diy painted tile floor
DIY Projects

How To Paint A Tile Floor Without Losing Your Mind

It’s been just a few days since I shared my hall bath remodel.

Since then, I’ve gotten tons of comments and emails on the painted tile floors.

I’ll be honest, at one point when I had been squatted down in the floor [with my head up against the toilet] for twenty straight minutes, I considered scraping it all off and just quitting.

This is not a quick and easy project, I’ll tell you that right now.

But you can see from the photos of the finished bathroom, it’s totally worth it.

Today I’m going to share my very honest tutorial on how I pulled off these gorgeous floors.

Don’t expect me to tell you have simple it was and how I did it right the first time. Those motivating tutorials are somewhere else on the web. With me, you’re going to get the real truth so you can be prepared for everything. That’s something I wish I had before I started.

But even if I had known all these things, I still would have done it, so don’t be dissuaded.

If I can do it, you can too.

bathroom before


So I started with beige builder grade tile.

Look up the word boring in the dictionary and I bet it will say beige builder grade tile.

Not to mention that it’s such a warm tone and I try to keep my house on the cooler side.

The tile just clashed with everything. Actually, the whole bathroom clashed with everything.

So I looked around online at replacing the tile.

Then I stopped dead in my tracks after I realized it would be A. Expensive, and B. Really hard to remove that old tile.

I gave up on the bathroom altogether for a few months until I stumbled upon an Etsy shop that sold custom sized tile stencils.

I scooped one up and headed to the hardware store to grab some supplies.

I’ll tell ya, I didn’t even know what the heck I was doing. I didn’t even read the first tutorial on how to pull this off until I was standing in the paint aisle of the store.

patterned painted floor tiles in bathroom with stencil

Here’s What You Need:

A Good Cleaner That Doesn’t Leave Residue (I DIYed Mine Using This Recipe)

Zinsser Bulls Eye Primer (This stuff sticks to absolutely anything)

A Good Paintbrush (or two)

A Base Color Paint (I used Outdoor paint but you can buy paint specifically for floors, too)

Paint Roller Kit

Secondary Paint Color For Stencil

Floor Stencil

Water Based Poly Coat (Oil Based will yellow)

Poly Applicator

Painters Tape

Small Brush For Fixing Mistakes

 DIY cleaner for paint prep

Clean The Floors

In order for the primer to stick to the floor, it’s got to be super clean.

Not just Sunday morning clean before the football game comes on…

I’m talking “let the baby lick the floor” kind of clean.

Be careful with store bought cleaners here. They often leave residue that will cause the primer to be uneven, or worse, not stick at all.

I used my DIY Glass Cleaner and did three separate cleaning sessions to make sure every inch of these floors were perfect.

**Bonus tip: Deep clean your toilet while you’re at it. Your head is going to be all up in there, so make sure it’s clean and you drop in some essential oils to the toilet water to make it smell nice.  Just trust me on this.

 how to paint tile floors the right way and get even coverage

Prime In Squares

I started by taping off anything I didn’t want to get paint on.

Then, to make sure the primer evenly coated the entire floor, I used a brush and coated a square of grout lines, then filled in the tile.

I started at the back of the bathroom and worked my way to the door.

Once I finished the entire floor, I let it dry for 3 hours, then recoated it again with another layer of primer, just for safety.

One layer probably would have been okay, but I wanted to be extra sure.

the right primer to use on floors before painting

 Add 2 Coats Of Base Color

I used outdoor paint for my base because it seems like it would be super strong and durable for a hall bathroom.

The room gets guest foot traffic and rarely has too much moisture because the shower isn’t used very often.

If you are doing a main bathroom or kitchen, I’d suggest talking to your paint store associate on the best paint to suit your needs. There are all kinds of solutions for high moisture and traffic.

I rolled on two coats of white latex paint (don’t use oil, it will yellow) with a three hour drying window in between coats.

Then I let the paint cure for two full days before starting the next step.

how not to screw up a stencil when painting floors

Start The Stencil

First of all, let’s talk about this stencil for a minute.

