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How To Paint A Tile Backsplash In Your Kitchen (With Video)

Can you paint glass tiles?

Why yes…you can! When we first moved into our house we knew that the kitchen needed some updating (you can see what our kitchen really looked like then). Over time, we had painted the oak cabinets white, added a glass backsplash and new counters. However, the glass mosaic backsplash of yesteryear (like 8 years ago) was totally dating our kitchen and never really matched.

To be fair, we tried to update our kitchen without replacing and painting everything first by adding this backsplash. I honestly cannot believe how awesome our glass tile makeover turned out. I wish I would have done it years ago.

Now 8 years later we have jumped on the two-toned kitchen cabinet trend and wanted a completely fresh look with the backsplash. As you can see we were working on painting the lower cabinets and doors (this link is our detailed door painting process) at the same time.

green painted kitchen cabinets with white upper cabinets and glass mosaic tile before painting

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First, is painting tile a good idea?

While we have not painted tile floors or tubs, we think painting your tile backsplash is a great way to modernize your kitchen. Mainly, your backsplash really doesn’t get touched and beat up like other tiles in your home. You also can have a modern look without going through the hassle of completely tearing out tile.

And for us, we knew that if this didn’t work we needed to update the tile. So it was totally a risk we were willing to take. Honestly, we were shocked at how well our tile painting project turned out. 

“What do you have to lose? Just paint it and you might be surprised.” -A DIY Motto from The DIY Nuts

Why did I choose to paint the tile white?

I felt that it would give the tile a more cohesive subway tile feel. I wish our counters had a little more bright white in them. However, I didn’t want to go with a warmer white and have that conflict with the upper cabinets, white moldings, and doors we already have. The good news is that I can easily change the color if I want.

How long did it take to paint the tile backsplash?

This was a very easy and quick project. The only thing that took the most time was the dry time. We have around 20 square feet of tile and this tile painting process was easily accomplished in two days. 

The most time-consuming part is the prep. Each layer of primer or paint was done in 30-40 minutes.

What supplies should you use to paint tile?

We researched a lot of different ways to paint tile. And first, everyone said that the prep is the most important part. Any time you are painting you want a clean surface so don’t skimp on this. We used dawn dish soap, extra-fine sandpaper and Krud Kutter. I felt that our tile backsplash was completely clean and ready.

Some DIY painters recommended using an electric sander and something called TSP. My tiles were not that greasy so I thought my prep process was the simplest and easiest.

As far as the paint, once we found a primer (more on this later) that we thought would work we simply used a 2.5” angled brush and small foam roller to apply our favorite latex enamel paint from Sherwin Williams. 

small foam paint rollers from Home Depot
Here are the small foam rollers we have used on many different paint projects.

What primer should I use to paint glass tile?

So this part actually took me the most time due to places not having the primer I wanted. My first choice is to always just go to Sherwin Williams and have them tell me what I need. Paint stores are always pretty knowledgeable (definitely more than most at the big box stores).

I will say at any place it does always matter who you get, so I am sure that this is only my personal experience. 

Due to the paint shortage through the supply chain or Sherwin Williams, they did not have the bonding primer I wanted to use. They recommended Stix and I went to order it on Amazon. However, even then that shipment was delayed…

And I really wanted to start this tile painting project!

Behr primer used to paint glass tile

Off to Home Depot I went. I found this primer that was meant for glossy surfaces in kitchens and bathrooms. I figured for the price, I would just buy it and try it in a small area. In the video in this post, you can see how I test the area by rubbing the tile to make sure the primer truly was sticking before doing the whole backsplash.

What paint do you use to paint glass tile?

After painting our kitchen island with Sherwin Williams Urethane Trim Enamel, I knew this was the paint I wanted to use. You will not be disappointed in this self-leveling paint. I bought a gallon of white because I figured I will repaint our upper cabinets whenever I get a spare moment.

Emerald Urethane Enamel Paint used to paint glass tile

Other things to consider are the finish you want your tiles to be. Semi-gloss was the perfect choice for us because it gives the tile a little glossy look. We also like semi-gloss for the trim and cabinets as well. I would probably only use semi-gloss or gloss for cleaning reasons. We are hoping that these tiles will be able to be easily cleaned or wiped in the future.

Pin For Later!

paint that tile backsplash with before and after picture

Other things we considered before painting our tile white

We thought about trying one of the epoxy kits meant for tile. However, they are smelly, and who really touches a kitchen backsplash compared to other areas in your home? We figured since this isn’t a bathroom floor or something we could try a simpler method.

