Types of tile paint

The usual paint for tiles is ‘spirit varnish’. It has to be brushed on, and it has to dry before you can keep on working. But this means that if you get a drop of water in the wrong place while you’re doing your best not to notice anything before the spirit varnish has dried, then everything gets mucked up – and if you’re not careful, the stupid stuff just won’t dry. As a result of this, people have long been looking for something better to use on tiles.

What are the types of tile paints?

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Tile paints come in at least two different types.

1- The first kind of tile paint is the sort you’d get in a tin. When you open up this type of tile paint, it looks like ordinary water-based interior emulsion (which means that it’s almost identical to wall emulsion); but when you start working with it, something quite remarkable happens: the pigment rises to the top and crystallizes into little particles. As it does this, the paint turns from having the consistency of water to having the consistency of double cream – but only for about six hours, after which time it goes back to being like water-based interior emulsion again. You can either work with this type of tile paint by pouring some on a roller tray and painting it onto the tiles with a roller, or you can use it in an airless sprayer.

2- The second kind of tile paint is what I call ‘liquid stone’. This stuff looks like ordinary emulsion paint when you first open the tin but it feels quite different and has very small flecks floating around inside it (so it looks an awful lot like emulsion paint mixed with sand). When you water this type of tile paint down, the flecks get even smaller and they disappear to such a degree that you can’t see them anymore. Then there are another six hours or so while all the particles rise up to the top again; and after this, the paint gradually goes back to being just like ordinary emulsion paint. You can use this type of tile paint with an airless sprayer.

What surfaces can tile paints be used on?

The only surfaces where it is usually a good idea to use tile paints are shiny ones – and we’re talking about very shiny tiles here, not just tiles that have been cleaned with a damp cloth once in a while! Tile paints will work on shiny surfaces, but they will never give a completely matt effect.

Tile paints are not good for making tiles look like marble or expensive porcelain – because these materials have a dull finish rather than a shiny one. But they work very well for giving tiles a ‘wet look’. This is how they got their name: people think that tiles painted with tile paints look as though they have just been covered in a very shiny varnish.

What are the advantages of tile paints?

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Tile paints are great for making tiles look like expensive marble if you want – but it’s widely agreed that they are the worst possible choice for painting kitchen or bathroom walls. This is partly because of the long drying time, and also because tile paints simply don’t stick properly to surfaces unless you first prime them with something specifically designed to do that.

Tile paints work well on the right surface. They paint over existing tiles and cover up any lines that showed where the different colored bits of tile met one another; and since they work like a varnish, they will seal in any grout that’s still sticking to the tiles beneath them (which isn’t true of spirit varnishes, which don’t work like that).

Tile paints also raise the color of tiles, giving them more depth and making the colors look more exciting. This is because tile paints contain ‘titanium dioxide’.

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