How to Paint Kitchen Tile

Clean the tile, sand and prime it with a bonding primer. Then use a durable epoxy or alkyd enamel to paint an entire tiled area or create specific designs.

Instead of completely replacing tile in a kitchen, use paint to update it with a new color or design. Whether repainting a tile wall or painting a pattern on a backsplash, the tiles must be completely clean for the primer or paint to adhere.

Cleanliness Counts

You may be tempted to skimp on cleaning the tile and grout -- after all, you're going to paint it anyway -- but the cleaning process may be the most important part of the project. Any residue or grease left behind will cause the paint not to stick. Clean the tiles and grout with a degreasing tile cleaner, such as a powdered oxygen bleach product or trisodium phosphate, also known as TSP. An abrasive cleanser that works on tile may also be used if the tiles are glazed or sealed. Wipe the area down with a damp cloth afterwards to remove any residue left by the cleaning product. Wait for the tile and grout to dry; then sand the tiles gently to scuff up the surface. Wipe the dust away with a soft cloth.

Prepare the Area

Protect surrounding areas such as the countertop with a plastic tarp or an inexpensive plastic tablecloth. Use painter's tape to cover areas such as a baseboards or the bottoms of cabinets, depending on the location of the project tiles.

Prime the Tile

If you're painting over the entire tile surface -- rather than just small designs that take up only a portion of each tile -- a bonding primer helps ensure the paint adheres properly. Use a small roller to prime large areas and a brush to cover the corners. Allow the primer to cure as long as recommended on the container; then sand it lightly, wiping away the dust.

Paint the Tile

Not every type of paint adheres well to tile. If covering all or most of the tile surface, skip basic latex paints, as they can peel or wear off the tile easily. An epoxy-based paint or an alkyd enamel provides coverage durable enough for kitchen tile surface. Open the windows and wear a respirator while working with either type of paint, which carry strong odors compared to latex paint. Brush on the paint, allow it to dry for four hours or as recommended on the container; then apply a second coat as needed.


Make the grout stand out from the tiles after the paint dries by going over the grout lines with a grout pen.

Painting Designs on Tile

If you like the background color of the tile enough to keep most of it intact, jazz up the surface with a design such as diagonal stripes, chevrons, or even a favorite food-related phrase.

  • Use painter's tape to create stripes or chevrons or to paint square tiles on the diagonal for a two-tone look. Paint inside the taped areas.
  • Create stenciled designs to upgrade the entire look of a backsplash or tiled countertop.
  • Mexican or Moroccan tile stencils turn plain give plain white tiles an eclectic update. Roll, brush or pounce paint through the stencil openings once the stencils are taped to the tile with painter's tape.
  • Latex enamels or craft paints designed for ceramics and tile can be used instead of epoxy paints. Protect the work with a clear coat of a durable non-yellowing sealer that can be washed once it dries.