I got it from Pearl Design Studio on Etsy and it’s pretty incredible.

I love the modern yet eclectic vibe of the pattern, and it’s really flexible so I can bend it all around things without even making a crease.

This was my first experience stenciling, and I can safely say that if I ever decide to tackle it again, Pearl Design Studio is the way I’ll go.

She prints them herself on practically any size you need, and they wash easily so they can be reused again later (if you don’t hack them up like I did…)

To make sure the stencil didn’t slip, I used painters tape to keep it in place.

the right way to paint stencils on tile floors

Carefully Fill In Stencil With Brush

Here’s where my tutorial gets a little different than the others out there.

Everybody said to roll it on with a foam roller.

Um, I don’t know what magic store they bought their foam rollers from, but I tried it and it was a mess.

It didn’t cover well, it left globs all up under the stencil, and it would have definitely needed another coat of this dark paint.

So I moved to another spot in the bathroom and tried it with a brush.

Much better.

Was there a little bit that went up under the stencil, yep. But nowhere near the the crazy amount from the roller.

And the brush left clean straight lines, as opposed to the roller’s fuzzy lines.

the one trick you need to know about painting stencils on tile floors

Clean The Back Of The Stencil After Every Use

Here’s another thing none of these other sites told me.

Since a little paint gets under the edges sometimes, if you just plop that stencil down in your next spot, you’re going to get a messy fuzzy disaster.

(You’ll see what I mean a little further down when I show you the tight spaces of small tile.)

So my already time consuming task of painting these stencils turned into an even more time consuming task of cleaning the back of the stencil after every use.

I just used some paint removal wipes but you could use a damp paper towel. Just make sure you dry it before you lay it down again.

tile floor painting mistakes

Do The Full Tiles First

So I just assumed I could start from the back of the room and do all the tiles in a row.


You have to skip around so the tape that holds down your stencil isn’t stuck onto wet paint.

So I flip-flopped all over the room until there wasn’t anywhere to step anymore, let them dry for a while, then went back and filled in some more tiles.

This process took pretty much an entire day, so make sure you don’t have any plans.

step by step process for painting tile floors with a stencil

Bend And Trace Stencil For Rounded Edges

I was really worried about going around the toilet and pedestal sink.

So worried I almost considered taking them out.

Then I remembered that was a stupid and wasteful idea, so I decided to test out bending the stencil.

That didn’t exactly work so well, but then I had a stroke of genius.

I grabbed a black Sharpie, bent the stencil around the rounded edges of the toilet and sink, and traced the lines of the pattern.

Then I just used a small paintbrush and filled them in.

It sounds like a lot of work but it actually wasn’t. I only had to hand paint the squares and triangles right up against the porcelain. The rest could be taped in place and painted with a large brush just like the full size tiles.

how to trim stencils

Cut Stencil For Half Tiles

{Here’s the part I was telling you about earlier. I didn’t clean the back of the stencil and ended up with all that nonsense. Lesson learned.}

Anyway, there will come a time that you will have to cut your stencil.

Unless you have a unicorn bathroom where every single tile is the exact same size, you should expect to do some slicing and dicing.

I measured the tiles that weren’t full size and cut my stencil to the largest of the measurements, that way I could trim it for the smaller tiles later.

how to touch up mistakes on painted stencils

Touch Up Mistakes

Boy, I had a lot of them.

I used a small brush and touched up places where the stencil bled or paint transferred from the back of the stencil.

I spent a lot of time on this because I wanted it to be perfect.

Did I get it perfect? Nope, I did not.

But I highly doubt anyone will have their face to the floor of my bathroom looking for lines that aren’t 100% straight.

And if they are doing that, they probably won’t be invited back again.

painted floor tutorial

Finish With 2 Coats Of Water Based Poly

I let my floors cure for three whole days before I put on the poly.

Maybe that was overkill, but it was a lot of work to get them this pretty. I wasn’t about to let my impatience ruin them by putting on poly too soon.

Once the floors had cured for 72 hours, I put on a coat of water based poly (oil based will yellow) with a floor applicator.

