Historic pink matte glaze tile
Original (left), match (right)
Glossy peach tile on lower left wall matched to tile on right wall in 1940's home.
Are you trying to match a tile color you have already found or already own? Or are you trying to find a tile color that matches a color you've selected?
We may be able to help, and offer a service to try to match your tile. We are often -- but not always -- successful, and may be able to help you avoid having to re-tile an entire room for the lack of a handful (or wall-full) of tiles. For those of you with beautiful older homes or commercial buildings, we may be able to help you maintain the look of fine craftsmanship after a remodel.
PLEASE NOTE: large floor tiles cannot be matched by us. Please read on for details.
Customer sample, damaged by construction crew.
Matched glaze on sample tile.
Matched through-body porcelain tile and matched mosaic design.
White glaze matching can be very demanding. Your eye can see the smallest difference in shades of pale colors, especially whites. Got close here, though, for early 20th century bathroom.
Why is matching tile so difficult?
- Manufacturers often don't label their tile so you know who made the tile or what the style and color are. Further, most ceramic tile is made outside the U.S., so U.S. customers have a complex research project.
- Tile colors are fashion items and may only be on the market for a few years.
- Even if the tile color is still being manufactured and you find out how to get it, tile colors vary from batch to batch.
- Tile glazes are proprietary with ingredients that may no longer be available. Even if formulas were available, tiles with these glazes would need to be fired exactly the same way on the same kind of clay in the same kind of kiln to get approximately the same results.
- Tiles made before the 1980's often used hazardous chemicals no longer used: notably lead. Lead and other heavy metals helped make bright colors and sometimes an iridescent finish.
- Glaze formulation is a specialized chemistry job that most manufacturers will not do for smaller orders (or even bigger ones), since much testing and experimentation is required, as well as specialized knowledge and access to chemical ingredients.
Customer sample of historic dimensional tile.
Matched dimensional tile.
One customer writes:
"I am so pleased with the reproduction tile you made for my vintage lavenderish-pink bathroom. We removed an old wall heater from our bath several years ago that left a hole in the wall which I covered with a small piece of furniture. But now I have vintage tile that matches perfectly to repair it and I could not be happier. Very helpful service, fast and efficient and the price was very reasonable. Can't thank you enough for saving our beautiful vintage tile bath that we love so much."
So - what to do?
We can see if we can match, or come close, with the glazes we have or a custom glaze. We have many more glaze colors than you will often find from other manufacturers, and are willing to do some experimentation, even for small orders. We have successfully matched many tiles and we will let you know quickly if we can or cannot do the job for you.
We CAN match and manufacture:
We MAYBE CAN match and manufacture:
- Flat tile, many thicknesses, up to 10" in length and 10" in width in any size increments, for wall, surfaces, or floor.
- Through-body color tile in porcelain, in tiles and multi-color mosaics. (The job size will be an important issue to discuss, however, due to the difficulty of this process.)
- High-relief, low-relief, patterned (some but not all: see below). 3D modeling is available to match relief tile: setup costs are applicable.
- Special shapes: cove, mudcap, bullnose, etc. in any sizes up to 10".
- Special shapes: triangles, custom rectangles, hexagons, etc.
- Special purpose tile: fireplace surrounds, fountain emitters, etc. There may be size and other limitations: please inquire.
- Tile on machine-made base in standard sizes (4.25" and 6" square, trim and bullnose, etc.) and some custom sizes. Please inquire.
- Small hex, penny-round, square porcelain mosaics with glaze.
- Pool tile: if square and solid color, in standard sizes. We can also match some pool tile with glaze patterns: please inquire. We match with porcelain tile suitable for pools. 3D modeling is a possibility for unique shapes: a set up charge would apply.
- Patterned tile. The complexity of the design can be an issue. Please inquire. This includes Talavera style.
- Special glazed roofing tiles. Please inquire.
- Large tile in special cases.
- Red-clay tiles matched onto a red clay matching tile. This is due to the cross-contamination of equipment typically used for our off-white clay. In some cases, the glaze match on off-white tile will create the same look on the surface. In other cases, please inquire.
We CANNOT match and manufacture:
- MOST modern stone-look porcelain floor tile. These have very subtle colors, veining, and surface texture made with sophisticated machines and techniques and matching is not practically feasible. This usually means tiles made in the 1980's on.
- Large-format floor tile (for us, that is any tile greater than 10", or in a FEW cases, 11.75" in length or width). Floor tile needs to be very flat for safety and durability, and our handmade tile cannot achieve that standard in large tiles. However, machine made floor tiles can be custom glazed in some cases: please inquire.
- Patterns from tile currently protected by copyright and still commercially available. (Copyright-free images are fine.)
- Firebox tile for inside the firebox of fireplaces.
- Oddly sized or shaped small pool tile, usually described as mosaic. These often have complex glazes and special shapes that require too much custom molding and matching to be feasible, unless the cost of 3D modeling is acceptable.
