Whether you choose the classic white 3x6" subway tile or opt for a large multi-color arrangement, subway tiles are a timeless choice for your kitchen, bathroom, or fireplace surround.
The Classic: 3x6 White Glossy Offset Subway Tile
These mass-produced little ceramic tiles are what started lining the New York subway in the early 1900s, hence the name "subway tile".
The most traditional version of subway tile is:
- Set in a 50% offset brick pattern
- No variation/texture
This is usually the least expensive version of ceramic subway tile, running appx. $3/sqft.
Low-maintenance, bright and clean-looking, these have been a standard of kitchen and bath design for the past century.
However, numerous variations on style, color, finish, size, and layout are now available to give you a multitude of ceramic tile options. Peruse our 5-part look book to find your perfect subway style!
Traditional 3x6; The 1:2 Ratio
The 3x6 size is the most common subway tile size. The classic 1:2 ratio is pleasing to the eye.
It's very popular size for kitchen backsplashes; a typical backsplash is 18" tall, giving you an even 6 rows of tile.
In showers, especially with a contrasting grout color, this smaller size can look a bit busy. Consider a larger version of the same ratio, such as a 4x8" tile for a larger area. Note: this size isn't very common, so you will have limited selection.
Long and Lean: 4x16s and 1:4 Ratio
The 4x16" size has become surprisingly common in the past few years, with many lines offering it as the only alternative to the 3x6" size. Prices range from $4-$7/sqft.
The 1:4 ratio is longer and leaner, creating a more modern shape. The larger size means fewer grout lines and a less busy look.
3x12" tiles are also available, but they tend to be produced in the "handmade" style, and as such are usually more expensive. As a slightly smaller size, they work well in both backsplashes and showers. Their long shape complements a contemporary design aesthetic, while the handmade texture introduces a little age and character.
Keep an eye out for the elusive 2x8" size: the same sleek, modern proportion in a smaller package, perfect for backsplashes. Most 2x8" ceramics, like the 3x12" size, feature a more handcrafted look and $10-$15/sqft price tag to match.
4x12 and a Ton of Texture
For whatever reason, lines featuring the 4x12" size love texture and patterns.
While you can get plenty of 4x12" plain ceramic tiles, they are usually $5-$9/sqft, depending on color.
But if you're looking for a punchy pattern, you'll most likely find it on this size.
Not as traditional as the 3x6, not as modern as a 4x16, this size hits a sweet spot of "transitional" with a pleasing 1:3 proportion.
Bigger is Bolder
Some ceramic tile lines are available as large as large as 8x20, 10x30, or 12x36.
These impressive sizes guarantee fewer grout lines and more impact.
While a bit too big for most backsplashes, these tiles are a great choice for showers and feature walls.
Smaller is Sweeter
What if you want something smaller than a 3x6" tile?
Ceramic tiles are also available in 2x4" size. Tiles this small are usually mounted on a mesh sheet for easier installation, but this comes with a higher price as well ($10-$20/sqft for a 2x4" mosaic).
Many of these petite tiles have extra interest, such as beveled edges, or artisan glazes.
You may also be able to get a 2x6" or 2x8" size, but these are not very common, and may or may not come mounted on a sheet.
Short and Stout
If the proportion is greater than 1:1 and smaller that 1:2, you get a neat little tile of unusual proportions.
This uncommon shape creates a cute, quirky look, especially if set in a fun color and/or pattern.