stenciled tile floors

Hello friends! If you follow me on Instagram (@fiddleleafinteriors) you’ve surely seen my most recent DIY project – painted tile floors in our downstairs powder room!  This project took MUCH longer than expected (partly because I am a slight perfectionist, and this DIY totally challenged that part of me)!  However, now that it’s done, I am SO happy with it.  And for all the late nights and swearing I would never do this again, I most definitely will be doing the same thing to our master bath, and maybe our guest bath, upstairs too! (This time I’ll just be using a MUCH larger stencil)!

That said, and as happy as I am with how mine turned out, I definitely believe there are personalities who should totally attempt this, and those who might want to skip it!  I’m really just trying to spare you a lot of time cursing yourself (and possibly me for recommending this) if you have a total lack of patience and want instant results – because this is not one of those projects!

So first, who SHOULD attempt this project?

Those of you who want a STATEMENT floor without the cost of demo-ing and replacing your actual tile (or whatever you might have currently); those of you with PATIENCE; and those of you who are able to see beauty in imperfection, because no matter how many hours you spend on this thing, your floors will NEVER be perfect, that I can promise you!

Who SHOULD NOT attempt this project?

Those of you who want a quick weekend project and who will not be happy with imperfection – your floors will NOT look like ceramic tiles you buy in the store!  Also, if you lack patience, as I said above, and want instant results… well, prepare to be disappointed!

That said, this project will bring a TON of character into your home, and what a conversation piece, eh?

If you’re still with me and thinking “YES, let’s DO THIS THANG!,” then keep reading for all of my tips and tricks – I learned a lot along the way!

***Disclaimer: Because I just completed this project, I cannot speak to how these floors hold up in the long term, but I will definitely come back and do a 6 month or year refresh on this post in the future!***

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  • Sander – I used this one  with 120 grit sandpaper (a sander is NOT needed unless you have high gloss tile)
  • TSP
  • Old rag or two
  • Zinsser Bullseye 1-2-3 Water Base Primer
  • Rustoleum Chalk Paint in Linen White (or whatever color you want your basecoat to be)
  • Paint pan and 6″ multipurpose paint roller/nap
  • Stencil brushes (the main one I used was about 1″ wide)
  • Stencil of choice – I used the Santa Ana Tile stencil from Cutting Edge Stencils in the 8″ size
  • Acrylic craft paint – I used Americana in “Lamp Black” (you could also use chalk paint for this)
  • Paint easel or good ole’ paper plates
  • Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish Finish in Satin
  • Small detail paint brushes (I just used what I had on hand)
  • 1″ paint brush
  • 3″ paint brush
  • Towel (one you don’t really care about)/paper towels
  • DustBuster or vacuum
  • Exacto knife or box cutter
  • Painter’s tape
  • Masking tape
  • Knee pad (optional – make sure it’s CLEAN)
  • Fan (optional)

Step 1:

You only have to do this if you have high gloss tile – don’t worry about it if you have textured or matte tile!  I’ve never done this on linoleum, but I would suggest skipping this step on linoleum as well!

Use your sander to rough up the surface – you probably wont feel like you are doing much, but I promise it helps!  You WON’T (and you aren’t trying to) remove the gloss surface; you are mostly trying to score the surface (which is a fancy word for add scratches to) so that your primer and paint will stick better.

PRO TIP:  Clean your toilet before you start this project! You’ll be getting pretty intimate with it over the next few days!

sanding tile

Look at that boring white tile. If only it didn’t cover our ENTIRE downstairs too! haha!

Step 2:

Mix 1 part TSP with 1 part water and wash your floors with an old rag (if you have pets, I also suggest vacuuming at this stage).  Once you’ve done this, use warm water and go over your floors again to remove any TSP residue.  Allow to dry (here is where the fan comes in handy!)

Step 3:

Tape off your floor – I taped off my baseboards, sink, and toilet.

PRO TIP:  While you do this entire project, I suggest a knee pad for comfort – your knees will thank you later!  Just make sure it is a new knee pad, and not one you just used out in your garden.

PRO TIP: Wear CLEAN socks (no shoes!) during this entire project – the floor is VERY delicate during the painting process. Treat it gently and avoid anything that might get it dirty.

Step 4:

Use your 1″ paint brush to paint the grout lines of your floor with Zinssers Primer, and your all purpose paint roller and 6″ nap and paint tray to roll the primer on the tile.  Roll on the tile surface AS YOU GO do you don’t get build up from the edges of where your 1″ brush travelled.

I did THREE coats of primer (wait about an hour between each one).

Step 5:

After allowing your third coat of primer to dry for about 2 hours, paint your Chalk Paint base coat on, also using your 6″ roller and nap (I skipped the 1″ brush/grout line part here and just used my roller to get into the grout lines). I did 2 coats of the chalk paint.  Allow about an hour drying time between these coats as well).

Step 6:

Time to stencil!  This is the part where you’ll need all the patience! So grab a glass of wine (or coffee, or some other beverage of your choice; chocolate perhaps?) and get to work!

I used simple masking tape to tape down my stencil on all four sides.  My stencil was 8″x8″ and my tile was a little less than 16″ square, so I essentially made 4 of the stencil “tiles” into one big tile, with no grout lines in between. You can also totally disregard your grout lines (this is what I am going to do in our master bath in the future).  It’s really up to you – do what YOU think looks great!

