FLOORS & FLOOR COVERINGS
Liam Poole, head of specification marketing at
British Ceramic Tile, discusses how the latest printing
technology is making ordinary tiles extraordinary.
MAY 8 | BUILDING PRODUCTS
The face of tiles is changing. Once seen
as just a practical option, tiles have
become much more design-led to
appeal to style conscious consumers.
From intricate, patterned designs through
to realistic stone effects with raised structures,
the options are endless, with cutting-edge
printing and production techniques pushing the
boundaries of tile design.
Leading the way in innovation, high-definition
printing allows almost any image to be printed
on a ceramic tile. Such is the accuracy of the
print, realistic stone, linen and wood effects can
be easily recreated on a tile with fantastic results.
These ceramic tiles have the same appearance as
natural materials such as marble, slate, concrete
or wood, but offer practical benefits over and
above their real counterparts with less labour,
installation and maintenance costs.
Tile manufacturers have all had to adapt their
production processes, investing in high-definition
technology to meet consumer demand for trendled
designs. As this technology advances, it allows
greater flexibility with larger format tiles and a
wider variety of designs are achievable. Think
ceramic tiles that look like luxurious marble,
exposed brick, or encaustic Victorian patterns.
These designs create truly unique ranges that offer
developers and designers bespoke wall and floor
There’s a real movement towards surfaces
that offer a natural, textured look, as well as tile
collections with a luxurious finish. Opulent, large
format marble effects are well-suited to bathrooms
and always in high demand. Combined with a
high-gloss finish, they open up interior spaces
with ease, bouncing light around the room to
create that spa-like environment.
At the other end of the spectrum is a big trend
for textured tiles that bring a tactile quality to
walls and floors. Whether it’s an urban inspired
ceramic tile with a concrete print and matt finish,
or plain tiles with a printed structure that gives a
vintage appearance, these natural designs are in
vogue right now.
New design possibilities
The latest high-definition machines can now also
create interesting visual effects and finishes on
tiles, with metallic accents and shimmers added
to specific areas of the tile, creating a host of new
Another new production technique is fusing
together two manufacturing processes to deliver
product collections with extra ‘wow’ factor –
combining the old with the new. With raised
surfaces and textured tiles gaining in popularity,
an innovative new production process has
been introduced that combines the latest in
inkjet technology combined with rotocolour
printing. This clever combination of old and new
production methods is delivering stunning new
finishes, creating ceramic tile collections that offer
an unrivalled level of detail, as well as enhanced
By combining inkjet printing with rotocolour,
manufacturers are able to add a range of extra
effects to ceramic tiles with pattern, texture
and special lustre finishes, creating a next
generation of designs. The technology is such that
manufacturers can print directly on to a tile and
add subtle structures for added textural interest.
Linear designs, encaustic designs, fabric effects
and lustres that highlight the surface pattern are
all transforming plain tiles into something more
decorative. From small tiles through to large
formats, these designs can be transferred to any
size of tile, creating versatile collections that work
on the floor or wall.
Another advantage to adopting cutting-edge
production techniques is the ability to create
ranges that are unique with each tile slightly
different in tone or pattern.
Rather than uniform designs, demand is there
for tile collections that offer a bespoke finish. It
could be a marble effect that has different veining
or colouration on each tile, or a patterned tile
with a slight design tweak for an eclectic look.
The feeling in the industry is that there is more
innovation to come as technology continues to
advance. Production times, capacity and quality
have all been improved, partly as a result of these
new printing methods and with striking new
designs coming through at a pace, it’s an exciting