Advanced Tips For Selecting A Grout Color

The primary reason for grouting tiled surfaces is to prevent water from penetrating behind the tile and weakening the adhesive or the backer and the structure beneath the backer. In mosaic artwork, the grout also has a visual function, and that is to contrast (not match) the tile colors. If the grout color does not sufficiently contrast the tile colors, than all the tiles blend together visually, and much of the “mosaic effect” is lost.

Grout Color Should Contrast Not Match

There are some novices who doubt my advice about contrasting grout color and even try to match their grout color to the tile colors. These are the people who later email me in a complete panic. They usually use the words “completely ruined” to describe what grouting did to their once beautiful mosaic, and from the pictures they send, I’m inclined to agree with them. (Note that these mosaics can be saved, but it requires either scraping the grout out with a grout removal tool or painting the grout with acrylic paint or some other ad hoc solution.)

A Medium Gray Grout

Since experience has shown time and again that the best grout color is one that contrasts tile color, the question becomes which grout color best contrasts ALL the different colors used in the mosaic. For MOST combinations of tile colors, the best contrast is usually provided by a medium to dark gray, with darker being the better guess if in doubt. Always keep in mind that the color of the grout will be significantly lighter when fully cured compared to how it looks when wet.

A Notable Exception: Lighter Blues

There are a few notable exceptions to the rule of gray grout being best. The most obvious exception is when you are using gray tile (duh), but the one that usually catches people by surprise is when tiles of lighter blue colors are used. Unfortunately, these are just the shades of blue that are popular for water and sky elements, so this is a significant exception. In this situation, a warm light brown or sand colored grout might be a good choice for contrasting the blue tile, but what if there are light brown tile used elsewhere in the mosaic? Is there a good standby color of grout for this situation? The answer is no, but there is a quick solution.

Go Look At Grout Colors With Your Tile

Building material stores such as Home Depot and Lowes usually carry about 30 or more colors of grout, and they have color swatches on the shelves and/or packaging so that you can pick out grout similar to how you pick out paint, only with much more limited options. The trick or tip is to not to try to do this from memory without the benefit of having your tile with you. Take one or two tile of each color used in the mosaic with you to the store and hold them up against the color swatches. I have even gone into the store with small mosaics, just as I have taken in parts of plumbing I was trying to match or replace. Don’t be self conscious about it. The people who work there are accustomed to seeing professionals at work, and you will be quite unobtrusive compared to the building contractors dealing with emergencies. At least you won’t be covered in dirt and holding a toilet seat or something like that.

Some “Advanced” Tips

From the many emails and pictures I have received in the past 12+ years, I can state with some confidence that novices tend to regret choosing grout colors as an attempt to add another color to the mosaic. Matching grout color to tile color tends to be even more disastrous.

If you already have your figures rendered in tile using a relatively small grout gap, and you like how those figures look, then your main objective while grouting should be to not mess up the visual art that was already working, especially if you are a novice at mosaic.

Of course, even a novice can take a few of each color tile and create an abstract experiment on a scrap piece of plywood and try a novel grout color on it.

The monochromatic nature of medium gray grout makes it contrast colors intrinsically, in the same way that back and white contrast colors intrinsically. All three are balanced in hue. The keep-it-simple and less-is-more principles really come into play when you decide to second guess some shade of medium to dark gray when grouting figurative mosaic artwork.

On the other hand, there are all those earth tones to play with…

Just remember to experiment on a piece of scrap before trying it out on a mosaic where 90% of the work was spent cutting and mounting the tile.

71 responses to “Advanced Tips For Selecting A Grout Color”

    • Evie,

      If this is just tiling and not an image, then the concerns are slightly different. Most people use blinding white grout for ordinary tiling, particularly in bathrooms because and tint of color might look less than clean. You are definitely in one of those situations where taking the tile into the building material store and looking at the color swatches in the grout aisle can really help.

  1. I am really just digging in and learning more about mosaic. I love your site. Great advice and I think I will learn a lot from visiting. Thanks for taking the time to share.


  2. I made a mosaic and I need suggestions for grout colour:
    – a name made of pail pink marble
    – 4 ivory stars above the letters
    – background and border are med-dark grey (all one shade)

    My intention is for the mosaic to look like the name is in the night sky – do I use a lighter shade of grey or?

