Here are the basic tools that you'll need for applying adhesives and mortars:
Notched trowels are used to spread and "comb" adhesives onto the underlayment. Two sides of the trowel are notched with either "V" or "square-shaped" notches.
Use a square-notched trowel for spreading thinsets on horizontal surfaces. Use V-notched trowels for spreading adhesives on vertical surfaces.
Trowels also come in different notch depths. Use one that's two-thirds the thickness of the tile you're setting.
If you don't want to invest a lot in trowels, you can get less expensive plastic ones at most home centers.
Grout floats are rubber or foam-faced trowels used to force grout into the joints between the tiles. Use sweeping motions diagonally and back and forth to work the grout into the joints.
Once the joints are filled, use the straight edge on the side of the float to scrap the excess grout off the tiles. You need to hold the float almost at a 90 degree angle to do this. Again, diagonal motions work best for this.
As with notched trowels, you can also buy disposable grout floats at your tile supply store.
A margin trowel may be the most useful tile tool of all. You’ll use it to hand mix mortars and grouts, to scrape excess adhesive off of walls, to spread mortar or adhesive onto the notched trowel, and to “back-butter” small tiles.