I let that dry for 4 hours, then put on another coat.

The instructions on the can said to sand between coats, but I didn’t do that. It doesn’t seem to have caused a problem by skipping it.

After the second coat was dry to the touch, I flipped on a fan in the bathroom, closed the door, and instructed my family that the bathroom door is not to open for 4 days.

Again, 4 days was probably overkill on curing time, but I would have sent my boys to live in our storage building if they had messed up that floor by stepping on it too soon.

 honest opinion on painting tile floors after doing it myself

My Honest Opinion Of Stenciling Tile

So I told you I’d share the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Does it look amazing? Yes it does. I’ve gotten tons of compliments.

Did it put one bathroom out of commission for a full week? Yes it did.

Is the internet lacking on every single step involved? Mmmhmmm, it sure is.

Does it work the first time? No way. Tons of mistakes before you get your groove.

Is it cheaper than buying tile? Absolutely.

How does it hold up? So far it’s been 4 weeks and no problems yet. But I definitely plan on posting a follow-up later to share the floor’s durability.

Would I do it again? Ugh, that’s tough. I would definitely do it again in a small room, but I would never tackle a large room like a patio or kitchen.

modern eclectic bathroom with painted tile floor

Read More: Small Bathroom Remodel Reveal

Share Your Experience

Have you stenciled tile before?

Are you considering it?

Have additional questions on one of the steps I listed?

I’d love to hear your experiences and your future plans to tackle a project like this. Getting a good conversation going in the comments section below will really help out others who are planning to get started, too. I’m looking forward to chatting with you all!

Pin It For Later

Adding this project to your to-do list? You can pin it with the little red button in the top corner of the image below to add to your fave Pinterest board. You’ll have it ready and waiting when you plan on getting started.

You can also share this post with a friend using any of the social media buttons below. Thanks for sharing!

My honest review and tutorial for painting tile floors and how to avoid common mistakes

Huge shoutout to Pearl Design Studios for providing this incredible stencil to use for my project. Your amazing quality, great customer service, and super fast shipping are the reasons I was able to pull off such a big task. Thank you!

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  1. After reading all this I’m considering outlining the entire stencil w sharpie, and hand painting, what are your thoughts on that? It seems like it would eliminate the paint bleeding, washing the stencils. Having to clean up a bunch of lines.
    Although my stencil is 12” which is the size of my tile the stencil is larger than my actual tile and I will need to paint over grout on every single stencil.

    I’m reconsidering the project as I’m not sure if I’m in over my head 🤦🏼‍♀️

    • Lela Burris

      That’s totally up to you. I haven’t tried it that way so I’m not sure. This is the only way I’ve done it. Maybe try Googling that method?

  2. Can we have an update how it’s holding up?

    • Brad - Admin

      Hi, Leticia! I can tell you that Lela and her husband moved from that house a little over two years ago, so unfortunately, we can’t provide an update post for you; however, the floor held up beautifully the entire time they were there with no water stains or paint chipping issues.

  3. So this is what I have done for the bleeding I did a coat of the first color with the stencil so if there bleeding u don’t see it then do a second coat with second color and the edges are coating from the the first color that it won’t bleed this takes more time but it’s saves from cleaning up lines

  4. Love this project and how it turned out! I have been doing a lot of research on painting tile. I’ve seen that they don’t recommend doing it in high moisture areas. Mine is for a half bath that doesn’t get too hot or humid and no pools of water from people stepping out of the shower and such. I see that your tile project was similar. How has it held up in the hall bathroom? Would you recommend doing in a small half bath or should I just stick to tile somewhere other than a bathroom?

    • Lela Burris

      Hi, I have since moved from that house but it held up very well when we lived there. If yours is a half bath, I say definitely go for it! We didn’t have any water or chipping issues because I slapped on lots of polycrylic sealer. That will lock it in and keep it safe.

  5. Kimley Patterson

    Another friend did this and had problems with the painters tape pulling up her base color, did this happen to you at all?

