How to Paint Tile

I'll start by saying that this is not the easiest process, but it's definitely easier than ripping up tile and laying new, and much, much cheaper.  I was excited about the idea of using the Rust-oleum Tub and Tile refinishing Kit, but I had no idea just how great it would turn out!  I kind of dreaded this bathroom, with it's beige southwest tile and terracotta floor, not it's light and modern and so much more zen.

Let's get started with the process.  We had a lot of surface to cover, so this was no easy task.  I did all the prep work, which was a beast in itself, but Kyle and I teamed up to tackle painting and with two of us, we got most of it done in two baby nap sessions over a long weekend.  The odor is pretty toxic, so you'll want to work quickly and get out as soon as you can.  

How to paint tile
How to paint tile - after

Here's what you need.

Tile Painting Supplies

Painting Supplies

Tile Painting Supplies

Cleaning Supplies


  1. remove all metal trains and hardware, where possible
  2. repair any chips
  3. scrub with an abrasive cleaner and then rinse with water
  4. sand with extra fine grit sand paper 
  5. vacuum and wipe up residue with CLR liquid cleaner and water
  6. tape off EVERYTHING you don't want to be painted, especially the hardware, because if you drip and don't wipe it up immediately, you'll be stuck with it!
  7. finally, and most importantly wipe everything down with a tack cloth, you really want to get every piece of fuzz and dust, because it will show.


  1. open all the windows! 
  2. open part B and stir
  3. mix part A into part B.  Note: If less than a full (1 quart) kit is needed, mix in a 4:1 ratio of base to activator in a separate container. Apply within 6 hours of mixing.
  4. Start painting - I started with brushing all the corners, then took a roller to the tile.  You're going to need to press pretty hard to get into and coat all the grout.  
  5. I worked in small sections and worked fairly fast, because this stuff starts to dry as soon as it leaves the can.  If you drip or spill wipe it up right away.  
  6. in between coats or even as you go, you'll want to use a tack cloth to wipe up any dust you see
  7. allow to dry at least one hour (but you'll probably need more than an hour break from the smell)
  8. after each coat, sand out any dust particles, clean with cleaner and water and tack cloth again

It took me three coats, you can see the progress below.  It seems that I read for many people it only took two coats, and in some cases, even one coat!  

Painting Tile with Rustoleum
Painting Tile with Rustoleum

I went an extra mile and painted a pattern onto the floor.  Rust-oleum only makes this kit in three light neutral colors, so I got the black from another company, Bath Tub Refinishing Referral Network.  I was lucky, because I was able to free-hand the pattern into the exsisting squares, so I didn't need tape or a stencil, I just designed the pattern on graph paper and marked it out on the floor with a sharpie.  Then I used a small brush to paint inside the lines.  All said it took me a whole weekend, but only one coat of black paint, and I couldn't be happier! 

Painting Tile


  • Follow all the directions, don't skip any cleaning steps, you'll be much happier with the results
  • it says on the package, but don't get wet for three days. 
  • The biggest problem I encountered is pictured below, the foam rollers kept breaking, because you need to use a lot of force on the tip to get into all the grout lines.  It was annoying to have to get a new roller, but more annoying that all the foam pieces started sticking to the wall, which you can see below. 
  • have tack cloths ready
  • you MUST open the windows, so I would avoid doing this project in the dead of winter like we did.  They suggest these guidelines on the packaging "Use when temperature is between 50-90ºF (10-32ºC) and humidity is below 85% to ensure proper drying"
  • you must wear a mask and gloves
  • Rust-oleum told me directly that this product is not recommended for floors, obviously, I ignored that.  After 4 1/2  months it has held up well, I think we have one chip where we dropped something heavy and the black patterned painted portion in front of the toilet is not wearing that well, since we often scrub and clean that area (see below).  Other than that, I am very happy with the results. 
  • You can also see in the photo below that you can still see the faint outline up close of the patterned tiles, but from far away, they aren't noticeable.
Tile Painting Problem Areas

Clean up:

  • You'll need to throw the brush and roller away, it will dry as hard as a rock.  
  • be carful when cleaning anything in the sink, as the paint will stick if not washed away immediately

One more photo of the payoff. 

