:painted tile backsplash tutorial:

Once I'd settled on painting my kitchen cabinets  a medium grey with brass hardware, I knew the existing light green glass backsplash would have to change as well.  There just wasn't enough contrast between the gray and the green, and honestly, they were a regrettable design decision made when we initially remodeled our "fixer" a few years ago.  Since then I've wished many times that I had just gone with classic white subway tiles.  You can't go wrong with the classics!  Instead I had hopped on a passing trend and I learned my lesson.  The glass tile is pretty, don't get me wrong...just turns out it's not something I wanted to look at forever.

tile & cabinets "before"...

Midway through my re-do, with the paint going on the cabinets ...

Since the backsplash tile was not very old, in perfect condition, and had a good subway tile shape, I couldn't handle the thought of replacing it just yet.  But I figured I had nothing to lose by trying to paint it.

Only there aren't a lot of encouraging stories online.  Actually to the contrary, I found most people advised against it.  Those who didn't oppose the idea outright thought it could only be done with oil-based paint, which I dreaded due to the strong fumes and messy clean-up.

So after lots of rather discouraging research I decided to just go for it, cobbling together my own approach with special primer and alkyd paint.  And it worked!  Almost four years later it still looks great!  Here's how to do it.

step one: use an alkyd paint...

Enter Benjamin Moore Advance, a water-based formula that's easy as latex to use and clean up, but performs like an oil paint, meaning it has self leveling qualities and brush strokes don't show as much.  It's been my go-to paint for furniture (if I'm not spray-painting it or having it professionally lacquered.)  It's also what I used for part of my kitchen cabinet paint job.  See the full cabinet painting tutorial here!

step two: use XIM Ultra Primer...

In order to get away with using a water-based alkyd paint instead of true oil paint, I needed an ultra high performance bonding primer.  My local paint store, the nicest people who are always willing to share their great expertise (go Jill's Paint!) pointed me toward a primer called XIM Ultra which is specially formulated to bond well with glass and ceramic tile.  To build up a finish that was durable and wouldn't chip or scratch off, I forced myself to be very patient about applying numerous thin coats of both paint and primer and letting them dry well in between. 

step three: use a foam roller and apply many thin coats with drying time in between...

The paint job itself was really easy.  I used a mini foam roller and rolled on lots of thin coats of primer to build up a good base.  I made sure to apply enough pressure on the grout lines so that the paint soaked into them as well.

 I chose a satin finish for the Ben Moore Advance paint which I think was the perfect choice for tile.  It gave me an almost matte finish...not so flat that scuff marks would show easily, but not much sheen either.  My theory was that I couldn't really hope to make the tile look like glazed ceramic no matter what I did, so rather than using a glossy finish that might make the paint job more obvious, I felt I had a better shot at making it look like authentic matte finish subway tile, and it turns out I was right!  You honestly cannot even tell that this tile is painted!

In progress ...

This is before I'd improved upon my DIY light pendant and added the linen roman shade.  You can see that the white backsplash is already a big improvement...

And ta da! 

(Read up on how I sourced affordable solid brass cabinet hardware and DIY'd that black and brass pendant light above the sink.) 

Honestly not one person who has seen it could tell without being told that the backsplash is actually painted tile.  Even friends who were familiar with the green glass tile think that we replaced the back splash completely.  It has proved to be totally durable too ... nary a chip nor a scratch has appeared, and we haven't babied it!  I couldn't be happier with the results.

 I might even have to try this in a bathroom sometime...I'm not quite as confident about painted tile in super wet conditions (a kitchen backsplash gets lots less water exposure than a shower) but I think it would be worth a shot if you were desperate, in lieu of an expensive tile replacement job.
See how the entire nitty gritty kitchen remodel went down, and catch this house featured on Domaine Home!  
(And if you want to dive into the story of how I bought an ugly little "fixer" house and re-did it room by room, it's all here:  the messy remodel // kitchen // dining room // living room // bath // nursery // bedroom // patio // my design studio)


Rajib Hossain said...

