How to Paint Ceramic Wall Tile: A Guide
Ceramic tiles come in beautiful patterns and are long-lasting. Many consumers choose ceramic tile because of its durability.
But, what if your tile is out of date and you're looking to sell your home?
Perhaps you're a homeowner that likes to change things up a bit and the cost of tearing out old tile and replacing it is not within your budget. Consider painting ceramic wall tile for a fresh look.
Painting your wall tiles can save you a lot of money during your home renovation. In this guide, we show you just how easy it is to paint ceramic wall tiles.
Can You Paint Ceramic Wall tile?
Yes! You can paint ceramic tile. There are many quality paint options for ceramic paint. How much time you will spend and the cost will depend on whether you are painting in a solid color, hand-painting your own designs, or using stencils for a pattern.
Most importantly, realize that much of your work will be in prepping the tiles for painting. Don't skimp on this step.
Put in the work to properly ensure that your tiles will allow the paint to adhere. This extra care will lead to wall tiles that withstand wear and have the quality of a professional paint job.
How To Prep Ceramic Tile for Paint
Before painting ceramic tile, there are important steps in making sure your tile is in the best shape for painting.
You will also need to plan ahead for the tools you will need and the design or style trend you want. Here are the necessary steps to follow.
- Clean the Tile
- Inspect for Chips and Cracks
- Paint Tools
Great painting jobs take time but are worth the effort. Great planning and some elbow grease will have your tiles looking fresh and ready for a make-over.
Use a degreaser when you clean the tile. Removing soap scum or cooking grease will help you to fully inspect the condition of the tiles and ensure a surface ready for paint.
If you are painting wall tile around a fireplace. Start with warm soapy water to clean away soot. Plan to do this step multiple times until your cloth comes away clean.
A cleaning solution of TSP (trisodium phosphate) can be purchased at any home improvement store.
The advantage of using this cleaner prior to painting is that it chemically breaks down hard-to-clean materials such as grease and soot. Follow package directions and rinse thoroughly.
Any stains that remain will be concealed with primer.
Look closely at individual wall tiles for wear that may need repair. If you have any chips or cracks, mark them with removable tags. You will return to the marked tiles to do repairs after the first step of sanding is complete.
Sanding ceramic tile to paint is an important step to ensuring a professional look to your finished tiles. Use a fine to medium grade of sandpaper to smooth out the surface of each tile and help with blending an old pattern. 120 grit sandpaper is recommended.
For tiles that have been glazed, you will want to rough up the surface so the paint will adhere well.
A coarser grit of sandpaper is needed for ceramic paint coating on tiles that have been glazed. Use 100 grit sandpaper.
Use circular motions with the sandpaper to completely remove the glaze. Continue sanding until there is no longer a sheen on the tile. Wipe the surface with a damp cloth.
This is just the first step in sanding. You will also sand down any grout repairs.
Wipe off residue with a clean damp cloth. Fill any cracks or chips with epoxy for small repairs. You will need to allow the epoxy filler to dry for 24 hours.
If your grout is showing damage, make any repairs now. If you have areas that easily crumble, remove the old grout with a Dremel tool. Vacuum to remove any dust or bits of grout.
You can use a premixed grout to fill in damaged areas. A grout repair kit that gives you some color options can also be used.
Sand again. During this sanding step, you want to make sure to create a smooth surface from any repairs. Rub the tile surface with a sheet of paper. If you see indentations in the paper, sand those areas again.
Wipe with a clean wet cloth and allow to dry for about 30 minutes. Vacuum the tile to ensure that all residue is gone.
Primer helps your paint to adhere. If you have a pattern on your old tile, you will also want to prime to cover any designs that may show through. For covering patterns, use a roller and apply two coats.
In addition to paint and brushes or rollers, you will need tools for touching up the grout and applying a sealant.
If you plan to create a design, look for high-quality stencils that will last through many tiles. It may be a good idea to purchases two sets.
Don't forget about protecting surfaces such as a countertop and sinks or tubs. You can use drop cloths but they may be too big for the area you are working on. Cut the drop cloth into wide strips and secure it with removable painter tape.
What Kind of Paint to Use On Ceramic Tiles?
Your style preference will determine the best paint to use on your ceramic wall tiles.
Whether you are looking for high gloss sophistication or flat paint for understated charm, there is a type of paint that will work for your style and your ceramic wall tile.
A great sheen functions well in a bathroom. If you enjoy a modern and clean look in your home, enamel paint will provide a glossy coat that hardens.
There are kits specifically formulated to paint bathroom tile. Painting bathroom floor tile can be done but expect to touch up every couple of years due to humidity and traffic.
Epoxy paint is often used for concrete garage and showroom floors. It is strong! A paint mix of part epoxy and resin gives a high gloss look and seals to a porcelain-like finish.
