In today’s modern world, most things aren’t as they appear to be. And, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Take the movies for instance. When most of us were kids, the special effects were extremely limited. Movies used to brag about having “. . . a cast of thousands . . . “Today most of the crowd scenes and even backdrops are computer images but that makes for a much more enjoyable movie. We can see things that are physically impossible or would have cost millions to actually film; and they appear as real.
The digital revolution has allowed us to see, make and use things that were physically impossible a generation ago. Most of the gargoyles you see in large office buildings or hotels are made from styrofoam but look like actual stone. And, in the flooring industry, more often than not, what looks like wood, marble, stone or slate is porcelain tile. And, that’s a good thing.
Architects, engineers, designers, specifiers, interior decorators and homeowners can select from a wide variety of porcelain tiles that look like wood, marble, stone or slate. They are less expensive, more durable and don’t have the same problems with maintenance and cleaning. To get an insider’s view of the process, we sat down with Michael Kmetz, North American Sales Manager for Ilva USA, a leading manufacturer of porcelain tiles and a major supplier for D&B Tile Distributors. We asked him for a non-technical explanation of how porcelain tiles can take on so many different looks.
“For the most part, there is a range of quality of printing and attributes. We’re working with digital printing on a glazed porcelain product. We can take a photograph and literally transfer it. It’s not so much a picture as it is a pattern or design.
“It’s downloaded into the computer and could represent up to 100 sq/ft of graphic. The computer allows us to set up a grid of 12x12’s or whatever size tile you want. It will then provide random patterns across that 100 sq/ft of tile. Once it goes into the computer and we select the graphic it is printed on the tile with the glaze. The actual print doesn’t go on the body followed by an application of glaze. It actually is part of the glaze on the top of the tile.
“Then it is fired and fused into the body of the tile. The color and design with the glaze is all one step. The texture is an added procedure where we make adjustments to the glaze. This has to do with how the glaze is applied to the tile. When you run your hand across wood-look tile, for example, it will give you a feel of actual wood, which makes it feel and appear more realistic.
“The larger the image the more consistent it will be. Consider taking a photo with a cell phone compared to a professional camera body. The higher resolution will give you a more realistic look. In today’s market, we’re seeing a mixture of elements with multiple samples of wood, textures and fabric looks into the tile. From a design viewpoint, we’re always looking to innovate. We may mix walnut with pine for example and add textures and patterns over that.
“Most computer graphics program allow you to work in layers. You start with an original image then you can add type, texture or color tints. This is very similar to the process we use in the tile industry. In the not too distant future, we will see finer details and more mixtures of elements. The options can be virtually endless. For example, certain species of wood have different appearances. Walnut has a different grain than pine, oak looks different than redwood. It is extremely realistic. Compared to the laminate flooring, porcelain tiles with the imprinted designs showing the look of wood, marble, stone or slate are considered more of the ‘real thing’ than the laminate products. It more closely resembles wood, marble, stone or slate.”
Before you begin your next remodeling effort, be sure to stop by any of D&B Tile’s nine convenient locations or any of our authorized dealers to see the latest in porcelain tiles that look and feel like wood, stone, marble and slate but without the maintenance requirements. Remember that the first step to a beautiful design is stepping into D&B Tile.