I love your blog .This is a cool site and I wanted to post a little note to tell you, good job! Best wishes!!!

bethJ said...

Nice job! Where did you get the tile from? We just redid our kitchen with Web Don and had something similar done.

anushka sweety said...

Heya¡­my very first comment on your site. ,I have been reading your blog for a while and thought I would completely pop in and drop a friendly note. . It is great

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Govind Mitharan said...

Wow keep update Cookscape

Dana Perez said...

Mounting some glass splashbacks could surely enhance the beauty of your kitchen.

Linda said...

What is the brand and color of the gray cabinets? We are mid remodeling and I love this color gray. Thanks

Rosa said...

Hi Linda,

The cabinets were painted with the Benjamin Moore Advance line, and color is BM "Eagle Rock."

Here is the link for the whole cabinet tutorial!

Roel Bobis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roel Bobis said...

Great article about back painted glass do you know any affordable back painted glass here in the Philippines

Dave Thompson said...

Wow that tile work is amazing. I wish I was this talented to tile my own kitchen. After seeing how you tiled your kitchen, I think it might just be easy enough for me to give it a good sometime soo n.

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mike stathos said...

Its really great post you have shared, which is informative and knowledgeable. I appreciate your great work. Keep me more updates. Kitchen remodeling Austin

K. Galvez said...

I am about to do this to a frosted glass tile that I hate! How many coats of primer and paint would you recommend? Thanks!

jack peter said...

This blog information is very informative and helpful for Ceiling Tiles buyer. kitchen ideas

Anita said...

Hi Rosa,
So happy to have your tile paint job. Need to do the same thing. Could you estimate how long to waited between each coat? Also, roughly how many coats of primer and then paint? Beautiful job! Thanks for any info. Anita

Lucky Sign said...

nice blog! step by step pictures..looks so beautiful. i am very happy for this site. thankyou for shearing this information with us! More Design

Nicki Clark said...

Hey! I am just about to use this tutorial to do the same thing to a hideous backsplash the previous owners put in our kitchen (so amped for the clean white!), but I'm wondering what color Banjamin Moore paint you used. Just all white? Or is it an white color? Do you remember the name by chance? Yours looks so good I just wanna follow exactly. Thanks so much for your help! And thank you for posting this awesome tutorial.

Anonymous said...

im wondering too but it doesn't look like this blogger spends time responding to comments. i don't follow bloggers who ignore their audience. thumbs down.

Nicki Clark said...

Just a heads up. I just completed this on glass tile backsplash in my kitchen. I wasn't sure how many coats of primer and paint, so based on her terms of "numerous" and "lots" I did 4 thin coats of primer and 2 thin coats of paint. It turned out fine, but I feel like 2 thin coats of primer and 2 thin coats of paint would have been best. The 4 coats of primer added too much texture below the paint surface. If you are doing this, go with 2 and 2. Also, for the record, I used Banjamin Moore White Opulence for the color on the paint. I choose by just taking a white subway tile into the Banjamin Moore store and matching the color as best I could to a swatch.

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jen said...

How has it held up for you thus far? I want to do the same but can't find information anywhere!! Does the finished tile look more like porcelain ones?

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Julia Peter said...

Thanks for this..I painted my kitchen back splash with white chalkboard paint. it's so Beautiful .kitchen backsplash ideas..

Rachel Wolf Dietrich said...

How does the tile look a couple years later? I want to paint my glass tile backsplash and bathroom shower tile and want to know how your tile kept up. Thank you!

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M Is For Minimalist said...

Hi Rosa, wow! I think I have the same green glass tile and I want to paint mine white too! After so many years, I’d like to know how it’s holding up for you now. Thanks and beautiful job! - Janet

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FoodWineChickie said...

Hi, wonder how the painted glass tile is holding up. Also, I’m wondering how my glass tile countertop on my wine bar (barely use the counter) would do. I can see white with white grout looking awesome but mine would need to be a medium gray as my cabinet is med maple and wall a light gray. We’ll redo our kitchen in about two years but my celery green glass counter now looks awful

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