How to Make DIY Tile Artwork

by Kimba on May 3, 2010

in Artwork,Do it yourself

As promised, I’m back to show you how you can make a piece of DIY tile artwork. I showed you all the glory shots last week and now I’m ready to give you the lowdown on how you can make one of these babies for yourself. Don’t let the length of this post intimidate you. It took me longer to take the pictures and write the post than it did to do the project.

Here’s what you need:

  • Beautiful tile- You can use ceramic, like I did, or you find some gorgeous glass tile. I was trying to be thrifty so I stuck with the $2.50/sq ft tile but you could use whatever tickles your fancy.
  • A piece of plywood cut to the size of your finished artwork. I wanted mine to be 3′x3′, so I asked the guy at Home Depot to cut a piece of 4′x4′ plywood to size for me. I think mine is 3/4″ thick. Easy peasy.
  • Tile adhesive
  • Premixed grout – Unless you feel like mixing your own, then have at it!
  • Trowel – That’s the metal thing with the handle. Two sides are straight and two sizes are notched.
  • Grout float – That’s the foam thing with the handle. You use it to squish the grout in between the tiles.
  • A sponge – To clean the grout off of the surface of the tile.

The first thing you want to do is put down your adhesive. Use the flat side of the trowel to just schmear some in the area where you want to lay your first tile. Make sure you’re covering at least a 1′x1′ area so the whole tile is on top of the adhesive. Most tiling tutorials will tell you that you can cover a 2′x3′ area at one time. But this is a relatively small projects so I just did 1′x1′ at at a time.

After you schmear it on, go over the area with the notched side of the trowel to make those little ridges.

Now you’re ready to set your first piece of tile. This is the most important piece since the others will be set based on it. Lay the first tile and line it up with corners of your piece of plywood. Make sure it’s flush with both sides for the plywood.

Once your sure it’s placed correctly, smoosh it down into the adhesive. Some of the adhesive will squish up between the tiles. That’s ok. We’ll clean up any over-squish later.

Now you just repeat the last two steps to lay the rest of your tile. Make sure that it all stays square as your putting the tiles in place. If this were a floor or wall tile project, we’d be using little spacers to make sure everything is space properly. But since this is such a small area, I didn’t think they were necessary. Eyeballing it worked fine.

Next you need to clean up any excess adhesive that squished up between the individual tiles. I just used a wet paper towel for this part.

Now you need to let the whole thing dry overnight. Follow the directions on your adhesive. Mine said let it dry for 24 hours.

Next step? Grouting! You’ll need your grout float and your grout (are you feeling like a real DIY-dal yet?). I used a paint stirrer to scoop the grout out of the little bucket. You can use a stick or an antique spoon, if you’d prefer.

Are you ready to show me your muscles? Grouting is not difficult. It just takes a little elbow grease, so eat your Wheaties before you do this part. Glop a blob of grout onto your tile artwork. Use the float to push the grout into the areas between the tiles. Don’t worry that you’re getting grout all over the face of your tile. We’ll clean it up later. Just get the grout into all the joints between the tiles.

Let your grout set up for about 20-30 minutes.

Now we’re going to clean up the grout that’s on the surface of your tile. Use a wet sponge, that you frequently rinse in clean water, and clean the surface of your tile. Let the tile dry and wash it with the wet sponge again, if needed.

TaDaaaaa! Clean tile!!!! Oops! I have a little bloop of grout on mine. No worries. I’ll just pick it off.

The final step is to finish the edges of your plywood. There are lots of options. You could just leave them completely raw, which I think would be cool. Or you could stain them…also cool. If you’re really ambitious, you could frame the whole piece with wood trim.

I decided to paint them with regular interior paint. I just used a foam brush and smooshed on 2 coats of paint.

And there you have it. Step by painstaking step. Is anyone still reading this?

This thing weighs a ton, so I wouldn’t recommend hanging it above your bed in earthquake country. Unless you wear a helmet to bed. I chose to set mine on the buffet and lean it against the wall. I put a little of that Fun-Tak gummy stuff on the bottom edge so that it doesn’t slide and scratch the buffet.

If you want to hang it on the wall, you’ll need to attach some heavy-duty hangers and use anchors in the wall. You don’t want this baby falling down.

The thing I like best about this project is that it can be customized however you want it. Choose different tiles. Change the size. Whatever! You can make it as big or as small as you want. You could even mount singe 1′x1′ squares of tile and group them together for a big wall display.

Have you made any of your own artwork lately? Tell me about it!

PS…I used the words shmear, smoosh, squish, glop, bloop and glob in this post. Could I be a little more technical?

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{ 36 comments }

1 mrsweid May 3, 2010 at 9:03 am

I LOVE this idea! I have a recently renovated powder room in need of some artwork– but I’ve been struggling to find something that I absolutely love (I’ve dubbed this project “my jewel box”). This is exactly what that room needs. Off to shop for glass tile… thanks!

2 Becky May 3, 2010 at 9:04 am

This is so great Kimba! I cannot thing of a better way for someone who is renting (like me) to add a kick to the kitchen without doing anything the landlord might not approve of.

Also, what a great way to “practice” before tiling a backsplash or a counter top. We did an island in one of our previous homes and did a tile counter. It was so easy. Just like this.

3 al May 3, 2010 at 9:06 am

Thanks for the tutorial – may i will hang it on my husbands side of the bed – just kidding…
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4 Karen May 3, 2010 at 9:14 am

I love this idea! I want to tile my kitchen backsplash and this would be great “practice”. Thanks for the tips.
Karen´s last blog ..DIY iPad/iPhone Stylus My ComLuv Profile

5 Jen@balancing Beauty and Bedlam May 3, 2010 at 9:28 am

Yes, you are amazing….and so articulate…squicsh, smoosh, and glob are a part of my daily vocabulary, and now you’re telling me I’m not professional?

