The way that ceramic tile and porcelain tile is made can vary based on the type of tile and what it is being used for, but there are common design and material elements across all types.
Simply explained, ceramic tile is tile made of clay that is shaped and then it is fired in a very hot kiln. In earlier times, the production process was that unglazed tile was fired once while glazed tile was fired twice. While technologies have improved production, the process is very much the same now as it was a long time ago.
Three steps, one very dense tile
Step 1: In order to make a tile, it’s necessary to start with some clay. Nowadays, however, it’s more likely that that clay will be produced rather than sourced from a riverbed as it was in the past. To make clay, producers will choose a form of dust made out of pulverized rock, slate, or marble, or sometimes other materials like post-industrial and post consumer glass, for instance.
Step 2: The first firing forms a tile body which is known as a ‘bisque’. While in the past this would involve using wet clay, dust-pressing between two metal dies has replaced tile-making by hand and has facilitated the mechanization of the tile-making industry.
In this step, the tiles are fired at 1060 to 120 Celsius in a kiln in order to fix the shape. In encaustic tile-making, different dust colors are mixed together during this step to make a pattern. For some tiles, this is the end of the process.
Step 3: Glaze decorations are added and fired in the kiln at 750 Celsius. Alternatively, digital printing on tile surfaces is also an option for more modern tiles such as rectified tile, which is also sometimes cut by lasers to ensure a uniform edge.