Timeless Subway Tiles - Part 4: Size

Teal wall tiles with gold trim behind a teal ottoman with flowers and a candle sitting on a tray.

How big should your tiles be? Tiny tiles or large format ceramics? 


Consider the size of your space, how many grout lines you want, and what options come in the color and style you want.


When it comes to ceramic tile design, size does matter.

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

Bathroom with white pedestal sink, white octagon-and-dot mosaic tile floor, 3x6" white subway tile wainscoting topped with a white ceramic chair rail. The walls are painted with a yellow faux finish.

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:

  • 3x6"
  • White
  • Glossy
  • 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 stylecolorfinishsize, 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!

Consider Size

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.

Other Considerations...

Check out the rest of the Subway Tile Series:

Part 1 : Style

Part 2: Color

Part 3: Finish

Part 4: Size

Part 5: Layout 

Bonus: Edge Trim, Grout, & Beyond


Set up a complimentary in-store design consultation and we'll help you pick the perfect tile.

253-872-0449 or info@tilelines.com

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