How to paint designs on ceramic tile

Updated February 21, 2017

Unless you are an artist or possess a very steady hand, you will probably find it difficult to paint freehand designs on ceramic tile. Fortunately, you can create sharp, professional looking designs and patterns on your tile by using stencils. Before you begin, you should understand a critical point. Ceramic tile is ill-suited for any type of paint adhesion and will reject new finishes unless it is properly conditioned using friction-based abrasion techniques.

Wash the ceramic tile with dish soap, using a coarse sponge. Rinse the tile with wet rags. Wait two to four hours for the tile to completely dry.

Lay the stencil face down on a protective cloth. Coat the back of the stencil with stencil spray adhesive.

Stick the stencil on the tile where you want the design to appear. Tape the edges of the stencil in place with painter's tape.

Sand to abrade the exposed ceramic tile within the stencil to promote primer and paint adhesion. Scour the tile until it feels slightly gritty. Use scissors to trim the sandpaper into smaller pieces if necessary.

Coat the exposed ceramic tile within the stencil with acrylic latex spray primer. Hold the can eight inches from the tile as you apply. Wait three hours for the primed tile to dry.

Coat the primed ceramic tile within the stencil with satin or semigloss latex spray paint. Hold the can eight inches from the tile as you apply. Use an acrylic floor spray paint if you are working with floor tile. Carefully remove the stencil while the paint is still wet. Let the paint dry.


You can find stencils and stencil adhesives at a local craft store.


Never prime unsanded ceramic tile, or the designs will chip. Don't paint bare ceramic tile, or the design will peel.

Things You'll Need

  • Dish soap
  • Coarse sponge
  • Rags
  • Heavy-duty fabric dust sheet
  • Stencil
  • Stencil spray adhesive
  • Professional painter's tape
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • Scissors
  • Acrylic latex spray primer
  • Satin or semigloss latex spray paint
  • Acrylic floor spray paint, for floor tile
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About the Author

Ryan Lawrence is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado. He has been writing professionally since 1999. He has 10 years of experience as a professional painting contractor. Lawrence writes for High Class Blogs and Yodle. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and public relations with a minor in history from the University of Oklahoma.