How to Make Mosaics

Mosaic Fish Table There are two different ways to make a mosaic. Both methods have the same preparation and finish, however they differ in the way that the mosaic tiles are applied.

Start with a pattern for your mosaic

If you have a design in mind then you can photocopy and trace, or freehand draw the same design on to your base. If you are a beginner look at the patterns offered for some inspiration.

If you are using a pattern I recommend you photocopy it and make it the same size as your mosaic platform. This way you can trace or copy the pattern over fairly easily without having to rescale.

You can use tracing paper or carbon paper to copy the design or a grid method if you are increasing or decreasing the size.

Choose the tesserae for your mosaic design

Pile of Mosaic Tiles Depending on the particular pattern that you choose, you may have considerable choice in the tiles or tesserae that you use for your mosaic.

Some patterns and certain mosaic kits will specify the exact type of tiles to use, however in most cases you can refer to the mosaic tiles and tesserae guide for inspiration and guidance.

Always consider the impact that the color and the size of the tiles you choose will have on your design. Read the page on how to mix color for more information on this important topic.

How to make a mosaic using the direct method

The direct method is the most obvious technique for making a mosaic. The tesserae is fixed straight to the base of the mosaic and then grouted when adhesive has dried.

The direct method of making mosaics is ideal for your first mosaic as the tesserae are laid the 'right' way up so that the top of the tesserae becomes the surface. This technique is useful when the material used has a different appearance on the front and back faces.

You can either butter each piece of tesserae with your chosen adhesive or you can put a small amount on the base surface (enough for around six pieces) where you can then put the tiles on top of the glue.

You have to be quite fast when you are doing it this way as often the adhesive can set quite quickly and if you don't make the decision to move a piece immediately it will end up stuck there!

This method is easier than the indirect method as you get to see what you are putting down and can move tesserae around if you don't like it straight away.

The direct method should be used if the pieces of tesserae have varying thickness and it is desired that the overall mosaic will have a 3D effect. It does not produce a smooth even surface, hence is not suitable for floors.

Read more about how to lay mosaic tile.

How to make a mosaic using the indirect method

The indirect method of making a mosaic involves creating the mosaic 'upside down' onto of a sheet of brown paper. The tesserae are stuck face down onto gummed paper, which is then set in a bed of grout, flipped over and the paper can be washed away later when the mosaic has set.

The indirect method is fairly simple to use when using glass tiles, pebbles, marble or any tesserae that looks the same from both the front and back. 

However, this process can be difficult in circumstances with ceramic tiles that have the same appearance underneath. If you decide to use this method with ceramic tiles you need to be very organised when it comes to placing colors and knowing exactly where you want them to go.

The indirect method of making mosaics is also fantastic if you have an intricate design and you not want it to be covered over with glue before you lay your tiles.

For large scale works the indirect method is invaluable as it allows you to work on a mosaic away from the final site. This is particularly handy for the larger projects (e.g. carpet floors) or for mosaics that are difficult to access due to other objects or obstacles in the way. It is also a fantastic method to use if the mosaic needs to be broken into sections.

The indirect method has the additional benefit of being able to create a flat surface whilst still using pieces of tesserae of varying thickness. As the resulting mosaic is smooth, regardless of the tile size, this process is ideal when used for flooring.

Read more about how to lay mosaic tile.

Apply grout to your mosaic

Once you have finished creating your mosaic using the direct or indirect method, you will usually need to create the smooth finish by applying grout to the mosaic.

For instructions on how to finish your mosaic by applying grout, refer to the page on how to grout tile, which applies equally to tiles and other types of tesserae.

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