Painted Tile Backsplash in My Kitchen–A Year Later

How to paint your ceramic tile backsplash 

If you’re like me, sometimes you wonder how projects hold up over time.  Remember in late 2011, when I decided to paint my ceramic tile kitchen backsplash on a whim?  My reasoning was that it was going to be torn down and replaced anyway, so why not try to paint it first?  I had nothing to lose, after all.  It’s been almost 18 months since then, and I’m happy to report that it still looks great and I still love the look.  The photos above and below were taken today, and the backsplash still looks terrific.

Painted tile backsplash in kitchen at 11 Magnolia Lane

If you haven’t read the saga of my kitchen redo, Part 1 is {here} and Part 2 is {here}.  If you’ve been following for awhile, then you know that the finished product caught the eye of Bonnie Broten, editor at Better Homes & Gardens Kitchen + Bath Makeovers, and the kitchen was photographed for the Spring 2013 issue.  I announced that big news when I showed you my pantry redo {here}.  By the way, the magazine is due out on newsstands literally any day now, so keep an eye open for it!

When I finished part 1 of my kitchen redo, the tile backsplash was its original brown/tan color.  Here’s how it looked:

It was okay, but not great.  Our previous home, in North Carolina {here}, had white subway tile in the kitchen, which I loved.  I planned to take this tile down and put that up, but then I decided to paint it first, just in case I liked it and could save myself some time.  I’m so glad I decided to give it a try!

Here’s the after, part 2!

I talked about the process in Part 2 of my kitchen post, and here’s the section about painting the tile:

“After I painted the walls, I turned to the backsplash.  I read up on painting tile, and decided that I really had nothing to lose, because I was already planning on taking the backsplash down.  Why not try to paint it first and see if I could save time and money?  The brown of the tile really clashed with my countertops–they have some brown in them but they’re really more gray.  The warm and the cool tones right next to each other really bothered me (my husband thought I was nuts about that, although he admits that he likes the result).

First, I scrubbed the tiles really well.  TSP works great, and I also used rubbing alcohol to degrease the tiles.  Next, I had to wait a day or two before priming to let the grout dry (I HATE to wait to start a project!).  I tried to sand the tiles but they were too hard to really get roughed up by the sandpaper, so I was sure to use a primer for glossy surfaces that specifically mentioned ceramic tile (Zinsser Bulls-Eye 123; although sometimes I use their oil based primer in the gold can, too).  I primed with one coat, and then applied two coats of gloss oil-based paint.  I bought a quart of Behr from Home Depot, tinted to match White Dove at half strength.  I used a brush to prime and paint–you really have to work a bit to get the paint into the grout and a roller just wasn’t cutting it.  Plus, I have some decorative tiles that needed extra attention.  While I think I should add a clear coat at some point, I’m really happy with how it’s turned out, and I’ve been able to wipe splatters off without removing any paint.”

Here are a few more “after” shots, taken today.

Painted tile backsplash in kitchen at 11 Magnolia Lane

Painted tile backsplash behind stove at 11 Magnolia Lane

Painted tile backsplash at 11 Magnolia Lane

I have NOT put a clear coat on top of the oil-based paint, and I haven’t needed to.  I chipped a tiny piece of paint away when a silver platter hit it, but I filled that in with some extra paint and it covered it beautifully.  To clean it, I just used a damp sponge, although if I have a lot of splatters I use a spray cleaner (I make my own or use Method ones) and the abrasive side of the sponge.  Splatters and grease wipe away easily and the oil-based paint is incredibly durable.

Painted tile backsplash before and after

painted tile backsplash

{Click HERE to read more about how we DIY’ed this kitchen}

The bottom line is that if you want to paint your tile, then I think it’s an incredibly fast, easy, and inexpensive way to change things up a bit.  Let me know if you have any questions, and thanks for stopping by!

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Comments

  1. That looks great!

  2. It looks wonderful in white! It really makes the flower motif standout.

  3. I love it! The back splash is beautiful and I love the faucet too!

  4. Hi Christy!
    Your backsplash looks so clean and pretty..I love the white. Thank you for telling us how you did it..I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of new-looking backsplashes
    in blogland..I didn’t know you could paint ceramic tiles! What an instant upgrade for a kitchen.
    Thanks again,

    Kelli Girsch – buybabydeals.com

  5. Love, love, love. I was going back and forth about painting our tile backsplash, I’m for sure doing it now.

    On another note, where did you get your curtains for the sliding glass doors?

  6. Please keep us updated about when you decide to take the tile down! I want to know if the painted tiles will make the eventual demo any more difficult.

  7. Did you treat the grout any differently when you painted it? Or did you just paint over the grout the same as the tile? Also, primer, or no primer? Thanks!