    • Lela Burris

      Hi Kimley, no I didn’t have any issues. Make sure you use a really good primer and a paint specifically made for floors for your base coat and you’ll be fine. Make sure the floor paint dries for a few days to cure. Painters tape is only made to be used on surfaces where paint has fully cured. Hope that helps!

  6. Jaclyn M. Harsh

    Hi I really appreciate your honesty! I am dying to get rid of the ugly ceramic orange tile in my entryway. They are smaller tiles roughly 7.5″ x 7.5″ and I know that certain vendors will custom make sizes…but I’ve seen some people talking about just using an allover stencil and ignoring the grout lines….I’m wondering if you know anything about this. I am really considering this because I found a stencil I just love and it happens to be an allover stencil; but I’m also thinking it’ll cut down on the amount of stenciling I have to do as I’ll be stenciling over about 4 tiles at a time….. Any direction or insight would be very appreciated!!

    • I haven’t tried a floor with an all over stencil without using grout lines, but I think if you use some additional grout to fill in the lines and make the entire floor even (so the grout lines are flush with the floor) it would probably work. Just be sure to use a really good thick primer like Zinsser Bullseye and maybe do an extra coat or two so you won’t have textured lines next to smooth tiles. Let me know if it works!

  7. Hi Lela! I’m getting ready to try this out on my ugly builder tile in the basement bathroom. Can you tell me what finish paint you used? I’m inclined to say egg shell in an outdoor paint but can you confirm what you used? Maybe it doesn’t matter since you seal it in the end? thank!

    • Lela Burris

      Hi Courtney! I used Satin but eggshell would work just as well. I wouldn’t use semi-gloss because the polycrylic is a bit glossy on its own, but satin or eggshell are your best bet.

  8. Thank you for this. I had a full meltdown last when when I set out to paint the bathroom floor and the blogs had made it sound like the easiest thing in the world. I gave up and made a random pattern as I couldn’t see it to completion. … being 5 months pregnant probably has something to do with the meltdown too. BUT! I am going to do bathroom number 2 (sucker for punishment). My question to you: how did you manage the grout lines? This is where my stencil seriously failed me. Lines became uneven and thicker than they were supposed to be. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you in advance!

    • Haha I love that you’re trying again after a full meltdown! I think you can do it! Just remember that it won’t be completely perfect, but any lines you mess up can always be touched up with a small paintbrush. As far as the grout lines, I didn’t make them part of the pattern at all. I just got a stencil that was the same size as my existing tile and only stenciled the tile, while leaving the grout lines alone. This made it look more like hand painted individual tiles instead of just a painted floor. But if your stencil requires you to go through the grout lines, I recommend using a sharpie to freehand the edges, like I did around the toilet and sink pedestal in this post. Then just fill in with paint and a small brush. Hope that Helps!

  9. This is great. You can try power washing to remove dirt, grime or grease in every part of your house. Be sure you approach the help of professionals.

  10. I would have gone crazy during the process! My choice is calling professionals.

  11. When we bought the flooring for our office, we took all of these tips into consideration when making our choice. We ended up purchasing Aquaguard laminate flooring in Coco. I love the color and we get TONS of compliments on it. We chose it for it’s durability, but also because it is water-resistant.

  12. I’m laughing so hard to myself because I’m tackling this project right now and was just searching Pinterest for some moral support. Girl! You are so right. The internet did not adequately prepare me for this. But your post is so spot on it’s making me crack up. I’m in the middle of stenciling and I’m going to use your tips! Thanks so much for the real truth about this project! *I still love how this project is going to look so much better than the 60’s burnt orange tile I previously endured*. 10/10 would do again! Thank you!!

    • Lela Burris

      Oh my gosh Shannon, you just made my day! I’m having flashbacks to the horror of the project process now. Haha! But you’re so right, despite all the frustration, it really will turn out so great, and you’re going to love it. So proud of you for taking it on! And thank you SO much for taking time to share how it’s going.

  13. Can I just say that you have done a job well done with your DIY bathroom tiles! I love, love, love the pattern that you have used! Will definitely try this in my bathroom as I am in the process of replacing my old tiles. Thank you for sharing this!

