How to Paint Ceramic Tiles – a Full Guide

In an ideal world, you’d replace ceramic tiles every time you decorate the room, but that isn’t always practical. Luckily there is an easy solution; In this blog, I’m going to explain how to paint ceramic tiles.

I’ll start by explaining the positives and negatives associated with painting tiles. Then I’ll list everything you need to carry out the task, followed by the steps you’ll need to follow. I’ll finish off by touching on a few other points in more detail. I’ll give you my product recommendations as I go.


Is Painting Ceramic Tiles a Good Idea?


Presumably, you’re reading this because you’re thinking about painting the tiles in your bathroom or kitchen. If you’re still undecided about whether to go ahead, then this section of the blog will help. If not, feel free to skip ahead.


The Negatives

The first thing to consider is that tiles are not designed to be painted. Rather, they’re designed in a way that inhibits the adhesion of other martial. Put simply; tiles are glossy and aren’t porous, so nothing sticks to them. This makes them easy to keep clean, but difficult to paint. Unless you know how to paint ceramic tiles properly, the chances are your paint isn’t going to stick.

The other negative is the finish. Ceramic tiles are normally flat or have slight contours, but you do have grout in-between them. You will still see each individual tile after you’ve finished painting. That’s not to say your painted tiles won’t look good, but they’re not going to look like a flat wall either.


The Positives

More times than not, painting tiles in a kitchen or bathroom will improve the aesthetics of the room. Whether the tiles are looking old and tired, or you just want a colour change, it’s usually well worth doing.

Another advantage is that you can repair any cracks or holes, and the repairs won’t be seen after you’ve finished painting.

The biggest advantage is that it’s a lot easier to paint ceramic tiles than it is to replace them, or remove them, skim the wall, and then paint. This saves time, money, and avoids mess.


Shopping List


I’ll quickly list everything you need to paint ceramic tiles. I’ll link to a merchant to make it easier for you to find each item, but most good trade paint counters stock a lot of this stuff.


Methylated spirit – Click here to See Online Prices

A rag – Just use an old t-shirt or dish cloth.

Sandpaper – Click here to See Online Prices

A suitable primer –Click here to See Online Prices

Durable paint –Click here to See Online Prices

Paint brush – Click here to See Online Prices

Microfiber paint roller – Click here to See Online Prices


How to Paint Ceramic Tiles


You should follow these steps to the letter if you want to paint ceramic tiles. It’s important to get it right, otherwise your paint finish will not last.


Clean the Tiles

You need to do everything you can to aid the adhesion of your paint. Your paint simply won’t stick if there is any sort of dirt on the tiles. The best thing to clean them with is methylated spirits and a cloth. You could use other cleaning agents like Zinsser Degreaser, but methylate spirit will remove basically any sort of dirt, and any spirits left on the tiles will evaporate before you paint.


Abrade the Tiles

You’d usually sand a surface when decorating to get it nice and smooth before applying paint. This leads to a better finish. However, ceramic tiles are smooth anyway, so wat’s the point?

Abrading tiles with some 120-grade sandpaper will leave thousands of tiny scratches on the surface. This is called ‘a key’, and it’s an important step because it gives the paint something to grip to.


Dust Off

You’ve already extensively cleaned the surface, and it’ll still look clean after you’ve abraded, but it isn’t. DO NOT RUN YOUR HAND OVER THE TILES! There is likely to be sharp, tiny ceramic splinters on the surface. You need to remove these before you can paint. Either wipe over with a cloth, or dust with a dry paint brush. Be careful.

Apply an Adhesion Primer

This is a specialist product designed to stick to the surface and allow other paint products to be applied over the top. There are hundreds of adhesion primers on the market, but some perfume better than others.

I have used a lot over the years, and a few have failed on me (some more than once). There is a relatively low-cost option that will never let you down. I’ll explain more in the next section.

As tiles are flat and smooth, brush marks and imperfections show. For this reason, I recommend using a good quality roller when applying paint to ceramic tiles. Again, I’ll go into my recommendations further down the blog.


Fill and Caulk Imperfections

You can fill drilled holes and caulk around the edges of your tiles at this point. As a Professional Decorator, I always do the filling after I’ve primed a surface.

bathroom tiles that have been painted with primer.