Use your stencil brush in a circular motion (with the brush fully perpendicular to your floor) to fill in your stencil with your acrylic or chalk paint.  Make sure you get 90% of the paint OFF your brush before you start on the stencil or you will see bleeding – this happened to me a LOT because I am NOT the most patient person. But I promise you will thank yourself later if you take the time NOW to do it right; so trust me, you want a very DRY brush!

I also moved around with my stencil to allow the most previous one I painted to dry a bit.  I used my grout lines as a guide, so it didn’t matter if I did one in one spot of the floor and another in a completely different area – adjust accordingly depending on what you’re doing.  Luckily, the acrylic paint dries pretty quickly!

PRO TIP:  Use a towel (or paper towel) to pat the back of your stencil off after EVERY use – you will prevent a lot of unwanted bleeding this way!

PRO TIP: Completely WASH your stencil after about every 8-10 uses.  This will prevent paint build up on your stencil so that all of them look the same. Otherwise, as you go, the stenciled result you see on the floor will get smaller and smaller, because the paint build up in effect makes the stencil itself smaller.  It’s a pain to wash the stencil and let it dry, but worth it!

PRO TIP: The larger your stencil, the less time this will take – so consider that when choosing yours!

PRO TIP:  During times when you are washing your stencil or taking a break (I personally needed frequent breaks for my sanity), set up a fan to speed up drying! Completely optional, but I think it helped!

Step 7:

Once you have done all of your full size stencils, you can bend (or cut, though I didn’t) your stencil to fit on your edges (near the wall, sink, toilet, etc).  These are a bit more difficult, but do your best, and just know these spots might need a bit more touch up at the end!  Use your fingers to hold down the stencil up to the edge of whatever you’re working against as best you can!

I did this one before I finished all my full size stencils, but I wish I would have waited until the end! It helps to just get in a groove of easy ones (full size), and then switch your mindset to be prepared for the more difficult areas, in my opinion.

Step 8:

Let dry for about an hour. Then, if you’re so inclined, use a very small paintbrush to do your touch ups! I started with my black paint touch ups, then moved on to my white (the white touch ups required 2-3 coats to fully cover the black).

Let me be real with y’all, I probably spent about 12, yes TWELVE, hours total on my touch ups – you do NOT have to do the same.  I am a perfectionist and just couldn’t stop (though at some point I just told myself: “Self, STOP, it is good enough!”)  Plus, as I said earlier, I got impatient with my super dry brush, so I often had way too much paint on my brush which caused bleeding on the front end.  Ultimately, I spent way more time on touch ups than I would have had I just slowed down and done things right the first time!

Before touch ups – lots of bleeding!


Cutting Edge Stencils

After touch ups – still not perfect but much better and I love it!

Step 9:

Once you are happy with your touch ups, and your floor is dry, use an Exacto knife or box cutter to remove all of your painter’s tape – the knife helps ensure a very clean line where you remove the tape.  I only had a few touch ups to do around my toilet and sink, and on one area of my wall.

Complete these touch ups with your small paint brush and allow to dry.

Step 10:

Once everything is dry, use a DustBuster or vacuum, preferably with a soft brush on the end to avoid scratching, and very gently vacuum your floors.  Because we have a dog, no matter how hard I tried her hair got into the bathroom over time, so the vacuuming was VERY necessary as a prep step before sealing the floor (and I’m sure some of her hair is still there and will be there forever more – life as a #dogmom)!

Notice the brush on the end – this helps precent scratching!

Step 11:

Use your 3″ paintbrush to paint on the Minwax Polycrylic top coat.  I did FIVE coats, waiting 2 hours between each as the instructions say.  You may think five coats is overkill (after all, the instructions recommend three), but there was NO way I was going to risk anything messing up these floors – I spent TOO much time on them!

There really is no exact science to this part, just slap that stuff right on your floors, making sure there is no pooling of the Polycrylic anywhere.

This step is so easy, so don’t skimp now – I HIGHLY recommend 5 coats!

PRO TIP: If you are careful, you really don’t need to re-tape off your baseboards, sink, etc.  I didn’t and it was just fine!  But, if you wan’t to be sure your baseboards are shine free, you should probably re-tape them off before proceeding with this step.

PRO TIP:  Be sure you watch for hairs or dust particles as you go along, and remove them.  If you don’t, you will get air bubbles that you will have to sand out and go back over later (admittedly, my floor has a few and I am way too lazy to fix them right now! #noshame).  But if you can help them appearing in the first place, do it!

Step 12:

Allow to dry – at least 24 hours! And now, most importantly ENJOY, and SHOW THOSE BABIES OFF!

painted tile floors

stenciled tile floors

Aren’t they just GORGEOUS!? I don’t mean to toot my own horn here, but guys! They are amazing (and with the topcoat, feel a lot like linoleum now)! I am just smitten with them!

And as I always say, if you attempt this time-consuming, albeit totally worth it, DIY, I would LOVE to see your results!

(P.S. Yes, I sat on my bathroom floor with tea, a magazine, and a blanket just to get that photo you see above – the floor is just too pretty not to use as a backdrop for photos)!

Good luck my lovely friends!

XO, Ana