How to Paint Tile Backsplash in Bathroom

Painting a tile backsplash can completely transform the look of your bathroom. Whether you want to update the color, refresh old grout, or cover up flaws, a coat of paint opens up endless possibilities. With the right preparation and painting technique, you can easily paint over ceramic, porcelain, or glass tile. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to paint your tile backsplash with beautiful, lasting results.

Getting Started with Painting Tile Backsplash

Before breaking out the paint brushes, there are a few key steps to take to ensure proper prep and execution. Proper preparation is crucial to achieve an even finish and durable bond when painting tile.

Choose the Right Paint

Not all paints are created equal when it comes to the tile surface. You’ll need a paint specifically formulated for slick, nonporous surfaces like ceramic and porcelain. Here are your best bets:

  • Epoxy paint – A two-part paint that chemically bonds to tile for the most durable finish. Highly recommended for frequently-used surfaces like kitchen backsplashes.
  • Acrylic latex paint – Formulated for painting tile, concrete, metal and other slick surfaces. Bonds better than standard latex paint.
  • Primer/paint formulated for tile – All-in-one products like Rustoleum Tub & Tile and INSL-X Tile Paint contain primer and finish paint engineered specifically for tile and resist future stains/scratches.

Avoid standard latex wall paints – they won’t adhere well.

Clean and Remove Residue

Start with a spotless surface. Clean the tile thoroughly with an ammonia-based cleaner to remove any grease or grime. Rinse well and let dry. Remove any old caulk, sealant or grout haze with a grout saw, putty knife orscraper.

Sand Glossy Surfaces

Glossy tile needs some light sanding for the paint to properly bond. Use 220-grit sandpaper to scuff up the surface. Focus on sanding the glazed tile surface itself and avoid sanding grout. Wipe away dust with a damp cloth.

Apply Primer

Priming ensures better paint adhesion, especially on glossy or slick surfaces. Use a high-bond primer made for tile, concrete and other nonporous surfaces. Apply an even coat with a small foam roller according to manufacturer directions. Allow to fully dry before painting.

Caulk Around Edges

Paint accumulates in grout lines and edges, so apply painter’s tape around the perimeter of the backsplash and caulk the seams. This keeps paint off surfaces you don’t intend to paint. Remove tape and excess caulk before the paint dries.

How to Apply Paint to Tile Backsplash

Now comes the fun part – painting! With the right tools and technique, it’s easy to get great results. Here are tips for flawless application:

Choose Short-Nap Rollers

Use small foam or short nap paint rollers, which work well on the uneven surface of tile and grout. An angled brush is also useful for working around corners and edges.

Opt for Two Coats

Plan on applying two coats of paint to fully cover the tile and get an even finish free of underlying color peeking through. Let the first coat dry completely before adding the second.

Work Methodically

Paint a small section at a time in a logical pattern (e.g. top to bottom). Use a dry brush to blend and feather out the paint as you move from one section to the next.

Mind Edges and Grout

Take care when painting over grout to avoid getting paint on the surrounding tile. Use steady strokes and a delicate touch. Apply very lightly over grout.

Inspect Between Coats

Check for any missing spots after the first coat dries and touch up before the second coat. Check edges and grout lines closely.

Consider a Clear Finish

If you want to preserve the paint color long term, apply a clear acrylic sealer on top. This adds protection and makes cleaning easier.

Painting Tile Backsplash by Type

The specific painting steps can vary slightly depending on if you have ceramic, porcelain or glass tile:

Painting Ceramic Tile

Made from clay and fired, ceramic tile has a more porous surface that readily absorbs paint. Here are tips for painting ceramic tile backsplashes:

  • Lightly sand surface to rough up the glaze if needed
  • Apply bonding primer or tile primer
  • Use short nap roller and angled brush to paint
  • Feather out and blend paint as you go
  • Allow paint to cure fully before cleaning

Ceramic tile absorbs paint nicely but the surface can show brush strokes. Roll or brush gently to minimize obvious paint strokes.

