Can You Paint Your Shower Walls Instead of Using Tiles?

Author: Pat Freling | Updated: | Affiliate links may be present.

Tiles and PVC shower pans are the most common materials used in showers and bathtubs because of their durability and ability to withstand moisture. However, you may be wanting to update your existing shower with paint instead of tile.

You can paint your shower instead of using tiles. It’s important you choose the right kind of paint that can withstand high moisture and lots of wear and tear. Latex-based enamel paints are your best options. You can also opt for oil-based enamel or polyurethane paints.

Paint Qualities Needed for Painting Shower Walls

Whether you have tile already that you want to paint over or you are painting on bare walls, each kind of paint you choose will need to be specially formulated for high-moisture environments.

The paint you choose should always say “waterproof” on the label and have indications for use in bathrooms and kitchens.

You should also look for “mildew resistant” on the label. This means you can ensure your paint has a mildewcide present and won’t allow for the growth of any grime on your bathroom surfaces.

Best Paint Options for Shower Walls

Choosing the right kind of paint can make or break your shower painting project. You need to choose a durable, waterproof bathroom paint if you opt not to use tiles.

Latex-based Enamel Paint

This is by far the most popular paint option. Latex-based paint has great moisture resistance and holds up well during scrubbing and cleaning. It also has a shorter drying time and fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) meaning it won’t have such a strong offensive odor.

Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch is a high-quality water-based latex paint that comes in a variety of colors. It boasts a low odor application and is resistant to chips and scuffs. It also has an easy clean-up if you get any on unwanted surfaces.

Rust-Oleum Perma White is another paint that is specifically designed for high-moisture areas. It is another low odor option that helps prevent mold and mildew growth, which is ideal for bathroom paint projects.

Oil-based Enamel Paint

While not as popular as latex, oil-based paints are still a good choice for painting humid, moist areas. The downside for oil-based paints is that they have a higher VOC, so the odor can be stronger. They also require a longer dry time between coats.

Rust-Oleum makes a high-quality oil-based enamel paint that is great for painting water-prone surfaces, such as bathroom and shower walls. It does have a 400 VOC rating, but it is long-lasting and can stand up to scrubbing and cleaning

Acrylic Enamel Paint

Between oil and latex-based paints comes acrylic. This paint is highly regarded amongst homeowners who use it in high-moisture areas, making it perfect for a bathroom project. There are also specific fast-drying acrylic paint brands so your project can get done quicker.

A reputed brand such as Majic Paints Diamond Hard acrylic paint is an excellent choice, especially if you are painting over existing tile that you don’t want to remove first. It is also low odor and provides a beautiful gloss finish when it’s dried.

Polyurethane Paint

Polyurethane paints provide a beautiful finish with a hard, durable coating once they are dried. One important thing to note about polyurethane paints though is that they should not be used on existing ceramic or tile, as they can react poorly and turn a pale yellow color.

They commonly come in refinishing kits because there are two components that need to be mixed together, a polymer and a resin. But it is possible to find a version that is marketed as a pre-mixed coating that can be tinted.

RTG Shower & Tub Refinishing Paint is a polyurethane water-based paint that is designed for bathroom refinishing products. It is also a low odor formula and has unmatched durability.

Epoxy Paint or Refinishers

These are very similar to polyurethane paints in that they have a two-part mixture. A big difference with epoxy paints is that they are highly noxious and should only be applied in well-ventilated areas. They also can require up to one week to fully cure.

Rust-Oleum Appliance Epoxy is a good choice for a shower wall refinish, just avoid using it on the actual shower pan as it may not last as long.

Marine Paint

As the name implies, these types of paint are formulated for aquatic and marine surfaces such as boats. It does require heavy mixing, but its durability is outmatched when it comes to high-moisture environments.

Duralux is a highly rated marine paint that comes in a variety of colors, including white and cream colors if you are looking to match your current shower walls.

TotalBoat Wet Edge is another marine paint of the polyurethane variety, but this one does not require a two-part mixing process. It also has several color options to choose from.

Some Things to Consider Before Painting Your Shower

Painting your shower instead of using tile or replacing the old tile is not a decision to take lightly. You should take a few things into consideration before taking on this project.

Are You Painting Over Existing Tiles?

While painting over existing tiles can be done, it will limit the type of paint you can use. You will need to be sure you choose a paint specifically for ceramics, such as the water-based epoxy mentioned earlier, and you will still need to prime your surface as you would normally.

If your tile is glazed, you may have to sand away the finish before you begin to prime as these glazes make it difficult for anything to stick to them.

Even though there is more prep work involved in painting over existing tile, this is honestly a more cost-effective option as opposed to stripping and removing it.

Are You Painting Over a PVC or Fiberglass Shower Pan?

Again, this is still possible but just as with painting over existing tile, you should get paints that are specifically designed for these types of surfaces.

They usually come in refinishing kits that contain an epoxy or polyurethane mix. These kits are specially formulated for showers and tubs so they are highly waterproof. They also can be sprayed or rolled on like regular paint.

Also, most of these refinishing kits will need a specialty sealant on top once the primer and paint have dried.

Are You Painting Over a Bare Wall?

If you’ve already got bare walls, then prep work is much easier than the previous two options. It is still necessary to select waterproof paint. It’s also recommended you purchase bathroom or kitchen-specific paint because of their mildew-resistant properties.

You Will Always Need to Prime

Unless you choose a paint that says “paint and primer in one”, you will always have to prime your surface, no matter what brand or type of paint you choose. Sometimes, sanding is necessary before priming if you need to remove the glaze from the existing tile.

Just like the paint you choose, your primer should be waterproof. It will say on the label whether or not it’s indicated for use in high-moisture environments.

Final Thoughts

Although using waterproof bathroom paint instead of tiles in your shower is a viable option, you need to pay close attention to the type of paint you choose. Make sure you prep your surface correctly so that you don’t have to repair a bad paint job in the future. But with the right tools and prep, your painted shower walls will be crisp, clean, and ready for use.

About Pat Freling

Pat has been into DIY painting since he was 14 years old. He's painted interior walls, decks, patio, and even the first car that he'd purchased at 18.

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