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Your Guide to Different Tile Textures and Finishes

Texture… It is the sensation caused by the surface of objects, stimulating the sense of touch. Basically, texture is how things feel, right? 

Imagine waking up in the morning on crisp cotton sheets, your bare feet moving across polished tile floors. You get into the shower and the warm water splashes against your skin, soap sliding over your arms. You wrap yourself in a soft, plush towel. Then you have clothes to choose from, offering a whole array of textures - silk, velvet, linen, cotton… Ok, now imagine everything without texture. Think you’d feel the same?

Creative finishes give the natural stone of our Silver Grey Triangles Wooden Beige Marble Mosaic Tile a beautifully unique texture!

Creative finishes give the natural stone of our Silver Grey Triangles Wooden Beige Marble Mosaic Tile a beautifully unique texture!

Texture is all around us – in nature, in our homes - virtually everywhere! It both adds to our sensory experiences as well as an important element of function in our space. When it comes to interior design, Texture is not only the magical ingredient that makes any room decor pop, but is also vital to a design’s success. 

Tile textures are often overlooked when planning a fresh space or taking on a redesign, but it is just as important as color, shape and pattern. In addition to adding a visual element to your installation, the texture you choose can also play a practical function. If you’ve been hanging around design websites for a while, you’ve probably noticed a wide range of finishes to choose from. You may have heard the most common ones; polished, glazed, tumbled, anti-slip and so on. Maybe you have no idea at all! In either case, don’t worry. We’ve put together a quick and easy 5-minute guide for you to understand different finishes that will help make your tiling decisions a little bit easier. 

Silver Arabesque Mosaic Tile

 

Natural Stone Tiles

We know that the Earth-inspired look and feel are two big reasons why homeowners go for natural stone tiles in their design. If you’re looking for distinctive designs where no two pieces are exactly the same, stone is the obvious choice! Marble, travertine, onyx, sandstone or limestone – all types of natural stone tiles come in a variety of finishes. If you’re not sure what your options are, keep on reading to learn the most common finishes that make natural stone tiles differ from each other. 

 

Polished tiles- 

Polishing is most frequently associated with granite and marble tiles (although other natural stones are also available polished), as these two are hard enough to achieve a good polished finish. Polished stone tiles exhibit a full range of tones from bright highlights to dark shadows, featuring a high-gloss, perfectly smooth finish.  Polishing brings out the best of the color and veining of a stone (especially in marble tiles!), and patterns appear stronger and bolder than they would on a natural surface. People love glossy tiles due to their highly reflective surface and emphasis on the natural characteristic of the featured stone. Polished natural stones are often associated with opulent designs that offer the most high end, luxurious feel.

Imagine the feeling of refined grace this marble tile would bring to a bathroom. Don’t you think Bardiglio Elongated Hexagon Polished Marble Mosaic Tile would look gorgeous on a bathroom wall?

Bardiglio Elongated Hexagon Polished Marble Mosaic Tile


We can’t ignore the drawbacks of polished tile, though. You’ll notice scratches on a reflective surface a lot easier than on a matte tile. Plus, it’s important to consider where you are placing a polished tile in your home and how much foot traffic it may get. Due to their higher slip potential-  especially when wet - polished tiles are generally reserved for indoor areas and wall coverings. If you’re still going for glossy floor tiles, install polished tiles in an area where water isn’t a huge deal. How about making your entryway pop with Nero Marquina And Thassos White 6 Inch Hexagon Marble Mosaic Tile under your feet?

Nero Marquina And Thassos White 6 Inch Hexagon Marble Mosaic Tile

Tip: Glossy tiles can also suit a fireplace surround perfectly and its smooth surface can help save you cleaning time after the soot and grime of the fire. The dancing flames reflecting off the glossy surface of the fireplace facing adds to the warm and cozy feeling of a crackling fire!


How luminous is the light reflecting off the Lexington White Marble Mosaic Tile on this beautiful fireplace?

