The loose, un-even quality to these tiles makes painted Delft tiles an ideal technique for the beginner or inexperienced do-it-yourselfer. Irregular lines, loose hand painted renderings add character and old world charm, easily achieved without any prior painting experience.

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Delft tiles

Artist Acrylic Paints
  Raw Umber
  Cobalt Blue
Painters tape
paper palette
Artist Red Sable
No. 6 brush
Tape measure
(3 to 5 inch)
Water based paint White -eggshell sheen
Drop Cloths

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Painted Delft Tiles

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Hand-painted Delft tiles

The loose un-even quality of this faux technique makes painted Delft tiles an ideal decorative effect for the beginner or inexperienced do-it-yourselfer.

Irregular lines and hand painted renderings add character and old world charm, easily achieved without any prior painting experience.

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"Poetry is superior to painting in the presentation of words, and painting is superior to poetry in the presentation of facts"

Leonardo da Vinci  1452-1519



Hand painted Delft tiles

Rating 3.5 -moderate


For use on walls, furniture, and objects.

Delft tiles, originating in the 1500's in Holland, are beautiful hand painted ceramic tiles. The classic motifs, such as landscapes, flowers, animals and sea faring images, are hand painted using a wonderful blue glaze. Though full color tiles are available, the word Delft has become synonymous with white and blue ceramic tiles.

In this tutorial you will learn to create and paint these classic tiles, ideal suited for back splashes, decorative trays and objects, fire place surrounds, or just about anywhere you want to add a splash of old world charm.

For pattern inspiration, we suggest you visit the Delft web site and choose a motif that inspires you.


Preparing the surface

Once you have chosen where you would like to paint your Delft tile motifs make sure you have prepared the surface for painting. If the painting area requires touch-ups, filling or repainting, follow the next 2 steps. If your wall surface has a suitable layer of white or slightly off white paint in an eggshell, satin or semi-gloss sheen that is in good condition, skip to step 3.

Step 1: Remove all nails and repair any damaged or cracked areas. Prime as needed. Refer to the artSparx basic preparation resource for tips and techniques.

Step 2: Apply a white Latex Eggshell paint finish, such as Benjamin Moore Antique White, or Pratt and Lambert Designers White.

You may want to paint a different color tone above the 'Delft tiles' to differentiate the area. If this is the case, you may want to only paint the area that will have the Delft motif with the Eggshell white paint. However, painting the entire wall will provide excellent results.

Choosing where to paint

For the artSparx tutorial we have chosen to paint a kitchen back-splash
with our Delft motif.

An ordinary, rather simple kitchen area.

.The completed outlines of our tile layout

Corner details and base glaze completed. Randomly placed decorative 'ship' vignettes finish off the effect.


Creating your color palette

Step 3: Creating the color palette for Delft blue is very simple. The color scheme for the entire project only requires 2 colors, Cobalt Blue and Raw Umber acrylic artist paints.

A paper palette, tape measure or ruler, level, pencil and
artist brushes are all the tools you'll need.

Mapping out the pattern and first painting

Step 4: Typically Delft tiles are 6 inch squares. Measure the working space and divide by 6. If you get an even number, perfect. If not, then play around with the size slightly. Try 5 3/4 inch, or 6 1/4 inch, etc.

It's OK if your tiles don't fit perfectly. If you where to install genuine tiles you would not have the flexibility you have with the painted motifs and the real tiles would fall 'where ever they will'.

Using your tape measure, mark off your tile sizes with a pencil. First create the
horizontal marks, then finish with the
vertical reference points.
Using your pencil and level, connect the 'guide' lines and draw out your grid pattern. This will be the base for the tile edges.

Step 5: Begin painting the tile edges. On your paint palette, mix Raw Umber with Cobalt Blue in approximately equal proportions. This will create a 'black' tone.

Use a number 6 artist brush and paint over the grid lines you created with your pencil. A loose, slightly irregular application is desirable, therefore, simply paint over the pencil lines without attempting to create exacting lines.

Completing the pencil line pattern Creating the tile lines with your
No. 6 artists brush.


Adding corners and the illusion of tile dimension

Step 6: Once you have completed painting the overall line pattern you will return to add 'corners and edges'. Using the same 'black' paint you have mixed using the Raw Umber and Cobalt Blue, rework the lines by adding a horizontal and vertical line only where the grid lines intersect. Essentially you are making a + at each corner. These irregular corners create the illusion of depth and help imply the hand made nature of each individual Delft tile.

Adding more lines just at the corners of each 'tile'

Antiquing and glazing the surface

Step 7: You can now proceed with the antiquing of the Delft tiles, creating the porcelain glazed appearance that the original ceramic tiles achieve after firing in the tile makers kiln.

Working in one area at a time, mix Cobalt Blue with a small amount of Raw Umber, creating a blue-grey tone. Mix with floetrol, latex glazing liquid or scumble glaze (all work equally well) to create a fluid, pale glaze and brush on a loose film over the entire 'tiled' surface.


With the blue-grey glaze still wet, soften and blot the surface with a dry, clean cotton rag. This will create a slightly irregular 'rag' texture. This effect should be soft and subtle, so keep blotting and 'ragging' the area until you have created a soft mottled appearance.

Ragging the antique glaze, creating a glazed ceramic impression.

Adding painted details

The classic Delft tiles are quite simple. The classic white tiles have corner details, with the occasionally painted motif randomly placed throughout the design.

Step 8: Painting the corner details. On your palette mix Cobalt Blue with a touch of Raw Umber, just enough to darken the blue slightly. From this point onward your 'blue' should be just that, primarily blue. Paint the detail elements in the following manner...

Create 2 diagonal straight lines at each corner. Once you have done a
few 'tiles' you will see that a 2 lined diamond shape is created in each corner.
Don't be fussy, irregularity adds charm and character.

Next, add the curly motif to each corner.

Painting the corner motifs completes the primary
impression of your Delft tile pattern.


Painting decorative vignettes

Step 9: Once you have chosen a detail motif you want in your Delft tile pattern you are ready to start painting. Select a pattern from an existing tile or visit the Delft web site for inspiration. Choose random tiles to add your landscape, animal, flower, etc. motif. There should be one painted motif to every 5 - 10 tiles. Stand back and look at your tile pattern to get a 'feel' for where the motifs should be placed. If you are nervous, start with a few and add more as you go...

You can either free-hand the sketch onto the tile area or transfer a pattern. To learn how to transfer a pattern click here.

Sketch a pattern with a pencil
transfer your pattern
Painting the motif

The color you will paint your pattern in is the same blue you used to paint the corner motifs with, Cobalt Blue with a dash of Raw Umber.

Outline the shapes
Filling in solid areas
Washing on color for the background. Simply dilute your paint with water to create the soft, watery effect of the background clouds.

Follow the pattern you have chosen. Don't worry about being too literal. The technique should be fun and loose. It is the overall feeling of the tiles together that creates the final, lasting impression.

A completed tile!

Decorative tiles are painted randomly, every 5 to 10 tiles apart.

Applying a protective varnish coat

Step 10: To protect the surface, a water-based varnish, such as latex varnish , may be applied after the painted surfaces have dried completely (4-6 hrs). For wall surfaces it is recommended to use a low-lustre or Satin sheen finish.

Step 11: Clean up with warm, soapy water.


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