How to Make Talavera Tiles


Talavera tiles are an art form that dates all the way back to the Middle Ages. Italian artisans synthesized Arabic, Asian, and Italian patterns. Spanish artists took the tile production with them to Mexico, where it was combined with traditional Mexican motifs. Today, Talavera tiles come in a variety of colors and patterns. In order to get the look of Talavera, it is necessary to paint and fire the tiles. Traditional Talavera tiles are handpainted, with many imperfections. This makes creating your own Talavera tiles a great project for beginners.

Things You'll Need

  • tiles
  • poster board
  • pencil
  • under-glazes colored glazes
  • paintbrushes
  • water
  • kiln
  • clear over-glaze
  • Choose your tile. Raw ceramic tile is called greenware. Beginners should stick with square tiles in the 3- to 6-inch range. Smaller tiles are hard to paint on, and larger tiles break easily.

  • Choose a pattern. There are hundreds of traditional Talavera shapes and patterns. A simple repeating pattern makes a great border, or make several patterns with the same or complementary colors. Try mixing and matching patterns for a backsplash or a set of coasters.

  • Trace the pattern or patterns onto the poster board. Cut out. This will be your stencil.

  • Place your stencil on the tile. Carefully trace around the tile with the pencil. Don't worry if the pencil lines show; the kiln will burn away the graphite.

  • Paint the tile with under-glaze. Talavera tile is noted for its bright colors, so be sure to choose colors that not only complement each other but will also give the tile that traditional look. Under-glazes don't look the same on greenware as they do when fired. Yellows and greens tend to look especially washed out and dull. The heat of the kiln will transform them.

  • Fire the tiles. Cover each tile with clear glaze and fire a second time. This will add shine and ensure that the tile is waterproof.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you don't have access to a kiln, try looking in the phone book for a paint-your-own-pottery shop. For a small fee, they will probably be willing to fire your tiles.
  • Check with a craft dealer: Some glazes contain lead or other metals and are not appropriate for use near food.

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  • Photo Credit floor tiles image by charles taylor from
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