Apply Two Coats of Paint

That’s your prep done; now all you need to do is paint. I’d recommend using a product that will withstand the environment. You’d normally paint ceramic tiles in a kitchen or bathroom, so your paint needs to be durable and waterproof.

You can use durable matt emulsion for walls in general, but if you’re painting a tiled splashback, or it’s another area that is likely to get wet, then acrylic eggshell might be the way to go. Click here to see some suggestions.

Remember to use a roller for larger areas to avoid defects on the otherwise flat surface.


The Best Primer to Use When Painting Ceramic Tiles


As mentioned, there are a lot of adhesion primers on the market that claim they can be used to paint ceramic tiles.

I used to use Dulux Ultra Grip, which is a two-part paint that performs well on just about any surface.

Nowadays there are water-based primers that perform better and aren’t as expensive. My favourite is Bedec All Prime, which grips well, has great opacity, and blocks stains. It isn’t even expensive.

There are other good options that I could go into, but I’m likely to send you to sleep if I started comparing adhesion primers. Bedec All Prime is a great primer for ceramic tiles, just go with that.

Bedec All Prime - an adhesion primer for kitchen tiles

The Best Tools to Use to Paint Tiles


I’ll be honest; I don’t think your choice of paint brush is integral. Applying paint to ceramic tiles is relatively easy, so providing you use a good-quality synthetic brush, you won’t go wrong. My favourites are Axus Décor Silk Touch Ultra and ProDec Ice Fusion. Either of these will be fantastic, but there are loads of other good options around.

Your choice of roller is more integral. You need a tight microfibre roller that doesn’t shed or leave orange peel. There are a couple I can suggest (again, I’m not going to start comparing paint rollers).

Axus Décor Silk Touch Rollers give you everything you need. They hold loads of paint, don’t shed, are available in various sizes, and leave a completely smooth finish. This is my recommendation. Click here to see online prices.




How to update kitchen tiles without removing them?

There are a couple of ways you can tackle this. The first is to simply tile over the existing tiles. This may seem like you’re cutting corners, but I’ve seen it done many times without issue. The other way is to paint them, in which case, check out the above blog on how to paint ceramic tiles.

Avoid the tacky plastic fake tile stickers that are available; they look horrendous.


How long do painted kitchen tiles last?

Providing you get the process of painting your tiles right and you use good products, your painted tiles will last as long as the decorating in the rest of your room.


Should I use a brush or roller to paint kitchen tiles?

Cut in around the outside of your tiles with a brush, and then use a mini roller. Go over everything including the brushed paint. Tiles are generally very smooth, so brush marks stand out a mile.


When painting tiles, do you paint the grout?

Yes, prime everything and then paint everything. I have painted individual tiles before and left the grout, but to be honest, it looks cheap and tacky. I think it’s better to have a solid colour.


Can you paint tiles behind a cooker?

No problem at all. Follow the advice on this blog, and then use a durable paint like eggshell.


Should kitchen tiles be matt or gloss?

I maintain that matt is the better-looking finish. However, even durable matt can’t be cleaned as well as a paint with a higher sheen level. Gloss might be too much, but eggshell and satin both work well.


Do you need special paint for kitchen tiles?

You need a good quality adhesion primer when painting over ceramic tiles. After that, you’re good to go with any durable emulsion or good quality trim paint.


Is painting kitchen floor tiles a good idea?

Yes, it’s easy enough to paint a tiled kitchen floor and it can look brilliant. Follow the advice on this blog, but instead of using a standard durable paint, use floor paint.


Do Farrow and Ball do tile paint?

Farrow and Ball doesn’t need to do tile paint, because they have Estate and Modern Eggshell, which are both very capable products. Just use a good-quality adhesion primer, and then apply two coats of eggshell.


Final Thoughts


Painting ceramic tiles isn’t complicated, but trust me when I say it’s important to follow the steps properly. Providing you do that; you’ll be left with a good finish that will last. After you’ve painted once, it’s easy to paint again and again. All you need to do is run your sandpaper over it and then apply two coats of paint.

Posted Jun 11, 2024 | 0 comments

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Cupit has been in the decorating industry since 2002 and has mostly worked as a Trade Decorator in the domestic sector (peoples’ homes). Self-proclaimed “product geek”, Mike has a passion for paint and decorating tools. Mike now spends most of his time testing paint products and tools, comparing them to similar products on the market, and blogging about the industry in general.


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