How do I Paint Ceramic Tile?

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  • Written By: Susan Grindstaff
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 21 January 2020
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You can paint ceramic tile much in the same way you would paint any other surface. The important thing is to use the right kind of paint and to cover the paint with a coat of sealant. In addition, the tile must be completely clean before you begin to paint. If you decide you want to paint designs onto the tile, you can do this freehand or by using stencils to mark out the design.

Choosing the right kind of paint is probably the most important factor if you are planning to paint ceramic tile. Oil-based paints usually work best, but some water-based paints that are mixed with polyurethane may work just as well. Be sure you take the time to read the directions for applying the paint before you begin. Many people skip this step, believing they already understand how to apply paint; however, paints react differently to certain types of surfaces, and most of the time, that type of information is included in the directions. The directions should also give you information about cleaning and drying time.

In order for the paint to stick, the tile must be thoroughly cleaned. You should pour or spray a solution of equal parts bleach and water directly onto the tile surface. Allow it to soak for a while before you begin scrubbing, as this helps loosen dirt. For best results, you should scrub the tile using a stiff scrub brush.


You can begin to paint ceramic tile once it is clean and completely dry. Painting can be done using a brush or roller, but if you use a roller, make sure it has a short nap, as this will cut down on paint bubbles. If you do not want to paint the grout between the tiles, it should be taped off before you begin painting. Many people choose to paint the grout the same color as the basecoat, because taping is such a slow and painstaking process.

After you have completed the basecoat, it is time to paint designs, if that is your intent. If you want the painted designs to be uniform, it is probably a good idea to use tracing stencils. These can be purchase at most home improvement retailers or craft stores. Using the stencil, you just trace the design onto the tile, then fill in with paint.

The final step when you paint ceramic tile is to apply the sealant. You should let the paint dry for at least 48 hours before beginning this step. Most experts recommend using polyurethane varnish for the most durable finish. A good finish may take several coats, and the polyurethane will come with directions to let you know how long to wait between each application. The longer each coat is allowed to cure, the more durable to finish.



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