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How To Paint A Ceramic Tile Backsplash

How To Paint a Ceramic Tile Back Splash

When we are painting countertops for our clients, we regularly run into tile that needs updating to too, especially if the tile is  the same 50’s, 60’s or 70’s style that complemented the trendy countertop of that era.

Very often, the tile and countertops are in good condition and simply out of date. It is very disruptive, costly and even more costly to start ripping it all out only to discover problems with drywall/plaster behind.  Always a risk.  So, what we have started doing is offering our customers the opportunity to paint the tile at very little cost. It looks just like new tile when finished and is VERY durable. Paints and bonders have excellent adhesion properties now and will hold up to everyday wear and tear.

The first couple of times we painted tile, we ran into a couple of frustrating little  problems but have figured them out now and will share how to paint tile perfectly with outstanding results.

Time to Complete: Depending on the size of your kitchen,( average 30sq ft of tile), gauge about five hours including cleaning time and dry time.

Level of Expertise: Very Easy.

Materials: There are a myriad of bonders available but we like to use Zinssers® “Cover Stain” oil based primer and XIM. We have also used Sherwin Williams own brand of primer called “Adhesion Primer” which is latex so has very low odor. For the second step, use good quality Enamel paint. We recommend Glidden, Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore. We like to use a gloss finish for easy cleaning and it looks beautiful but it is your preference.

You will need an inexpensive disposable 1” brush for cutting in with the bonder and a better quality 1-2”angled brush for cutting in with the enamel. Also 2 small paint trays and 2 x 4” roller covers and roller handle. Stir stick, clean cloth, sand paper and a small container of paint thinners for spills and drips. One roll of 1” blue painter’s tape, 1QT. Bonding primer, 1QT. Enamel, gloss or semi-gloss paint.







Tip 1. Choose a color that will complement the counters. If you are painting the counter tops at the same time, choose one of the colors in the counter as your tile color. We regularly use white as it is clean and bright but it depends on your décor. A stainless look can be achieved by using a metallic paint and looks stunning with black faux granite.

Tip 2. Clean like crazy. You must leave absolutely no grease anywhere. Nothing will stick to kitchen residue. We like to use Clorox Clean Up. Spray it on and leave sit for a few minutes and then take a scrubby pad and clean off well. Rinse with clean water and dry off with paper towel before you begin. For very glossy tile, you can sand a little or use a de-glossing liquid for extra ‘tooth’. (We do not often do this as the bonders have excellent adhesion).

Tip 3. The oil based primers have a strong odor and can be dangerous if you do not have adequate ventilation. PLEASE open windows and put a fan on. We use fans all the time to blow the smell out of the house quickly.

Tip 4. Always use a razor blade to cut between the tape and painted surface before removing tape. This will give you a beautifully crisp paint line.

Tip 5. It is worth investing in a good angled brush with clean edge for painting right up to the edge of the tile and counter. We sell one on our site with a double edge but you can find a single angle brush at any paint store.


Scrupulously clean tile. Leave no trace of grease or grime.

Dry surface with paper towel. Apply masking tape.

Stir the bonder very well. There is thick sediment at the bottom of the can so be sure to mix it well. Cut in around edges of tile using the disposable brush.

  • The bonder is thin in consistency so be careful that you do not splatter or leave drips. Keep going back to check for drips. It dries very fast too so when you feel it starting to cure, leave it alone.

Cut in the grout using the disposable brush.

Roll the bonder on the entire surface and be careful not to leave drips. Check the tile under the cabinets and clean up drips as you go. Use a flash light and look from all angles.

Allow to dry for an hour and repeat previous steps. You can put a fan on the surface when you have finished helping the bonder dry a little faster.

When the bonder is thoroughly dry, about two hours, apply the enamel paint in the same manner as previous coat. You will use a clean paint tray, roller and brush. Depending on the color you are using and the coverage, you may be able to get away with one coat.

The tile will be dry within a couple of hours and you may remove the tape. The cleanest way to do this is to take a straight edge blade and cut along the paint line. The tape will come off perfectly clean without ripping the fresh paint with it. Simple, but a must!

Written by


BBB “A” Accredited.

October 2011



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