How to Paint Porcelain Tile Backsplash

Painting a porcelain tile backsplash can completely transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom. With the right prep work and painting technique, you can give dated or boring tile a fresh, updated look for a fraction of the cost of replacing it. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to successfully paint porcelain tile backsplash.

Overview of Painting Porcelain Tile Backsplash

Painting porcelain tile backsplash involves thoroughly cleaning and preparing the tile, choosing the right paint and supplies, and applying the paint correctly so it adheres and lasts. The keys to success are:

  • Proper cleaning and surface prep – This removes any grease, soap scum, or residue so the paint can properly bond.
  • Using a high adhesion primer/paint made for tile – Tile requires an extra-gripping formulation or the paint may peel or scratch off.
  • Applying thin, even coats and allowing proper dry time between coats – Rushing the job can lead to uneven coverage or peeling.

With the right prep and products, porcelain tile can be painted to look like new porcelain, natural stone, granite, or any color you desire. The paint also protects the grout and creates a fresh backdrop for your kitchen or bath.

Benefits of Painting vs. Replacing Porcelain Tile Backsplash

There are several advantages to painting instead of replacing porcelain backsplash tile:

It’s much more affordable. Replacing tile requires hiring a contractor, extensive demolition, new tile, and installation. Painting can be DIYed for less than $100.

No messy demolition. Painting avoids the dust and debris of ripping out old tile. It also doesn’t damage the underlying wall surface.

The job is much quicker. Painting tile backsplash can usually be accomplished over a weekend versus a week or more for retiling.

Any color or finish is possible. Paint opens up unlimited color options like bold colors or designs not available with tile. Different sheens also allow you to match the finish of other surfaces.

It updates worn or outdated tile. Painting refreshes dingy tile and allows you to cover outdated colors and patterns.

For a faster, more affordable kitchen or bath update, painting porcelain backsplash tile is an excellent option. The end results can rival the look of brand new custom tile.

How to Prepare Porcelain Tile for Painting

Careful prep work is crucial for the paint to properly adhere to the slick porcelain surface. Follow these steps:

Clean the Tile

The tile must be clear of any grease, dirt, soap scum, or residue. Wash the tile with an ammonia-based cleanser, rinse thoroughly, and allow to fully dry. For especially dirty grout, use a grout brush with cleaner.

Lightly Sand the Tile

Use 220-400 grit sandpaper and lightly sand the entire tile surface. This roughens up the slick glaze so the paint can grip better. Avoid scrubbing too hard, which can damage the tile. Simply scuff up the shine.

Remove any Caulk or Sealant

Use a razor blade to carefully scrape off any old caulk or sealant from tile edges or joints. You’ll apply fresh caulk after painting.

Wipe off Dust

Wipe all dust and residue off the backsplash with a damp microfiber cloth post-sanding. Let the tile fully dry before priming or painting.

Thorough prep removes any barrier between the tile and paint. Always wear safety goggles and a mask when sanding. Now the tile is ready for coating.

Choosing the Right Primer and Paint

Since porcelain tile is a high-gloss, non-porous surface, choosing the right paint products is critical for success:

Opt for Adhesion-Promoting Primer

A specialty primer designed for slick surfaces like tile helps the paint bite into the tile rather than scraping off later. The best options include:

  • Epoxy tile primer – Offers extremely strong adhesion and block resistance
  • Bonding primer – Bonds tightly to glossy surfaces
  • Pigmented shellac – Sticks to tile and provides stain-blocking

Avoid basic primers which won’t grip well to porcelain tile’s ultra-smooth face.

Use Durable Tile Paint

For the topcoat, select an epoxy or acrylic-based paint formulated especially for high-traffic tile surfaces. These provide flexibility and abrasion resistance while forming a durable bond.

  • Epoxy paint – Super adhesive properties ideal for tiles
  • Acrylic latex tile paint – More affordable but still flexible and grippy

Choose paint with built-in primer when possible for added adhesion. Semi-gloss or satin finishes hide imperfections better than flat sheens.

