Tile School: What's Engobe?
It's time for some tile terminology! You might have come across the word "Engobe" on our website and wondered: "What's that? What does that mean?" We get these questions a lot and for good reason, it's definitely not a commonly used word. Engobe is one of the finishes or sheens we offer (learn more on that here) and is pronounced ahn-gobe (second part rhymes with robe). In short: Engobe is kind of like a ceramic version of primer that is applied to our recycled clay, enhancing our favorite translucent glazes. Stay with us to learn more and see if this sheen might be perfect for you.
A bit of History...
Engobe is French for slip, so it's essentially an undergarment, but for tile. This slip or as we usually explain it "primer" has properties that are between a glaze and clay, so it bonds and marries the two materials together. According to our founder Paul Burns, this glazing technique was developed in France as a way to make their local red clay appear more like porcelain. Like those ceramicists that came before us, we also use locally sourced materials which makes for a more natural, buff color of clay, thus, Engobe is the perfect way to get the same bright colors we offer on our White Clay Body.
Below, you can see our unglazed Recycled Clay Body (top) and our unglazed White Clay Body (bottom):
Now, here is our White Clay Body with one of our blue glazes, Martinique. You can see how the glaze sits on top of the tile and that you can see glimpes of white through the transparent glaze:
And here is our Recycled Clay Body in a few of our Engobe Colors. You can see here the white "slip" that sits underneath the pale blue glaze color, Crater Lake:
We love all of our glazes on our Recycled Clay Body, but the engobe finish is ideal if you're looking for a glaze with a bit more brightness. Take Navy Blue as an example of a classic Recyled Clay Body glaze. A Fireclay Tile favorite, this darker, glossy blue is placed directly on our Recycled Clay Body, the color is deep and saturated, but you don't get the same lightness you would from an Engobe finish:
Tile Shown: 6" Hexagons in Navy Blue
By comparison, below is another popular blue, Adriatic Sea, which is an Engobe glaze. You can see how much more variation and transparency you get from a color like this.
Tile Shown: 8" Hexagons in Adriatic Sea
Why choose an Engobe color?
If you want a more transparent glaze, with additional color variation, you'll likely love this finish. You might also prefer the look of our White Clay Body colors, but the project you're working on requires that you use our Recycled Clay Body. For example, if you're working on a pool or a steam shower, you will have to use our Recycled Clay Body. More on finding the right clay body for your project here. To see all of our Engobe colors, go to our Tile Colors page and filter for "Engobe" under Sheen.
We have a few colors that we've actually made Engobe versions for our Recycled Clay Body so that our customers can get the colors they want. For example, below is Martinique, on our White Clay Body:
And here is Adriatic Sea, the same glaze as Martinique, but using the Engobe technique. You can see that the color quality is quite similar. The differences? The White Clay colors will always be a bit lighter and have more visible crazing.
A popular choice...
Engobe colors are some of our most popular and most used, as they truly highlight the handmade quality of our tile. Crater Lake, one of our most tried and true blues, became a classic when Emily Henderson used it in her masterbath:
Tile Shown: Ogee Drops in Crater Lake
Here's a closer look at Crater Lake; you can see the variation and light crazing that you'll get from an engobe glaze like this:
Tile Shown: Ogee Drops in Crater Lake
With engobe colors, more is always a good thing! A counter to ceiling installation like Jana Bek's showcases the color variation that can occur in these colors:
Tile Shown: 3x6 in Kiwi
Take a closer look at Kiwi. You can see how the glaze color pools slightly along the edges for a watercolor-effect, as well as the crackly finish that accompanies our Engobe glazes.
Get it in Brick:
The engobe finish was so popular on our ceramic tile that we added nine colors to our Glazed Thin Brick as well:
Brick Shown: Our nine Engobe Glazed Thin Brick colors
Even from a distance, you can see the color variation offered by an engobe glaze like Blue Nebula:
Brick Shown: Blue Nebula
Want to go for engobe? Order color samples online now. Need some help? Simply call, chat or fill out our Design Assistance Form and one of our talented Design Consultants will get back to you shortly.