    • Gail,

      When your grout color matches the color of the tile, you risk losing the “mosaic effect” visually. Black grout tends to make colors more vibrant, so that might be a good choice. As described in the end of the article, you should take your mosaic or a sample of your tiles into a building material store and compare it to the grout color swatches.

      I hope this helps,

  3. I’m fairly new to mosaic art, so I really appreciate your advice. I just created piece that has a yellow sun design against a dark blue background. I was thinking of doing 2 colors of grout (black for dark blue tiles) and a light gray or light tan for the sun design. I was thinking that I needed 2 grout colors to allow each color tone to have the best contrast. But your article makes me think that I should just go with gray overall. Wouldn’t that kind of wash out the dark blue tiles?


    • Brenda,

      You are thinking exactly right: A black or dark grey grout could make the dark blue tiles run together visually and destroy the effect of separate tiles. You should take a few of your tiles of each color into the building material store and see which color works best for all colors. A light to medium gray might work, but you can look at different hues two: terracotta, light brown, etc.

      I hope this helps!

  4. Hi Joe. I have done a waterfall,blues and white with black,brown,grey rocks, the colours of the sky is blue and white the trees and leaves all greens,Browns,yellow. I am stuck for what grout to use. Is there such a thing as clear grout ?

    • Hi Jenny,

      There isn’t any clear grout, and I doubt that would look very good. Please email me a picture of the ungrouted mosaic, and I will let you know what I would use.


      • Hi Joe can you send me your email please so I can attach the mosaic . I used white which totally killed the mosaic and painstakingly have now removed it . I did a forest one for my first mosaic and used brown, which was great but really stuck with the waterfall ones I am on with , any help is appreciated ,kind Regards Jennifer.

      • what grout color did you recommend for Joe Moorman? I have a river scene with light grey and dark blue water, brown mountains, white lilies and a blue sky…i bought a bag of light to medium grey and a dark grey….either one will get lost in the grey and dark blue water. I haven’t grouted it in over 2 years because i cannot determine which color to use

  5. Hi Joe,

    I am in need of some opinion of grout color for a recycled glass kitchen backsplash. It’s really cool, but the tiles are on tan paper, not white, so I really want a grout color that will make the colors pop. I’ve read your comments and maybe gray is the way to go, but I really would love your opinion.

    The colors in the backsplash are all across the board, from greens, blues, yellow-browns, grays. reddish-orange. My kitchen cabinets and walls will be white, my countertops are gray concrete, and appliances are stainless steel with either dark gray or black touches.

    Dark gray grout? Light gray? Or something completely different? I have a picture of it I could send if that will help. I just don’t want to mess it up.

    Thank you,

    • Clarissa,

      A picture may help. I’m not sure what you mean about tan paper. Mounting paper is a temporary installation aid that peels off the tile after you press the sheet into mortar or adhesive and let it harden.

      Is shouldn’t matter what the other colors in your kitchen are. Grout isn’t a significant source of color in mosaic. The only reason the grout color matters is that it contrasts tile colors sufficiently enough to make each individual tile stand out.

  6. Hey Joe, thanks. For your help in the past. I have a new project and I would really welcome any help you could provide. The design is an elephant’s face and trunk, in this pretty light black designed tile with a darker black outline. The background is a tan tile. So I’m stumped, no gray or black grout cuz of the elephant, and no light brown cuz of background. I would like to email the picture – can’t find your email address. Thanks,

    • Brenda,
      A picture would definitely help, but this project is the perfect example for this article. In my experience as a painter and a mosaicist, the grout color you need can ONLY be chosen using side-by-side comparison with the tile colors. I suspect it will be a terracotta color, but there are more than one. I would definitely take some of you tiles into Lowes or Home Depot and hold them up against the color swatches.

      My email address is at the website’s contact page.

      I hope this helps!

  7. Hello,

    I enjoy readying your article, I’m working on a piece that involves with black, white, red, yellow and brown what would be a good color grout for me? Hope to hear from you soon!


    • Cherry,

      Those colored tiles would probably do well with the old standby of a medium gray, especially if your grout gap isn’t excessively large. You don’t have to consider grout/concrete as a source of color unless you have broad gaps like you sometimes see in stepping stones where relatively few tiles are pressed into concrete with a lot of untiled area. I prefer more standard mosaic where the grout gap is small and serves visually only to separate the tiles.


