How To Paint A Tile Backsplash In Your Kitchen

If you’re looking to update the look of your kitchen backsplash, painting it can be an easy and rewarding DIY project. While there are a variety of methods and materials you could use to paint a tile backsplash, some are more durable than others — allowing them to stand the test of time when faced with water, heat, and occasional bumps.

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Our kitchen was remodeled in 2017, a few years before we purchased the house. While it wasn’t my dream white kitchen at the time, I liked the moody dark cabinets. The granite seemed to go well with the dark wood and the backsplash reminded me of an Italian vineyard. After a couple years of living with it, however, I felt like it needed a bit of brightening.

Kitchen backsplash before photo

I wasn’t interested in painting the cabinets (that was simply too large of a project to take on at the time) and I didn’t want to invest thousands in new granite, so I decided to start with the backsplash and see if that helped.

The original backsplash color was a tan, sand color that matched the granite nicely but I knew that a clean, glossy white finish would really brighten up the space. The existing tile was in good condition and I liked the size and style of it so I decided to learn everything I could about how to paint a tile backsplash.

Before we go on…

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Here are some answers to the most common questions:

What Kind Of Paint Should I Use To Paint A Tile Backsplash?

There are a few opinions on which kind of paint is best to paint a tile backsplash but, after weighing the pros and cons of each, I chose Behr Urethane Alkyd Enamel. This enamel paint has all of the hardness and durability of an oil-based paint but with much easier clean-up and without the harmful fumes. I applied it on top of a coat of primer for extra adhesion.

Behr Tile Backsplash Paint Enamel

How To I Choose The Best Shade Of Paint?

Let’s say you want to paint your backsplash white. That’s great! But did you know there are more than 900 shades of white paint? The tone and depth of your paint is so important and can make a huge difference in how the room looks.

To begin the selection process for any shade, look at the surrounding elements and see if there are any tones or shades you can pull out of them. For example, my granite has a combination of different brown and cream tones in it and they all lean warm. Therefore, I narrowed my choices down to a few warm white colors for the backsplash: Palais White, Alabaster, and Gossamer Veil (which is really more of a greige).

Painting Tile Samples

I highly recommend getting a few pieces of scrap tile and some paint samples from the store and painting each one with a different shade so you can see what it looks like in real life — in your room, with your lighting, and your fixtures. You’d be amazed at how different they can look in different settings. I had initially thought I was going to go with Palais White but completely changed my mind and chose Alabaster when I saw how they looked on the tile.

Three Tile Paint Samples for the kitchen backsplash

How Do I Prep My Tile Backsplash For Paint?

First, scrub off any grease or food with an oil-free cleanser or Dawn dish detergent. Then, give your tile a really good sanding. This will increase the primer and paint adhesion and help get maximum longevity out of your paint job. You don’t necessarily have to whip out your electric sander for this one — just a vigorous hand sanding with a medium weight sandpaper will do. Then, wipe off all dust with a damp towel.

What Kind Of Primer Should I Use?

I used an the all-purpose, KILZ multi-surface sealer & stainblocker for this project. It’s one of my favorites and works well to provide excellent adhesion on a variety of different surfaces.

Prime Your Backsplash Prior To Painting

Do I Need To Apply A Sealant After Painting?

If you use the enamel paint mentioned above, then no. Enamel dries to an extremely durable finish and doesn’t require the use of a sealer. However, if you use a regular wall paint on your backsplash, I would definitely require sealing it with something that can withstand water, heat, and the occasional bump.

So, when you’re ready to get started…

Here’s What You’ll Need To Paint A Tile Backsplash:

  • Medium grit sandpaper (100ish grit)
  • Oil-free cleanser
  • Painters tape
  • A medium paintbrush (I use a paintbrush as opposed to a roller for two reasons: it’s very difficult to get in every nook, cranny, and grout line with a roller and, when using a roller, you run the risk of having tiny bubbles in the paint.)
  • A quart of Kilz all-purpose primer
  • One quart of Behr Urethane Alkyd Enamel paint in semi-gloss (if you have a huge backsplash or plan on doing this on an entire tile wall, you may want to get a gallon)

How To Paint A Tile Backsplash

  1. Give your backsplash a good scrub-down with a heavy-duty brush (like the one shown below) to remove any food or grease.
Cleaning backsplash before painting
  1. Sand the surface of your tile to remove the glossy sheen and roughen the surface for optimal adhesion.
  1. Clean the tile to remove any dust or debris.
  1. Apply painters tape around the edges to protect your cabinets, walls, and countertops. Don’t rush through this step as it will save you from having to clean up much paint seepage underneath when you’re done.
  1. Paint a coat of primer over the entire backsplash. Be sure to get the primer in every nook, cranny, and grout line. Wait to dry.
Primer before painting
  1. Apply your first coat of enamel paint to the backsplash. As you did with the primer, make sure to get the paint in all of the grout lines and crevices. Allow to dry.
Applying enamel paint to tile
  1. Apply a second coat of paint when the first coat of paint is dry. If you feel like you need a third coat, wait for the second to dry before applying.
  1. Remove the tape. I usually experience less peeling when I remove the tape while the paint is still wet so I recommend doing so shortly after applying your last coat. This also gives you the opportunity to clean up any paint that may have seeped under the tape.
  1. Touch-up spots along the edges that you may have missed with a thin brush.

And that’s it! Keep in mind that the paint will continue to cure for about 30 days. While it will feel dry after the few day, it’s important to be gentle on it for the first month after application.

Have you painted your tile backsplash? Tell me how it went in the comments below!

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy: How To Paint And Stencil Old Tile Floors

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