My budget kitchen makeover continues! Today I’m sharing my new painted backsplash, which is arguably the cheapest backsplash ever.
That’s cheap as in low-cost, save-your-money-for-something-more-important. Not cheap as in inferior.
My freshly painted cabinets completely transformed my kitchen, but I never dreamed a painted backsplash could also make such a huge difference.
Previously, our kitchen still had the laminate backsplash from when the house was built in 1973.
Functionally, it was perfect.
Aesthetically, it was horrendous.
I have absolutely nothing against a laminate backsplash – in fact, I’ve seen some really beautiful ones.
Mine was not one of those. It was that lovely gold and white veined laminate that everyone loved in the 70s. (The better to match our harvest gold appliances, my dear. Evil laugh.)
And not only that, it was super thick in a weirdly noticeable way. As in it dwarfed the window trim, it was so thick.
So it had to go.
There are tons of awesome DIY backsplash options and many of them are pretty budget-friendly, but I decided to go with the least expensive of all.
Because as you may have noticed, I am incredibly devoted to painting all the things.
What can I say? I love what paint can do and I understand paint so well. It is cheap and never comes with hidden surprises.
(Plus I just tiled our entire shower a couple of months ago and I may not have mentally recovered from it yet.)
StencilGirl is a new to me stencil company that recently came out with a line of home décor stencils. The stencils are all designed by artists and made in the USA.
Plus, StencilGirl is a family-run company, which I love.
I did hesitate briefly at first, wondering if the paint would be durable enough as a backsplash.
But then I remembered that plenty of builder-grade houses come with a painted wall ‘backsplash’. (Theirs just aren’t as cute as mine!)
Just make sure to use semigloss paint. Semigloss paint is great for resisting moisture if water gets splashed on the wall and its easy to clean. Both of which are essential for a backsplash.
*Update: It’s been a couple of years since I first published this tutorial, so I’ve updated the end of the post with info on how the backsplash has held up over the years and how it looks now.*
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Materials for Creating a Painted Backsplash
- A great Stencil – I used StencilGirl’s antique tiles stencil. If you are looking for more options, I put together a whole list of other great backsplash stencil options.
- Painter’s tape – for protecting the surfaces next to your backsplash
- Foam Paint roller and paint tray– these small foam rollers are great for painting smooth surfaces quickly.
- Primer – if you are painting a laminate or tile backsplash, you definitely need to start with a good primer. This is my favorite primer for slick surfaces because it really helps paint adhere well.
- Semigloss paint in at least two colors
- Foam paint brushes – for painting the edges and corners of the backsplash
- Makeup wedge sponges – these work so much better than a paintbrush for stenciling small areas like corners
- Spackling – optional, you may need this to fill in nail holes if you are stenciling on drywall
- Sandpaper – if you are stenciling a laminate backsplash, 150 grit sandpaper is great for scuffing up the laminate a bit before painting. If you are using spackling to fill holes, you will need high grit (220 grit or higher) to smooth the spackling once it dries.
Tutorial: How to stencil a backsplash
First, you need a flat surface to stencil. It could be drywall, laminate, or even flat tiles.
I chose to remove our previous laminate backsplash before stenciling because of the weird thickness of it, but stenciling the laminate would have worked just as well. (I know because I also painted our laminate countertop and it worked great.)
Prep your backsplash
If you are stenciling a tile or laminate backsplash, you’ll start by lightly sanding the entire thing with sandpaper to rough up the surface a bit and cleaning it well with a degreaser (I prefer plain old Dawn dish soap).
If you are stenciling drywall like me, you may need to patch a few holes to ensure your surface is perfectly flat. After removing my old backsplash, I had quite a few nail holes to fill as well as some dents from the removal process.
I used spackling to fill these holes and then once it was dry, sanded it smooth with 320 grit sandpaper.
Once everything was nice and smooth, I wiped the wall down well to make sure it was clean and dust-free.
Before you start priming or painting, make sure to protect your countertops, outlets, cabinets, and anything else touching the backsplash with painter’s tape.
If you are painting a tile or laminate backsplash, a good primer is a must. Primer sticks to slick surfaces like these much better than paint alone.
(And no, sadly, paint + primer in one isn’t going to cut it in this case. Paint + primer is really just a better paint that covers in less coats. It doesn’t have the superior adhesion you can get from a separate primer.)
I recommend Zinsser oil-based primer for painting slick surfaces. I have used this primer on all kinds of projects including painting my laminate countertops and it never disappoints.
Keep in mind, this is a more fumey primer since it is oil-based, so be sure to open the windows while you work.
Roll the primer onto your backsplash using a foam roller. You may need to use a paintbrush in the corners and around the edges of the backsplash.
I like to use cheap foam paintbrushes for this – oil-based products can be a paint to remove from paintbrushes so it’s much easier just to use a one-time use foam brush.
If you are painting a drywall backsplash, you can probably skip the separate primer step.
Now you are ready for paint.
You can begin by painting the base coat of paint using a foam roller and paintbrush.
