What Paint to Use on Backsplash

Choosing the right paint for a backsplash can make all the difference in creating a stylish, durable, and easy-to-clean focal point in your kitchen. With so many paint options available, it can be tricky to know where to start. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about choosing paint for a backsplash, from the types of paint best suited for backsplashes to specific product recommendations. Read on for professional advice to ensure you select the perfect paint for your backsplash project.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Paint for a Backsplash

Several key factors should guide your paint selection for a backsplash:


Kitchen backsplashes inevitably get splattered by food and come in contact with water. High-traffic areas like behind a stove or sink see even more wear and tear. Choose a very durable paint that can withstand moisture, grease, frequent cleaning, and other rigors of a workhorse kitchen backsplash.

Ease of Cleaning

No matter how careful you are, your backsplash will need frequent cleaning. The best backsplash paints will resist staining and come clean easily without a ghostly film or shadow of dirt and grease. Avoid paints that are prone to staining or need strong cleaners that could degrade the paint over time.

Color Retention

While all paints fade somewhat over time when exposed to natural and artificial light, some hold up better than others. Opt for paints engineered to lock in color and resist fading. Steer clear of options known to fade or chalk quickly.


Most importantly, choose a paint that will give you the look you love while also meeting the performance criteria above. Matte, satin, semi-gloss and high-gloss paints offer different aesthetic options. Consider sheen carefully, as higher-sheen paints are typically easier to clean.

Best Paint Options for Backsplashes

With the factors above in mind, the following types of paint are your best bets for achieving backsplash success:

Epoxy Paint

Epoxy paint is extremely hard, protective, and resilient—all desirable traits in a backsplash paint. It provides a thick, glass-like coating that stands up well to moisture, grease, cleaning chemicals, scrubbing, and more. Epoxy paint comes in many sheens from matte to glossy. It adheres extremely tightly to surfaces, forming a bond that resists chipping or peeling.

Two-part epoxy paint kits allow you to customize colors and effects. Metallic epoxies create a brilliant shimmering finish. Clear epoxies can be used as a topcoat to seal and protect backsplashes. While epoxy application requires some skill and patience, the long-lasting results are worth the effort.

Enamel Paint

Enamel paint also provides superb durability and stain/water resistance. It dries to a hard, scratch-resistant sheen. Like epoxy, quality enamels strongly adhere to surfaces while resisting chipping and yellowing. Enamel paints are commonly used for coating tile backsplashes.

Oil-based enamel will last longer than latex enamel, but latex versions provide lower odor and easier cleanup. Be sure to use enamel formulated specifically for interior use.

Acrylic Latex Paint

For a simple painted backsplash, acrylic latex paint in a satin or semi-gloss sheen makes an affordable, user-friendly option. Combining acrylic resins with water as a carrier, latex paint applies easily with a brush or roller. It dries faster than enamels and epoxies.

Use a latex paint specifically engineered for kitchens and bathrooms. Avoid flat/matte finishes, as they are harder to clean. Satin or semi-gloss sheens offer more stain resistance.

High-Performance Interior Latex Paint

Newer interior latex paint formulas withstand scrubbing, stains, moisture, and wear much better than regular wall paints. Look for these durable paints marketed as “kitchen & bath” or “interior enamel” paints. Though not as tough as true gloss enamels, they offer a harder, more washable surface than standard latex paint.

Pre-Mixed Backsplash Paint Kits

For simplicity, consider a product like Rust-Oleum’s Tile Transformations High Gloss Finish Pre-Mixed Backsplash Paint Kit. It contains pre-tinted paints and glaze coatings engineered specifically for backsplashes. The kits include basecoats, accent glazes, protective topcoats, and all materials needed to easily transform backsplashes.

Preparing Surfaces for Backsplash Paint

Proper prep work ensures paint adheres tightly and evenly to backsplash surfaces. Follow these tips to get surfaces ready for painting:

Clean Thoroughly

Degrease backsplash tiles or drywall using TSP substitute cleaner and rinse well. Remove any soap residue. Let surfaces dry fully.