  8. good day
    doing emerald lake mosacic in picture frame.used black grout in pic…but it was too loud,and busy…the scence has mts trees and of course the lake in it..didn’t like the outcome at all so iam making a new one.the pic looked great before I put the grout on it.. couldn’t make out the mts part of the picture
    what color do u think I should go with in my next emerald lake
    it has again mts ..lake ..trees…

    • Hi Randy,

      You can scrape the old grout out with a small screwdriver or metal stylus and regrout the mosaic. It’s hard to choose a grout color based on descriptions, and so this situation is definitely one where you would want to take the mosaic (or some of the tiles) into a building material store and compare it to the swatches of grout colors. The usual medium gray grout might not be good if you have light blue tiles.

      I hope this helps.

    • I am in the same dilemma Randy , I have done a waterfall and on with another of most of the same colours, the first one I used white mainly because the waterfall has a lot of plain glass as well and thought the White would act as ripples ,the trees are made up of greens and turquoise ,black and brown trunks then blue and white sky. The white ruined the vibrancy , when I finish the second one I will take one to the tile supplier ,if there is nothing that would match then I am thinking to use epoxy resin ,

      • Yes, white grout is a sure-fire way to make your colors look dull and sap the vibrancy from a mosaic.

        This article explains why you need to take your mosaic (or the tile) to the building material store and compare those colors to the colors of the grout swatches. This article also explains why the grout color needs to CONTRAST your grout colors and not match it. I have also written an article explaining why epoxies and polyurethanes are bad choices for mosaics.


  9. Joe, I am working on a piece that has mostly medium gray and burgundy tiles. Would appreciate your input on grout color. The tiles are placed very close together. Should I go with a light gray?

    • Ann,

      A light gray might be good, but it depends on how light your tiles are. I’m thinking you might need a different hue to make sure there is sufficient contrast, but the only way to make sure that hue looks good is to take your tiles into the store and compare with gout swatches or compare them online at Home Depot’s website.

      I hope this helps!

  10. HI Joe,

    I need your help .. need to know the best grout color with mosaic mixed of 25% black and 75% dark copper brown kind of ..
    Let me know if you want to see the pic to understand.


  11. Hi Joe — I need your advice. I am doing a large digitized photo mosaic in a range of 8 shades of gray, from black to white. I wanted to recreate the original B&W photo as a mosaic. I used 8mm glass square tile with very little space between the tiles. There won’t be a lot of grout evident on the final piece. What color would you recommend? In this case, I really don’t want the individual tiles to stand out. So I’m thinking that a medium to dark gray grout will work. I know this is contrary to your standard advice about selecting a contrasting grout color. In this situation, ANY shade of gray will match some of my tile. What would you recommend? Thanks!!

    • Hi Mark,

      If your grout gap is minimal, then the color is a lot less critical. The situation with black and white is that a grey that blends in one place will stand out in other places. If you want to minimize the contrast of the grout (which is usually not the case), then your best bet is to choose a gray in the middle like you are thinking.

      • Thanks, Joe.
        I will send you a picture of my project when it is completed. This is my first attempt at mosaic — and I have learned so much from your site.
        Thanks again!

        • Mark,

          No problem! Please email us pictures of the finished work and the work in progress. We love to see what people make.

  12. We have just put up backsplash in kitchen with shades of different browns made of glass and taupe/beige stone that have pits in them. We have tried brown grout and you lose sight of the glass pieces and we have tried almond grout and the stone pieces blends in with it and you cant see the stone pieces. We tried black grout and the black went into the pits of the light stone and also made the stones darker and it looked bad. I am at a loss in what color to use. Could you please help me? We have never done this before and would like it to look nice when we are finished. Thank you for any help you can give me! I am frustrated!!!
    Thank you,

    • Teresa,

      The main point in this article is that you need to actually compare the tile and grout swatch side-by-side in the building material store to be able to choose the exact hue and shade. Even fine art painters have to put the paint on the canvas to tell. They can’t do it by name or expectation. They have to so see it. I suspect that what you need is a variation on the colors you have already tried but lighter or darker.

      You have to pre-seal stone with a stone enhancer or tile and grout sealer to prevent staining no matter what color you choose. Pits will need to be cleaned out during grouting.

