Applying a coat of polyurethane or oil-based paint to ceramic or porcelain tile can give a tile job a fresh new look. Applying paint, in any colour combination or design, can also be an effective way to update the look of a tile fireplace, without the need for serious building work. Since the fireplace is frequently the focal point of a room, paint it to complement your room's interior.
Choose an accent colour from somewhere else in the room where the fireplace is located. This colour could come from a carpet, rug, curtains, throws, cushions or wall art. Paint the tiles of the fireplace in this shade for a subtle, complementary look. Avoid painting the grout lines in order to keep the look of the tiles authentic. Alternatively, select an accent colour from the room and buy paint in this colour, along with one shade darker and one shade lighter. Create a random design of the three shades of paint on the tiles for more visual interest through variation.
Select a minimum of two colours for the fireplace surround. One colour will be the main or field colour, while the second will become an accent colour. Paint one row of tiles in the accent colour, or paint the tiles in a stair-step design, random-placement design or symmetrical design of two or three tiles on either side of the hearth. Fill in the rest of the tiles with the second, field colour. Make sure the two colours are different enough to stand out from one another.
Trace the fireplace surround onto a large piece of art paper. Sketch the tile shapes to scale on the paper and practice creating a mural on the paper. Each tile should connect up to the next one, with the design simple enough that the grout lines will not interrupt details. When you have the design the way you want it, reproduce it on the fireplace surround. Trace it lightly in chinograph pencil or chalk first before painting to ensure the design is correct.