Sand Glossy Surfaces

For epoxy and enamel paints, scuff sand glossy tile lightly with 220 grit sandpaper to help paint grab on.

Use Primer

Priming creates uniform absorbency and provides extra adherence for paint. Use a quality primer suited to your paint type.

Caulk Cracks and Seams

Caulk gaps between tiles, along countertops, and around fixtures to keep moisture out of these vulnerable spots.

Tape Off Areas

Use painters tape to mask off nearby walls, cabinets, and other areas you don’t want painted. Remove tape immediately after painting before paint dries.

Thorough prep removes any gloss, oils, dirt, or soap residue that could impede good adhesion or cause future peeling.

Paint Application Tips for Backsplashes

Follow these tips for a smooth, flawless painted backsplash finish:

Work in Sections

Apply paint in smaller sections rather than all at once. This prevents paint from drying too quickly before you finish brushing it out evenly.

Use Quality Brushes/Rollers

Invest in good-quality synthetic bristle brushes and microfiber paint rollers designed for smooth finishes on tile or drywall.

Maintain Wet Edge

Maintain a wet edge where freshly applied paint meets drying paint. Work in sections small enough to prevent lap marks at wet edges.

Apply Thin, Even Coats

Thin coats provide the smoothest finish. If using a roller, don’t overload it.

Use Brush to Smooth Out Roller Stroke Lines

Lightly brush over the paint surface with vertical then horizontal strokes to smooth out any roller lines.

Don’t Overwork the Brush

Excessive brushing can create bubbles in the finish.

Allow Proper Dry Time Between Coats

Follow manufacturer’s directions for dry time needed before adding another coat. Fully dried paints adhere best.

With care and patience, you can achieve a paint finish free of brush marks, laps, or other imperfections.

Cleaning and Caring for Painted Backsplashes

The following tips will keep painted backsplashes looking like new:

  • Allow the recommended curing time before cleaning painted backsplashes. This allows paint to harden fully.
  • Always use cleaning products recommended by the paint manufacturer to avoid premature breakdown of paint.
  • For tough stains on epoxy or enamel backsplashes, use a baking soda/water paste with a soft cloth or nylon scrub pad. Avoid abrasive scouring powders or scrub sponges.
  • Wash backsplashes regularly with warm water and a mild detergent. Avoid harsh cleaners containing bleach, ammonia, or acid.
  • Immediately wipe up cooking messes and splatters to prevent staining.
  • Reseal epoxy or urethane-coated backsplashes every 2-3 years with compatible clear topcoats for added protection.

Proper care and maintenance will help your painted backsplash retain its like-new sheen and color for years of beauty and easy cleaning.

Painted vs. Tile Backsplash: Pros and Cons

While traditional ceramic or stone tile has long been popular for backsplashes, painted backsplashes provide an attractive, affordable alternative. Here’s how the two options compare:

Painted Backsplash Pros

  • More budget-friendly than tile
  • Allows a wider range of colors/finishes
  • Easier installation without need for subcontractor
  • Can be painted over existing tile or drywall
  • Repairable if damaged

Painted Backsplash Cons

  • Less heat/stain resistant than tile
  • Needs occasional recoat to look fresh
  • Provides less texture/dimension than tile

Tile Backsplash Pros

  • Very durable and heat/stain resistant
  • Easy to clean and keep looking new
  • Huge variety of colors, textures, patterns
  • Doesn’t need repainting over time

Tile Backsplash Cons

  • More expensive material and labor costs
  • Cooler surface temperatures than paint
  • Slightly more difficult DIY installation
  • Hard to repair tile if damaged/cracked

Ideal Paint Sheens for Backsplashes

Paint sheen (or luster) dramatically affects the look, durability, and cleanability of backsplashes. Consider these guidelines when selecting sheens:

  • Flat/Matte Finishes: Avoid for backsplashes; insufficiently stain-resistant and hard to clean
  • Satin Finish: Provides subtle luster; suitable for low-traffic backsplash areas
  • Semi-Gloss Finish: Exhibits modest sheen; easy to clean; ideal for most backsplashes
  • Gloss Finish: Highly reflective surface; excellent stain resistance; best for heavy-use areas
  • High-Gloss Finish: Very shiny; most stain-proof; ideal for behind stoves/sinks; light colors show imperfections

Typically, the higher the sheen, the more wipeable and washable the paint finish. Semi-gloss or gloss paints are best for most kitchen backsplashes, while bath backsplashes can get away with a satin sheen.

Recommended Paint Brands for Backsplashes

Quality paint ensures an attractive, long-lasting backsplash. The following leading paint manufacturers produce products ideally suited for backsplash applications:

  • Sherwin-Williams: ProClassic Interior Acrylic Latex Enamel and Pre-Catalyzed Waterbased Epoxy offer superb durability
  • Benjamin Moore: Kitchen & Bath Latex High Gloss Enamel sheds stains/grease; 100% Acrylic Gloss finish is super scrubbable
  • PPG Paints: BREAK-THROUGH! Water-Borne Acrylic Interior/Exterior Gloss resists even bleach and chemicals
  • Rust-Oleum: Zinsser B-I-N Primer seals surfaces; Tile Transformations Kit refinishes old tile backsplashes
  • BEHR: Kitchen + Bath Interior/Exterior Hi-Gloss Enamel shields against moisture and stains
  • Valspar: Cabinet & Furniture Enamel flows out smoothly for uniform high-gloss backsplash finish

Stick with top-tier national brands or professional-grade paint lines from paint stores. Avoid cheap paints that lack the resins and additives needed for tough backsplash finishes.

Painting Backsplash Tile vs. Drywall

Paint adheres differently to tile versus drywall backsplashes. Follow these tips when painting each surface:

Tile Backsplashes

  • Scuff sand shiny tile lightly to help paint grab hold
  • Use primer and paint formulated especially for tile
  • Apply thin coats allowing proper drying time between coats
  • Work paint into the grout lines for most seamless look
  • Use angled brush to cut-in around tile edges neatly

Drywall Backsplashes

  • Prime drywall with suitable primer before painting
  • Use painter’s tape to mask off edges for super sharp paint lines
  • Roll on paint in thin coats then lightly brush to smooth
  • Paint heavy-use drywall areas with gloss/semi-gloss enamels
  • Caulk drywall seams and allow caulk to fully cure before painting

Prepping and painting each surface appropriately ensures the paint jobs endure.

Cleaning Painted vs. Unpainted Tile Backsplashes

Painted and unpainted tile backsplashes require quite different cleaning techniques:

Cleaning Unpainted Tile Backsplashes

  • Use gentle cleaners like diluted dish soap that won’t etch or dull natural tile
  • Mix baking soda and water into a mild abrasive paste for stuck-on gunk
  • Rinse backsplashes well after cleaning to remove any soapy residue
  • Buff with a microfiber cloth occasionally to make tile shine
  • Recaulk grout lines as needed to prevent staining and mildew buildup

Cleaning Painted Tile Backsplashes

  • Allow the recommended full curing time before washing painted tile (often 7-14 days)
  • Always use paint-manufacturer recommended cleaners to avoid damaging the paint
  • Limit abrasive scrubbing pads or powders that could scratch the paint surface
  • Immediately wipe up spills and splatters to prevent possible staining
  • Recoat painted tile periodically as needed to keep the finish looking fresh

Unpainted tile stands up to stronger cleaning than painted surfaces. Take care not to damage paint when cleaning.

