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How to Stencil on Ceramic Tiles

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Things You'll Need:

  • Soap or cleaner
  • Water
  • Scrub brush or sponge
  • Bonding primer for tile
  • Desired stencil
  • Masking tape
  • Oil-based paint, or ceramic tile paint
  • Appropriate paintbrush or sponge brush
  • Clear urethane
  • Paint thinner


You should only paint or stencil ceramic tiles in areas that will not be regularly moist or wet. For instance, do not paint tiles on the inside of showers or baths. Occasional splashes are OK, as in a border on a tile floor, or the backsplash of a stove.

You can clean up errors in painting with a sponge or cotton swab dipped in mineral spirits or paint thinner.


  • Do not paint tile in an unventilated space. Use windows or fans to avoid a concentration of potentially toxic fumes.

Stenciling and painting ceramic tile is a fairly easy project to do to decorate neglected areas of the house that can use some design touches, such as the kitchen, bathroom or utility room. With attention to detail and some easy precautions, you can stencil your own design or choose from many available in home improvement stores.

Clean the tile surface. Use dish soap and water or household cleaner with a scrub brush or sponge scrubber to make sure the surfaces you are going to paint are spotlessly clean. No dust, dirt or scratches should be present on the tiles. Dry thoroughly.

Coat the tiles with a bonding primer. Be sure the primer you choose is one that is designed to work on tile. This will help the paint go on smoothly and allow it to bond to the tile permanently. Follow all directions on the primer container. Let the primer dry completely. Next, prepare the paint, following all directions on its container as well.

Stencil your design. Place the stencil over the tile and tape it tightly down with masking tape or other stable tape that can be removed later without leaving a residue. If necessary, hold the stencil firmly to the tile with one hand while painting or sponging the ceramic tile paint on with the other hand. Use a small amount of paint at a time, so you can be sure paint doesn’t run underneath the stencil and ruin the design. Repeat as needed on other tiles.

Let the paint dry before sealing. Then, apply a coat of clear urethane to seal the paint onto the tile. Follow all directions on the urethane and paint containers; the paint container should say how long you must let the paint dry before applying a sealant.

Place the tile or tiles in a safe, dry location to let the urethane sealer work. It should dry and set for at least a day. The longer it sets, the harder the urethane will be. If the tiles are on a wall or floor, be sure they are not stepped on or brushed up against until the sealer has set--up to two weeks for best results. Finally, clean any brushes, containers and stencils with paint thinner to remove the paint, primer and sealer.

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