If you are looking for an all-in-one paint that offers durability and sealant, try some of the epoxy kits available. You can brush or roll epoxy. There are also spray epoxy options that give great coverage and mimic ceramic paint.
Be prepared to move quickly when painting. Epoxy dries quicker than many other types of paint.
A semi-gloss latex is an affordable base color option for ceramic wall tiles that will be stenciled. Keep in mind that for areas with high humidity, a latex will eventually wear away and possibly peel.
How To Paint Ceramic Wall Tile
Once you have made necessary repairs and allowed all primed surfaces to dry according to manufacturer directions, apply your paint.
From the first coat of paint to the last, choose the tool that feels the best in your hand and offers the most control.Roller
For a large area of wall tile use a lint-free roller. A 4-inch mini foam roller will give you firm control and smooth coverage. Smaller sizes are also available.
Roll in multiple directions to reduce the appearance of lines in your paint. Allow your first coat to thoroughly dry according to the manufacturer's directions. Apply a second coat with the roller and allow to dry thoroughly.Brush
If you are painting your wall tiles in multiple colors, you should use a 2-inch angled brush for the best results. Read package directions for the best brush for your selected paint type.
Using your angled brush, begin at an upper corner of the tile and brush horizontally. This is your first coat. Allow the paint to thoroughly dry.
For the second coat, begin at an upper corner of the wall tile and brush vertically. Brushing paint in opposite directions will give the best coverage.Sprayer
Using spray paint is your fastest option for solid color applications.
The key to even paint distribution is to stand back about 12 inches from the wall tiles you are painting. Use light pressure on the trigger and gentle sweeping motions back and forth.
You will need to factor in the additional step of painting the grout if you prefer a contrasting or neutral color. Luckily, there are grout pens that make this step an easy application that gives clean grout lines.Sponge
If you would like to have a rougher texture paint on your wall tiles, there are specially formulated paints to give a stone-like surface. A word of caution on using textured paint...make sure you really like it. It will not be easy to remove later.
Using a sponge application tool can also give you a multi-textured look while maintaining a smooth surface that can be refinished again easily. Choose a base color then lightly dab on multiple colors with a sponge for interesting effects.
Refinishing ceramic tile is hard work. Once the prep work is done, the fun begins. Your tile will now be an original work of art.Painting Freehand
If you are artistic, you can always paint your wall tiles freehand. Even if you are not a master painter, creating wave patterns or a faux stone look can be done with a small craft brush.
Practice is important. To give your wall tile a faux stone look, practice rolling the brush between your thumb, index, and middle finger. Rolling this way and dragging your brush will give thin and thick lines that mimic the veins of color seen in stone.Stenciling
You can get a great design for your wall tile using stencils. Purchase a stencil from most hobby stores or have a design created for you.
Choose a durable stencil that will stay in place and is easily removed. We recommend adhesive stencils.
- Test a hidden area of tile when applying your first stencil.
- Place the stencil by centering the design in the area you want to paint. Press down with one finger at the center and then smooth the entire stencil down.
- Use a mini roller or stenciling brush to apply a thin coat of paint. Be careful to not apply too much paint. Overloading your roller or brush with paint will cause bubbles and may seep under the stencil.
- Apply a second coat of paint. Allow the paint to dry.
- Remove the stencil with a firm grip at a corner and peel away slowly.
If you are satisfied with the results of the stencil, continue the previous steps for each wall tile. Any bleeding from the stencil can be touched up later with a small brush and your original base paint color.Masking
The look of clean lines in geometric shapes can be achieved using painter's tape to mask off areas. The size of the tape to use will depend on the patterns you want to create.
Think outside of the box and let your imagination take over with creating varied shapes in different paint colors for a modern finish. A mosaic look can be created using varying widths of tape and pieced together to mimic broken shards.
You can create diamond shapes by crisscrossing lines of tape on a vertical slant or using a template to mask out the areas to be painted in diamond shapes.
Seal Your Ceramic Tiles
The hard work you have put in cleaning, repairing, priming, and painting your wall tiles needs to be protected. Allow your painted tiles to dry for 2-3 days before applying a sealant.
Use a high-quality water-based sealant. This is an important precaution because many DIY experts have experienced tile yellowing from oil-based products.
Polyurethane and urethane sealants do give off fumes from solvents. Keep the area well ventilated and wear a mask.
There are new products that are being offered as greener options for sealants that have little to no harmful solvents. Invest the time in reading reviews from other consumers.
The method you use for applying a sealant is really about preference in tools. There are sealants that can be sprayed, rolled, or brushed on.
As always, follow the manufacturer's suggestions for drying time.
Show Off Your New Wall Tiles
Refinishing and painting ceramic wall tile is no easy task. The pride that comes from your DIY and knowing that it is an original deserves showing off.
If you'd like help with your home design, we're here to help. Contact us today!