paint is highly durable and resistant to staining.

Mold and Mildew Resistant Paint

In the moist environment of a kitchen, mold and mildew can be an issue. Choosing a kitchen paint formulated to resist mold and mildew will help your backsplash stay fresher longer.


For backsplashes, lighter creamy whites, grays and beiges are popular. Bolder colors like reds, blues and greens can make a dramatic statement. Consider how the color will look alongside your cabinets and countertops.

Once you select the sheen, finish and color, buy the highest quality paint you can afford. With kitchen backsplashes, spending a little more on premium paints is worth it. They will hold up better to constant use and cleaning.

Prep the Backsplash Surface

Proper preparation is crucial for your backsplash paint to adhere correctly. Follow these steps:

Clean the Surface

Use a degreaser or all-purpose cleaner to thoroughly clean the entire backsplash. This removes any dirt, grease or soap scum so the paint can properly stick. Rinse well and let dry fully.

Sand Glossy Surfaces

If you have a glossy ceramic tile or laminate backsplash, scuff sand it up a bit with fine grit sandpaper. This helps the paint adhere better. Wipe away all sanding dust.

Repair Any Damage

Inspect the backsplash closely and repair any damaged, cracked or missing grout. Caulk around the edges and any seams. Fill any chips or holes with spackle. Let repairs dry fully before painting.

Mask Off Areas

Use painter’s tape to mask off any areas you don’t want painted, like countertops, cabinets or trim. Remove light fixtures, outlet covers and hardware. Lay drop cloths to protect the floor and countertops.

Prepping properly will help the paint stick strongly so it will last longer without chipping or peeling over time.

Apply Primer

Priming the surface is highly recommended before painting the backsplash. The primer gives the topcoat of paint something to “grab” onto for better adhesion. Use these tips for priming:

  • Choose an interior primers specifically made for kitchens that is mold/mildew resistant.
  • For tile or laminate, use a bonding primer made for slick surfaces. This helps paint adhere better than normal primer.
  • Apply a thin, even coat of primer over the entire backsplash using a brush or paint roller.
  • Let the primer dry completely before painting. This usually takes 1-2 hours.
  • Priming first will allow for better coverage when you apply the topcoat of paint.

Paint the Backsplash

Once your backsplash is fully prepped and primed, you’re ready for the fun part – painting! Follow these tips:

Apply in Thin Coats

Use a high-quality angled paint brush, small foam roller or paint pad applicator. Apply the paint in smooth, thin coats rather than glopping it on thickly.

Paint in Sections

Paint just a few tiles or sections at a time, working row by row from top to bottom. This prevents paint from drying too quickly.

Even Out Strokes

Use crisscross strokes as you paint to achieve an even coat. Finish each section with vertical strokes from top to bottom.

Work Quickly

Don’t spend too much time touching up paint that has already been applied. Work swiftly to prevent overlapping touch-ups from showing.

Let Dry Fully

Allow each coat to dry completely before adding another coat. Cooler temperatures or higher humidity will lengthen drying time. Allow at least 4-6 hours of dry time between coats.

Apply Second Coat

For best coverage and durability, apply two coats of paint to your backsplash. Make sure the first coat has dried fully before adding the next.

Use Painter’s Tape for Sharp Lines

To paint a backsplash while keeping the paint off walls, cabinets, or countertops, apply painter’s tape around the edges for super straight lines. Follow these tips when using tape:

  • Apply tape before painting or priming. Stick it down firmly and smooth out any bubbles.
  • When painting near the tape, keep brush strokes parallel to edges rather than perpendicular.
  • Pull off the tape immediately after each coat of paint while it is still wet. If paint dries fully before removing tape, it may peel off some paint below.
  • Avoid leaving tape on for more than 24 hours. Removing it too late can damage the paint underneath.

Using painter’s tape allows you to neatly paint just the backsplash while protecting surrounding areas. Remove carefully as you go to keep lines sharp.

Avoid Heat and Moisture While Drying

It’s important to let the backsplash paint dry fully before using your kitchen again. Follow these tips for proper drying:

  • Turn off any appliance like the range or overhead light that generate heat. High heat can dry paint unevenly.
  • Run fans to keep air circulating. This speeds drying time.
  • Open windows or run a dehumidifier to reduce excess moisture. High humidity inhibits drying.
  • Don’t wash any dishes, run water heavily, or do any other activity that raises moisture levels in the kitchen.
  • Let paint dry fully for several days before using the stove, oven or any other heat-generating appliances nearby.