      I hope this helps,

  13. These are very good tips for choosing the grout colour. You’ve helped me a lot. I usually make my own colour with one or more pigment powders (don’t know the exact english name). I mix it little by little and put some mixture in the microwave, to see it dry. I begin with white or beige coloured grout. I’ve also taken picture of the entire work (without any grout) and used a photo/image editing program to change the colour of the gaps. Also we can work putting the different coloured tiles over the ipad (cover it with plastic for proctection) where the colours can be disposed. Also you can put the pieces over coloured papers. You have to be very sure of the colour of the grout, because it makes all the difference. After so much work with designing, cutting and joining dozens or even hundreds of small pieces, some people just don’t have the necessary patience to spend a little more time to the important decision of the grout colour or colours. There’s a kind of hush at the end of the work.
    Excuse me for english mistakes, for it’s not my native language. Hope you’ve understood me.
    Priscilla Neiva de Mattos

    • Thanks Priscilla! Take care with powdered pigments. They are metal oxides and minerals that should not be breathed. I prefer to handle these wet and wear a dust mask.

      Here is an alternative to powdered pigments:

      Crafters sometimes add artists acrylic paint to traditional grout when they want brightly colored grout (something I dislike), and that may be the best way to add pigments because the pigments come wet in the paint, and the acrylic makes the grout tougher. (I’m not sure how that would fair in a bathroom or kitchen. I have only seen mosaic art work such as tables and frames and sculptures made with grout colored by acrylic paint.)

      I should admit that I’ve not used acrylic paint myself because I don’t like brightly colored grout in my work, but it is possible to select more subtle colors of paint (umbers, siennas, antique whites) and do the same thing if your local building material store doesn’t have the normal selection of basic earth-tone colors.

      As always, test tinted grout by mixing up and hardening a small amount BEFORE grouting the mosaic. The color of the grout is significantly lighter when it dries, and you can find out if your pigment or paint is interfering with proper hardening.

  14. I am putting tile in our master shower. We are using Avella 36″ x 6″ Oceanside Oak Gray HD Porcelain on the walls, Dream Midnight Blue Linear Glass Mosaic as a 6″ trim, and a black pebble on the flooring. I HATE seeing grout and love the depth the glass tile has. What is the best grout for the wood planks and then also for the glass?

    • Wood planks cannot be grouted. You need to select the grout color using color swatches held against your materials as recommended in the article (even if that means carrying samples of your materials to the swatches in the building material store). Even artists have to see colors sided-by-side to know for sure that they work.

  15. I’m doing a woman’s torso with large paisley elements in three dimensional media, mostly golds, silvers, and grays. I’m doing a semi-transparent white stained glass mosaic background. I actually want my background to recede so that it is secondary to the paisley. So, as much as you dislike white grout, would that not help it to play second fiddle to the paisley? I find that white grout makes the white glass look gray. I’m thinking about a light gray grout instead. I’m intentionally doing what is counter-intuitive….I don’t want to enhance the glass mosaic background. Suggestions?

    • Martha,
      This is a great question. You want to decrease visual interest in the background, but making the background lose its mosaic effect is probably not the way to go. I might use a black grout for the torso and maybe a gray for the background, but I would make sure that the background grout had enough contrast with the white tile so that it still looked like a mosaic instead of one uniform field of white.
      I hope this helps,

  16. […] Grout colors should always contrast tile colors enough so that each tile is visually distinct. If you were to use a gray grout on this mosaic, the gray tiles wouldn’t stand out as individual tiles. If you used black grout, you would would have the same problem with the black tiles. Since the mosaic is a gray and black color element, a white grout of some shade makes sense. A pure white grout is likely to be too bright, and so an off-white grout that is more or less the same color as the exposed backer between the tiles would be a safe choice. […]

  17. Thanks, Joe. If I were going to grout the paisley elements, black on them with gray on the white glass would work really well. However, I’m not grouting the paisley. None of them are glass…they are all made of three-dimensional things like beads and jewelry. Wish me luck!

  18. Joe,
    I am a beginner in mosaic and have a question
    Your advice is to use one tone grout , but if for one part of my work (flower) I don’t want contrast ,want to keep it smooth, homogeneous? Should I use matching colored grout for this part (pale pink ) or even leave this part without any?
    Don’t you mind to see picture of my project?
    Thank you very much.

