How to Paint Ceramic Tile

We have all bought a house that had terrible bathroom tile left over from decades past. Instead of ripping it out and replacing it, which costs an arm and a leg, you can paint tile. You need to follow the directions carefully and buy the correct products, but if you do in the end you can paint your tile and update you bathroom for a lot less than the thousands you would have spent remodeling it.

To Paint Your Bathroom Tiles You Will Need:

Mixture of ammonia and water for cleanup
Shellac-based primer
Alkyd paint in desired color
Small paint roller and paint tray
Painter’s Tape

The first step is to thoroughly clean your tiles before you paint. Any small amount of grime will show through the paint. If you have mold or mildew it will also eventually show through the paint. You would think this paint process might kill the mold and mildew, but you would be wrong. There is nothing you can do about it after you have painted over the dirt and mildew, so just go ahead and clean your tiles thoroughly.

I like to use a homemade mixture of ammonia and water to do this. You can buy and ammonia based cleaner if you want to though. Ammonia is a great cleaner and dries fats when exposed to air. This will leave you with nice clean tiles that are dry and ready to be painted.

So, Clean the bathroom tile completely with a solution of 1 parts ammonia and 3 parts water and then let them dry. Scrub mildew off completely.

Now, to help the paint adhere to your bathroom tiles you need to apply a primer first. Regular old Kilz just won’t work for this step of the project. You need to use a shellac-based primer to paint your bathroom tiles. This is important because you need the tile to really be coated well so the paint will stick. There is a lot of moisture and wear and tear in the bathroom, so this priming step is key. Without it your paint will peel right off the tile.

I like to roll my shellac based primer on with a smooth applying foam roller. You don’t want any lines, streaks, or marks. You want your tiles to be a smooth as if they were new.

Allow this primer to dry for 24 hours before you move on to the next step. This is important because you need that primer to be working at full capacity and it can only do that if it has dried completely onto your bathroom tiles.

Once the primer has dried you can apply your paint color to your tiles. You need to paint your tiles in an Alkyd type paint. This is important again because bathroom tiles are exposed to water and moisture on a regular basis. This paint is meant to stand up to moist conditions. You can find Alkyd paints at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and most hardware stores. Call ahead though and ask to save yourself time. My local hardware store does not carry it, so had to make a trip to Home Depot to buy it.


Use painters tape to tape off your desired tile area you are painting. This will give you crisp clean lines that look professional. Be careful when removing the tape. You do not want to pull off your paint job or accidentally get this paint on your walls. You will just create more work for yourself if you have to go back and touch up finished areas.

If you are painting a shower stall I recommend using an epoxy paint. This tile paint treatment is only for bathroom floors and walls that are not in the shower stall.

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