How to Paint Glazed Ceramic Tiles

a kitchen with blue tile backsplash
  • 24-48 hours
  • Beginner
  • 100-130
What You'll Need
Paint (oil-based or glazed ceramic friendly)
Rubbing alcohol
Paint thinner
Face mask
Safety glasses

There are many reasons to want to paint your glazed ceramic tiles. Whether you are repairing the look of some tiles that have suffered enough wear to be visibly damaged or you are simply adding new colors to a room, painting your tiles is a great way to do it. However, not all painting techniques will work on glazed ceramic tiles, and many types of paint will not work either. In order to paint your ceramic tiles as effectively as possible, in a way that will not require you to repaint them again and again, you will need to use the correct materials and strategies. What follows should tell you everything you need to know before you paint your glazed ceramic tiles.

Step 1 - Plan

paint swatches covering a wall

In order to paint glazed ceramic tile successfully, you will have to choose the right paint. Many companies make paint specifically for glazed ceramic tiles. If you cannot find one of these, or you prefer not to use them, any oil-based paint should work just fine. Water-based paint will wear off too easily.

Be aware that ceramic tiles that are subjected to enough water will be impossible to keep painted in the long term. Paint on ceramic tile can resist plenty of water, but it cannot be wet all of the time without sustaining damage.

Step 2 - Setup

Glaze is, intentionally, quite resistant to everything you can throw at it — including paint. Removing some of the glaze will really help your coat of primer stick to your ceramic tiles. The best way to do this is with sandpaper. Go over any areas you intend to paint with sandpaper lightly before you do anything. This will give your primer a foothold that will prevent it from wearing off too easily. Do not overdo the sanding — you do not want to damage your tiles. Only remove the very top layer.

WARNING: To avoid inhaling glaze or getting it in your eyes (especially if you use a machine sander), put on a face mask and safety glasses before you start sanding.

Once you have done this, clean any areas you intend to paint thoroughly with rubbing alcohol. Dirt, grease, or any particles trapped under your coat of paint will damage your paint and make it wear out more quickly, so clean carefully.

Step 3 - Prime

Use your paintbrush to add a coat of primer to whatever spots you intend to paint. If you intend to decorate your glazed ceramic tiles with detailed patterns, this may not be possible. However, if you intend to simply cover them, it is a very good idea and will really help the topcoat to stick and be visible as its intended color.

Step 4 - Paint

multi-colored ceramic wall tiles

Once your primer is dry, you can begin painting. This step is up to your creativity more than anything else. It is quite possible for someone who is artistically minded to decorate individual tiles with detailed artwork. However, single flat colors are a great way to decorate as well, as they can help match existing colors in the room or simply brighten things up. Adding a pattern by painting individual tiles different solid colors — or even painting some while leaving others unpainted — is a great idea too.