How to paint tiles

Outdated tiles can be a major drawback in a kitchen or bathroom. Follow this step-by-step guide to how to paint tiles if you're looking for an easy and affordable solution that will transform a room

painted patterned tiles by etsy

Whether you've inherited a dated bathroom that you're doing up on a budget or you're looking for easy ways to cut costs when decorating a kitchen, our guide to how to paint tiles provides an affordable solution, as well as step-by-step instructions, to help you transform your room for next to nothing. 

We've covered everything from one-toned tiles to achieving an on-trend patterned finish with nothing more than stencils, paint and a bit of patience.

Looking for more decorating ideas and inspiration? You'll find everything you could possibly need in our hub. 

Everything you will need to paint tiles

1. Choose the right tiles to paint

Painting over well-worn tiles may be a quick, affordable way to update a room, but it is not the most durable solution; if anything, it's more of a stop-gap.

To avoid the paint peeling quickly, opt for areas that aren’t subject to much drenching - avoid showers or areas directly behind the sink, for example.

2. Clean the tiles thoroughly

Making sure the tiles are clean before you even pick up a brush is key. Dirt, dust and grease can stop the paint adhering properly, so spend some time cleaning the tiles with sugar soap or a detergent solution and a scourer.

If there are any mould stains on the grouting or sealant, use a fungicidal spray to kill it off before applying any paint. A steam cleaner is also very effective for cleaning grout and tiles. Ensure the tiles are completely dry before starting to paint (we recommend waiting 24 hours.) 

Browse our pick of the best steam cleaners to make sure you've got the best tools for the job.

Top tip: If the grout is in poor condition, scrape it out and re-grout before painting. Same goes for any hairline cracks. Use an epoxy glue on smaller cracks to create an even surface. Taking the time to do this will give the best finish. 

3. Sand the tiles

When painting a high-gloss tile, lightly sand the area to give the paint something to adhere to, just be sure to clean off any dust before you start painting. 

4. Choose your stencils if you're opting for an on-trend patterned finish

If you're looking to achieve an on-trend patterned tile for a fraction of the price, you might consider painting over existing tiles with the help of a stencil. It's easier than you might think, we promise.

This Modern Geometric Tile Stencil from Etsy is one of our favourites; make sure to pick the right sized stencil for your tiles and consider your colour palette carefully. You can't go wrong with neutrals.

painted patterned floor tiles by etsy

(Image: © Etsy)

5. Shop for the right paint for tiles

Successful results rely on choosing the right, high-quality, paint, with specific tile paints making the best choice. We'd recommend trying Ronseal One Coat Tile Paint and Dulux Tile Paint; the majority of these specialist paints won’t need a primer but always follow the manufacturer's instructions. 

Tile paint colour options can be limited, so if you are want a particular shade, prime tiles with a high-quality, solvent-based primer such as the Dulux Professional White Undercoat and use a high-gloss or semi-gloss paint for your top coats. 

6. Prime your tiles (if necessary)

If you are using a primer, a small brush is the best choice for the job as it’s hard to get into the grouting with a roller. Be aware that painting tiles is unforgiving and brush strokes will show easily so keep your coats thin. Let the primer dry completely and then lightly sand to ensure the paint adheres to the surface. Remove any dust before starting on your topcoat. 

7. Begin painting the tiles

Once the primer is completely dry, use a similar sized brush to start painting on your colour. If you're using a stencil this is the time to position it on your first tile – take your time to ensure it's in the right position. 

Apply several thin coats to avoid heavy brush marks showing through and to ensure the paint doesn’t peel after just a few weeks.

Two coats will usually be required, but if you are painting over a dark coloured or patterned tile you may require more. Be aware that if you are painting tiles with a raised pattern this will still show. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly between each layer.

8. Take note of our top tips for achieving an on-trend patterned finish

Use your stencil to tackle one tile at a time, ensuring precision and making sure that everything is aligned as it should be. Our top tips will help you achieve the desired finish:

  • Less is more when it comes to paint. Ensure you're only dipping the very end of your paintbrush in the paint to prevent overloading and wipe away any excess. If your stencil is bleeding, this is a sign that there's too much paint.
  • You might also consider using a sponge, rather than a brush. This generally prevents you from using too much paint and makes it easier to cover a large area in a short amount of time.
  • Practice using your stencil on a spare tile or paper plate. It can take a few attempts to master the technique, so make sure you know what you're doing before tackling your tiles.
  • Start with a less visible tile and only tackle those in the middle when you're confident you know what you're doing.

A post shared by Cutting Edge Stencils (@cuttingedgestencils)

A photo posted by on on Feb 4, 2019 at 1:46pm PST

9. Let the paint dry

Allow the paint to dry for at least 24 hours – or for the time stated by your chosen paint's manufacturer.

Tips for how to paint bathroom tiles

  • Try to remove any silicone sealant from around showers, baths and sinks before painting and re-seal when the painting is complete. If you can’t remove the sealant, make sure it is properly masked off as paint will never properly adhere to it.
  • Once you have painted your tiles do not attempt to re-grout, do this step before, as anything abrasive will remove the paint. 
  • Avoid abrasive cleaning products after painting your tiles as it will remove the paint. 

Looking for more ideas for tackling tiles?