Thursday, July 7, 2011

Budget "Glass Tile" Tutorial

My "Glass Tile" backsplash.
(Don't you just love how a flash will bring out the streaks on your stainless you didn't know were even there?! UGH!)

I've been playing around with some ideas on how to improve the realism, thus the wait on the tutorial. I like the original in my kitchen, but I am sure I could improve on it given time. So, I'll give the tutorial as I did it, and then tell you what I'm playing around with. I'll post any improvements as I discover them. I don't have pictures to go with this version, but I'm taking pictures as I recreate this to post in an updated version
later down the road.


DecoArt's Triple Thick Glazing in High Gloss - available at most craft stores like Michael's &
      Hobby Lobby
Artist 1/8" tape - again, available at craft stores in the fine art section where the canvases
      and palette supplies are located
Sample pot of your paint color of choice in the glossiest sheen available
     (or a quart of high-gloss paint)

     *I used a sample of Gliddens Celery Stick in eggshell, but wish I'd gotten high-gloss
Fan Brush
Smooth Surface Paint Roller
Floetrol Additive - to eliminate brush strokes and extend working time - CRITICAL to get the best look!
       (I did mine before discovering Floetrol!)
Quart or gallon of your "grout" color in a tough enamel 
      *I used Sherwin Williams Super Paint in "Informal Ivory" to match my trim
      *White is best as it doesn't tint the colored paint for your tile and gives the truest color,
         but if you do two or three thin layers of your color paint it really won't matter.
Tweezers - to get hold of tape when removing.
Delta Ceramcoat Gloss Exterior/Interior Varnish - available at craft stores in 8 oz bottles.
*Optional - if you create this on a thin layer of Plexiglas cut to size that fits in tightly between cabinet
         and counter and then attach to the wall, you can easily remove it later if you change your mind,
         Creating this on a flat surface and MUCH easier than reaching back under cabinets to work on a
         vertical wall.

The key here is layers and layers and LOTS of high gloss! If you look at a picture of glass subway tiles (or what ever shape you prefer) like below, you'll see there is a lot of shadowing. I was attempting to recreate the transparent glass, not the solid or iridescent. Those would actually be SO MUCH easier to do (typical of me...gotta do the hard stuff!).

Oh, so pretty!

via House
Notice the shadowing created by depth and transparency.

via Mineral
Recycled Glass Mosaic Tile Luxury Nacar = $9.95 p/sf

via Mineral
Clear Glass Tile Classic Pure Ice = $11.58 p/sf
Notice the shadowing. This can also be achieve with simple paint to create an illusion.
From my files. Don't remember where it came from.
via Mineral
Glass Tile Classic Lime Blend = $11.58 p/sf

via Mineral
Iridescent Glass Tile Marine Aqua Blend = $16.58 p/sf
You can get this iridescent opal effect with cheap nail polish!
via Mineral
Wave 3D Glass Tile Egypt Apis  = $22.25 p/sf
How cool is this basket weave?!
 I've learned a lot since creating this version, and I'll throw in extra info as I go that will save you some time and trouble.

Step 1:

Cut your Plexiglas down to fit snugly between the cabinet and counter. It needs to be tight enough to hold it in place and need some nudging to get in, or you'll have to use an adhesive to hold it on. Your choice. I wouldn't want the adhesive should I decide to take it out one day because it will do a number on your drywall, but if you plan to always put something there, like real tile one day, then go for it!

If applying straight to the wall, thoroughly clean surface with a degreaser and let dry completely.

Step 2:

After mixing a generous amount of Floetrol into your paint base/grout coat of tough enamel in a separate container (mix as needed), apply over all the area to be covered by "tile" with the smooth roller.

If using the Plexiglas, after cutting down, then apply the paint base coat to cover the entire surface evenly with the smooth roller.

Step 3:

Using a template or measure out with a straight edge or level for whatever pattern you choose (I did 3"x6" tiles and just used a level), trace a very faint pencil mark (mechanical .5 in the lightest lead possible works best). Trace the tile pattern onto the base coated surface (where all the grout will be - thus the need for light marking).

Step 4:

Apply the artist tape to the "grout lines" where the template was traced onto the base surface. Keep lines as straight as squiggles or it won't look like glass tile! It's also critical to think about the order the lines are being laid. For instance, lay the vertical lines first, and then the horizontal and try to use only one piece of tape per line for easy removal. Lightly burnish the tape edges to make sure it's adhered tight.

