Square Tile Backsplash Create Shooting Effects with Classic Tiles

A backsplash is an integral part of any kitchen design. Not only does it serve a functional purpose by protecting the walls from splashes and spills, but it also provides an opportunity to infuse style, color, and visual interest into the space. One timeless backsplash option that creates a striking focal point is a square tile design. Square tiles have clean lines and symmetry that allows for beautiful geometric arrangements. When paired with classic subway tiles, interesting shooting effects can be achieved to really make the backsplash pop.

Choosing the Right Square Tile

The first step in creating a dynamic square tile backsplash is selecting the right base tile. There are a few factors to consider when choosing square tiles:


Square tiles come in a range of sizes from 1 inch mosaics all the way up to 16 inches or larger. Larger tiles can make a big impact but may require more precision in cutting and installation. Smaller tiles allow for more creative patterns but will require more grout lines. A good mid-range size is 4 inches which provides a balanced scale.


Ceramic and porcelain are two of the most popular options for square backsplash tiles. Ceramic provides a classic look, often with a glazed surface. Porcelain is harder, more durable, and water-resistant. Natural stone like marble or travertine can also be cut into square shapes.


The color and finish of the tile will significantly influence the overall look. Matte finishes provide a subtle, natural stone appearance that works well in both modern and traditional kitchens. Glossy or metallic finishes reflect light and add splash. Bold colored tiles make for an eye-catching point of focus.

Coordinating with the Rest of the Kitchen

Choose square tile that coordinate well with your cabinetry, countertops, and other finishes in the kitchen. You want the backsplash to enhance the overall design rather than compete with it.

Pairing with Subway Tile

The clean lines of square tiles pair beautifully with classic white subway tiles. Subway tiles have beveled edges that create subtle V-shaped grout lines providing nice contrast and visual interest. Choosing subway tiles that are the same height as the square tiles will create a seamless transition between the two.

There are a few options for integrating subway and square tiles:

  • Use subway tiles on the perimeter of the backsplash and fill in the center with square tile designs.
  • Alternate rows of square and subway tiles.
  • Frame funky square tile patterns with simple subway tile borders.
  • Combine different size squares with consistent subway tile backgrounds.

Using two tile shapes opens up many possibilities for cool geometric designs.

Achieving Shooting Effects

Shooting effects within a backsplash tile design refers to lines that shoot out from a central point rather than a traditional grid layout. This helps pull the eye towards a focal area and adds a modern, unexpected element. There are a few techniques for creating shooting lines with squares and subway tiles:


Starting with a classic chequerboard pattern of alternating black and white tiles (can use two colors or materials), shift every other row over incrementally so the squares form diagonal lines emanating from the center. The offset squares will look like arrows shooting inward or outward depending on the direction.


Cut square tiles into triangular points to create a sunburst effect emanating from a central circular focal point. Point the tiles toward the circle like rays. This can be done with tile material or mosaic sheets.

Penny Round Inserts

Randomly insert circular penny tile mosaics into a field of square tiles. The circles break up the grid and direct attention to the polka dot pattern. Alternating black and white dots maximizes contrast.

Shift Half the Pattern

Lay out a square tile pattern in a basic grid. Then cut your central design shape out and shift the remaining squares inside the outline over by half the tile width. This splits and shoots the lines outward from the empty focal space.

Classic Square Tile Backsplash Designs

Beyond shooting effects, there are many classic square tile designs that will stand the test of time:


Stacking square tiles with thin grout lines creates clean vertical columns. For variation, periodically throw in some sideways stacked tiles. Good for very small mosaic tiles.


Simple, straight uniform grids work well with large format tiles. Use tone on tone colors for minimal contrast or vary colors for a checkerboard effect.


Row of square tiles placed in opposite directions forming a V-shape. Provides great texture and movement. Herringbone doesn’t have to be at 45 degree angles – can alter angles for variation.


Similar to herringbone, but tiles are set perpendicular to each other rather than at angles. This forms boxes and a more subtle woven effect. Great for a focal kitchen wall.

Penny Rounds

Dotting penny round mosaic tiles randomly or in groups against a field of larger square tiles creates fun contrast and a dynamic focal point. Great with marble, glass or metallic tiles.


Grouping square tiles together into hexagon shapes provides a honeycomb effect. Create interest by mixing different tile sizes, colors or textures within the hexagons.

Best Practices for Installing Square Tile Backsplashes

Achieving a top notch finished look with your square tile backsplash requires careful planning and precision installation:

  • Have appropriate subfloor/wall backing – Standard cement backerboard provides an even, water-resistant surface for tiles.
  • Lay out design ahead of time – Dry laying the pattern with actual tiles helps visualize spacing and identify potential issues.
  • Use levelling systems – Clip-on spacers keep consistent grout line widths. Laser levels ensure straight lines.
  • Cut border tiles correctly – Measure and cut partial edge tiles with precision for a seamless fit. Use tile nippers for detailed cuts.
  • Use quality setting materials – This includes fortified thinset mortar and grout suitable for the tile material and application.
  • Apply grout properly – Grout lines should be uniform in width based on tile size. Follow all drying time instructions.
  • Caulk perimeter edges – Flexible silicone caulk around top and side edges ensures waterproofing.
  • Seal grout and tiles – Adding sealant protects from stains and damage over time. Enhance shine on glossy tiles.

Proper planning and meticulous technique allows for the creation of truly showstopping square tile backsplash designs with shooting starburst effects and captivating geometric style.

FAQ About Square Tile Backsplashes

What’s the best tile size for a backsplash?

For backsplashes, a tile size between 1×1 mosaics and 4×4 inches provides the best versatility in terms of pattern options and ease of installation. Large format tiles over 12 inches square can be very impactful but require extra precision.

How are square tiles arranged in a backsplash?

Common arrangements for square backsplash tiles include grids, stacked patterns, herringbones, chequered designs and hexagons shapes. Staggering tiles in zig-zag or arrow patterns creates shooting starburst effects.

What color grout should I use with square tiles?

Lighter grout colors help maintain clean lines between square tiles. Bright white is ideal with glossy tiles in bold colors. Softer grey grout can provide more subtle contrast with neutral tiles. Avoid grout the same color as the tiles.

Should I use more than one tile shape?

Mixing complementary tile shapes (square with subway, hexagons with squares etc.) adds more character and visual interest vs using just one shape. Transition between shapes cleanly for a seamless look.

How do I cut square tiles cleanly?

Use a wet tile saw fitted with a diamond encrusted blade for most accurate cuts. For smaller detailed cuts use tile nippers and then smooth the edges. Always cut tiles face side up to avoid chipping.

Can I install a square tile backsplash over drywall?

Tile should always be installed over a cement backerboard rather than directly on drywall. The backerboard provides critical moisture resistance and rigidity to support the tile properly.

Is white subway tile still in style?

Classic white subway tile provides a timeless and versatile backdrop that coordinates beautifully with bolder square tiles in a backsplash design. The beveled edges create attractive shadow lines.

A square tile backsplash with shooting starburst effects created by combining shapes and shifting grid alignments adds an artistic, contemporary edge to any kitchen. Balancing creativity with timeless patterns and premium materials results in a stunning focal point that will maintain its visual appeal for decades to come.


A backsplash with square tiles and classic subway tiles provides an opportunity to add style, creativity and visual drama to your kitchen design. Choosing complementary sizes and materials and leveraging interesting geometric shapes allows you to produce one-of-a-kind shooting effects. Installed thoughtfully, a square tile backsplash becomes a stunning focal point and conversation piece that enhances the overall function and aesthetic of the kitchen for many years of beauty and enjoyment.