The base color for tile stencils is the ‘grout’ color; I used bright white semigloss paint for my base coat.
One coat of paint will usually be plenty for the base coat.
Once that dries, it’s time to stencil.
I prefer to stencil using a foam roller as well because it is much faster than using a brush or sponge.
The trick is to make sure you don’t load too much paint on the roller at a time.
Load your roller with a light layer of paint and then lightly roll it over a few layers of paper towels to remove any excess.
Using painter’s tape, tape your stencil to the wall.
I find it easiest to start stenciling in a corner.
Lightly roll your roller over the stencil until all of the open spaces are evenly painted. As you are rolling on the paint, you don’t want to press down too hard or paint can squish under your stencil.
If this is your first time stenciling, you may want to do a few practice runs on some scraps of cardboard to get a feel for how much paint to use and hard to press.
Once you have stenciled the first section, you can gently pull the stencil off the wall.
To do the next section, simply line the stencil design up with the previous section and keep going.
The thing that is really tricky about stenciling the backsplash is reaching the spots right below the cabinets and right above the counter.
To get into those little areas, you will have to bend your stencil at a 90 degree angle.
Since the foam roller won’t work well in such tight corners, you can use a small foam brush or makeup wedge sponges to gently fill in those parts of the stencil.
If your design starts to look a little messy and not so crisp, that simply means it is time to clean the excess paint off your stencil. I’ve got super helpful tips for the easiest way to clean stencils in this post.
And if you find that there are any areas that don’t look quite as good as you would have liked, you can simply repaint them your base color and then stencil over them again.
That is the marvelous thing about paint – it is so forgiving.
This is such a great stencil for a backsplash. When my family came over, they couldn’t stop talking about how much it looks like real tile and I have to agree.
And even though we still have a long way to go with this budget kitchen makeover (lights, appliances, faucet, etc.), I think it looks pretty darn great.
Just look at the difference a painted backsplash and some fresh outlets made.
Here’s a little sneak peak of the kitchen once the countertops were painted as well. There is still more to do, but this room already looks a million times better.
Update: My Painted Backsplash Two Years Later
It’s now been more than two years since I originally painted my backsplash so I thought it would be helpful to share an update on how it has held up and how it looks now.
I actually recently repainted my backsplash, but not because it had any problems.
In fact, I felt very comfortable painting the backsplash a second time because it had help up so well the first time.
As I finished up other projects in our budget kitchen makeover, our kitchen was looking entirely too white.
The white cabinets weren’t going anywhere and I wasn’t about to tackle repainting the countertops, which meant the backsplash needed to change.
I decided to repaint the backsplash in my favorite dark blue shade: Sherwin Williams Blue Mystery. And since I was making changes, I decided to give a new stencil a try as well and used this Santa Ana tile stencil.
And now I love it even more! It adds the perfect contrast to the kitchen.
How has your stenciled backsplash held up?
When I first had the idea to paint our backsplash, I was a little unsure how it would hold up.
Kitchens have backsplashes for a reason – water, food, and grease get splashed onto the wall pretty regularly, especially around the sink and stove.
Luckily, my fears were unfounded. The backsplash has had zero problems. We had our original stenciled backsplash for two years before I repainted it with a darker color.
The day I started repainting, it looked just as bright and fresh as the day I originally stenciled it.
How do you clean your painted backsplash?
Most of the time I simply wipe down the backsplash with a damp paper towel or rag.
Occasionally I do more of a deep clean using the same cleaner I use for our countertops, Method All-Purpose Cleaner.
I have also used Mr. Eraser on a few stubborn stains with no problem. Since I used paint in a semigloss finish, wiping it hasn’t caused any problems.
I hope that helps! I’ve also gathered a bunch of tips for choosing the best backsplash stencil if you are thinking about tackling this project yourself.
And I also have a whole collection of great DIY backsplash ideas if you want more inspiration.
Don’t miss my final Budget Kitchen Makeover Reveal along with these other inexpensive kitchen projects:
- Painting Oak Cabinets White
- Updating hinges with Rub n Buff
- Where to Buy Inexpensive Cabinet Knobs and Pulls
- Painted Countertops: Painting your countertops to look like marble
- 21 of the best budget kitchen makeovers under $1000
I’d love for you to pin this project to Pinterest.
- Painter’s tape
- Foam paint brush
- Foam Paint roller
- Semigloss paint in at least two colors
- Makeup wedge sponges
- Lightly sand the entire wall with sandpaper.
- Wipe the wall down to make sure it's clean and dust-free.
- Protect anything touching the backsplash with painter’s tape.
- Paint the base coat using a foam roller.
- Tape your stencil to the wall with painter's tape.
- Load your roller with a light layer of paint. Roll it over some paper towels to remove any excess paint.
- Lightly roll the roller over the stencil until all open spaces are evenly painted.
- Gently pull the stencil off the wall.
- Line up the stencil design with the previous section and repeat.
- Use a small foam brush or makeup wedge sponge to stencil near corners and other hard-to-reach areas.
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