Tiles are presented in a vast array of shapes, sizes, colours, and compositions. In this article, we’ll demystify the tile finish. In particular, we’ll explain the difference between a matt and gloss finish. As the choice of matt or gloss can create a completely different look in your living space, it’s important to understand the visual effect of these two finishes. But before looking at aesthetics, let’s get down to the very basics and explain the difference between a matt tile and a glossy tile.
Often the choice between matt and gloss tiles is simply a matter of taste. But, as with all projects involving the wall and floor tiles, you need to make an informed choice before plumping for one or the other.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both matt and gloss tiles – not to mention the fact that the overall looks created can be completely different – so it’s important to choose carefully.
Available in gloss or matte finish, in materials like ceramic, porcelain and vitrified tiles, kitchen floor tiles are some of the most hard-working surfaces in the home. Both these finishes work well on kitchen floors and can impart a completely different look and feel to space. Deciding between both these finishes is more of a personal preference and mainly depends on the kind of look you want to achieve for the kitchen design.
Here are the pros and cons of glossy and matte tiles, along with some key design considerations that one must keep in mind to make an informed choice.
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Gloss tiles can make even the smallest of rooms appear larger. The outcome is similar to that of adding a mirror to a room. The light reflection opens up space and tricks the eye into making the room appear wider and more open than it is. As a result, gloss tiles are an excellent design choice for bathrooms, ‘box rooms’ and hallways, that are typically smaller and narrower.
For a room to feel lighter and brighter, gloss tiles are the go-to. In spaces with low amounts of natural light, gloss tiles maximise this small amount by bouncing light back and forth around the space—a great option for small downstairs bathrooms.
Extremely easy to clean and maintain, the smooth nature of the glossy surfaces need only a simple wipe down for them sparkle. This is one of the many reasons as to why gloss tiles are a popular choice for messy spaces, such as kitchen backsplashes and shower walls.
Below, our Marmi collection of high gloss marble effect tiles, demonstrate how light bounces off the smooth, silky finish.
While matt tiles may lack the bright and shiny appeal, they have better traction than gloss.
For high traffic spaces that are in frequent contact with water, humidity and steam, matt tiles offer a more ‘non-slip’ reputation. Spaces such as hallways, kitchens and bathrooms will all benefit from matt tiles.
Unlike gloss tiles, matt tiles can better conceal smudges, stains and dried water droplets. Matt tiles do not require frequent cleaning, and when you do clean them, there is no need to be as vigilant for water and soap marks.
If you are keen to achieve a natural or rustic decor, matt tiles are the way forward. With a variety of stone, wood and cement effect tiles available, the warm, natural and earthy tones all contribute to the rustic effect. For those seeking a calming environment, matt tiles create a great place to relax and unwind.
Why choose matt tiles?
Matt tiles are an obvious choice for anyone creating a traditional or rustic look within their home. They are easily combined with natural stone, by using a travertine mosaic border, for example, which can add a touch of luxury to porcelain or ceramic tiles. Matt tiles are also the ideal choice for floor tiles, as they have better traction.
Outdoor areas should be paved with matt tiles due to their durability and slip resistance. They can stand up to weathering, with terracotta and porcelain tiles popular choices at the moment. Natural stone is also still extremely fashionable, with the likes of travertine and limestone tiles often coming in a matt finish to give a warm, homely look.
Why choose gloss tiles?
Glossy tiles are ideal for use in smaller rooms, as their beautiful silken finish will bounce light around the room. Their slippery nature makes them ideal for use on bathroom walls, or as kitchen splashbacks, as they are wipe-clean; this does, of course, mean that they’re not suitable as floor tiles in high-traffic areas.
Gloss tiles are also great for use around fireplaces, and often imitation encaustic porcelain and ceramic tiles are available to give an authentic feel. Their easy-to-clean nature means that it is effortless to clean away soot and to keep them looking their best.
There are benefits to both types of tile, but ultimately, the decision is a personal choice. For example, the somewhat iconic metro tiles look great in kitchens, but wouldn’t look so good in a matt finish, and so you do have to consider which room the tiles are being used in and the overall look you’re trying to create.
If you’re still not sure, a visit to our tile warehouse can help you make your choice: with every type of tile imaginable available including travertine, limestone, ceramic and porcelain tiles, there’s a huge range of both gloss and matt tiles to suit every project.
The Difference Between Matt and Gloss Tiles
It’s All in the Glaze
Most people can easily distinguish between these two finishes – a glossy tile is very shiny or lustrous. Just take a look at this beautiful glossy marble effect tile in a stylish bathroom as an example; whereas a matt tile is somewhat duller and less reflective.
