How to Paint Over Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Painting over a ceramic tile backsplash can completely transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom. While tiling is beautiful, it can also start to feel dated after awhile. Painting the tile allows you to update the color and style simply and affordably. With some preparation and the right paint, you can paint right over ceramic tiles for a fresh new backsplash.

Benefits of Painting Over Tile

Painting over existing tile has many benefits compared to re-tiling:

  • More affordable – Tile painting costs a fraction of what it would cost to have new tile installed. The paint and supplies are very reasonably priced.
  • Less messy – While tile removal would create a lot of dust and debris, painting can be done cleanly. The preparatory work is contained.
  • Faster turnaround – Re-tiling takes several days and needs new tile ordered and delivered. Painting tile can usually be completed in a weekend.
  • Easier installation – Painting doesn’t require any specialized skills. With some techniques and tips, anyone can transform their tile.
  • Updated color/style – Paint allows you to choose any color palette you like to give your space a new look.
  • Covers imperfections – Paint can hide any cracked, damaged, or discolored tiles and make them look fresh again.

So if your goal is to update the look of your kitchen or bath backsplash without undergoing a whole remodel, painting the tile is an excellent option to consider. The results can be dramatic.

Cleaning and Prepping the Tile

Proper prep work is crucial for getting the paint to adhere correctly to the tile. The tile needs to be thoroughly cleaned and lightly sanded to remove any grime or sealants.

Supplies Needed

  • TSP or other degreasing cleaner
  • Clean cloths and scrub brushes
  • Painters or masking tape
  • Sandpaper – 220 grit and 400 grit
  • Tack cloth
  • Drop cloths

Steps for Cleaning and Prep

  1. Wash the tile using a degreasing cleaner like TSP mixed with warm water. Scrub well and rinse clean.
  2. Go over the tile with 220 grit sandpaper to scuff up the glazed surface. This helps the paint adhere properly.
  3. Wipe the tile down again with a tack cloth to remove all dust.
  4. Apply painter’s tape around the edges to protect the countertops and walls. Place drop cloths on the floor.
  5. Optional but recommended – go over the tiles again lightly with 400 grit sandpaper for a super smooth surface.

Taking the time to properly clean and scuff up the glossy tile surface will allow the paint to grip well for a long-lasting finish.

Choosing the Right Paint and Supplies

Choosing paint designed for tiles is critical to get an even finish that lasts. The paint needs to be formulated to bond to the non-porous tile surface.

Type of Paint

A 100% acrylic latex paint is best for painting over ceramic or porcelain tile. Avoid exterior porch and floor paints – they are too thick. Look for interior paint specifically made for tiles, bathtubs, and countertops.

Some good options include:

  • Rust-Oleum Tile Transformations Kit
  • INSL-X Cabinet Coat
  • Benjamin Moore Fresh Start Alkyd Enamel Underbody
  • Benjamin Moore Stays Clear Acrylic Polyurethane


  • Paintbrush – Opt for a high quality nylon/polyester brush made for trimwork. Avoid thick bristles.
  • Paint roller – Use a 1/4″ microfiber roller for smooth surfaces. Have a tray to hold the paint.
  • Paint tray liner – Helps protect painted surfaces from drips.
  • Primer/sealer – Improves paint adhesion. Useful if painting over dark tiles.
  • Foam roller – For getting paint into the grout lines.
  • Painters tape – For edges and blended areas.
  • Angled brush – Makes cutting in easier.
  • Paint tray – Provides an easy place to load your roller.

Be sure to have all necessary supplies on hand before starting to paint the tiles to make the process go smoothly.

Painting Techniques and Application

With the right prep work done and paint selected, now the fun part begins – applying the paint! Follow these techniques to end up with an even painted tile backsplash.

1. Apply Primer or Sealer

It’s usually recommended to apply a primer or sealer coat first before the paint. This helps the paint stick to the slick tile surface. Some specialty tile paint kits like Rust-Oleum include a bonding primer.

For other paint brands, choose an appropriate primer like:

  • Stix Primer by INSL-X
  • Kilz Adhesion Primer
  • Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer

Use a small foam roller to apply a thin even coat of primer over the entire tile surface. Allow to dry fully before painting.

2. Use Painter’s Tape

Carefully apply painter’s tape around the edges of the backsplash area to protect the walls and countertops. Press the tape down firmly. This helps create clean paint lines.

Remove the tape immediately after painting before the paint has dried.

3. Apply First Coat of Paint

Use a paintbrush to cut-in around the edges of the backsplash near the tape. Then use a small foam roller or paintbrush to apply the first coat of paint over the entire tile area. Apply the paint vertically to help avoid streaks.

Only do a small section at a time to avoid the paint drying too quickly. Work top to bottom.

4. Allow Paint to Dry

Let the first coat dry completely before adding a second coat. This usually takes 2-4 hours between coats. Test a small area to confirm it’s dry before continuing.

5. Apply Second Coat

Follow the same painting techniques for applying a second coat of paint. Using two coats ensures full, even coverage and a smooth finish.

Be sure edges and corners are painted well on the second coat. Let the paint dry fully before doing the final steps.

6. Remove Tape

Once the paint is completely dry, carefully remove the painter’s tape from the edges. Pull slowly parallel to the surface. This creates a crisp painted line.

7. Seal and Protect the Paint

Most tile paints recommend applying a clear sealer or polyurethane as a final step. This helps protect the finish from moisture, grease splatters, and potential scratches.

Roll or brush on 1-2 thin coats of a water-based polycrylic sealer, allowing drying time in between coats.

