How to Paint Tile Backsplash in Kitchen

Painting a tile backsplash can refresh the look of your kitchen by updating the color. With some preparation and patience, you can paint over existing tile for a fraction of the cost of installing new tile. This comprehensive guide will walk you through all the steps for successfully painting tile backsplash in your kitchen.

Clean and Prepare the Tile Surface

Proper preparation is key to achieving great results when painting tile. Follow these steps to get your tile backsplash ready for a fresh coat of paint:

  • Remove everything from the backsplash area including dishes, appliances, rugs, and décor. Clear the counters and cover remaining surfaces with drop cloths.
  • Wash the tile thoroughly with a grease-cutting dish soap using a stiff bristle scrub brush. Rinse well and let dry completely. This removes built-up grime and grease that could prevent the paint from adhering properly.
  • Sand the glossy tile surface lightly using 200 grit sandpaper. This scuffs up the surface so the paint can grip better. Take care not to sand too aggressively so you avoid scratching the tile.
  • Wipe away all sanding dust using a tack cloth. Make sure the tile is completely clean and dust-free.
  • Apply painter’s tape around the edges of the backsplash area to protect the surrounding surfaces from drips. Also tape over cabinets, outlet covers, and any other areas you don’t want to get paint on.
  • Cover countertops, flooring, appliances, and other surfaces with drop cloths for further protection.

Thorough cleaning and sanding ensures your paint job gets off to the best start. Now the tile is prepped and ready for painting.

Choose the Right Paint and Supplies

Painting tile requires specific types of paint and tools to get optimal results. Gather these supplies before starting your project:


  • Enamel tile paint – Choose high quality enamel paint specifically formulated for ceramic, porcelain, and glass tile. Avoid vinyl or standard latex paints which do not adhere well or withstand humidity and heat.
  • Primer – Tile primer helps the paint better grip the nonporous surface. Opt for a bonding primer made for glossy surfaces.
  • Multiple coats – Plan on applying a base coat of primer followed by 2-3 coats of enamel tile paint for best coverage and durability.


  • Angled paintbrush – A 11⁄2-2 inch angled sash brush works well for cutting in around edges and grout lines.
  • Small foam roller – Use a 4-inch foam roller to quickly apply paint over larger areas.
  • Paint tray – Pour the paint into a paint tray to load your roller and brush. Disposable aluminum trays with ridged bottoms work well.
  • Sandpaper – Keep fine 220 grit sandpaper handy to smooth any brush marks between coats.
  • Painters tape – Mask off edges with painters tape for crisp paint lines.
  • Drop cloths – Protect surrounding surfaces from drips and spills.

Picking the right painting supplies will make your project much easier. Invest in high quality enamel tile paint to get the most durable finish.

Apply the Primer Coat

The primer helps the paint coat stick to the tile, while also blocking stains and absorbing differences in surface finish. Follow these steps:

  • Stir the primer thoroughly before using. Apply a thin first coat according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Use an angled sash brush to cut-in around the edges where the tile meets countertops, cabinets, and outlets. Avoid getting primer on any of the surrounding surfaces.
  • Next, dip the small foam roller into the paint tray and roll it over the tile to coat the center areas with primer. Apply the primer in a thin coat using long, even rolling motions from top to bottom of the backsplash.
  • Let the primer dry completely for at least 8-12 hours before sanding or applying the next coat. The tile may feel dry to the touch much sooner, but allow ample drying time for the primer to fully cure.
  • Once dry, lightly sand the primed tile using 220 grit sandpaper. Wipe away all dust with a tack cloth. This helps remove any drips or brush marks and allows the paint to adhere well.

Be patient with allowing thorough drying between coats. Rushing the process can lead to chipping or peeling down the road.

Paint Coats and Techniques

Applying two to three coats of high quality enamel tile paint is recommended for best coverage and durability. Follow these tips:

First Paint Coat

  • Stir the paint well before starting and keep it mixed as you work to prevent separation. Pour some into a paint tray.
  • Cut-in along all the edges again using the angled sash brush loaded with paint. Take care to protect surrounding surfaces from drips.
  • Roll on the first coat of paint using the small foam roller. Use long, steady strokes and roll in the same direction across the entire backsplash surface.
  • Inspect for any thin spots and go back to touch up if needed. Avoid applying the paint too thickly, which can lead to cracking or peeling.
  • Let the first coat dry at least 8 hours before sanding lightly with 220 grit sandpaper. Wipe away dust.

Second (and Third) Paint Coats

  • For the smoothest finish, apply a second (and third) coat of enamel tile paint in the same manner described for the first coat.
  • Sand lightly and wipe clean between each coat to ensure proper adherence.
  • Make sure to work methodically and avoid drips. Touch up any thin spots for even coverage.
  • Allow ample drying time between coats – at least 8-12 hours. The patience is worth it for a durable finish.
  • Three total coats (one primer + two paint coats) provide excellent coverage and protection for high-traffic and humidity-prone kitchen backsplashes.

Take your time with multiple thin coats, allowing thorough drying between each one. The end result will have a beautifully smooth finish.