Painting Porcelain Tile

Denser and more impervious than ceramic tile, porcelain needs extra prep steps. Tips for painting porcelain backsplashes:

  • Thoroughly scuff up glazed surface with sandpaper
  • Clean well to remove debris after sanding
  • Apply two coats primer formulated for slick surfaces
  • Use foam roller and thin coats of paint
  • Consider lightly sanding each coat for better adhesion
  • Allow several days curing time before cleaning

Porcelain’s ultra-smooth surface makes paint adhesion tricky. Proper sanding, priming and thin paint coats prevent chipping or peeling.

Painting Glass Tile

Glass tile needs the most intensive prep and paint application method. Follow these tips when painting glass backsplash tile:

  • Lightly scuff surface with 0000 steel wool instead of sandpaper
  • Clean meticulously with ammonia cleaner after scuffing
  • Use spray-on bonding primer or etching primer
  • Apply paint in thin coats with soft roller
  • Allow extra drying time between coats
  • Let paint cure for several days before cleaning

The ultra-smooth glass surface can repel paint, so gentle scuffing, cleanliness and gradual paint build-up prevent adhesion issues.

How to Paint Grout Alongside Tiles

Painting grout as you freshen up your tile backsplash takes a steady hand but hides grubby, discolored grout lines. Use these techniques for best results:

Remove Old Grout and Re-Grout If Needed

If grout is cracked or missing in spots, dig out old grout completely and re-grout first for smoother finish.

Choose Epoxy Paint

Epoxy formulations are extra durable for high-moisture grout areas. Apply specially formulated grout epoxy.

Apply Tape Along Edges

Cover edges of tile with painter’s tape to keep paint only on grout lines. Remove tape before dry.

Use a Fine-Tip Brush

Use a small artist’s brush to carefully paint epoxy onto grout lines. Avoid getting paint on tile edges.

Wipe Excess Grout Paint

Drag a damp cloth perpendicular to grout lines to remove excess paint immediately.

Check for Evenness

Scan for missed spots and smooth out any excess paint pooled on grout lines for uniform appearance.

With some patience, you can successfully paint existing grout without leaving a messy, blotchy finish.

Painting Bathroom Tile Backsplash FAQs

If you’re feeling overwhelmed about how to paint your bathroom backsplash tile, these answers to common questions can help:

Does Tile Need to Be Sealed Before Painting?

Sealing is not mandatory. If you do seal, use a water-based sealer compatible with the chosen paint. Make sure sealant doesn’t puddle in grout lines.

What Kind of Paint Adheres to Tile Best?

Epoxy paint bonds incredibly well and forms a protective barrier that withstands moisture and scrubbing. Pre-mixed tile paint and acrylic latex paints also work well. Avoid standard wall paints.

How Do I Apply an Even Coat on Textured Tile?

A high-density foam roller paired with a small nylon brush allows you to lightly roll and then “tip off” paint around the shape of each tile. Work in small sections.

Can I Get Away With One Coat of Paint?

One thick coat often looks streaky or uneven. Two medium coats fully cover and allow you to spot missed areas after the first coat dries.

How Long Does Painted Tile Need to Cure?

Standard latex paints fully cure in 2-3 days. Epoxy may require 7+ days before exposure to water or heavy use. Follow each product’s recommended cure times.

How Do I Remove Paint from Tile if I Make a Mistake?

Wipe or scrape off latex paint immediately before drying. Once cured, you’ll need a paint remover or sander. Avoid this by taping off edges and taking your time prepping and painting.


Painting a tile backsplash opens up simple, affordable options for refreshing the look of your bathroom in a weekend. To achieve the best, long-lasting results:

  • Prep tile fully – clean, scuff glaze, apply primer
  • Use high-bond tile paint and short-nap rollers
  • Work methodically section-by-section
  • Apply two thin coats allowing drying in between
  • Cure paint thoroughly before exposing to moisture
  • Exercise care when painting grout to avoid messiness

Follow these tips for flawless results. The right paint and application method lets you paint tile backsplashes with professional-looking results. With some planning and elbow grease, you can transform the look of your backsplash.