 Lexington White Marble Mosaic Tile for a Glamorous Living Room Fireplace

Honed tiles- Another common finish for natural stone tiles is a honed one, where the stone’s surface has a consistent, smooth texture with a matte, satin look. Honed tile offers a more contemporary, cool texture that fits beautifully alongside polished and natural finishes. Less light is reflected compared to polished, and tile will always appear lighter in color. To achieve the honed look, natural stone tiles go under a series of polishing wheels with fine pads (similar to the process applied to polished tiles, but with fewer wheels), and are extra buffed for a satin-like feel. The result is a more muted look, and a smooth, velvety touch! 


Here’s our Calacatta Honed Herringbone Mosaic Tile with a satin-like feel, ready to elevate your kitchen walls with an extra graphic impact. They’d look beautiful on shower floors too!

Honed tiles are more scratch-resistant and less slippery than polished tiles due to their matte finish. With that in mind, a honed finish makes tile better suited for floors, stairs and other areas that must withstand foot traffic. Honed tiles are easy to clean too!

1X3" Calacatta Honed Herringbone Mosaic Tile for a Classic Kitchen

Honed tiles are a great choice if you don’t want to go fully polished, or are aiming for a contemporary look. If you’re in love with the beauty of natural stone tiles but want to see less wear and tear over time, choose honed tiles over polished. How about 10 Inch Hexagon Wooden Beige Marble Mosaic Tile marble tiles for a bathroom or mudroom floor? 

10 Inch Hexagon Wooden Beige Marble Mosaic Tile

Tip: Natural stone tiles in a honed finish will complement other natural stone and wood textures better than polished tiles, creating cozy and warm interiors with an organic feel. 

 

Satin tiles – Although it is often confused with a honed finish, it’s worth mentioning the difference when it comes to Satin tiles. Tiles with a satin finish are actually in the middle between polished and honed, with a softer, less shiny appearance, offering another alternative if you don’t want to go full-on shiny!

 

Tumbled tiles – As the name implies, tumbled stone tiles are physically tumbled! They usually go through this process in a rubber drum along with rocks, water, and sand. Unless they are hand-chiseled or roughened by a machine, tiles are treated in the rubber drum ranging anywhere from three to five weeks until the materials wear down their edges and soften their finish. When a stone tile is labeled as ‘tumbled’, you’ll notice that the surface appears slightly worn with a muted color. 

If you love the earthy rustic interior style, enhance your space with the antique feel of Tumbled tiles!

Natural Rustic Bathroom Decor with Fantasy Square Honed Marble Tile

1X1 Fantasy Square Honed Marble Tile

A tumbled finish provides great traction underfoot; however, it’s not a practical choice for heavy-use floors. Tumbled stone tiles are popular for showers, tub surrounds, and backsplashes, but it’s recommended that you fill the holes with resin if tiles are likely to go on a wet floor. 

While all natural stones can be tumbled, this finish is particularly popular for travertine tiles because the process enhances the natural pitting of the material. In fact, travertine is more about texture than it is about wild coloration.

Tumbled-finished travertine tiles have an antique appearance with the impression that they have been walked on for centuries. When you look at the Plaza Beige Travertine Mosaic Tile,  don’t you get that ancient Roman look?

Plaza Beige Travertine Mosaic Tile for Tuscan Inspired Bathroom Decor

Tip: Tumbled finish helps you add a sense of tactical texture and organic touch to a space, making it ideal for Mediterranean, Spanish, Tuscan or other Old-World decorating styles!

 

Brushed tiles- Probably the least common finish, this one makes tiles slightly smoothed with a wire brush, leaving the surface with more texture than honed, but not quite as textural as tumbled. The roughness of the surface is formed as metal brushes take away the soft particles of the stone. 

Brushed tiles are soft to the touch but still with enough cleft to give grip to the tile, resulting in a surface that is not slippery and gives a naturally worn finish! 