With proper airflow and reduced humidity, your backsplash paint will dry beautifully.

Apply a Clear Finish for Extra Protection

For added durability and stain resistance, consider applying a clear polyurethane finish over the painted backsplash. The clear top coat adds another protective barrier over the paint. Here are a few tips for applying polyurethane:

  • Let paint dry 2-3 days before adding the clear coat so it fully cures.
  • Use water-based polyurethane made for kitchens. Oil-based versions take too long to dry.
  • Apply at least 2 thin coats of the clear finish, letting each coat dry fully before adding the next.
  • Lightly sand the final coat with extra fine sandpaper for a smooth finish.

The clear finish adds extra protection and makes the painted backsplash even easier to clean and maintain over time.

Clean and Care for the Painted Backsplash

Once fully dry, your painted backsplash is ready to enjoy! Follow these tips to keep it looking fresh:

  • Allow 1-2 weeks before cleaning to allow the paint to cure fully. Use only light cleaning during this period.
  • Clean with a soft sponge or cloth using mild dish soap and warm water. Avoid harsh cleansers or abrasive pads.
  • Immediately wipe up any food splatters or cooking grease to prevent staining.
  • Reseal caulk and re-paint any damaged areas as needed to protect from moisture.
  • Avoid using very hot pans directly from the stove or oven against the backsplash. Allow cookware to cool slightly first before setting on the counter.

With proper care, your painted backsplash can maintain its freshly updated look for years to come!

Frequently Asked Questions About Painting a Backsplash

Painting tired backsplash tile or laminate is an easy and affordable way to give your kitchen a fresh new look. Follow this FAQ for answers to common questions about painting backsplashes:

Can you use regular wall paint on a backsplash?

No, regular wall paints are too soft for the harsh conditions of a kitchen backsplash. They will show wear too quickly. Use high gloss enamel or epoxy paints designed specifically for kitchen surfaces.

What kind of paint adheres best to ceramic tile?

Epoxy paint is formulated to bond especially well to slick non-porous surfaces like ceramic tile and laminate. It holds up better than regular paint. An enamel paint made for interiors is another good option.

How do you paint textured backsplash tile?

Slightly textured tile needs a little surface prep before painting. Lightly sand the entire backsplash with fine 220 grit sandpaper to rough up the surface a bit for better paint adhesion.

Can you paint over dirty or greasy backsplash tile?

No, paint will have poor adhesion if applied over a dirty surface. Always thoroughly clean and degrease the backsplash before painting. Use TSP substitute to remove all grease and oils.

How long does backsplash paint need to dry before use?

Allow new backsplash paint at least 3-5 days of drying time before using your kitchen appliances or placing any hot cookware against it. Let it cure fully before subjecting paint to heat or moisture.

Will paint stick to laminate backsplash?

Yes, with proper prep paint will adhere well to laminate. Scuff sand shiny surfaces for better grip. Wipe laminate with denatured alcohol. Apply bonding primer before painting. Use multiple coats of enamel or epoxy paint.

Can you use painter’s tape when painting a backsplash?

Yes, blue painter’s tape can create nice clean paint lines against countertops, walls and cabinets. Apply tape before priming and painting. Remove tape slowly and carefully as you complete paint sections to prevent pulling up paint.

How do you paint behind a backsplash?

Use a small angled brush to cut in paint behind the backsplash area. Turn lights on bright to illuminate the space behind the backsplash. Take your time painting carefully around outlets or switches.

What paint sheen is best for backsplash?

Semi-gloss and high-gloss sheens are ideal for backsplashes. They are shiny enough to wipe clean easily, but not too slick. They resist staining well. Avoid flat sheens which stain too easily.

Painting the backsplash is an easy kitchen update. With the right paint and prep, you can completely transform the look of your kitchen affordably.


Painting the backsplash is one of the simplest ways to refresh the entire look of your kitchen. With proper preparation, high-quality paint and careful application, even an inexperienced DIY-er can achieve professional looking results. The project can be completed over a weekend. Just allow additional drying time before resuming normal kitchen activity. With a newly painted backsplash, you can inexpensively update the style and color scheme of your kitchen to create a fresh modern look without remodeling. Keep your painted backsplash looking like new by caring for it properly and touching up any damage immediately. Follow this comprehensive guide to successfully take on a backsplash painting project with confidence.