Azulejos – Charming Hand-Painted Tiles Of Goa


Azulejos – is the tongue twister name of colorful tiles you see at many places in Goa. Azulejos is also spelled as Azulejo and Azulezoz. Especially, in old buildings. What if I told you that each of these tiles is hand painted and then glazed? The lovely nameplates you see when you walk around Fontainhas in Panaji are all hand-painted.

Azulejos, Goa

At an Azulejos studio you not just see regular tiles and blue and white nameplates but you also come across family portraits and beautiful images transported on these small square tiles.

I had happily assumed that the Portuguese brought this art form to Goa and while they left, this art form stayed back. I was both right and wrong. Portuguese brought the hand-painted tiles to the state, but they never brought the skills to make them locally. Initially, they used to get the tiles with them from Portugal. Later when they wanted the local themes on tiles, they used to send sketches of the Goan landscape to Portugal. Azulejos used to be handcrafted in Portugal and then shipped to Goa for installation. So, these tiles were never made in the state during Portuguese rule.

So, when and how did it come to Goa? Well, a couple of gentlemen, students of Goa College of Arts, went to Portugal to study this art form and they brought it back to the state. Now there are a few studios here that skillfully paint for you.

Azulejos Tiles – Portuguese Tiles? Brief History

Part of Azulejos mural at wedding hall at St Estavan
Part of a mural at the wedding hall at St Estavan

The art of Azulejos was potentially born in the Arab world sometime in the 15th CE. From there it traveled to the Seville region of Spain. Initially, it has only geometric patterns and no human or animal figurines. I assume this was in line with the Islamic idea of art. However, as it started spreading to the rest of Spain and Portugal, they started adding their own creativity to the look and feel of these tiles. Scenes of human life started appearing on these hand-painted tiles.

Other accounts say that this was born when artists were trying to imitate the mosaic paintings of Rome.

Whatever the case may be of its birth, its youth was definitely in Spain and Portugal where it bloomed.

Etymology of Azulejo

Since a lot of the tile work happens in blue on white, a logical conclusion is drawn that the word Azulejos comes from Azure or Blue color. That is wrong.

The name has its origins in the Arab word az-zulayj which really means a smooth small stone possibly referring to the fine finish these Tiles have.

Visiting the Azulejo Studio in Bicholim

2 tile paintings
2 tile paintings

One fine day, I visited Turi Azulejos in Bicholim industrial estate. Well, it was more like a studio than an industrial unit. Shankar Turi – the founder of the studio enthusiastically showed me around his workshop and artworks in various stages of progress. What I saw was a balanced combination of popular Tiles that sell and custom-made tiles for clients.

Half finished 6 Tile Azulejo
Half finished 6 Tile work

He showed me the single tile paintings to 6 tile paintings that depict the popular scenes of Goa. The most popular being a Taverna scene and the Kunbi Dance. He showed me the painted plates, mugs, and framed tiles. However, it was when I entered his studio area that I saw the most amazing work.

A Family Portrait on Azulejos
A Family Portrait

One of the large but half-finished paintings of a colorful peacock was leaning against the wall. At the bottom of it was a small printed photograph of a peacock that was being replicated on the grid of ceramic tiles. My eyes oscillated between the small photograph and its large replica on tiles. It was incredible to see the minute details being replicated.

Hand Painting a large Azulejos installation
Hand Painting a large installation


I turned my neck to the left to see an artist holding a family portrait in sepia color in one hand and painting the same on ceramic tiles with another. It was a pleasure to see his brush move effortlessly on tiles recreating the image in shades of brown. A slanting stick helped him keep his hand steady while he painted.

Before and after an Azulejos tile is hand painted
Before and after a tile is hand painted

On the other side of the room, a young girl was adding colors to a single-tile mural depicting the Kunbi Dance of Goa. This is where I saw all the stages that a plain Jane tile takes until it becomes a smooth and shining piece of work.

The next room had a small screen printing equipment and in one corner another young lady was packing the finished tiles. The big hall outside had ovens that bake the tiles that are painted.

A Mario Miranda Caricature on Azulejos
A Mario Miranda Caricature

In the state, any art form cannot be complete without Mario Miranda and his caricatures. In fact, the new age hand-painted tiles business is inseparable from Mario Miranda’s work. You can see the two together in Mario galleries or in souvenir shops across the state.

How do they make Azulejos Tiles?

The base raw material for these tiles is the Tile itself. These square ceramic tiles come in the standard size of 15cm x 15cm. They do not look very different from the tiles used in our kitchens and bathrooms. These tiles are sourced from India, China, and Portugal. In Goa, most tiles used are Indian but some premium work is done on Portuguese tiles.

Other ingredients are colors, glue & glaze. Mr. Turi says all these he gets only from Portugal.

