How to create high end art using Sublimated tiles

First Challenge
Our hard coated ceramic tiles are incredibly versatile when it comes to printing designs. We’ve seen plenty of examples of them here in the Silicon Valley in small scale. One thing that struck us is that we had yet to see a large-scale piece done using a matte finish tiles. So we decided to use our matte finish tiles as the first Inspire challenge.


Our philosophy has always been Go BIG or Go Home
And what better way to do that then hand draw our very own Octopus on an 8 ft by 15 ft space here in at the Fremont office. Why an Octopus? We wanted something complicated, it’s a challenge after all. We also wanted to illustrate the beauty of a simple two color contrast. Often we have seen tile art done with photos with thousands of colors but we wanted something more simplistic because we believed it would have a much more dramatic effect.

The drawing
Hand drawn octopi are really challenging to pull off but we were lucky that our design lead Kira was talented enough to move seamlessly from drawing the detailed sea creature to the design. Although this challenge was as far away from what we normally do (Mug Printing of logos), we wanted to test our artist chops by converting this hand drawing to a mural. We were also lucky that Kira loved line work.

Photo USA Tile Art Sublimation

The digital design
The transition from ink to vector was something untried for us. The challenge was to preserve enough detail on digital as it did on paper. This meant we had to add touch ups with the blog brush, adjusting the threshold and a number of curves and first corners.

It is also important to grid your work into tiles. If you are new that be prepared to understand that setting the grid can take a few tries. We used first guides for the entire artwork and secondary guide-lines or the “bleeds” which for us were 0.25. The size of the file was no joke too. It was 14 GB PSB! This meant a lot of waiting to move the file to print.

Tile Sublimation artPrinting the image
The big takeaway we got was using the Pantone Matching color System (PMS). It allowed the print team to quickly pick the right shade of blue that our design team wanted realized. During testing of pressing the image to the sample titles we noticed that the blue we wanted in Adobe may not come out the same in the ink print. The color changes when you add heat so you have to take that into account. For us, it took a few attempts to ensure we had the right shade of blue because we prefer to have a high level of attention to detail.

To print such a massive wall piece we had to use our manufacturing grade Epson printers. We also had to ensure there was a point two or nearly a quarter inch bleed on all four sides of the images so we could center it properly and ensure the image came out properly. 120 pages and 4 hours later we had our octopus ready to be pressed.

The biggest takeaway we learned was testing is everything and expect to fail. If you are doing something at this scale you have to be ready for anything and to fail fast so you can recover. We burned a few tiles and chipped some as well but we had 10% more on stand-by just in case.

Pressing the tiles
Using one of our clam-shell presses we produced 120 tiles. We don’t recommend doing something this large on one press. We started with one but the time we needed which was 11 minutes meant to produce one tile would have taken us forever to finish. Seeing how most of us have the tension span of gnats we opted to use four clam-shell presses and created a very efficient workflow – four tiles went in with four prints and out came four produced tiles. It was a lot of work but 12 hours later we were pleased with the results.

If we have one thing we want you to remember, is to number your tiles after you print them. We forgot. And although we had fun playing with a puzzle before we pasted it on the wall it did take quite a bit of time sorting each tile and matching it to where it belonged.

Applying the tiles
This was a new endeavor for some of us. We were lucky we had a few guides along the way. The first thing we learned is that tiles are heavy, so in order to keep them from sinking to the floor we screwed in a wooden border as support. This allowed us to ensure that the 30-pound rows had enough support.

When applying your ceramic tile glue which we bought at a local Home Depot we learned that ensuring the paste is even and thin a very important concern. If you don’t have the paste evenly spread the tiles tend to bulge out. You also want to apply the paste one row at a time NOT one tile at a time. Doing one tile at a time does not guarantee even paste and it takes forever but for us we managed to figure out quickly how to save time. We managed to tile this wall in about 8 hours. Below is a link to the video to see it in 1 min!


We’re pretty proud of our Octopus and we’ve named him Floyd and we think he looks happy on his wall but we are ready for the next challenge. If you have feedback or have ideas for a new challenge using our products please let us know. Or if you have something to share then find us here our social media:

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