Step 4: Planning and Painting Tiles
Three words make it happen: Custom Painted Tiles.
It's not a task to be taken lightly, however. It will take time, space, and patience.
The first thing to do is to figure out approximately how many painted tiles you will need. Carefully measure the space that will be tiled, and transfer those measurements to a scale drawing. We used a sheet of graph paper, and drew each wall and surface that would be tiled. Since our tiles were 6" square, the surfaces were then divided into 6 inch squares. My wife broke out the pencil crayons and started filling out a pattern of colours. She chose 34 different shades that formed a colour wheel around the perimeter of the bath tub rim. Those colours were transferred to a "master chart" from which the paint colours were mixed later on.
We chose to have the coloured tiles "concentrate" at the tub, then taper off in a somewhat random fashion as they got further away. As a result, somewhere between four and eight tiles of each colour were required for our design. I highly recommend making extras though, since it will be troublesome later on to recreate a damaged or missing tile.
While FolkArt Enamels come in a large variety of colours, they didn't have all of the colours we needed! After choosing the colours of the tiles, my wife set to work mixing different combinations of the roughly 20 different colours we bought. Some of the colours could be used as-is, while others ended up as mixtures of three different paints. If you choose to do a colour wheel like we did, you'll need to do the same. Of course, you may choose any combination of colours. Being able to paint your own tiles in the exact shade you want opens a whole new world of tiling possibilities!
Painting the tiles is a multi-step process. We learned through a bit of trial and error, so heed these instructions if you want a good result.
- Do one colour at a time to avoid confusion. Start by laying out all the tiles that will be painted on a flat surface. Each one should be thoroughly cleaned with 99% rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol to remove any dirt and oils that would prevent paint adhesion.
- With a fine bristle brush, paint each tile as smoothly as possible. Keep all your brush strokes facing the same direction.
- Allow the tiles to fully dry in a dust-free environment. Try not to move the tiles while the paint is wet.
- For most colours, a second coat will be required. Once the first coat is fully dry, apply a second layer, again with brush strokes in the same direction as the first layer.
- Mark each of the painted tiles with a number or colour code on the back. This will make it easy to sort by colour later on, especially when you have five different shades of yellow...
- Some colours, like Cobalt Blue, do not dry glossy like the majority of the other colours. Add a coat of "Clear Medium" to make them match the gloss.
- When you are satisfied with the paint coverage, the tiles must be baked. Place the tiles in the center of a cold oven, ensuring they are not too close to the burners or the sides of the oven. We used a standard electric oven; I'm not sure if a convection oven will work the same (it'll probably be better, but I've never tried it).
- Set the oven to 350F, and allow it to warm up with the tiles already inside. Once the oven reaches 350F, set a timer for one hour. Allow the tiles to bake for the hour, and when an hour has passed turn the oven off. Do not remove the tiles or open the oven door until the oven has cooled on its own.
- Remove the baked tiles, marking each one on the back to indicate it has been baked. Again, this is to help keep track of which tiles were baked - crucial information when you're making dozens of tiles over the span of two or three weeks!
When all the tiles have been painted and baked, they may be installed. Onwards, to tiling!