Popular Goan designs
Popular Goan designs

The design is either hand sketched or pasted using a sticker on the Tile. Stickers or screen prints are used for tiles that are sold in bulk. The sketches are then filled with color by hand. The lady painting the Kunbi dancers told me she takes about 15-20 mins to color a single tile.

Custom-made tiles and murals are completely hand-painted.

Once colored and glazed, they are put into these vertical stacks for baking. The giant baking ovens can heat up to 1200 deg – imagine the heat these ceramics have to go through to get that shining glazed look.

It is not just the gold that must go through the fire to glitter.

Where do these tiles go? Outdoor Tiles?

Menezes Braganza Hall - Panaji, Goa
Menezes Braganza Hall, Panaji

Well, in the state you can find them in many public buildings and hotels. Recently, there have been a lot of public installations in Panaji and the rest of the state using hand-painted tiles. The peacock I write about above is a part of a public installation.

You would see the patterned tiles on the sidewalks.

Colorful nameplates remain a favorite with Goans. Walk around a village and you would see them outside every home.


A lot of designers are designing furniture using these tiles as highlighters or maybe adding the local touch.

Of course, souvenir shops are full of Curios – you can buy coasters, paintings, crockery, or just about anything in ceramic. Single, double, and 6 tile paintings remain the most popular paintings.

Shankar Turi showed me a series of photographs that he has re-created on tiles for a photographer. They looked lovely and gave me tons of ideas for our Goan images.

The market for these tiles is growing as tourism grows in the state. Tourists take them back as souvenirs and locals used them as a memory of the bygone era.

The administrations of the state’s cities are trying to give color to the walls and staircases through this art form that has now become as Goan as they can.

Where to see Best Azulejos?

St Estavan Wedding Hall that was once a Cinema Hall with one of the best Azulejos work in Goa
St Estavan Wedding Hall, which was once a Cinema Hall with one of the best works
  • Menezes Braganza Hall in Panaji
  • Wedding Hall (that was once a cinema hall) at St Estaban
  • Chinchinim

Video: Making of Hand-Painted Azulezos Tiles in Goa

Do watch this video we captured during our interaction, posted on our YouTube channel, to get a better perspective on the possibilities with these beautiful hand-painted tiles.

Where to Buy them as Goa Souvenirs?

  • Azulejos De Goa in Panaji
  • Turi Azulejos – Bicholim
  • Mario Miranda Galleries – Panaji, Porvorim, Margao, Calangute, Carmona

So, are you tempted to get some for yourself?

Recommend you read the following Travel blog on Places to visit in Goa.

Places to visit in South Goa – Tourist Attractions

10 Reasons to take a Yacht Ride

Chikal Kalo – Monsoon time Mud Festival

Shantadurga and other Saraswat Temples

Chorla Ghat – Drive through the hinterlands


    • Meenakshi, till I visited the workshop, even I had no idea that these hand painted tiles are so labor intensive. To watch a photograph being recreated on a set tiles was simply mesmerizing.

  1. Lovely post. This blue and white ceramic art work is quite close to the ones found in Delft, Netherlands i guess.. i visited the factory there and found the making process to be very similar too…Even in Barcelona i have come across these…

    • Thanks, Yogi. The one that adds to the income is welcome anywhere. On a serious note, I am happy the artisans are exploring contemporary themes and are not stuck with age old themes only.

  2. These works of arts and crafts are wonderful. Hand-made things should be more beautiful in many senses compare to that of factory-made. Thanks for sharing!

  3. In my mind, tiles are usually associated with Portugal, but it is great to learn that this craft is now found in Goa as well. These paintings are so detailed, it is absolutely stunning! I really admire such forms of art, especially when I can hardly draw a perfect circle πŸ˜€

    • Anna, Yes they are mostly found in Portugal & they initially came to Goa with Portuguese. We usually get to see the standard tiles in public places, so to see these hand made ones was really fascinating.

  4. I amazed! Those were really hand painted one by one? The artists are very good and I hope they continue and teach their craft to the new generations.

  5. I’ve never heard of Azulejos before now and I must say, while the tiles and artwork are beautiful, I very much enjoyed learning about their historical significance and their current, modern uses. Thanks for this informative post!

  6. Thank you for sharing this! I’ve been seeing these blue and white tiles around Goa and being a potter, I was wondering where they were made it. It was really interesting to read your post and finding out the history behind the Azulejos.

  7. amazing art work… i’ve met Turi personally, hes so humble and even obliged parting away with a paper sketchand ive painted it in water color… and i am a big fan of Mario’s paintings and sketches (God bless his soul). even when i was in portugal,, i made it a point to visit dOrey , Azulejos in Lisbon….


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