But what is the actual qualitative difference between the two finishes? In terms of quality, strength and mode of fabrication, there’s no difference between a gloss and matt tile. In each case, the tiles have been formed with the same materials and by the same processes. The tiles are then usually finished with a durable coating called a glaze. And this is what distinguishes a glossy from a matt tile – the glaze can either be a glossy finish, as with the first tile below.
Gloss is Smooth
Tile Surface Up CloseThe smoothness of the glazed surface is what makes a tile glossy or matt. The laws of atomic physics state that it’s impossible to achieve a surface that is perfectly smooth, but even on a microscopic level, a glossy glazed surface is exceptionally flush and uniform. Without getting overly technical, the undulations and protrusions on a glossy surface are limited to a length of about 390nm, and indiscernibly minute distance.
Light Bouncing off a Glossy TileThis distance is so infinitesimal that it’s shorter than the wavelength of visible light. As a result, to light, the surface appears perfectly smooth! So when light falls onto a glossy glaze, it bounces off the surface in a “specular” or mirror-like fashion that is highly reflective.
Matt is Smooth – But Not Quite as Smooth as Light
Although a matt glazed surface will also feel extremely smooth to the touch, it’s not as smooth at the microscopic level as a glossy glaze. Indeed, the bumps or undulations on a matt glazed surface, although indiscernibly small, are longer than the wavelength of light. As a result, when light falls on a matt glaze it is scattered diffusely – or in all directions (including back into the tile) – by the microscopic bumps on the surface.
Consequently, the matt surface appears to be duller or not as shiny or reflective as the gloss surface, even though matt glazes generally reflect the same amount of light, just not in the mirror-like fashion of glossy glazes. And even though we often equate ‘gloss’ with sheen or lustre, technically speaking the gloss is the amount of incoming light that is specularly reflected rather than diffusely reflected (or absorbed) by the surface.
Should You Use a Glossy or Matt Tile?
So enough of the technicalities and back to aesthetics. Where should we use glossy or matt tiles in our homes?
Ideal Spaces for Glossy Tiles
As glossy tiles bounce light around the room in a reflective, mirror-like fashion, they tend to open up small spaces and make rooms appear larger than they are. The microscopically smooth finish tricks the eye. Thus, glossy tiles are ideal for use in smaller rooms such as on bathroom walls, in tight kitchens, and even inbox rooms.
And as the mirror-like effect allows light to bounce back and forth around the room, glossy tiles are also ideal for use in rooms with limited light as they can make space appear considerably brighter. Just look at how the high gloss sheen of the wall tiles below brings a delightful lightness and sparkle to this bathroom.
Ideal Spaces for Matt Tiles
As matt finishes are less smooth, they give a better grip and have far better traction than gloss tiles. Thus, matt tiles are an ideal choice for flooring – particularly bathroom or wetroom floors, or in high traffic areas such as entrance hallways. Outdoor areas are particularly suited for matt tiles due to their better slip resistance.
If you want to create a calming space within your home in which to unwind and relax, then matt – with its soft, muted hues – is the perfect finish. The natural look of matt embodies an authentic, soothing ambience. For similar reasons, matt tiles are the unparalleled choice for those wishing to create a home space with a traditional or rustic look. Matt stone-effect or wood-effect tiles – such as our wood effect tile below – help to create that gorgeous warm, homely setting.
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Thanks to the steep rise in real-estate prices, urban homes have become compact and are often open-plan or studio apartments. In these homes, a single type of flooring runs through the home, including the kitchen. This might be glossy tiling, so here are its pros and cons.
- Gloss-finish tiles have an attractive mirror-like sheen. The glossy tile’s reflective surface bounces light all around the space, which adds to the brightness of the kitchen. As a result, small kitchens look bigger.
- The smooth surface of the gloss-finish tiles makes it easy to clean them by simply wiping with a damp mop.
- To bring in a sleek modern look to your kitchen, nothing works better than gloss-finish tiles.
- On the downside, the highly reflective surface of gloss finish tiles easily shows up dirt, fingerprints, footprints and wet spots.
- Another drawback of gloss-finish floor tiles is that they tend to become slippery when wet. If you have kids (or seniors) around, then opt for matte-finish tiles for better safety.
Pro tip: In case you want the best of both gloss and matte finishes, go for a lappato or semi-matte finish for your kitchen. These tiles have a shiny surface but do not have high reflective properties like glazed tiles and are not very slippery.
- Matte-finish tiles are slip-resistant, unlike gloss-finish tiles.
