How to Paint Your Tile Backsplash in 5 Simple Steps

November 4, 2019

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Last Updated on August 9, 2022

Painting a tile backsplash is a simple, affordable and durable way to update your kitchen! This tutorial shows you exactly how to paint your tile backsplash in 5 easy steps.

Raise your hand if your outdated tile backsplash makes you cringe… So have you ever found yourself wondering, “can you paint a tile backsplash”? The answer is YES!!!

The tile backsplash in our old kitchen was so bad. We painted our old backsplash because we figured it couldn't possibly be worse. We didn't know how durable it would be at the time, but it held up perfectly! You can take a peek at the before and after below (we also painted the kitchen cabinets without priming or sanding).

So when it came time to work on Thea's budget-friendly kitchen makeover, I knew painting her tile backsplash was going to happen because she HATED her shiny, red tile backsplash. I used the exact same process that I used back in 2014 when I did it for the first time but added a stencil to make it more interesting!

Now, let's dive into the tutorial!

How to Paint Your Tile Backsplash

If you've ever wondered whether painting a tile backsplash is a good idea, I'll give you a sneak peek to prove that the answer is a big, fat YES! Just take a look at Thea's backsplash before and after painting it…

kitchen after painting tile backsplash

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Supplies Needed for Painting a Tile Backsplash

Steps for Painting a Tile Backsplash

You can watch the video tutorial below. But don't worry–you can also find the full tutorial written out below the video :) 

Step 1

Clean your tile backsplash well with T.S.P. (trisodium phosphate). We painted a ceramic tile backsplash in Thea's kitchen, but I've used this same method on terra cotta tiles and travertine tiles. It works on every tile surface I can think of!

Step 2

Use a drop cloth to protect your countertops if needed (we knew we would be refinishing the butcher block countertops, so we weren't worried about it). Prime your backsplash with a coat of primer. We primed everything, including the grout lines. We used Sherwin-William's general-purpose primer. It will look terrible at this stage–don't panic.

kitchen tile backsplash with 1 coat of primer

Step 3

The paint you choose for painting your tile is important! You should not use regular latex paint. You need to use high-quality acrylic paint. You could also use an enamel-based paint, but since they have oil in them I avoid them because they are such a pain to work with and clean from brushes, etc. I recommend General Finishes Milk Paint in the color of your choosing (we mixed the Snow White color with a little bit of Antique White). This paint goes a long way–1 quart will be PLENTY for most backsplashes. Note that this is the only paint I recommend for painting a backsplash–it's a high-quality acrylic paint that has extraordinary adhesion. We painted our own backsplash with it years ago (as well as our kitchen cabinets) and it held up perfectly.

Use a roller or brush to apply a coat of paint to your entire backsplash, including the grout lines.

You want to paint until you have full coverage. We applied 3 thin coats of our custom white mix. The dry time with this paint is fast (another bonus)! Each coat took about 5 minutes to dry! This is what it looked like after only 1 coat.

painting tile backsplash

Step 4

If you want to add a pattern to your backsplash, you are now you are ready to stencil. We ordered this stencil in a custom 7″ size so that it fit perfectly over 4 of Thea's tiles (which are 3.5″ square). You can see many more details about how to stencil in our video tutorial.

how to paint and stencil a tile backsplash

Step 5

After all your paint has thoroughly dried (I would allow it to dry overnight), you are ready to seal it with a topcoat. The only top coat I can officially recommend is General Finishes High-Performance Water Based Topcoat. It works so well and is very, very easy to apply. You can choose the finish you want. We used the satin finish to add a bit of sheen, since tile typically has a bit of shine. But if you want to mimic the look of high gloss tile, you could use the gloss or semi-gloss finish options.

You simply brush a light coat on with a bristle brush (a foam brush might leave bubbles behind, which you don't want). It moves even faster than painting! Allow each coat to dry according to the instructions on the can. We applied 2 coats everywhere, except in front of the sink where we applied 3 coats for additional protection. 

It’s super easy to clean – just use a Clorox wipe (or whatever else you usually use to wipe down your kitchen) if it gets dirty.

That's it! This is a very simple project, y'all! If you choose to stencil, that portion of the project will be time-consuming, but it's not hard! Check out the gorgeous results!

painted and stenciled tile backsplash
painted and stenciled tile backsplash
the results of painting a tile backsplash

What do you think?! So much better, right?!

Stay tuned for more tutorials from Thea's budget-friendly kitchen makeover soon. And if you haven't already, you can check out the full reveal of her kitchen here.

And if you aren't sure you want to stencil your backsplash, rest assured that you can paint it a solid color and it will still look beautiful! Bottom line…no matter what color or pattern you choose, painting a tile backsplash can give your kitchen a dramatic update for very little effort or money!

Other posts you may enjoy:

Wondering how I approach transforming rooms and spaces in our home? Check out Designer in a Binder®.

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  1. Carla from Kansas says:

    That is really awesome. Totally updated her tile, which honestly wasn’t very pretty.

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