Tips for Achieving a Flawless Painted Tile Finish

Follow these tips to get the highest quality finish when painting over tile:

  • Maintain a wet edge as you paint to prevent lap marks. Work in small sections.
  • Roll or brush in the same direction across the entire backsplash surface for a uniform look.
  • Use a small artist’s brush to paint grout lines for a crisp finish. Take care not to get paint on surrounding surfaces.
  • Apply paint generously inside cornerson the first coat to prevent showing through.
  • Inspect the entire surface after each coat and touch-up any thin spots before moving on.
  • When cutting-in along edges, brace your painting hand against a steady surface to keep the brush strokes smooth.
  • Work methodically and carefully to avoid drips. Use a small brush to immediately catch any drips.
  • Make sure lighting is optimal so you can see the surface clearly as you work to avoid missing any spots.
  • Maintain a wet edge and overlap strokes slightly to prevent thin lines once the paint dries.

Paying close attention to detail will ensure your painted backsplash looks fantastic. Take your time with each step in the process.

Remove Painters Tape and Reinstall Fixtures

Once the final coat has dried completely, follow these last steps:

  • Carefully remove all painters tape from the edges and surrounding surfaces. Pull the tape back on itself slowly to avoid tearing the paint.
  • Reinstall any fixtures like towel bars, utensil hooks, shelves, or accent tiles that you removed prior to painting.
  • Seal any gaps around fixtures or edges with silicone caulk matching the new paint color. Allow the caulk to fully cure per the manufacturer’s directions before exposing it to moisture.
  • Replace sink drain baskets and other removable items that protect during the painting process.
  • Reinstall cabinet doors and drawers that were removed to allow unhindered access to the backsplash area.
  • Thoroughly clean all paintbrushes, rollers, and trays to remove residual paint. Clean any spots on surrounding surfaces.
  • Remove the drop cloths and thoroughly clean the kitchen. You’re done!

Taking the time to carefully finish these final steps ensures your freshly painted backsplash looks flawless. Enjoy your updated kitchen!

Achieve a Like-New Tile Backsplash on a Budget

Painting tile backsplash offers big benefits on a small budget:

  • Cost – At approximately $30-60 for supplies, painting tile costs a fraction of what new tile installation runs.
  • Time – Preparing and painting tile can be accomplished over a weekend without renovating the entire kitchen.
  • Customization – Paint allows you to easily refresh the color scheme and style. Paint different patterns or designs.
  • Preservation – Painting preserves existing tile that is in otherwise good condition rather than replacing. Less waste for the landfill.
  • Skill level – With proper preparation and patience, painting tile can be tackled by novice DIY-ers. No elaborate tools or experience required.

Breathing new life into existing kitchen tile with paint is an easy, affordable weekend project. Follow the steps in this guide for best practices and tips for success. With a little time and effort, you can achieve a like-new backsplash on a budget. The results will have your kitchen looking fresh and updated instantly.

Frequently Asked Questions About Painting Tile Backsplash

Can I paint over existing tile backsplash?

Yes, you can paint over existing ceramic, porcelain, or glass tile backsplashes with proper preparation and paint products. Tile needs to be thoroughly cleaned, lightly sanded, and primed to ensure the paint adheres well. Using high quality enamel paint formulated specifically for tile provides a durable, long-lasting finish.

What kind of paint adheres best to tile?

Specialty enamel paints for tile provide superior adhesion and durability compared to standard wall paints. Look for paint specifically made for use on ceramic, porcelain, or glass tile. Apply a bonding primer first for the best results.

How do I get paint out of tile grout lines?

Use painter’s tape to cover and protect the grout lines when cutting in along edges with the paintbrush. Go back afterwards and use a small artist’s brush to carefully paint the grout lines, avoiding getting paint on surrounding surfaces. Seal with silicone caulk in matching color.

Can I paint over cracked or damaged tile?

It is best to only paint over tile that is in good condition without any cracks or missing grout. Fix any cracked, chipped, or broken tiles before painting. Badly damaged tiles are better replaced than painted over.

How long does it take for tile paint to cure?

Allow painted tile at least 24-48 hours of cure time before use when applying the manufacturer recommended coats. Wait at least 8 hours between coats. The paint may dry to the touch more quickly but full curing takes longer.

Will painted tile hold up in kitchens?

Yes, when properly prepped and primed with coats of high quality enamel tile paint, the painted finish can withstand heat, grease, and moisture. Avoid regular wall paints which do not hold up. Clean gently when needed.

Painting existing backsplash tile allows you to refresh the look of your kitchen without the cost or mess of a full tile replacement. With the right products and techniques, painted tile can withstand heavy use. Follow this guide for best practices to ensure success.


Painting over tile backsplash offers a budget-friendly weekend project that can give your kitchen an instant facelift. With proper preparation, high quality paint, and patience applying multiple coats, you can achieve professional-looking results.

The most important steps are thoroughly cleaning and sanding the tile, applying a bonding primer, using specialty enamel paint, allowing ample drying time between coats, and maintaining attention to detail. The small time and monetary investment pays off in a revitalized look and preserved tile that avoids replacement waste.

Follow the tips and guidelines outlined above for how to best paint tile backsplash in your kitchen. Pay close attention to each step in the process. With some careful effort, you can renew your existing tile to look like new again. Roll up your sleeves and breathe new life into your kitchen backsplash with a fresh coat of paint!