  14. Hi! I just found your post and am wondering if you can update on how the paint has held up?

    • Lela Burris

      Hi Carrie! We actually moved out of that house in August, but up until then it was absolutely perfect. No nicks or scratches at all. I did use a pretty heavy duty poly on top, so it would’ve taken professional quality soccer cleats to tear through the layers. Haha!

  15. I’ve sent for a stencil in anticipation of doing my entryway. I’m so excited!! I know I can be very patient because I painted all the grout a couple of years ago. That was a big job too, but they have held up very well. I am planning to use a stomping brush (it keeps the paint from going under the stencil. I have stenciled a lot in the 80’s, that was before your time). Thanks for your great suggestions!!

    • Lela Burris

      That brush sounds awesome! It definitely will make things much easier for you. I’d love to see how it turns out!!!

    • Lela Burris

      Hi Jan! I’m so excited for you! I’m sure it will look great! And the stomping brush is such a good tip. I’ll remember that if I try stenciling again! Thank you.

    • How did stippling the stencil go? I’m about to start this process and have a roller and a brush but like you I also stenciled a lot I. The 80’s lol.

  16. Wow just wow. I have never attempted anything like this and I work with tiles nearly everyday

  17. I just found your post via Hometalk and I agree with Suzanne from Australia—I read your entire post just because of your personality. I have no need to paint my floor—thank you Lord! But I did read a similar post on Hometalk where she painted her floor but instead of bringing the stencil to the wall, she painted the outside tiles in black which created a border. The effect was quite stunning and saved her the headache and having to cut the stencil to accommodate the smaller spaces. Not that it will help you at this point (so sorry!), but someone else may benefit from it. 🙂 Either way your floor looks great!

    • Lela Burris

      Thank you Tina! You’re so sweet! And that really is incredibly smart, it would have made things much easier and I bet it looked great! I’ll have to try to find that one. I think that is such a helpful tip you mentioned for anyone who is planning to paint their own floors. Thanks so much!

  18. Anna Morgan

    The floor is beautiful! I have a small bathroom in my small house that is about the size of yours. In fact it is the only bathroom in the house. Mine has non-descript homebuilt cabinets and drawers that are ancient that need to be demolished and mirrors that need replacing. I have bought a cute pedestal sink that has a basin that resembles a shell to replace a non-descript vanity. But before the pedestal basin is installed I want to remove the vanity, the homebuilt cabinets and drawers, the paneling that goes around the bathroom half way up the walls…so much to do before I can do a project like you did on the floor, and I am a DIY novice and will be 66 years old at the end of this year; but I want to give it a go!

    • Lela Burris

      Sounds like you have a fun project ahead of you! It sounds as if you’re on the right track though and I’m sure it’s going to be beautiful! You can totally do it! And if you get stuck on some of the technical work, check out See Jane Drill on Youtube. That woman is fantastic and such a good teacher, especially when it comes to bathroom repairs and remodels.

  19. Oh My Gosh . . . this is absolutely beautiful!!! You have the patience of Job and it paid off big time. I have yet to have the wherwithal to take on painting tile or hardwood. Do you hire out? I will put you up, feed you well and pay you for your work. You go girl!

    • Lela Burris

      Haha, as much as I would love to come help you out, that was a tough project! Although the fact that food is involved intrigues me… 🙂

  20. This is just awesome! great work lela!, can’t imagine my self doing this, i really have shake-y hands

    • Lela Burris

      Thank you so much Lex! And yes, it definitely requires a steady hand. I had to lay off the coffee those days. Haha!

  21. Hey Lela,
    Job well done! 🙂 This is a lot of work, requires a lot of patience. I don’t know if I can do this. haha The result is amazing.

  22. I’d be really careful painting tiled anything if you ever plan on cleaning them… the previous owner of our house apparently painted the floors, after hiring a professional tile cleaner in Spring, TX we found this out as the paint started to peel! Luckily for us, the tile came completely clean, and the floors are much prettier than before.

