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Tile Colors: Shade Variation in Porcelain and Ceramic Tiles

Porcelain and ceramic tile colors often have shades that differ. This difference is part of how they are made. It is not something wrong. In the process of producing these tiles, these shade differences happen. With new technology, printing on tiles has improved. More patterns and shades are now possible. These changes make tiles look more like wood or stone.

Seeing different shades in these tiles is something you should expect. When choosing tiles, shade variation ratings are helpful. They show the range of shades in the tiles. These ratings can guide you to find the best tiles for your needs.

Related: Tile Sizes: Diverse Options for Walls and Floors

Table of Contents

What is Shade Variation?


Shade variation relates to the look of the porcelain or ceramic tile you choose. It matters mostly for tiles that need to be polished. For example, polishing makes white, glossy bathroom tiles show no shade difference.

Why does it happen? The process of making tiles involves baking natural clay at high heat. The materials and conditions can cause small changes in each batch and dye lot.

Think of it like cookies. One batch might look different from another because of the oven’s temperature. Cookies from different doughs made on another day may vary.

Sometimes, shade variation is intentional in tile design.

To understand shade variation better, the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) created a rating system around 2001. They did this to help people know what to expect.

What is the CTDA Rating System?

This system shows how much the color, tone, and texture of a tile can vary. Almost every ceramic and porcelain tile, except for pure black or white ones, shows some shade variation in the same production run.

The CTDA system has these categories:


V1 = Uniform Appearance – Tiles from the same production run look very similar.

V2 = Slight Variation – You can see differences in texture and/or pattern, but the colors are similar.

V3 = Moderate Variation – The colors on one tile show what to expect from others. But, the number of colors on each tile can change a lot.

V4 = Substantial Variation – Each tile’s color can be very different. This means the final look of the tiles, when installed, will be unique.

Understanding Shade Variation in Porcelain and Ceramic Tiles

When choosing porcelain and ceramic tiles, understanding shade variation is crucial. It can affect the look of your floor or wall. We want you to be happy with your purchase. So, it’s important to know a few things about tile and stone.


Variations in Manufacturing

As mentioned earlier, ceramic and porcelain tiles are made from earth materials, so there is a natural variation in size, shade, and texture from one tile to another within the same box or dye lot.

Moreover, modern manufacturing techniques are very advanced. Many tiles are designed with up to 40 or more different patterns to better resemble the natural variation in color, shade, and texture seen in stone.

Natural stone has its unique variation, too. Each piece of stone is different, as nature does not repeat patterns exactly.

Intentional Design Variations in Tile Patterns

Some tile styles are made with a lot of shade variation on purpose, as shown in the image below:

tiles in different shade variation

How to Know the Real Appearance of the Product

So, we suggest you buy a full box of tile or at least four pieces of natural stone. This way, you can see the real look of the product. Seeing the real look is hard with only one piece of tile or stone, especially a small 6″ by 6″ sample.

Also, on, for each product detail page, we take six different photos so that you can see the shade variation of that tile style better.

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