- These tiles are low on maintenance. Also, the non-reflective surface of matte-finish tiles is good at concealing stains, smudges and dirt.
- Matte-finish tiles are dull and do not reflect light like gloss-finish tiles. Hence, they are more appropriate for larger kitchens. Matte-finish tiles in compact kitchens can make the kitchen look and feel smaller unless the rest of it is carefully designed to counteract this effect.
- It can be difficult to remove stains from matte-finish tiles.
Pro tip: Matte-finish floor tiles go well with kitchens that have a traditional, rustic or industrial look.
Combining Gloss and Matt Tiles
Usually, when we mix and match tiles, they tend to be of the same style, but a different colour and sometimes shape. However, the latest trends suggest something completely new, combining matt and gloss tiles of the same colour!
Bringing together the two styles creates a unique design that presents a simple and subtle patterned effect. The fuse of smooth and textured generates an interesting and tactile space, that can look particularly interesting in the bathroom. Matt tiles on the floor prevent slippage, while gloss wall tiles open up and brighten this functional space.
Matt and gloss are both finishes that can be integrated into any space, without the use of tiles. In the bathroom or kitchen, concrete effect countertops paired with high gloss backsplashes (or vice versa) is just one of the many ways you can introduce this latest trend into your home.
Cooking areas which have gloss finishes are much easier to clean.
We acknowledge that both ceramic tile options are perfectly feasible when installing porcelain floors at home; however, it is true that according to the project or the room, the best way to go is to choose either one or the other. In cooking areas or kitchens, tiles in a gloss finish are advisable because of the following reasons:
- In the kitchen, gloss tiles get dirtier than those in a matt ceramic finish, but at the same time, as we are dealing with lacquered waterproof surfaces, they can be cleaned much quicker. Just a quick wipe over the kitchen tiles and they are clean and shiny again.
- Gloss is perfect for small spaces or those with little natural light since a feeling of spaciousness and brightness is created at home. A feeling that is strengthened even more when we are dealing with white tiles. In addition to reflecting more light, the glossy white kitchen tile emphasises the hygienic aspect of this room.
- In the case of kitchen tiles, decorating the front with gloss tile is one of our tips for renewing their appearance.
- Combined with matt furniture, white gloss tiles create an interesting contrast in both the bathroom and the kitchen.
- The gloss finish combines with kitchens and bathrooms of any style: large, small, avant-garde, traditional, etc.
- In addition, glossy tiles, especially white ones, are more visually attractive on the kitchen and bathroom floors.
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Tiles in a matt finish that are used in wet areas do not leave any trace of stains.
Matt finishes turn out to be ideal for bathrooms or wet areas of the house. There are lots of reasons for that:
- This type of porcelain tile does not get stained.
- They do not get dirty easily, and they conceal stains that much better.
- They provide a warmer, more serene, and even more elegant touch to space, allowing you to recreate a wellness space in the bathroom.
- In terms of touch, the matt texture is more pleasant and gives rise to more welcoming kitchens and bathrooms.
- The diversity of colours and shapes of the matt tiles for both the floor and the wall will make the bathroom and kitchen very attractive spaces.
- In particular, the white matt tiles will create modern and refined atmospheres.
Nevertheless, a balance between gloss and matt finishes in kitchen and bathroom porcelain stoneware is a very recurring solution, since the contrast between both textures achieves some nuances which are highly enveloping, as well as creative. The Devon collection from Decoder proves this. As we are dealing with a series of tiles which are available in gloss and matt finishes alike, it allows for the creation of spaces with assorted interesting combinations of textures and colours.
In conclusion, between gloss and matt, there is no better finish than another. Everything will depend on the taste of each person. Achieving a balance of gloss and matt tiles between walls, floors, furniture, worktop, shower, and other decorative elements in rooms or outside the house is the best option for obtaining a spectacular result.
We would like to help you shape your ceramic design. You can ask for a price quotation or make an appointment with us to go over all the fine details.
You should now be able to make an informed decision when it comes down to the aesthetics of choosing between matt or gloss tiles. If you’re considering a small bathroom, a light-challenged kitchen, or a dark hidden box room, then gloss tiles are the best option to open up and brighten those spaces. If you want to create a chill-out area in your home, or if you have got a large living space in which you want to generate an authentic, warm, natural feel, then a matt finish is certainly the better choice.
And now here comes the caveat! You shouldn’t just base your choice of matt or gloss on aesthetics alone. There are practical pros and cons – related to maintenance, soiling, safety, and durability – that should be taken into account when considering your choice.