Brushed limestone, travertine, and marble tiles are perfect for creating an aged effect, which would look stunning in both a period property or contemporary house.  These tiles can easily suit both casual or Old-World décor styles too. 

Tip: Brushed stone tiles are often unfilled, as the metal brushes give them a slight texture on purpose. They can be used basically anywhere that honed or tumbled tiles can be applied.

 

Man-Made Tiles

When it comes to man-made tiles, ceramic, porcelain and glass tiles are available in a variety of different finishes and textures that enable you to dress your home with your own distinctive style! From the spectacular shine of glossy tiles to the excitement of a multidimensional finish, we’ve listed some of the most popular tile textures for you to explore further. Consider the pros and cons of each finish before you decide which one to go for!

Ocean Glass Cloud Amber Mosaic Tile Bathroom Backsplash with Brushed Nickel Decor

Ocean Glass Cloud Amber Mosaic Tile

Polished tiles - We can all agree that polished is the most well-known finish for man-made tiles. Unlike natural stones, polished man-made tiles go through a double process – first fired with the desired color and pattern, and then again with a clear coat. If you like a natural look but stone is not quite your thing, we’ve got you covered with polished tiles that mimic the look of natural stone! Ceramic or porcelain polished tiles mimic the look of any natural surface and are buffed to shine with a high degree of reflection. The result is the beauty of real stone without any of the maintenance it requires!


The visual texture of these La Riviera tiles gives the impression that they were handcrafted, creating a beautiful design element available in a variety of colors. How striking is this peacock blue La Riviera Quetzal 5x5 Ceramic tile accenting antique gold fixtures and a modern marble farm sink?

Tile Club La Riviera Quetzal Ceramic Tile Bathroom Backsplash with a Marble Farm Sink and Modern Gold Fixtures

 

Honed tiles - Who wants to design with the look of marble without any headaches? You’ve got plenty of man-made tile options waiting for you! Highly durable porcelain tiles beautifully mimics natural stone with a honed – so real that you would have to touch it to believe it is actually porcelain! Our Varana Gris porcelain tile is a beautiful (and highly durable) option if you love the look of honed stone. 

Varana Gris Porcelain Tile Mimics Marble Textures

Tip: porcelain tiles can offer the unmatched beauty of natural stone – as well as a more durable surface! They are perfect for high traffic areas where natural stone is not a good option.

 

Glossy tiles - Although they sound similar, glossy finishes are different than polished surfaces. Glossy tiles are created by applying a glaze instead of a polishing compound. This glaze gives the tiles a shiny appearance and an attractive mirror-like sheen. To add a sleek, modern look to your kitchen, bathroom or living room, there’s nothing better than glossy finished tiles! 

Glossy finishes allow light to bounce around the room, opening up smaller spaces and tricking the eye into making small rooms appear larger than they actually are. As a result, glossy tiles (especially white tiling!) are excellent for a small bathroom or narrow space. Gorgeous light-reflecting s are ready to turn up the wow factor in any design!

Mallorca Grey Ceramic Tile Kitchen Backsplash with Farmhouse Charm

Our Mallorca Grey ceramic tiles feature a beautifully glazed finish to add gloss and sheen!

The slippery nature of glossy surfaces means they’re extremely easy to wipe clean too. However, don’t forget that the shinier the surface, the more easily it shows smudges and dirt!

Tip: A quick way to check the slip resistance of a tile is to look if the coefficient of friction is 0.60 or greater for wet areas. And the more textured a tile is, the less slippery it is too!

 

Matte tiles – The opposite of glossy tiles, matte tiles are covered with a non-shiny glaze for a flat finish that reflects no light. They are made to create a more informal, softer look. One of the most important pros of a matte tile is its slip-resistant quality. Since matte surfaces have better traction than gloss, they’re the obvious choice for flooring, particularly in showers or wet rooms. 

Don’t you think this Glacier Frosted tile would be ideal for a busy bathroom, where cleaning is far less frequent?