6 suzanne May 3, 2010 at 9:49 am

You are speaking my language with schmear, squicsh, glop a blob……….you are so intellectual!
and so darned funny and so darned talented. Love this project…I think I could probably do that. I would love to look at glass tile…..hmmmm.

Suzanne
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7 Tonya May 3, 2010 at 10:01 am

Great project! Love the look of this!
Tonya´s last blog ..Review For CSN Stores My ComLuv Profile

8 Donna May 3, 2010 at 10:33 am

I love it….I see a project in my immediate future…

9 Melanie May 3, 2010 at 10:56 am

This is a great project! I love it. Thanks for the tutorial. I might just have to try this:)
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10 Danielle May 3, 2010 at 11:05 am

“shmear, smoosh, squish, glop, bloop and glob” are VERY technical in my dictionary :) What a great project! Thanks so much for sharing :)
Danielle´s last blog ..Burlap Menu Board My ComLuv Profile

11 Chris May 3, 2010 at 11:57 am

I’m a little confused (shocking, I know!). What did you do with the extra square footage from the wood? It didn’t take up 4×4, did it? I’m seriously looking into this, so I need to know all the gory (gorey) (gore-eee?) details! Looks great!

12 Kimba May 4, 2010 at 9:05 am

It’s not you. I don’t think I explained that part very well. :)

The original board was 4′x4′. Home Depot (and probably Lowes) sell smaller pieces of plywood…4′x4′…2′x2′ and 2′x4′.

I had the guy in the store cut the 4′x4′ board down to 3′x3′ so I didn’t have to get out the table saw at home. You still pay for the bigger board and take the scraps home with you.

Make sense?
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13 Centsational Girl May 3, 2010 at 12:11 pm

I now feel more intelligent having expanding my vocabulary thanks to you. Excellent tutorial my friend ! What an easy way to add a style statement to your home, even for renters ! LOVE it !

14 Jeannine May 3, 2010 at 1:06 pm

I like this! This would be cool with a mirror in the center too!
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15 Kimba May 4, 2010 at 9:06 am

YES! That would look totally cool!
Kimba´s last blog ..DIY Day with Burlap+Blue My ComLuv Profile

16 Katie May 3, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Just found your blog — loving this tutorial!! Definitely something I’d like to try. Will be browsing around for other great ideas as well! :)
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17 Jennifer Juniper May 3, 2010 at 1:48 pm

I really love this and the tutorial peppered with squish and smoosh made it that much better :)
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18 Shayna @ Texas Monkey May 3, 2010 at 2:28 pm

I love this when you first posted and so happy to get the tutorial, but I am a bit confused which is easily done, but you said you wanted it 3×3 so had it cut to 4×4, so did it take up 4×4 or did you have extra left over that you had to cut to make it 3×3? Thanks for any input. I can’t wait to try this.

19 Rachel May 3, 2010 at 2:33 pm

This is so fun! And what a great way to practice working with tile, I love it. Thanks so much, I’ll be linking.

20 Amanda May 3, 2010 at 3:27 pm

I think she had a 4×4 piece cut to 3×3??

21 Kimba May 4, 2010 at 9:07 am

YES! I need an interpreter sometimes. :)

22 Hannah Braboy May 3, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Beautiful! I have always thought the glass tile was pretty, but have never used it.

23 Richella May 3, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Thank you so much for the step-by-step directions! Smoosh and gloop and glob ARE technical terms, by the way. :)

24 Jen @ Lita's World May 3, 2010 at 7:33 pm

WOW! I love it…and you really made it sound easy – Thank You!!!
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25 Lara Harris May 3, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Love working with tiles! Be sure to stop by my blog for my ART Giveaway! :)
Lara Harris´s last blog ..My Cottage Charm GIVEAWAY!…You Gotta Have ART! My ComLuv Profile

26 grannyann May 3, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Neat idea. I always see those pretty tile sections and never know what to do with them….now I do.
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27 Kimm at REINVENTED May 3, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Gorgeous! I love it! Thanks for the tutorial, I’m thinking I could do this now! :)

28 champe May 3, 2010 at 9:49 pm

So fun and useful in so many places. We should all learn how to tile in our lives.

29 Kara May 3, 2010 at 11:42 pm

It turned out just beautiful! Thanks for doing a tutorial. And for using words I can understand. ;)
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30 Someday Crafts May 4, 2010 at 3:18 am

Beautiful! I will feature this at somedaycrafts.blogspot.com tomorrow!
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31 Jan May 4, 2010 at 2:31 pm

I LOVE this!! I was actually thinking of trying something like this myself. I love the mosaics that I’ve seen where you cut scrapbook paper into 1X1 squares and mod podge them in your design choice, but I am far too impatient for that! The other day I wondered if small tiles could be used and now I’m glad to see that can be! Great job!!
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32 nancy May 4, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Great step by step tutorial! Thanks for the tips and ideas.

33 Nadir@hodgepodge May 4, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Love this post! It seems so simple! I’d love to try this w/ the hubs sometime. :-)

34 Samantha May 5, 2010 at 12:44 am

Brilliant, beautiful and brilliant! Thank you so much for sharing!
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35 Jessica May 10, 2010 at 10:43 pm

What an amazing project – and so affordable! Think about all the creative things you can make because there is some beautiful tile out there. Not to mention good practice if you’re tiling a room.
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36 Jenn @ Frugal Upstate May 18, 2010 at 11:10 am

Ohh, I can just imagine how this would look if you put a mirror in the center and used the tiles as a frame. . .
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