Tile Paint 101: What Kind Of Paint To Use On Ceramic Tiles

Tile painting is resurging in popularity these days. In fact, more and more people are embracing this trend in their DIY home projects, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when most people are strongly advised to stay at home. Whether you are planning to rejuvenate the look of your old bathroom or just want to embark on a productive DIY activity, painting over tiles can be a great solution to keep you busy.

So the next thing that you probably have in mind now are these questions: ‘what are the things you need to know about tile painting?’ and ‘what kind of paint to use on ceramic tiles?’ If you’re looking for answers, you’ve come to the right place.

Read more as we are going to share all the things you need to know about tile painting in today’s article.


What Kind Of Tiles Are Used For Interior Applications?

First off, you have to know the kind of ceramic tiles that are being used in your shower or bathtub. The tiles that are common installed in these areas at home are vitreous (glasslike), impervious (waterproof), and the highly absorbent kind.

To be specific, a vitreous tile can absorb water up to 3% of its weight. While an impervious tile is considered as the densest kind of tile available can absorb less water (about 0.5% of its weight) than a vitreous tile. And then there’s the highly-absorbent type, the kind that’s used in showers, which can absorb huge amounts of water, which is also susceptible to hard water and soap scum buildup.

All of these types of tiles can be painted as long as you follow careful preparation techniques such as cleaning and scuffing to ensure the paint will stick to the ceramic tile. Moreover, thorough cleaning is necessary to remove the trace of dirt and dust that might stop the paint from adhering into the tile. If the tiles are filled with mold stain and grout, then you have to clean them with soap and water then apply fungicidal spray on them.

We recommend that you let the ceramic tiles dry out for at least 24 hours before you start painting.


What Type Of Paints Are Best Used For Tile Painting?

Painting tiles require specific kinds of paint. Otherwise, the whole project will be ruined if you’re using the wrong kind of paint. So here are the types of paint that are recommended for tile painting:

Alkyd Paint – This type of paint is the descendant of traditional oil-based paints and can be easily purchased at any hardware stores. Alkyd paint is great for painting tiles since it will immediately stick on the surface of the ceramic tile provided that it is sanded properly. And the application is simple for you only need to paint and let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe using a damp cloth before applying the next coat. Wiping is necessary to ensure the coats will properly stick on the tile’s surface.

The only disadvantage of using Alkyd paint is that it is harmful to the environment. So make sure to be careful when applying the paint on the tiles and cover the areas that will not be painted.

Oil-Based Paints – Any kind of oil-based paint works exceptionally great with ceramic tiles. That’s because it sticks to the tile instantly, which is kind of strange since the tile surface will repel most types of paint. And like alkyd paints, it also produces a slippery shine that makes it look classy and sophisticated.


What Type Of Paints Are NOT Recommended For Tile Painting?

Latex-Based Paint – While many people would assume that latex paints are good for tile painting, this is definitely not the case since it raises and softens once it dries up and will easily chip at the slightest impact.

Water-Based Paint – As we often see in YouTube videos, watercolor and other water-based paints will only work best IF you’re painting tiles for decorative purposes. But it will certainly not work if you’re painting tiles for the bathroom, shower, and near the kitchen sink as the paint will eventually disintegrate when they are exposed to moist conditions.


Things To Prepare

Here are the things you need to prepare for your tile painting project:

  • Tile paint(s)
  • Tile paint primer
  • Paint brushes and rollers
  • Painter or masking tape (to cover edges)
  • Polyurethane sealant
  • Stencils (if necessary)


Steps To Follow In Painting Ceramic Tiles

  1. Ensure the area is properly ventilated before starting the painting process.
  2. Sand down the ceramic tiles to remove the glossy exterior and to roughen the surfaces to prepare them for the painting project.
  3. Start painting the tiles using a paint brush. You should always use a brush when painting ceramic tiles. Though several coats of paint may look good initially, it results in a dull looking finish after several coats. If you don’t brush the tiles after applying several coats, then the color will fade away sooner.For best results, apply a few number of coats and let it dry for 2 to 3 days before applying another set of coats.

    And if you’re using a stencil, you should purchase or make a stencil that is the same size as the individual that you want to use. This will serve as your guide when you go ahead and paint.

  1. After painting the tiles, the next thing to do is to apply 2 to 3 coats of polyurethane sealant. Make sure to let it dry first before proceeding to the next coating.
  2. Let it dry for a couple of hours and enjoy your newly painted tiles!



Overall, painting the ceramic tiles is an easy and affordable way to update the look of your shower or bathroom. And while it does take a lot of time and effort, doing this project is an excellent way to keep yourself busy at a time when everyone is encouraged to stay at home.

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