How to Paint Your Tile Backsplash

Painting a tile backsplash can completely transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom. With some careful preparation and the right materials, you can easily paint over existing tile to give it a fresh new color. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to paint your tile backsplash.

Gather Your Supplies

Before starting any painting project, it’s important to have all the necessary supplies on hand. Here is what you’ll need to paint your tile backsplash:

  • Paint designed specifically for tile surfaces – Regular wall paint may not adhere properly. Get paint made for tile, porcelain, and other slick surfaces.
  • Paintbrush – Choose a brush with angled bristles to help reach grout lines. Disposable foam brushes also work well.
  • Paint roller and roller tray – For quickly painting larger tile areas. Use a roller with a 1/4″ nap.
  • Painter’s tape – For masking off edges and borders. Blue tape works better than regular masking tape.
  • Drop cloths – To protect floors and countertops from paint drips and spills.
  • Painters plastic – To cover any adjacent walls or surfaces.
  • Sandpaper – Fine grit sandpaper helps scuff up shiny tile.
  • TSP cleaner – To remove grease and soap scum prior to painting.
  • Rags – For wiping down dirty tile before painting.
  • Plastic paint tray – For pouring paint into a roller pan.

Clean and Prepare the Tile Surface

Before painting, take time to clean and prepare the tile to help the paint adhere properly:

  • Wash the entire backsplash with a degreasing cleaner like TSP. This removes any oily residue from cooking.
  • Use a stiff scrub brush or scouring pad to clean out all grout lines. Remove any mildew or mold.
  • Rinse thoroughly and let the tile dry completely before painting. Trapped moisture prevents paint from bonding.
  • Lightly scuff up the surface of shiny or glossy tiles using fine sandpaper. This helps the paint grip.
  • Wipe down the tile one final time to remove dust.
  • Use painter’s tape to mask off any edges or border tiles you don’t want painted.

Apply the Primer Coat

Priming the tile is highly recommended before painting to allow for better paint adhesion.

  • For best results, use a tile primer designed for slick surfaces. Alternatively, you can use a bonding primer.
  • Stir the primer well before using. Apply a coat of primer using a paintbrush, covering all tile surfaces and grout lines.
  • Let the primer dry completely, which usually takes 2-4 hours. The tile should have a slightly rough, tacky feel when dry.
  • Apply a second primer coat and let dry again. Two coats provides better coverage and adhesion.

Paint the Tile Backsplash

Once primed, you can start painting the backsplash the desired color:

  • Before painting, stir the tile paint thoroughly to distribute the color pigment. Pour some paint into a paint tray.
  • Dip the roller into the paint tray and roll it against the ridged area to distribute the paint evenly on the roller.
  • Use long and gentle strokes as you roll on the paint horizontally across the tile. Avoid pressing too hard.
  • Paint a small test patch first to ensure the paint adheres well to the primed tile.
  • Continue rolling on the paint, working in 3 x 3 foot sections. Use a brush for any hard to reach areas.
  • Allow the first coat to dry completely, which usually takes 4-6 hours. Apply a second coat for full coverage.
  • Let the final coat dry fully for 24-48 hours before using the backsplash. The paint needs time to fully cure and become durable.

Helpful Painting Tips

  • Work in small sections to avoid lap marks and brush strokes in the paint.
  • Roll or brush in the same direction across all tiles for consistency.
  • Apply paint liberally and avoid going back over areas that have dried.
  • Use a small artist brush to delicately “cut-in” around edges and corners.
  • Vary the roller direction between coats to ensure even, multidirectional coverage.
  • Maintain wet edges as you paint to prevent lap marks as sections dry.
  • Don’t rush! Allow ample drying time between coats for best durability.

With some careful prep and these painting tips, you can successfully paint over tile to give your backsplash an easy, affordable makeover. Be sure to use specialized tile paints and take time to properly clean and prime the surface first. The extra effort results in a smooth, lasting finish. Give your outdated tiles new life with a fresh coat of color!

Frequently Asked Questions About Painting Tile Backsplashes

Should I use regular wall paint on a tile backsplash?

No, regular wall paint is not formulated to bond properly on slick surfaces like tile and porcelain. Special tile paint is engineered with adhesion promoters to help the paint grip. Always use paint specifically made for painting tile.

Does the tile need to be sanded before painting?

Lightly sanding with fine grit sandpaper is recommended to scuff up the surface a bit. This helps the primer and paint adhere better, especially on glossy tile. Don’t sand too aggressively. Just a quick scuffing up is needed.

How long does it take for tile paint to fully cure?

Most tile paints take 24-48 hours to fully harden and cure. Avoid cleaning or placing anything on the painted backsplash during this time. Let it cure completely to achieve maximum durability.

Can I use painter’s tape when painting tile?

Yes, painter’s tape can be very helpful when painting tile. Use it to mask off edges, borders, and adjacent surfaces. Look for tapes designed for delicate surfaces, and remove the tape promptly after painting before the paint fully dries.

What kind of roller should be used on a tile backsplash?

A high density foam roller with a 1/4″ nap is recommended. The dense foam helps prevent paint from sinking into the grout lines. Keep spare rollers handy since they wear out quickly on rough surfaces.

How do I paint behind the stove and other hard to reach spots?

Use a small trim brush to delicately cut-in around stove edges, corners, and any hard to reach areas. An angled brush can also help. Take your time in tight areas.

Can I paint over cracked or damaged grout?

Yes, tile paint is a great way to mask cracked or discolored grout lines. Use a narrow brush to ensure paint reaches down into the grouted joints. Allow extra drying time over grout.

Should I seal my painted tile backsplash?

Sealing is an optional extra step. It can provide added protection, especially for grout lines. Use a clear acrylic sealer formulated for tile and grout. Avoid glossy sealers, which could yellow over time.


Updating a tile backsplash by repainting it is an easy and affordable project that anyone can tackle in a weekend. With the right prep work and painting technique, even amateur DIYers can transform the look of their kitchen or bathroom. Be sure to use specialized paints and tools to ensure proper adhesion and a long-lasting finish. Take your time taping off edges and applying multiple coats. In a few short steps, you can revive your tile with beautiful new color. Your fresh painted backsplash will look crisp and custom for a fraction of the price of a full tile replacement.