Gifts Made with photos

How to Make Coasters the Right Way
October 24, 2014 – 11:11 am

WARNING: There is a tragic flaw with most of the "how to make coasters from ceramic tiles" instructions on the web. Can you guess what it is?

They're not waterproof! Seems silly, right? But it's true. I know, because I tried them. The ceramic tile coasters that I crafted looked great initially, but very quickly got tea and coffee stains on them that wouldn't wipe off. Not being waterproof is a pretty serious problem for a coaster!

I tried all sorts of things to make the coasters waterproof. On my third or fourth attempt I finally figured out how to make coasters that were immune to tea and coffee drips. I'll share the secret with you on this page so you can learn how to make coasters that are beautiful, durable, and fully waterproof. It's actually pretty simple once you know how.

Here's a close-up. You can see the glossy, waterproof finish.

I'll show you how to make coasters in batches of four, though obviously you can make as many or few as you like.

I think they make really lovely gifts. I gave this set to my mom for Christmas which I made using some beautiful Japanese paper.

And here's a gratuitous photo of my DIY ceramic tile craft coaster with one of my favorite Denby teacups.

If you're wondering how to make coasters with photos, you can use the exact same method. Here's one made by reader Shelbie (thanks for sending in the pic Shelbie!).

Here's a beautiful tile by artist Judy Blasdell. She printed her design on a water slide decal and then varnished using the method I'll show you on this page.

Here's an awesome set coasters featuring Star Wars bounty hunters, by Jason from Drexninestudios. The artwork was hand-painted, scanned, given a digital background in post-production, then printed and glued onto the tiles using the method on this page.

Sometimes I get asked how to make coasters by directly hand-painting on them, so here's how: You can paint on your tiles using , bake them (using the instructions that come with the paint), and then coat the tiles with envirotex like I describe on the rest of page. Check out these adorable hand-print tiles made by reader Felicity and her two year old daughter. Thanks Felicity for sharing your photo and the way you made your coasters!

This is a long page, but don't let that frighten you. Learning how to make tile coasters is actually really easy. The only reason the page is long is because I've divided the tutorial up into small steps and included lots of photos.

How to Make Coasters: Materials

The first step in learning how to make coasters is to gather up your materials. Here's what you'll need...

Materials for tiles and decorating them

  • 4 tiles each 4" (10 cm) square
  • Mod Podge or other white craft glue
  • Paint brush for spreading glue
  • Scrapbook paper*
  • Pencil
  • Craft knife
  • Ruler

You can find tiles at DIY stores like Home Depot - you can even . (Thanks to reader Lisa for the Home Depot link!)

For the glue, I recommend using Mod Podge or another reputable brand. I've tried using cheap white glues in the past, and some of them turn brown over time, which is heartbreaking after you put a lot of work into a project.

*Instead of using scrapbooking paper, you could use photos to make your own custom photo coasters. Or, you could use sheet music from a favorite piece, pages of a classic novel, botanical illustrations or other illustrations from books/novels, you own sketches or drawings (or children's), postage stamps, tickets from events you've attended, postcards, sections of maps, candy wrappers, etc...

Materials for varnishing and waterproofing the tiles

Achieving a waterproof and non-tacky finish is the the most critical part of how to make coasters in my opinion. Here's what you'll need:

The Envirotex is the secret of how to make coasters with a beautiful, glass-like, non-tacky*, stain-proof finish. It's a two-part epoxy that comes in two bottles which you mix together then pour on your coasters. People use it to coat bar-tops in bars and restaurants so it's designed to be durable. One coat of Envirotex is equivalent to 50 coats of regular varnish. If you want to make a gift that will last for years, then it's worth using.

The cured envirotex feels completely smooth and non-tacky to your fingers, and is 100% waterproof. The only thing that's not perfect about it is that it does stick a little bit to a hot coffee cup. Having said that, it's still much less tacky than any other finish I've tried in my experiments of how to make coasters.

Before I discovered Envirotex I tried practically every other type of varnish (including acrylic varnish, decoupage varnish, spray-on polyurethane varnish, araldite, egg whites, and mod-podge), and nothing gave as good a finish. The other types of varnish looked OK, but they were tacky, or brittle, or got stained by coffee or tea.

I haven't seen Envirotex in many craft stores, but you can get it at Amazon (link above) or on eBay. Some readers have said they've also spotted it in their local Michaels and Hobby Lobby craft stores. An 8-oz kit (enough for 16 tiles) normally costs around $15, so it comes out at less than $1 / coaster. And obviously it's cheaper per tile if you buy it in bulk.

OK, now you've got your materials, let's get onto the fun bit of how to make coasters :-)

How to Make Coasters: Video Instructions

I found this video (not my own) that does a great job of explaining how to make coasters and coat them with Envirotex. Actually it describes how to make placemats, but the process for coasters is almost identical.

If you have a slow internet connection you may prefer to follow my written instructions below instead.

Step 1

Cut out squares of scrapbooking paper (or photos) to decorate your coasters. My tiles are 4" across, so I cut out pieces of scrapbooking paper 3.5" across, to leave a small border around the edge.

Step 2

Make sure your tiles are clean and dry. If they're greasy, then give them a wipe with methylated spirits or rubbing alcohol to clean them.

Completely paint the blank side of a decorative paper square with Mod Podge or white glue. Make sure you go right up to the edges. It's best to work on a piece of scrap paper that you don't mind getting glue on.

Place the glued piece of decorative paper onto a tile. Press on it firmly to remove any air bubbles. I recommend using a glass tumbler as a rolling pin and using a rolling motion from the center to the edge of the paper to work out any bubbles. The first time I did this I just used my fingers and even though I thought I was thorough I still left some bubbles under the paper which I only noticed once the glue was dry.

Repeat the process for the rest of the tiles. Have a cup of tea and a biscuit and wait 15 minutes for the glue to dry before going going on to the next step.

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