For everything else: please inquire! There's a first time for everything, and we truly enjoy discussing problems and solutions with each person who contacts us.
Matching glaze involves knowledge, recordkeeping, reference books, technical resources, extensive trial and error, and luck.
Glaze matching process:
A. If you want a color "something like" your original, there is no charge for glaze matching. We will ship a sample for $1 per sample plus mailing expense.
B. If you want a pretty-much dead-on match that is not among our stock glaze colors, we charge a matching fee up front for the matching service, which we will only charge once we see your sample and agree to try to match it. That service includes up to 3 sample mailings (regular mail) to you and a return of your sample if you request it. The remaining charge is to cover a bit of our time, materials, and noodling capabilities. We do not guarantee we can achieve your target but will work to get you an answer one way or another as fast as possible. If you order tiles from us, that cost will be additional, and may vary from our standard prices if materials and methods are different, or for small orders.
C. Be aware that the time required for multiple tests can be extensive. If a quick match does not happen, this can mean MONTHS. Mixing of glaze ingredients, recordkeeping, firing, and adjusting of the next round of glaze recipes takes time. Glazes usually look very different unfired than fired, so, unlike paint, adjustments in glaze recipes cannot be guided by eye. Each glaze firing takes at least 48 hours and several can be done every week, but a lot of thinking, reference book research, and dozens of firings may be needed to achieve a close match. Furthermore, we have numerous projects underway all the time: your project is subject to competition for time.
Your tile may also have a texture, which is surprisingly difficult to match well enough to satisfy your eye. In addition, your tile has a finish: glossy, glassy-glossy, lightly glossy, satin with a slight sheen, etc. These issues may result in an unsuccessful match on your wall or floor, even if the color can be matched. Please feel free to discuss this when requesting a glaze match.
If you want flat, perfectly identical tile, we can produce colors on commercially produced base tile in a limited number of sizes, along with a variety of special shapes like bullnose, liner, and cove. These tile require specially formulated glaze, different from our stock glazes. Please inquire. The most common wall tile size of 4.25" square is available, for instance.
Top tile: customer sample, historic tile, variegated with grit.
Bottom tile: reproduction.
This is an example of a matched speckled tan tile, made on machine-made base. Left: original sample. Right: matched tile.
Glaze matching can be done even with chips of tile, as shown. The customer chip is on top, the matched glaze is on the tile below.
Mauve tile; early 20th century bathroom.
Left: matched color to a toilet bolt cover.
Right: matched to wall tile in the same bathroom.
We can't match everything. Some "hot" colors, like magenta, have no close option in ceramic pigment. Other colors may need to be made using methods or materials we cannot use (such as lead).
Other options for your tile match problem:
1. You can try to find handmade or high-volume manufacturers via internet search engines. Handmade tile makers would be more likely to have unusual or bright shades, and might be more willing to try to match a color than the big companies. There are many talented artist-chemists out there.
2. Talk to tile distributors - especially the high-end and specialty ones - and see if they have any leads.
3. If you have need of only a few tiles for an existing installation, see if you can remove some tiles from hidden or less-obvious areas and use those.
4. If you are looking for tile for a home built as part of a development, see if the builder or developer can be found. If so, perhaps they have records of the tile, since it would very likely have been used in more than one house.
5. For older buildings, go to the Tile Heritage Foundation website for some options. This non-profit organization in California may be able to help you find resources, investigate historical tiles, etc. (www.TileHeritage.org).
6. Try www.VintageTile.weebly.com . This very informative website might help you understand more about your tile's character and give you a place to inquire about available matches.
7. Try www.ThisOldTile.com, especially if your have discontinued DalTile, Florida Tile, or other US tile. They will charge a fee to see if they have your tile, and some time will elapse, but if they do have your tile there will be a lot of savings of time and money in the final project. (We have no direct knowledge of how well this process works, but wish you every success if you try.)
8. We know of very few companies that match glazes. However, if you can order a large quantity, DalTile has a matching service. See their website for more information.
9. eBay can be a source for older tile. Try using the word "vintage" in your search description.
10. Etsy has vintage tile also.
11. The Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) flooring option is a possibility if you can install on top of existing tile that is in good shape. Patch your existing floor to create a level surface, then find a quality LVT that "floats" on top (preferred over the glue down kind). This avoids demolition and is much less costly than ceramic tile. Feel free to research online or contact us for more suggestions.
We hope this is of some help. Don't hesitate to contact us if we can help, or if you only wish someone could.
Matched 2" x 6" bullnose tile
Matched color, but size could not be matched. New tile was produced on standard 4-1/4" square tile, but original tile was made on 4-3/8" square base that is no longer manufactured and is no longer generally available for purchase.
Arcana Tileworks® is a registered trademark of Arcana Tileworks LLC.