How to paint tile


wall paint - Home Decorators Collection by Behr in Cotton Grey // white tile paint - Rustoleum Tub and TIle Refinishing Kit // black tile paint - Bathtub Refinishing Referral Network // round mirror - Ikea // long mirror -Ikea // chandelier - vintage from eBay (similar here) // sconces - IndLights via Etsy // Changing Table - Target(actually a bar cart) // plant stand - Ikea // rugs - vintage via ebay (similar here) // wall vases - CB2 // frame for DIY art - Amazon // shower curtain - West Elm // bath towel - Ballard Design // hand towel - Wayfair // tray for products - CB2 // products - & Other Stories // 

Budget Bath Renovation

I have to start this post by tooting my own horn, because I am darn proud of this transformation.  I remember looking at this house and actually hating this bathroom.  That's major considering when I lived in New York City, my bathroom was about 20 sq/ft including the tub, and after I wallpapered and made it aesthetically livable, the ceiling caved in and I had to repaint.  When I looked at the house, I think I hated it so much because, a) we were going to own this bathroom, which we never had before, and b)  it was so big, with such great pieces, yet it felt so lifeless.  I knew a real reno was not in the budget.  So I explored my options and Tim Gunned it (made it work).   

Budget Bath Renovation
Budget Bath Renovation

This makeover was not cheap, but it cost a tiny fraction of  a major renovation and in my opinion brought the southwest, meets classic mishmash into a modern, cohesive place.  The pieces are great, quality and from what I can tell, pretty new, but the patterned tile and what my husband called "high school locker room floor" needed to go!  Here is how the cost of the makeover broke down.  I took about three weekends to get all the painting and labor done, then three months to put the finishing touches together, lol.    

Cost Breakdown

  • paint and supplies : $140 (Rustoleum generously sent three tub and tile kits, I needed four total) 
  • rugs: $200
  • mirrors : $150
  • accessories: $120
  • changing table: $145 
  • sconces (I had the chandelier): $110 

Total: $865

Budget Bath Renovation

Obviously the major work was painting all the tiles.  I am going to go in depth on how to do that in the next post.  I think the hardest choice I made was the gray wall color, which is a warm, soft hue, I explored a few Farrow and Ball colors, but opted with the easy Home Depot choice, Home Decorators Collection by Behr in Cotton Grey, which I am extremely happy with.  

Budget Bath Renovation

As I mentioned before, I knew the floors had to go, so I started with a white base, but wanted to make a statement somehow, so I decided to paint a pattern.  It was pretty tedious, but so worth it and made the painted floors look that much more like actual tile, instead of painted tile. 

Budget Bath Renovation

For my finishing DIY touch, I was inspired by this tutorial from A Beautiful Mess.  When I was back at my parent's house over Christmas I combed through hundreds (probably thousands) of photos to find the perfect one for this project.  I enlarged this photo of my grandma (looking totally badass) and embellished her corsage.  I love the way it turned out and the humor it adds to the space. 


wall paint - Home Decorators Collection by Behr in Cotton Grey // white tile paint - Rustoleum Tub and TIle Refinishing Kit // black tile paint - Bathtub Refinishing Referral Network // round mirror - Ikea // long mirror - Ikea // chandelier - vintage from eBay (similar here) // sconces - IndLights via Etsy // Changing Table - Target (actually a bar cart) // plant stand - Ikea // rugs - vintage via ebay (similar here) // wall vases - CB2 // frame for DIY art - Amazon // shower curtain - West Elm // bath towel - Ballard Design // hand towel - Wayfair // tray for products - CB2 // products - & Other Stories // 

Don't forget to check back for all the details on tile painting.

Update From Upstate (Bathroom Makeover)

With basically just a can of paint and some accessories, we turned our second bathroom from this...

to this!  From grandma/zero personality to modern and bohemian.

Here's what we did:
  • got rid of the curtains (as quickly as possible) and swapped in these bamboo shades (full disclosure, these are very well priced, but not the best quality)
  • painted (obviously) Behr Black Suede in eggshell
  • removed the glass lighting shades and changed out the lightbulbs for clear globes (similar to what I did with the kitchen sconces), making an instant modern update without replacing the fixture
  • hung the vintage shelf I picked up at the Brimfield Flea Market
  • DIYed a macrame wall hanging 
  • added plants and DIY felt billy balls (tutorial here)
  • accessorized, accessorized, accessorized! 

bamboo shadebrass towel hanger / set of four aqua vases / yellow dip dye vase /  blue dip dye vase