Bright, bold colors are having a resurgence of popularity, as seen in this example from Pamesa.

Stratus is a new series from Exagres that recreates the look and texture of natural slate.
The 24th edition of Cevisama, which was held February 7-11 in Valencia, Spain, drew a record crowd this year, as well as a record number of exhibitors, with 1,442 total exhibitors. The fair was held in the newly renovated Feria Valencia exhibition center, with more than 93,000 square meters of exhibits. Although the show also includes bathroom fittings, sanitary ware and machinery, the main attraction is ceramic tile, and this year's show offered an incredible range of tiles, offering a preview into the latest trends in ceramic tile design for 2006.

Tile manufacturers keep coming up with innovative ways to update the classic black-and-white color scheme. In this example, Pasarella by Natucer, an unusual texture adds interest to the design.

Advances in Technology Produce Innovative New Designs

A key factor that influences ceramic tile design trends is the development of new manufacturing technology. Each year, manufacturers seek to gain an edge over their competitors by developing unique finishes. This year, an exciting new printing method was unveiled by several key manufacturers; the process is similar to standard four-color printing, in which different pigments are combined to create an infinite number of color variations. In the place of liquid glazes, colored clay nanoparticles are injected onto the surface of the tiles, including edges and recessed areas. The result is a finish with no visible pixelation, which allows for countless photorealistic finishes imitating stone, wood or any other design.Colorkerdebuted the new system, which it is calling "Tecktonia," at Cevisama, and several other manufacturers, includingRexandInalco, are already using the process.

Stonita is an innovative new series from Gres Catalan that combines the appearance of rough concrete with the low water absorption of porcelain, making it suitable for outside applications where frost-proof performance is required.

A Shift Toward Modernism

One of the most significant trends this year is a shift toward modernist designs and less emphasis on the rustic looks that have been predominant for so long. Many manufacturers have adopted a minimalist aesthetic that emphasizes modularity and interchangeability, allowing consumers to mix and match different lines together to achieve personalized designs. The shift toward modernism has also affected the color palettes offered this year, with more emphasis on clean, crisp neutral shades and less on rustic hues. Another reflection of this modernist aesthetic is the growing use of metallic finishes and accent pieces, which are often combined with flat, neutral shades to yield a contemporary feel.

Tiles that imitate the texture and appearance of natural stone are becoming so realistic that it's difficult to distinguish them from the real thing. Shellstone, a new addition to Roca's Rock and Rock collection, mimics the texture of limestone with uncanny accuracy, including the characteristic pitting.
In terms of colors, the modernist influence can be seen in the strong resurgence of bold primary colors, which are often combined in different shades and finishes to add variety to otherwise conventional designs. In addition to the ubiquitous reds and blues, there were many shades of orange, yellow, green, pink and purple on display, often in combination with neutral shades of brown and beige.

Wood looks are also becoming more realistic, thanks to new technology that allows for printing with powdered natural pigments, as shown in this example, Tundra from Colorker, which uses the company's new Tecktonia screen-less printing process.

Natural Looks Becoming More Convincing

One of the major trends in recent years has been the development of tile finishes that mimic the look and texture of natural stone, wood and other natural products. These products have become so adept at mimicking their natural counterparts that it is often difficult to distinguish them apart without close-up inspection. While stone looks were immediately embraced by consumers, wood looks have been slower to gain acceptance, perhaps due to size limitations. With the advent of larger formats, however, wood look ceramic tiles are now available in sizes that mimic natural wood more closely.

Some of the outstanding new wood look series that were introduced include:Roca'sForestwall tile collection andNorwayfloor tile collection, which is available in six natural wood colors;Colorker'sTundra; ChenbySaloni, a colored body porcelain available in four colors in 12-by-24- and 18-by-36-inch formats;Anima, a new series fromNatucer; Grespania'sZebranoseries andAzuvi'sPerformanceseries.

Textiles are an important inspiration for new ceramic designs, such as this example, Nirvana, a new series from Saloni that imitates the appearance of hand-made paper.
Stone look tiles have proliferated to the point where virtually any natural stone look can be achieved, with the added benefit of ceramic tile's superior technical performance characteristics. Among the plethora of new stone looks introduced so far this year, the following stood out:Vega, a glazed extruded porcelain tile series fromExagresthat is available in four sizes;Shellstone, an incredibly realistic limestone series that has been added to Roca's popular Rock and Rock collection;Calatrava, a new residential line fromNatucerthat imitates the look of piacento, a type of Spanish granite; andMagma, a new stone look series fromColorkerthat utilizes the company's new nanoparticle coloring process.Saloni'sTectonicseries is a glazed colored body porcelain tile that imitates the appearance of natural slate; the company also launched two new stone look series,ColumbiaandAristone, which will be launched in the United States at Coverings.

There have been many novel new interpretations to the traditional mosaic format, such as this example, Cubic, a new series from Onix that is made from 100 percent recycled glass.

Glass and Metal Continue to Gain Popularity

Another key trend for this year is the continuing gain in popularity of glass and metallic finishes and accent pieces. While glass tiles themselves remain popular, many manufacturers are seeking to recreate the look of glass tile with innovative new ceramic tile designs, thus avoiding some the inherent limitations of real glass tiles. This is particularly evident with trim and accent pieces, which are often combined with traditional tiles to add color and interest. In terms of metallic finishes and accents, a panorama of divergent approaches has emerged, with weathered steel, copper, stainless steel, brass and many other types of natural materials being imitated with uncanny accuracy, often in combination with more conventional tiles.Tau Ceramica, a pioneer of metallic finishes, expanded its popular and often-imitated Metallica line with several new series, includingSilver, Rhodium, Steel, CopperandMetal Slate.

Traditional manufacturing techniques continue to yield interesting results, such as this traditional Arabic design from Mensaque Rodriguez, which is hand-painted using real gold.

Traditional Designs Remain Popular

In sharp contrast to the myriad of modernist designs presented this year, there also appears to be strong demand for more traditional tile materials, such as mosaics, terra cotta and hand-painted glazed ceramic tiles, often with traditional and historic designs. Some of the most visually stunning tiles on display were not the high-tech creations of large manufacturers, but the work of smaller, independent art tile companies. Some of the outstanding traditional tile companies included:Adex, which released its newEarthseries;Mensaque Rodriquez, which featured a variety of stunning traditional Arabic designs, some hand painted with real gold;Sichar, which recreates traditional Spanish encosted designs of the 1920s; andCeramica Decorativa, which introduced several new series, includingHolanda, which recreates antique Dutch "Delft" tiles, andValencia, which recreates the look of antique terra cotta.