What Are the Different Mosaic Techniques?

Lori Kilchermann

Preferred mosaic techniques are vast and vary among artists with differing styles and talents. Artistic techniques used in mosaics include selecting an object, cutting the tiles and applying them to the piece. Grouting, polishing and sealing the mosaic artwork are others steps also done with differing artistic techniques.

Glass marbles can be used in mosaics.
Glass marbles can be used in mosaics.

Making mosaics typically begins with selecting a shape or object to make into mosaic, then selecting the tiles, glass or findings to apply to the object. Mosaic techniques vary from applying large tiles, such as those used to adorn swimming pools, to the smallest of tiles used in intricate mosaics. Colorful stained glass pieces, including scrap from projects, are often good choices for making mosaics. Glass marbles and metal findings, such as jewelry and watch pieces, can also be incorporated into mosaic artwork.

Stained glass pieces are useful for making mosaics.
Stained glass pieces are useful for making mosaics.

Mosaic techniques for cutting tiles can be symmetrical and orderly or random and chaotic. Tiles and glass can be cut with a variety of tools, including a tile cutter, tile nipper or a glass cutter. While most tile cutters are used to make straight or curved cuts, tile nippers can be used to make unusual shapes. Pique assiette is a mosaic technique involving the use of broken pieces of china and pottery, such as tea cups, saucers and plates. The dishes can be cut or randomly smashed and broken into small pieces before being applied.

There are several mosaic techniques for applying tiles to an item, including direct and indirect. The direct method involves placing an adhesive on the back of the tiles and applying them directly to the mosaic object. Once the glue has dried, grout is applied to fill in the gaps between the tiles. The indirect method involves arranging the tiles in a desired pattern, coating them on the right side with a temporary glue and pressing a thin cardboard or paper piece onto the tiles. After drying, glue is applied to the wrong side of the tiles and they are set onto the mosaic object, or the tiles are pressed into wet grout.

Putting the final touches on mosaic pieces often involves applying grout and polishing the tiles. Mosaic techniques vary for mixing grout. While the majority of grout is used in white, colors can be added to grout for a more dramatic mosaic effect. Grout is often made in small batches, as it changes in consistency as it dries out. The grout is applied on top of the tiles and gently pressed between gaps in the tiles.

As the grout dries, an artist will use a damp sponge to clean off the top of the tiles. After the grout between the tiles dries, a sealer can be applied. The sealer will help block dust and dirt from penetrating the grout.

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