Step 5:

Using the fan brush, apply a coat of gloss or high gloss polyurethane over all your tape to seal the edges so no paint will seep under. I typically apply two thin coats to make sure it's sealed well. Thick coats make the paint get too wet and bubble. (I like to use Delta Ceramcoat Exterior/Interior Varnish, but any will do).

Step 6:

This is where you need to decide if you want to go with solid or transparent tiles. If going with solid, you'll apply an even layer of joint compound about 1/4" thick with a trowel over the entire surface. EVEN is key here and smooth. I've not tried this version as I was going for transparent, but I've seen it done. (You might want to experiment with using a spray bottle to mist water over a test surface to create a slip in order to make a slick, smooth surface.). As soon as surface is acceptably smooth and still wet, pull up the artist tape before compound dries to create the grout lines. This would be very tough with a staggered subway pattern. It would need to be continuous lines where the tape is accessible after the joint compound is applied. for instance, first lay the vertical so the ends are covered by the horizontal tape. That way when the horizontal pieces are removed, the vertical ends become exposed. You may need to use tweezers to get hold of the end initially. Allow joint compound to dry at least 24 hours or longer. Follow drying times on label. There are also other ways to paint this to achieve tumbled marble, regular tile, and stone effects. That's for another post, though:)

Step 7:

Mix a generous amount of Floetrol in with your paint color of choice in a separate container. Apply a thin coat evenly using a smooth coat small roller to entire surface, regardless of if joint compound was used or not. Apply two coats if color isn't as uniform or deep as desired. Better to apply two thin coats than one thick! If joint compound was used, MAKE SURE to NOT paint the grout lines. Allow paint to dry completely.

Step 8:

This is where I am experimenting with the best way to get that thick transparent effect. If joint compound was used, simply apply one or two thin layers of high-gloss polyurethane to seal and you're done! If going for the transparent effect, you're about half-way done.

I've not tried applying the Floetrol to the Triple Thick, but this is where it would help tremendously. Triple thick is awesome but is true to it's name - THICK - and sets quickly! It can't be applied with a foam brush (FYI!). You're going to need MULTIPLE coats to get the transparent effect, so patience is needed here. If you have a spouse who isn't, might want to reconsider making them look at this for about a week!

Keep applying coats until the desired thickness is achieved, allowing each to dry completely before the next is applied, but be careful to test that tape can still be removed cleanly! It  might be a good idea to do a trial run or test board prior to the actual project to calculate how many layers, time this project will take and any unforseen problems.

Step 9:
Once desired thickness is achieved, remove tape to reveal grout lines. You'll need to take a WHITE or natural eraser and remove the pencil marks left.

Step 10:

Now that you have a difference in height from the grout to the tile, apply a couple of coats of high gloss polyurethane and you're done! Whew! Not hard, but tedious and time consuming:) Once this is all dry and has set for at least a week, you can wipe it down just like tile. I use Windex on mine...especially behind the stove.

What am I experimenting with?

I'm getting ready to play around with liquid epoxy resin, Plexiglas, old sheet mirrors from the Habitat Restore, Golden's Gloss Gel Medium and old tempered glass commercial shelving (if I can find it) in a couple of different ways to see if I can find a faster and just as cheap method that has more depth and transparency. In my opinion it's a waste of time if you don't save substantial cash when compared to real tile. It's not worth it time-wise or money-wise. So, I'm doing the playing and saving you the effort. When I find a better way, you'll be the first to know!

Wow! That seems wordy, but there is a lot to look out for to get the desired effect here. I wish I had pictures, because if you're like me, you NEED them. As I play with this new version, I'm taking them like a good blogger for you. Until I can post an updated version, here's my first one to experiment with. Have fun!

Here's some "natural" sparkle to get you inspired!

"Frozen Rain"
B.E. Interiors Photography

"Bejeweled Mushroom"
B.E. Interiors Photography

"Morning Dew"
B.E. Interiors Photography

"Early Morning"
B.E. Interiors Photography


  1. You did a great job on this! And...a wonderful tutorial! I think it looks fine just as it is...AND - what a job working under those cupboards! Hope your day is wonderful- xo Diana

  2. Thanks for sharing! I look forward in viewing more of these articles.
    Social security disability lawyer


One of the highlights of each day is hearing from my readers!

Follow Me on Pinterest