Caulk, Brushes, Rollers + Supplies

You’ll also need painter’s tape, angled paintbrushes for edges, 4-8″ mini rollers, roller frames and trays, silicone or acrylic caulk, rags, and latex gloves. Shop for quality brushes and rollers to avoid leaving brush marks.

How to Properly Paint Porcelain Tile Backsplash

Once you have the right supplies, follow these steps for proper application:

1. Apply Primer

Use an angled brush to apply a thin, even coat of primer to the tile. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for dry time before painting. The primer coat will help the paint adhere tightly.

2. Tape Surrounding Areas

To avoid touching up nearby surfaces, carefully tape off countertops, cabinets, and walls adjacent to the backsplash using painter’s tape. Remove tape immediately after painting before it sticks.

3. Apply Two Coats of Paint

First Coat

Pour paint into a roller tray and use a mini foam roller sleeve to apply a thin, even coat. Avoid thick buildups. Allow paint to dry completely.

Second Coat

Apply another thin layer of paint following the exact same process, spreading evenly across the surface. This coat will provide full coverage. Allow the paint to dry fully before continuing.

4. Detail the Edges

Once the paint is dry, use an angled brush to cut-in along countertops, cabinets, and edges for crisp painted lines. Touch up any imperfections too. Remove all tape.

5. Seal Tile-to-Countertop Joints

Use caulk to seal along the bottom edge of the newly painted backsplash and anywhere it meets countertops. Smooth the caulk with a damp finger for a seamless look.

6. Clean Up Properly

Allow 24 hours for the paint to fully cure before exposing it to moisture. Then wash tools with soap and water. Be gentle at first when cleaning the painted backsplash.

Following this careful process will result in a smooth painted finish that looks fantastic and lasts. Take your time with each stage for best results.

Tips for Achieving an Flawless Paint Job

Adhering to these pointers will help you achieve perfectly painted porcelain backsplash tile:

  • Prep the tile until it has a roughened, dull appearance for maximum paint grip.
  • Let primer and each coat of paint dry fully before adding the next. Rush jobs can bubble or peel.
  • Inspect the tile closely under lighting and touch up any drips, thin spots, or brush marks for an even coat.
  • Remove painter’s tape carefully between coats while the paint is still wet to avoid pulling up paint.
  • Work in small sections if painting patterned tile to keep tile design aligned perfectly.
  • Ventilate the room well and avoid high humidity which can interfere with proper drying.

Take it slowly with adequate dry time between coats. Meticulous prep and care will deliver stunning results!

Common Questions About Painting Tile Backsplash

Many DIYers have questions when starting a tile painting project. Here are answers to some often-asked queries:

Does the tile need to be sanded first?

Lightly sanding with 220-400 grit sandpaper is highly recommended so the paint can grip the slick tile surface better. Avoid skipping this step.

What kind of paint adheres best?

Specialty epoxy or acrylic latex paints formulated for high-traffic tile offer the best adhesion and durability. Basic wall paints can’t flex adequately or bond well.

How many coats of paint do I need?

Applying two thin, even coats of quality tile paint allows for full coverage and provides protection against chips and scratches. Less can result in uneven finish.

Can I paint over existing caulk?

It’s best practice to cut out old caulk before painting. Apply fresh siliconized acrylic caulk after painting for a neat finished edge with no gaps.

How soon can I use the newly painted backsplash?

Avoid exposing painted tile to moisture for a full 24 hours as it fully cures. Take care when cleaning for the first week while paint hardens completely.

Achieve a Brand New Look With a Painted Backsplash

Painting dated or dingy porcelain backsplash tile allows you to inexpensively transform the heart of your kitchen or bathroom into a space you’re excited to spend time in.

With the right products and techniques, tile paint jobs can deliver professional-looking results in any color you desire. The project can typically be completed in less than a weekend.

Just be sure to properly prepare the tile surface and apply paint designed specifically for high-traffic tile areas. Taking the time to coat carefully will assure your new backsplash paint job sticks and lasts for years of beauty.


Painting porcelain tile backsplash offers an affordable weekend upgrade to refresh your space. Follow the steps here for cleaning, proper paint selection, application tips, and drying time to achieve stunning long-lasting results. With a little time and care, you can paint tile backsplash in any color to match your decor perfectly.