The first major development in the art of Islamic tile-making occurred primarily in Anatolian Seljuk architecture. Mosques, mescits (small mosques) and minarets, were decorated with turquoise and purple and reddish glazed brick to produce a variety of geometric compositions and kufic inscriptions. Small mosaic-like pieces of tile were also combined to create certain designs. The tendency towards complexity in decoration in the second half of the 13th century is paralleled with the occurrence of twin minarets.
Examples of tiled and glazed brick minarets are the Taş Medrese (Aksehir, 1250), Yivli Minare (Antalya, late 13th century), Sahipata Mosque (Konya, 1258), the Gök Medrese and Çifte Minareli Medrese (Sivas, 1272), and the İnce Minareli Medrese (Konya, 1264).
Glazed brick and tile-work, similar to the decoration found on minarets, is seen on the exteriors of tombs and in the interiors of Seljuk buildings, on brick revetments covering large surfaces, on arches, vaults, walls and on other architectural elements. Such decoration can be seen on the İzzeddin Keykavus tomb in Sivas (1219-20), on the Sırçalı Medrese in Konya (1242-43), and on the Malatya Ulu Mosque (1247).
The interior walls of Seljuk buildings were often faced with turquoise tiles but also with purple, black and cobalt blue tiles, however more sparingly. The revetment was constructed out of square, hexagonal or triangular units. Very rarely was faience tiling decorated with overglazed gilt designs. The faience with relief tiling was generally used for inscriptions, white thuluth writing in relief was used on a dark blue back ground as seen on the cenotaph of Kılıç Arslan II in Konya.
Tile mosaic decoration became highly developed in Anatolia during the Seljuk period. It is a complex and visually diversified technique, generally applied to such interior surfaces as domes, squinches, arches, panels and mihrabs. Tiles in turquoise, and less frequently in purple, cobalt blue and black glazes were cut to the required shape to form a decorative composition. The cut pieces were placed, according to a design, in a mosaic-like pattern. The reverse side was then covered in plaster, which left the glazed mosaic embedded in a panel. The panel could then be affixed to the wall as a revetment. Tile mosaic is a highly versatile technique, used to produce closely interwoven designs on both flat and curved surfaces, or on angular and curved scriptural and foliate friezes. Tile mosaic mihrabs were an innovation of the Anatolian Seljuks. In early examples, simpler and more geometric designs were common. Some important mihrabs with tile mosaic decoration include those in the Alaeddin Mosque, (1220) the Sahipata Mosque (1258) and the Sırçalı Mescit (13th century), Konya. The tile mosaic decorations on the domes of the Karatay Medrese (Konya, 1251), the Gök Medrese Mescit (Sivas, 1271) and Taş Medrese (Çay, 1278) present highly artistic compositions.
As a result of excavations,Seljuk palaces, which were in ruins, were discovered and it has been ascertained that tiles were used to decorate these structures. Palace tile work differs from that seen in religious architecture. It was generally stellate and cruciform, with a figural composition. Tiles with underglazes were found in all Seljuk palaces, and luster tiles were encountered in the Kubadabad (Beyşehir) and Alaeddin Palaces (Konya). The famous 'minai' or enamel glazing technique of the Great Seljuks of Iran was only discovered in the Alaeddin Palace in Konya and were produced during the reign of Kılıç Arslan II (1156-92). However, the richest and most interesting tiles from Seljuk palaces were found in the Kubadabad palace along the Beyşehir lakeside. The palace was built during the reign of Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad (circa 1236). These tiles are now on display in the Karatay Medrese Museum, Konya. Kubadabad tiles consist of panels of figural tiles connected by cruciform tiles decorated with arabesques. These figural tiles are decorated with depictions of the sultan, women of the harem, courtiers and servants. However, the most interesting figures are the hunting and imaginery animals, such as the sphinx, siren, single and double-headed eagles, single and paired peacocks, paired birds on the tree of life and a dragon which create an unreal world. They constitute symbolic representations of the rich figural world of the Seljuks. Hunting animals, such as the fox, hare, wolf, mountain goat, wild ass, bear, lion, falcon, hawk and antelope are pictured in widely varying and highly artistic compositions. Designs in purple, turqouise, black, blue and green were painted on a white ground on stellate underglazed tiles, while on the cruciform tiles, black arabesque designs were painted under a transparent turquoise glaze.
Tiles similar to the Kubadabad examples were also discovered in palaces in Antalya, Aspendos, Alanya, Kayseri and Akşehir. Except for a few variations arising from differences in date, the style of Seljuk tiles is remarkably uniform. Thus, it would appear that tile types and styles were determined at one or two main centers. Konya was the most important center of tile manufacture in Anatolia and here we find the finest examples of all kinds of Seljuk tiles.