    • Hi, Laura–
      Here’s the paragraph from the post that should answer your questions:

      First, I scrubbed the tiles really well. TSP works great, and I also used rubbing alcohol to degrease the tiles. Next, I had to wait a day or two before priming to let the grout dry (I HATE to wait to start a project!). I tried to sand the tiles but they were too hard to really get roughed up by the sandpaper, so I was sure to use a primer for glossy surfaces that specifically mentioned ceramic tile (Zinsser Bulls-Eye 123; although sometimes I use their oil based primer in the gold can, too). I primed with one coat, and then applied two coats of oil-based paint. I bought a quart of Behr from Home Depot, tinted to match White Dove at half strength. I used a brush to prime and paint–you really have to work a bit to get the paint into the grout and a roller just wasn’t cutting it. Plus, I have some decorative tiles that needed extra attention. While I think I should add a clear coat at some point, I’m really happy with how it’s turned out, and I’ve been able to wipe splatters off without removing any paint.”

      The grout was treated exactly the same as the tile.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  8. charlett coulter says:

    I read your article on painting ceramic tiles. I only want to paint a few. What type of clear coat do you suggest?

    • Charlett–I would ask the guys at the paint store, because their recommendations might vary based on whether you use a latex or oil based paint. Minwax and most other brands make a clear coat polyurethane that would probably work best. If you read the article, though, you know that I did NOT use a clear coat over my (oil-based) paint, and it’s held up perfectly. Good luck!

  9. I did a similar project but in my bathroom shower using a paint specifically for tiles in wet areas. I purchased the paint from refinishingonline.com and used the ceramic tile paint to trim out and cover an ugly bull nose tile from gray to white outlining my tiled surround. The paint is waterproof and looks great.

  10. Doris Miner says:

    Thanks so much for this information.. I have been searching for the correct way to paint my old seafoam green tiles. I am not clear on ” one qt from Home Depot tinted 1/2 strength ? Drying time between coats? I am so anxious to try this method. Again thank you so much for posting this information. Doris

    • Doris–The half strength simply refers to the color I used. That’s a trick you can use when you like a color but don’t want it to be quite so bright. Since my cabinets were White Dove, I asked them to use the same color recipe but make it half strength. The computer at the paint store does it all. You could easily buy a can of white oil-based paint off the shelf and go for it (ask them to shake it for you, though).

      I think I waited a day in between coats, but that’s just because I was also getting ready to host Thanksgiving dinner at my house and had lots of other things to do. The paint can will tell you the minimum time you need to wait.

      Good luck with your painting!

  11. I am planning on painting my existing ceramic tiles but would like to keep the grout a different color than the color I paint the tiles…any ideas or advice on this?

    • Whitney,that actually sounds pretty tricky. Normally you’d tape off the grout, but it’s such a thin line that your tape will be too thick. I think you’re going to need to use a small brush and just paint the tiles very slowly and carefully. Good luck!

  12. Love your Kitchen!!! What is the paint color on the walls???

  13. Christy, my kitchen has glossy white ceramic tile back splash and I would like to paint it a different color. I am thinking of painting the walls in the kitchen. Can I use the same paint to paint the tiles or do I need a different kind of paint? You mentioned oil based paint. Are there separate paints to use over ceramics or any oil based paint is okay?

    • Betty–I just used “regular” high–gloss oil based paint for my tiles, but you wouldn’t want to use that on your walls. Walls should be painted with latex paint (I prefer a flat finish, even in kitchens and bathrooms). Oil-based paint is usually only used on trim and doors. I hope that helps!

  14. Really beautiful, Christy. I am going to do this on our kitchen island topped with old and dreary ceramic tiles. Thanks for the inspiration!

  15. Good job, I love it! I just bought a new home and the backsplash REALLY clashes with the granite countertops. I would like to paint the backsplash, but my family keeps trying to talk me out of it. The fear is that it will just look BAD. But, now that I’ve seen your results, I think you’ve given me the motivation to push through and do it! My one question is about the brush you used; what is a special one? Do any brush strokes show on your tiles after drying? Thanks!

    • Good point. I’d also like to know about the best type of brush to use.

    • Cindy (and Simon)–for an oil-based paint, you’ll want to use a high quality China bristle brush. The folks in the paint department can help you choose one. It will have to be cleaned with mineral spirits when you’re done, but if you clean and store it properly it will last you for years. Oil-based paint is a bit harder to work with, but it’s much more durable, which is why I chose it for this project. Also, I feel like the paint “settles” better and leaves fewer brush strokes than latex. If you dislike your backsplash to the point where you want to tear it down (like me), then you have nothing to lose by painting it first! I hope that helps!

      • Christy you are right about the brush strokes. Latex is much worse when it comes to that. Oil based just ‘settles’ but if you are trying to ‘fill voids’ then you want latex first and THEN put oil over it. That works great too. I was even thinking that doing a plaster cast tile (not even fired) would work with this process and would show a relief pattern (like fleur de lis, etc.) without buying expensive tiles that are fully fired. That is, if you were doing them more for decoration instead of function. All you’d need is a mold of the design you want to throw in with other cheap rough type tiles and then ‘paint away’!!!