Paint Finish Options for Backsplashes

Beyond basic flat, satin, semi-gloss, and gloss sheens, consider these special finish options to give your painted backsplash extra allure:

  • Metallic Finishes: Paints containing metallic flakes or powders create a glimmering finish. Available in gloss or satin sheens.
  • Pearlescent Finish: Silica or mica in the paint provide a soft, pearly glow.
  • Hammered Finish: Achieved by tapping nail heads against drying paint. Provides texture.
  • Crackled Finish: Paint intentionally applied too thick so it cracks as it dries. Creates an aged look.
  • Sponged Finish: Sponging layers of contrasting paints lends a mottled, variegated look.
  • Rag-Rolled Finish: Dragging a paint-soaked rag over semi-dry paint produces a rippled texture.
  • Stenciled Finish: Paint applied through custom stencils makes geometric, nature-inspired, or other patterns.

Specialty finishes provide depth, dimension, and visual interest that set painted backsplashes apart from basic flat paint.

Choosing Paint Colors for Backsplashes

Keep these tips in mind when selecting a color palette for your backsplash:

  • Match or coordinate backsplash colors with cabinetry, countertops, appliances, and other kitchen elements
  • Lighter neutrals help keep small kitchens feeling open and airy
  • Vibrant hues inject color and personality into contemporary kitchens
  • Soft earth tones complement traditional kitchen designs beautifully
  • Similar shades of varying intensities create subtle harmonious palettes
  • Metallic paints pair well with stainless steel appliances and fixtures
  • Consider how the color will look under different lighting—daylight, incandescent, LED
  • Be sure the color complements your style and brings you joy each time you enter the kitchen

The backsplash often sets the tone for the entire kitchen’s color scheme, so choose wisely!

Troubleshooting Common Paint Problems on Backsplashes

Follow these troubleshooting tips if you experience any issues when painting backsplashes:

Problem: Paint dripping or running down the wall
Solution: Apply thinner coats and allow proper drying time between coats

Problem: Brush strokes visible in dry paint
Solution: Use a high-quality synthetic bristle brush and avoid over-brushing

Problem: Paint peeling or flaking
Solution: Ensure surface prep removed all gloss, oils, and soap residue

Problem: Lap marks or uneven coverage
Solution: Maintain wet edge and work in smaller sections to prevent lapping

Problem: Paint staining or yellowing
Solution: Use kitchen/bath enamel or epoxy paints engineered for stain resistance

Problem: Paint bubbling up
Solution: Don’t shake the paint can. Stir it gently instead.

Problem: Discoloration or dark lines along grout
Solution: Apply painter’s tape precisely along grout lines for super sharp paint edges

With care and patience, you can achieve a flawless, professional-looking painted backsplash.

Frequently Asked Questions About Painting Backsplashes

Here are answers to some common questions about painting kitchen or bathroom backsplashes:

What type of paint works best for backsplashes?

For durability and washability, gloss and semi-gloss enamels or epoxies specially formulated for kitchen and bath use are best. Avoid flat paints.

What’s the best way to prep tile for painting?

Glossy tile needs a light scuff sanding to help paint adhere. Clean thoroughly with TSP substitute before painting.

Should I use a primer?

Priming ensures paint bonds tightly. Use a primer designed for the specific paint type you’ll be using.

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

Most quality paints take 7-14 days to reach full hardness and durability. Avoid cleaning the backsplash until the paint has fully cured.

How do I repair paint if it gets damaged?

Carefully sand the damaged area, wipe away dust, reprime if needed, and repaint using the original product.

Should I paint grout lines a different color?

Painting the grout lines a slightly darker shade than the tile creates a nice contrast and dimension.

How often will painted backsplashes need repainting?

With quality paints, backsplashes should only need repainting every 2-3 years in heavy use areas and less frequently in low-traffic spots.

Is painting a backsplash something a DIYer can do or best left to a pro?

With patience and care, painting backsplashes is totally DIY-friendly, even