    • Lela Burris

      I definitely agree. It’s all about using the best poly that will stand up to cleaners. Luckily I haven’t had any peeling issues yet and I mop in there once a week.

  23. You did a great job there. I like your style on how you made your patterns.

  24. The floor looks great! Could you please share the colors you used? I have a bathroom floor I want to try this on. Thank you!

    • Lela Burris

      Sure! I used Corduroy Black by Valspar. Even though the word black is in the name, it’s actually navy blue. Not sure who was in charge of naming that color, but I think they failed.

  25. I stumbled across you from Hometalk and have just subscribed to your blog. I wasn’t particularly interested in painting my tiles but after the first sentence I was hooked. Your sense of humour had me laughing out loud. I continued to read as you write so well. My apologies for this having absolutely nothing to do with the subject. I just wanted to tell you that I wished it had not stopped there. You made my day with your gorgeous personality!
    Best wishes, Suzanne (Australia)

    • Lela Burris

      Suzanne! You have made my day with your sweet comment! What a kind gesture to take time out of your day to not only read a post on a project you don’t even intend to do, but to share your opinion afterward. I am so thankful you stopped by and subscribed, and I look forward to chatting with you more!

  26. Thank you for sharing your wonderful project and for being truthful about your experience. Too many times “they” make it look so easy and it took no time at all. This is a project I want to do in my own bathroom. Love, love, love how yours turned out. Just recently discovered your blog. Looking forward to seeing more.

    • Lela Burris

      You’re so welcome! I agree, all the tutorials I read made it sound like a breeze. I wanted to make sure I shared my honest experience, so everyone knows exactly what to expect. Thanks for stopping by and I’m so happy you’ll come back soon!

  27. Love love love this! I will be tackling this project here soon. Thanks for the advice!

  28. This is such a great idea. I was thinking doing some home DIY improvements for my apartment, and I think this is cool, I might try it but with a different pattern. Anyways, thank you for sharing this. Cheers!

    • Thanks Esther! I highly recommend giving it a shot! And there are a ton of great patterns out there, so you’ve got lots of awesome options to choose from.

  29. Really great job by you, these bathroom tiles are looking really beautiful, I am inspired and remember the catch word not to lose the mind while accomplishing this task. 🙂

  30. Your bathroom tiling looks amazing! I want to give it a try too but I’m not that confident with my DIY skills. Maybe i’ll ask some extra hands to help me. Anyways, thank you for sharing this! I’ll make this as an inspiration for my next bathroom redesigning!

    • Good luck with it! I wasn’t really all that confident with it either, but I figured, “hey, if other people can do it, I can too.” I think you should go for it!

  31. Cheryl Duncan

    This looks amazing, I’m going to try it on a front hall (yikes) soon! I’ve stenciled a lot of walls. I have a tip for you. Buy a large stenciling brush. You tap the paint on and over the stencil and the paint shouldn’t bleed under. It gives you a crisp line. The key is not to have too much paint on your brush.

  32. Oh this is cool! Unfortunately, I’m a total novice to the interior decorating game, so I think I’ll put this on hold until I feel more confident in my DIY skills! But your bathroom looks awesome!

  33. The result looks amazing! Love your blog <3

  34. Wow! I am beyond impressed by your tenacity. I think I would have had a cry mid-way through and given up (“So it’ll be just an accent pattern in the middle of the floor! That’s a thing, right?!” ) Thank you so much for really sharing all the details and materials. I think I won’t be able to stand up again if I had to spend so much time on the cold floor, so I’m going to have to train my body and psych my mind up for this. You’re a DIY Goddess!

    • Lela Burris

      Thank you so much Naomi! What a sweet comment! I’ll be honest, at one point I considered the big cry and quit, but I love your accent pattern idea! That could totally be a thing. Hahaha! And I highly suggest booking a long massage after you finish…I did, and when the masseuse asked what my problem area was, I told him “I just hand painted a floor for what felt like a year.” He didn’t even laugh, he just said “Well let’s get to it.” Ha!

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