Also, I didn’t want to add one more different white to our kitchen. By buying a gallon of the Highly Reflective White (not tinted) from Sherwin Williams I knew I could use that paint to make everything match if I want to in the future.

Do you paint over grout lines?

I used a brush first to cover all the grout lines and then a small roller to create a smooth look. I love the clean look of just an all white painted tile backsplash.

Our tile backsplash painting process

Supplies

Deglosser

220 Sandpaper

Dawn Dish soap and green sponge

Small foam roller and handle

2.5 angled brush (Wooster or Purdy are our favorites)

Small paint trays *We have use these all the time for our painting projects

Primer or Stix Bonding Primer

Sherwin Williams Urethane Latex Enamel in the color or your choice 

Painter’s Tape-Only use this type, especially when needing to protect your countertop.

Cardboard, butcher’s paper, or something to protect your counters

Paintable caulk (*optional: we haven’t done this yet)

*Note our paint was not tinted and it comes as a color called Highly Reflective White. If you are trying to decide between colors you may want to check out Samplize where you can get larger peel and stick samples of your favorite colors. 

You can read how we used Samplize to help pick our bottom cabinet color here.

Steps for painting tile backsplash

See the video in this post as well.

1. Clean tile with dawn dish soap and sponge. You want to make sure that you are cutting the grease and grim. Really make sure you have cleaned while around your stove as that is where it tends to be a little dirty and greasier (hello bacon at our house).

sponge preping tile to be painted

2. Wipe dry.

3. Use extra-fine sandpaper to scuff up the tile. I did not do a ton of this, just enough.

220 sandpaper used on mosaic glass tiles

4. Wipe areas you don’t want to be painted like the counters and window frames. Add painter’s tape to the areas. Press your fingernail in the seam in between the counters and the tile. You may need to caulk this area after you paint.

DIY PAINT TIP!!! Use Press N’ Seal Wrap to help protect things you don’t want painted. We did this for our oak railing when using two different colors.

faucet wrapped in Cling Wrap to help with paint prep of tile

It was great for the faucet in this case. If you wrap it loose enough, you will still be able to use the faucet as well!

5. Wipe down tiles with a deglosser.

krud kutter and frog tape on counter in front of to-be painted backsplash

6. Use a brush with primer to cover all the grout. Work in small areas. If your tile is larger you may use a roller after the brush in the grout lines. Since our glass tile is so small, I only used a brush for the primer. 

tile backsplash being painted white

7. Make sure that you are lightly brushing away drips. This is probably the trickiest part of the painting. If you do end up with a few bumps, you can always sand them before the next coat.

glass tile getting painted white in kitchen remodel

8. Read the instructions on the primer you chose. This primer was dry to the touch within 30 minutes to 1 hour. It really was, so this helped with the overall length of time this project took.

Once the primer is dry, you can repeat the brush painting with your paint. We used Sherwin Williams Urethane Enamel in this color.

white latex enamel painted on top of primer on backsplash tile

Don’t let the splotchy priming job worry you. The most important part about priming anything is that you have completely covered the surface you are painting. You can see how the white color is much more solid once you start using paint.

9. After the first coat of paint with the brush, the next two were done mainly use the small foam roller. This allowed for more even coverage. Just make sure that your grout is completely painted to your liking as working.

small foam roller painting kitchen backsplash

10. Allow proper dry time between each coat of paint. You may need 2-3 coats of paint depending on how dark your tiles were to begin with. We used 3 coats of paint.

11. Remove painter’s tape and caulk any areas for a clean look.

white painted tile

Do you need more DIY painting project inspiration?

Check how we use accent walls to transform our small spaces or even how our bathroom vanity looks completely brand new with just a little paint.

Follow us on Pinterest or Facebook for more DIY inspiration!

One more “before” picture of our glass tile backsplash in case you don’t remember what it looked like…

Yes, I know the angle is a little different and this is what our cabinets looked liked before I also started painting the lower cabinets. But you can totally get the idea of the amazing transformation using ONLY paint!

white cabinets and glass backsplash before cheap kitchen makeover

And then paint magic!

white upper cabinets with green lower and white painted backsplash

We absolutely can’t get over how much our painted tile backsplash has modernized our kitchen.

Color cabinet drawers being painted
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