How to Paint Bathroom Tile, According to Someone Who DIYed It
Don’t skimp on sealer.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 6:28 AM
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A statement floor is always a good idea—just be ready to work for the splashy result if you plan to take matters into your own hands. Designer Katie Zamprioli DIYed a beautiful rosy pattern in her space, but when we asked her how to paint bathroom tile, her tips came with some fine print. “It’s not for the faint of heart!” she says. “It’s definitely been a labor of love, but I’m so happy with the outcome.”
She ordered a stencil template and got to work hand-painting every gray square. If you have the time, it’s an affordable way to upgrade a room (premade patterned concrete tile can be pricey) until a full-on reno is in the cards. All in all, Zamprioli says the painting itself should only take about 20 hours—though due to a plumbing snafu, hers dragged on for a few months: “When I was just about finished stenciling, my shower spontaneously exploded in the middle of the night,” she explains. One brand-new pink tub later, she started fresh, sticking to a few ground rules to make sure her creation would withstand future wear and tear:
- Make it easy on yourself. Not ready to go pro with a multi-hued design? There are plenty of simple templates that only require one color.
- Stick with latex and enamel paint. They perform best on ceramic tile.
- Don’t forget the sealer. A clear concrete top coat is crucial—as is the primer—if you want to keep your floors scuff-free and long-lasting.
Ready to tackle your own bathroom tile? Here’s everything Zamprioli did to transform her space.
- 1 quart of bonding primer
- 3 types of paint, about a quart of each (Zamprioli chose Dunn-Edwards’s Suprema Interior Flat in Crystal Clear, Plumville, and Melting Violet)
- 1 quart of concrete protective sealer
- Royal Design Studio’s Calypso tile stencil
- 1 ½-inch stencil brush
- ½-inch stencil brush
- 2-inch flat cut brush
- Paint roller and tray
- Angled artist paintbrush set
- Painter’s tape
- Spray adhesive
- A towel or rag to blot the paint
Step 1: Prepare a Blank Canvas
Clean your floors really well, sweeping and vacuuming any excess dirt before mopping the floor. Then use painter’s tape to tape up all of the floorboards and edges of the wall, to avoid splattering them.
Step 2: Add the Primer
Slick on two coats of the bonding primer—Zamprioli recommends using the roller and 2-inch flat brush for this. Let it dry for a full 24 hours between coats.
Step 3: Begin Painting
After the second layer of primer has dried for 24 hours, apply your first coat of paint (the main color under the stencil). Hers was Crystal Clear, which reads white but is actually a pale pink. Paint two coats of this and let each one dry for a full 24 hours.
Step 4: Stencil in Your Pattern
Lightly spray the back of the template with the spray adhesive to help it stay in place on the floor, and tape down the edges with painter’s tape for extra security. Zamprioli suggests starting against a wall and working right to left to avoid smudging your work. You might have to cut up your stencil to fit curved areas (like the toilet and shower).
Pro tip: Less is more. Blot your stencil brush each time before putting it to the template—it should be more of a stamping motion than a sweeping brush motion. Zamprioli used the 1 ½-inch stencil brush for the Melting Violet hue and saved the ½-inch brush for Plumville. Wait for the whole thing to dry, then do a second coat.
Step 5: Do Touch-ups
When you first lift your stencil up, it will almost certainly have left some bleeding. “I don’t know who these people who are creating perfect line stencils on the first try are, but I’m convinced they aren’t human,” says Zamprioli. Don’t panic—you can fix it. Enter: the angled brush, which you should use with the base color to clean up all the lines by hand.
Step 6: Seal It Up
After all the painting is finished, let it cure for 48 hours; then put down a coat of the concrete sealer to waterproof the floor using the roller. (This also prevents it from getting scuffed and dirty.) After it’s fully dried, you’re good to go.