  19. Hi Joe,
    It appears that I have chosen colours that are going to be hard to find the right grout colour for! I have a sea scape with tans and biscuit colours for the sand, whites for the sea foam and pale blues through to dark blues and turquoises for the water!

    In your article you mentioned a solution for this colour combination, but didn’t say what. Can I mix the grout colours, using tan for the sea, and mid grey for the sand and foam?

    I have not finished the project yet, so a picture would not do it justice yet (only just started the blues). But do you have any initial thoughts for me?

    • Hi Debbi,

      You can email us a picture, but I think I understand. We often have customers who grout different parts of their mosaic in different colors. You can tape off other areas when you grout an area with a particular color, but I would remove the tape before the grout hardens to check for places where the grout squeezed under the tape. You may have to clean out some gaps with something like the small metal spatulas we sell. Using different colored grouts in different places definitely increases the amount of work, but I think it’s worth it if you are convinced you can’t find one color that works for all areas.

      I hope this helps!

      • Thanks for your advice. What I will do is give it a week or so after I have finished it to see what would suit.

  20. Hello Joe

    I am so grateful that there is this site for people to write in and pose their different questions and to be able to receive your expert advice. I am a beginner doing a mosaic of two mermaids with a ship’s wheel on the MDF unfinished wood. The mermaids and the ship’s wheel are all done in beautiful Van Gogh glass in beautiful shades of teal as well as other tiles in the same colors. I wanted so much to use black grout on this piece as I’ve seen pieces in similar colors and the black grout makes the colors really stand out. However, I still have both the mermaid’s hair to do which one would be in blonde and the other a brunette. Also, I would probably use a beautiful skin color that is iridescent. So I’m trying to decide whether to go ahead and use the black grout and possibly completely not mosaicing the skin or hair and leaving as the natural wood. I could possibly add beads later to do the hair and still leave the skin as the natural wood. The only other option then would be to do the skin and the hair as mentioned above and then use one of the shades of gray that you have talked a lot about in these different postings. Do you have any thoughts on this and should I send you a copy of the piece so that you can get the real picture? Thank you so much! I really will appreciate your input.

    Lorraine Jacobson

    • Lorraine,
      My apologies for taking so long to respond. We had several weeks of computer issues. Please send us pictures. If you make the grout line relatively small (1/8″ or less), which always looks better, then black grout doesn’t mess up things like blonde hair and white shirts. The bulk of the color will still be the tile, and the grout line is thin and only serves to separate the tile.
      I hope this helps,

      • Hello Joe
        Thank you so much for your reply. That’s the answer I was hoping for! But since you said to send a picture I will. I want to make sure that the iridescent color that I used for the skin will also work with the black as well as the rest of the piece. I was hoping to send you a picture from my desktop but for some reason, that doesn’t work. Would you be able to advise me on whether I have to download it to send it to you or how are others sending you their pictures, if you know? Thank you. I’ll wait for your reply.

  21. Hi!
    I’m having difficulty deciding to go with the “mocha” (dark brown) grout that was recommended by a designer to match my mosaic tile. I invisioned a light grout but never the grout she suggested. May I send you a picture of the tile to see what you would recommend? Thanks.

  22. HI Joe, I just stumbled upon your site while I try to search for the perfect grout color. I installed a varied pattern travertine mosaic and i LOVE it! But I like the way it looks without grout, where the spaces are shadowed and show the pattern well. What color should I go with to keep that ungrouted color? Thanks again!

    • Jacqueline,

      I hate to say it, but I don’t know how you would grout a cavitated stone like travertine without getting grout in all the cavities. I suspect that travertine is pressed into mortar that is allowed to squeeze up between the tiles instead of being grouted later.

  23. Hi Joe,
    For a mosaic wall made entirely from broken mirrored glass pieces (i.e., not colored mirror, just regular mirror), consisting of medium (1 to 5 inches) to small pieces in an art design across the center of the wall, and larger pieces (up to 1 ft. in size) framing the art design all the way to the wall perimeters. The thought was to use a teal grout (using either colored sand or artists acrylic paint in the grout), to make the wall really pop. I know you don’t generally care for colored grout, but do you have a different opinion on it for only plain mirrored glass as the mosaic? Also, in your experience, does a pop color as the grout tend to make it the art design harder to see? Or does it bring more focus to the design in a mirrored mosaic? Thanks!