And that’s it! With some primer, paint, and sealer, you can easily paint over ceramic or porcelain tiles for a whole new look. Be sure to properly prep and clean the tile first. Follow techniques like using painter’s tape for a clean finish. Adding a clear protective top coat helps the painted tile backsplash last for many years. Enjoy your fresh, updated kitchen or bathroom!

Common Questions and Concerns

Painting over tile brings up some common questions for those taking on this project. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Is painting over tile hard to do?

Painting tile is actually easier than you may think! As long as you properly prep the surface, use the right adhesive paint, and follow correct techniques, anyone can achieve great results. The project can usually be completed over a weekend with some patience.

How long does painted tile last?

With proper prep and application, painted tile can last 5-10 years or more. Using a primer, 2 coats of paint, and a protective sealer ensures the paint adheres well and provides long-lasting results. Spot touch ups may be needed over time.

What about painting in the grout lines?

You have a couple options for dealing with grout lines:

  1. For a solid color look, use a small foam roller to roll paint into the grout lines.
  2. You can also tape off grout lines before priming and painting if you wish to keep the original grout color.

Can any paint work for tile?

It’s important to use paint specially formulated for tile, bathtubs, and countertops. These provide maximum adhesion. Avoid thick exterior paints. Use 100% acrylic interior paint. Tile specific kits like Rust-Oleum also work very well.

How long should I wait before using the newly painted backsplash?

It’s best to allow the paint a full 7 days to completely cure before using the backsplash normally. Avoid scrubbing it for at least 3 days. The full curing time allows the paint to harden fully.

Mistakes to Avoid When Painting Tile

Painting tile yourself can save thousands of dollars over re-tiling. But there are some common mistakes to be aware of. Avoid these issues for the best painted tile results:

  • Not properly cleaning and prepping the tile surface – This can cause poor paint adhesion. Always use a degreaser and lightly sand tiles first.
  • Choosing the wrong type of paint – Be sure to use 100% acrylic latex paint designed specifically for tile and bath surfaces.
  • Applying paint too quickly without adequate drying time – Wait the recommended hours between coats.
  • Forgetting to use painter’s tape on the edges – Taping off creates a clean painted line against countertops and walls.
  • Not using a primer before painting – Primer improves paint adhesion on slick surfaces like tile.
  • Using old paintbrushes and rollers – New rollers and angled sash brushes make painting easier.
  • Skipping the protective sealer at the end – A sealer prevents moisture damage and helps the paint last.

Avoiding these common missteps in your tile painting project will ensure you get long-lasting, professional-looking results!

Painting Tile Backsplash in a Kitchen

Painting over kitchen backsplash tile is an easy DIY update. Follow these tips when repainting a ceramic tile backsplash in your kitchen:

1. Scrub Away Grease and Grime

Kitchen tiles need thorough cleaning to remove years of grease and dirt buildup. Scrub tiles with an abrasive sponge and degreasing cleaner. Rinse well.

2. Lightly Sand for Paint Adhesion

Scuff up the glossy tile finish using 200-400 grit sandpaper so the paint can grip properly. A quick sanding prepares the surface.

3. Tape Off Counters and Edges

Apply painter’s tape along the countertop edge and where the backsplash meets the wall. This protects these surfaces from drips.

4. Apply 2 Coats of Tile Paint

Use a small roller or brush to apply two coats of kitchen & bath paint, allowing 2-4 hours of drying time in between coats.

5. Remove Tape and Reattach Fixtures

Carefully remove all tape once the paint has dried. Reinstall any appliances or fixtures that were removed before painting.

6. Seal Painted Tiles

Finish by applying one or two coats of water-based polycrylic sealer. Allow sealer to fully dry before using the backsplash.

With these tips, you can easily convert your outdated tiled backsplash into a fresh painted focal point!

Painting a Tile Backsplash in a Bathroom

Just like in a kitchen, painting over bathroom tile backsplash is an easy and affordable update. Follow a similar process:

1. Thoroughly Clean and Dry Tiles

Use a scrub brush and degreasing cleaner like TSP to remove soap scum and mildew. Rinse thoroughly. Allow tiles to fully dry before priming.

2. Scuff Surface with Sandpaper

Gently scuff up the tile and grout lines to allow paint to adhere well. Wipe away all dust.

3. Tape Off Around Mirror and Walls

Cover edges along the mirror, walls and vanity with painter’s tape. This keeps these areas free of drips.

4. Apply Primer to Tiles

For best results, apply a primer designed for tile and bathtubs before painting. This helps paint stick to the slick surface.

5. Paint 2 Coats with Small Roller

Use a mini foam roller and angled brush to apply two coats of bathroom specific paint. Allow 2-4 hours of drying time between coats.

6. Seal the Painted Tile

Finish by applying one or two coats of polycrylic sealer. Let cure fully before using the shower again.

With these steps, you can easily take your outdated bathroom tile from dull to beautiful!


Painting over ceramic and porcelain tile backsplash offers an easy and affordable way to update the look of your kitchen or bath. With proper cleaning, preparation, paint selection and application technique, you can achieve professional-looking results.

The project can typically be completed in a weekend. Just be sure to:

  • Thoroughly clean and scuff the tile surface
  • Apply painter’s tape around edges
  • Use quality acrylic latex paint made specifically for tile
  • Allow proper drying time between coats
  • Finish with a protective sealer

In a fraction of the time and cost of re-tiling, you can paint your outdated backsplash tiles for a fresh new look with a custom color scheme. Just take care to properly prepare the tile, use the right paint and tools, and follow techniques to end up with results that look professionally done.

In no time, you can transform your kitchen or bathroom from dull to beautiful with a painted tile backsplash makeover!