Now I preface this by saying we are not master tilers nor is this necessarily the best way to go about things but this is the method that worked for us.
Because Daniel is a computer guy, we started with math.
Our shower wraps around three walls so we wanted our pattern to move smoothly from one side to another with the least amount of cuts (cutting tile is a pain). Math let us see exactly how many tiles we needed and how many part tiles we needed for our first row.
Then we pulled out our new best friend. The laser level.
Then we started tiling.
Realistically you could have started here but it helped to have some plan of attack. I didn't get a picture but we actually started at the height of the shower ledge (about half way) and tiled down. That made us sure that the most visible section (the ledge) would be a full tile instead of a partial tile. You can see in the above picture the laser level showing the horizontal and vertical lines (in red). That saved us from so many "are you sure that's level?" and "that doesn't look straight to me" arguments. The level doesn't lie my friends.
Once we got the lower half of the wall figured out the rest of the pattern followed. It probably took 1-2 hours just to get that first row down between the math and the staring. On our first day we only finished the back half of the wall. Day two took us to the left half and that was basically the weekend. Last weekend went a bit smoother. By the end we had made it to 99%
Why didn't we finish? We ran out of edge tiles. I grabbed another case this week and we should be ready for grout by the weekend.
So there you have it. Our third tile laying experience. It was definitely a lot easier this time around but it still took a lot of patience and planning (things I have trouble with) and a lot of mortar. Like way more than I thought we would need.
Hopefully that helps those of you on the fence about a big tiling job with your decision. It isn't rocket science, but it can seem that way. Seeing how the quotes we got for someone else to do the job were around $1,700, my $500 tile job is perfect in my eyes.