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You will need:

  • clay*
  • plaster of Paris
  • thick card or a thin wooden board as a base (a clipboard is ideal)
  • a mixing bowl or jug
  • a stick or old spoon to stir the plaster
  • a rolling pin and clay tools
  • water
  • a pencil and paper to plan your design

*You could use air-drying clay if you don't have access to a kiln, or alternatively plasticine or papier-mâché could be used.


Step 1. Plan your tile design

Your tile design should be simple as it will need to be reproduced in clay.

Teachers could suggest a theme for students' designs such as a subject from nature (leaves, birds, animals), buildings in your local town, a self-portrait – or their favourite food!

Explore tiles, medallions and relief panels on Art UK for design ideas.

Once you are happy with your design draw it on a piece of card the same size and shape that your tile will be, to check that it fits.

This will be your tile template.


Step 2. Roll out your clay and model your tile

Roll out a thin slab of clay (approximately 1.5 cm thick) onto a board.

Use a roling pin to roll out clay

Use a roling pin to roll out clay

Then place your cardboard template onto your rolled clay and cut around it so that you have your basic tile shape.

Mark out your design on your tile, and use clay tools (and your fingers!) to model your design in relief. You can always add more clay as necessary.

Use your clay tools to add final details.

Avoid undercuts (hollowing under the raised areas of the design).

Cutting and moulding a tlle design

Cutting and moulding a tlle design


Step 3. Make a clay wall

Use extra clay to make a clay wall around your tile. (This is to contain the plaster when it is poured in.)

Make sure your wall is sealed with no cracks.

You may need to add some lumps of clay to the outside edge of the wall to support it.

Brush some liquid soap onto the board. (This will stop the plaster from sticking to it.)

Make a clay wall aroud your tile

Make a clay wall aroud your tile


Step 4. Mix your plaster

Fill your container with 300 ml of water and carefully pour in the plaster powder until a mound forms just above the water level. (There should be approximately one-part plaster to two-parts water.)

Adding plaster to the water

Adding plaster to the water

Mix the plaster using a stick or old spoon until it is smooth and the consistency of a milkshake. (Never use your hands to mix the plaster!)


Step 5. Pour your plaster over your tile

To avoid air bubbles forming, slowly and carefully pour the mixture into the mould and leave it to set. The plaster will begin setting immediately after it has been mixed, so be prepared to pour the mixture straight away. The plaster will begin to heat up as it sets.

Pouring plaster into the mould

Pouring plaster into the mould


Step 6. Prepare your mould

You will know the plaster is set when it is hard and cool to the touch.

Remove the clay wall and tile design from the plaster mould. Smooth any scruffy edges of the mould with your clay tools or sandpaper.

Removing the clay from the plaster mould

Removing the clay from the plaster mould


Step 7. Make your pressed tiles

Press clean clay into the mould to make your tiles.

Pressing clay into a mould

Pressing clay into a mould

Use a wire to neatly cut off the excess clay from the back of the tile and make it flat.

(If you are having trouble removing the tile from the mould, gently press a lump of clay onto the back of the tile to pick it up.)

Now that you have your mould, you can make as many tiles as you like!

Mould with clay tiles

Mould with clay tiles


What will you do with your tiles?

Plan a collaborative mural project with your students.

Task students with creating tiles on a specific theme that can then be arranged together to form a mural.

The designs could relate to your school, to local history, or could celebrate a national event or a remembrance day.


140 SMILES 2000

Julia Gatrill (active 2000) and W. G. Grinter (active 2000)

High Street, Street, Somerset

If you don't want a permanent mural, you could always attach the tiles to a board to display them. (Make sure the board is heavy and supported with a frame if necessary to carry the weight of the tiles!)

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