    • Hi Lisa,

      I don’t like colored grout in figurative mosaic art (images), but for abstract mosaics, especially plain mirror, it could add some much-needed color.


  24. I have antique mirrored arabesque shaped tile for my kitchen backsplash … my kitchen cabinets are heirloom black… Thinking of black grout or a darker gray as I want the tiles to pop … we have lots of crystal chandeliers in the kitchen and a gorgeous island of blues, green and pinks in the lighter background granite called Capella. White would seem overbearing and stark for the granite combo… and matching the grout to the silvery gray of the mirror might wash out the effect of the mirror??… guess I’m heading to the tile store for some samples to play with … . Can’t seem to find any pictures and examples of antique mirror tiles with grout colors … any help or pictures would be greatly appreciated! Thanks so much!

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      I would take some color photos of the room as a whole and different close ups, and I would take these photos into Home Depot or Lowes and compare them to grout color swatches. That is really the only way. I can tell you that most people who decide to risk intense grout colors usually regret it.

  25. Good morning!

    I have just completed a mosaic table top (only my secone piece ever!) I’ve read an abundance of articles whether to tint the grout or not. Some of the professional pieces I’ve seen look really beautiful when ‘same color’ grout to tile is used. Especially in landscapes.
    Then I found your site and comments on the subjuect. Now I’m so confused and nervous! I’d like to send a photo of the table for your input and suggestions, if I may, before I begin the grouting. I would like to sell the piece and want it to be as professional as possible!

    ps- How do I send photos?

    Thank you for your consideration!


    Lynn Sposito

    • Hi Lynn,

      We get emails from people in a complete panic from time to time, and the problem is that they used matching grout, and so the tiles no longer look like individual tiles. I’m sure that there are highly detailed mosaics designed to look like oil paintings, and maybe matching grout contributes to that affect, but that isn’t the type of mosaics most people are making.

      I think the example Adam emailed you is more representative of how grout color affects most mosaics.

      I hope this helps some!

  26. Thank you so much! Yes, it definitely helped. I emailed you examples of my tabletop to share my learning experience. Thank you again!

  27. HI I would really appreciate your advice. I am making a house sign for a craft shop. The background is mainly very pale pink ceramic tiles and the lettering is in floral vintage tiles of different colours, mainly pale blues and pale greens. I am at odds as to what grout to use. I want the letters to stand out.
    I would really appreciate your help.
    Thanks a million

  28. Hello, I appreciate your blog and the efforts to help the overly enthusiastic and under experienced (that’s me I’m afraid) and have been reading these pages in search of guidance. I have made a large project that will eventually be a backsplash from some ceramic but mostly stained glass. I had thought about black, or dark grey, maybe charcoal grout but really would really appreciate if possible to send some pictures to ask your much more experienced opinion. Is that possible? It may be that your thinking of when in doubt use dark grey grout is the way to go, but I would hate to be one of those panicked people who felt later like their efforts were ruined.

  29. Hi,

    I am new to mosaics and I am currently working on design which features a simple flower in shades of purple, lilac and pink with a white background but I’m not sure what colour of grout to use? Can you please help? Many thanks

    • Hi Shelley,
      If you use a minimal grout gap, then the color impact of grouting will be minimized. I would probably choose a shade of gray with a warm tint that didn’t match any of the light purples.\

  30. Hello, I am a beginner and am having a hard time deciding on the grout color. My pro is a royal blue and white vase with white flowers with yellow center, the background is red and the counter medium gray.
    I thought to use white grout but the flowers will no pop out. What color grout would you recommend.
    Thank you

  31. Hi Joe, I have completed a mosaic of a street scene in Edinburgh, from a photo. There are a range of colours…mainly of the buildings ( varying shades of beige, browns, greys and black) other colours are of shops and cars (blues, red, white, yellow), the street is charcoal; there are shades dark areas and then a light blue sky. I picked up from previous examples above, that medium grey should do…but the blue sky probably cannot have beige, as the buildings have some beige. So, I’m in a pondery and would greatly appreciate advice.
    Kind regards, Jane

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