Glacier Aqua 1X1 Frosted Glass Tile

Tip: As matte-finish or frosted tiles are dull and do not reflect light like gloss-finish tiles, they are more appropriate for larger kitchens. Matte tiles can actually make small  kitchens look and feel smaller!  

 

Anti-slip tiles – While it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of slipping, tiles with anti-slip finish have been designed specifically for wet surface conditions, such as bathrooms, pool surrounds or shower areas. A fine grit is added to the matte glaze over the ceramic or porcelain tile. The result is a rough, gripping texture on a tile that makes it ideal for tiling in wet areas, as well as entryways or mudrooms. 

Tip: A quick way to check the slip resistance of a tile is to look at the Application section and make sure it is rated for Shower Floors!

 

Metallic tiles – Bold and reflective, metal-finish tiles add a touch of distinctive texture to a feature wall or backsplash. Tiles with a metallic finish are often used as a contrasting accent in bathrooms or kitchens to tie in with hardware and appliances while offering a durable finish.

Metal finishes can be applied on a porcelain tile body - a great material choice if you’re looking for ultra-easy maintenance and durability. This requires a multi-fired process, where tiles are fired in a kiln multiple times. The result is a beautiful, iridescent metallic finish on the tile, unlike anything you’ve seen before! 

As copper is becoming a popular material choice for interiors, check out this combination of Ionic Herringbone Copper Porcelain Mosaic Tile and Ionic Copper Decor Impact A Rectified Porcelain  tile for a unique look in the bathroom!

Modern Bathroom Style with Copper Porcelain Tile Feature Walls and a Minimalist Bathtub'

There are also tiles made from actual metal (such as stainless steel), that adds a modern industrial look to your decor. If you want a modern, retro and elegant design, Stainless Steel Penny Pebble Metal Mosaic tile is the way to go!

Stainless Steel Penny Pebble Metal Mosaic Tile for a Modern Industrial Interior Detail

Tip: Stainless steel is the ultimate neutral because it reflects the colors and textures of the elements that surround it. Adding lighting effects increases the drama and adds a whole new element to design.

 

Multi-fired tiles –Exclusive designs, more color choices, metallic details, dimensions… Thanks to advanced multi-firing technology, our tiles are unlike any others! If stand-out design is your goal, take a look at the unique effects multi-fired tiles can have on your space. 

 

Dimensional3D tiles are one type of multi-fired tiles. You may already have noticed these tiles are usually monochromatic; usually available in simple white, grey, or black. With 3D tiles, curves, straight lines or fun geometry come into play in a sleek, contemporary fashion.  A great way to design with 3D tiles is to use them like wallpaper! How about ceramic tiles as an accent wall, to deliver a floor-to-ceiling wallpaper effect? 

Ionic Decor Code Copper 3D Porcelain Tile for a Modern Metallic Bathroom Wall

 

Do you hear the rippling wave effect echoing with Tango Ivory Wave tiles? These soft waves would look so soothing in a bathroom!

 Do you hear the rippling wave effect echoing with Tango Ivory Wave tiles? These soft waves would look so soothing in a bathroom!

 

How about some textured finish that feels outrageously modern on this Carrara Gator Etched Subway Marble Tile? (We promise, no animals were harmed to get this gator-skin tile effect!)

Carrara Gator Etched Subway Marble Tile

Tip: Tile texture and finish is particularly important if you’re working within a particular color palette where the shades are very similar. In that case, break up a monochromatic room with the power of multi-fired tiles to add dimension to your decor! 

Textures on your tile can appear subtle or bold, depending on the material used and the color desired. Tile textures serve a double purpose, offering beauty as well as function! Now that you know a variety of textural finishes, keep in mind the pros and cons of each option when choosing tiles for your next remodel. If you still can’t make up your mind, let us know so that we can help!

Which Tile Textures and Finishes are Right for Your Next Remodel?

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