  16. RaShelle Fergurson says:

    What youve done is amazing!!

  17. This looks SO good. I put tumbled marble tile in a home almost 10 years ago now. We sold the house this spring and moved across the country but I LOVE this look so much I’m thinking of buying some old tiles with relief on them that I like and actually DOING this to them!!!! Oil based paint is nearly indestructible and this look is absolutely gorgeous!!! Thanks for sharing.

  18. I have been wanting to paint the apricot colored tiles in my bathroom. Would this application work or should I use a paint specifically designed for ceramic tile, considering the amount of water hitting them every day?

    • I can’t really say, Kathy, since I kind of just picked up a paintbrush and went for it, and I’ve never painted bathroom tile. If this is a shower you’re talking about, though, you’d probably want something specific to ceramic tile. And if it’s the floor, make sure that whatever you use won’t be super-slippery when it gets wet. Don’t forget that your grout would have to be completely dry before you painted, too, so you’d have to stop using the bathroom for a couple of days before you paint. Good luck!

  19. TheDivineMrsM says:

    Thanks for posting your project. I am considering painting my backsplash and just happened on this post today. I love how you gave an ‘update’ on how you like the progress after living with is so many months. You’ve given good painting suggestions and it’s all making me less hesitant to be creative and try something new.

    • I’m so glad it helped you. When I decided to take the plunge and paint mine, there really wasn’t anything out there that told me how it would look after time passed, so I figured there was a need for this sort of update. Good luck with your project!

  20. Looks great! I have awful “hunter green” tile in our kitchen that I just can’t stand. Ours is caulked at the bottom; was yours? Just wondering if I should remove the caulk first, paint and then recaulk? Thoughts?

  21. Christy,
    You have totally inspired me!!! Our bathroom has horrid tiny, multicolored tiles over halfway up the walls. I was considering ripping it out and wainscoting in its place. I do believe I will try this out first. Thanks for sharing your method and experience!!

  22. I am in the process right now of painting my backsplash and was so glad to stumble across your post. What kind of finish did you use Gloss? Semi Gloss? I am going to try the BM Advanced it is supposed to work and go on like and Oil Base but clean up like a latex. Thanks

    • I used Gloss, Andrea, but I’m sure either would look nice. You can’t go wrong with BM paints; I used their Satin Impervo on my cabinets and it’s holding up beautifully almost two years later. Good luck!

  23. Christy, I want to pain the tile in my shower do you think an oil base paint and primer will work?

    • Margie–I haven’t had any experience with that, so I just don’t know. You’ll want to be especially careful if it’s on the floor; I don’t know how slippery the painted surface would be when wet. Let us know how it turns out if you try it. The way I decide is that if I’m going to replace it anyway, I might as well give it a try first!

  24. Christy,

    You mention TSP…?

    • I’m not exactly sure what the question is…yes, TSP is great for cleaning and de-greasing. I used soap and rubbing alcohol for this project simply because I was out of TSP. It worked just fine. Hope that helps!

  25. Elizabeth says:

    Hi – the painted tiles look so great! Does it matter what color the original tiles are? We have black granite with black tiles and a decorative trim tile. We intend to rip it all out in a couple of years, but don’t think I can live with all that black! Will the black tiles get covered with no issue? Thank you!!

    • Elizabeth, I’ve only painted this one backsplash, so I can’t give you a definite answer. However, just like you can paint over any dark color on a wall, given enough coats, I’m sure you can also paint over dark tile with a lighter color. It just might take you several coats to get full coverage. Primer will be extra important in that case to avoid any peeling. Good luck!

  26. Glen Reed says:

    Thanks bunches!!!! ~ I have been contemplating painting mine as well for quite some time now. I’m going to do it :)

  27. Sarah Thoreson says:

    How long ago did you buy the paint for this? I went to Home Depot and they said they don’t carry oil based paint.

    Thank you!

  28. Do you think there is a way to just do the grout. We have a tan back spash with blue grout. The tan tiles are in good condition, just wish the grout was a light beige or white. If we cleaned the grout and greased the tiles, do you think we could wipe off the paint that gets on the tiles?? Any thoughts.

    • Pamela–they actually make grout stain. It’s a special order at the big-box hardware stores. I have stained white grout to a dark gray before (on my kitchen floor in a previous house) but I’m sure they also have white. It’s water-based and easy to wipe off if you get some on the tiles. I think water-based (latex) paint would work in a pinch, too. Good luck!

  29. You said your backsplash was ceramic, how do you think it would do over glass mosaic tile?

    • I think it would do just fine with a coat of primer and a couple of coats of paint, like I used. If you’re planning on removing what you have anyway, then you’ve got nothing to lose by painting it. If you do it, please come back and let me know how it worked out–your information will probably help someone else in the future. Thanks and good luck!

  30. I am SO going to try this! I HATE my backsplash! It’s the ugliest tile you’ve ever seen! ANYTHING would be better! :)

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