Mosaic Art Beginner's Guide
1. Pick a surface:
Indoors - Plywood for wall hangings, vases, pots, backsplashes, wooden boxes, an old table, pretty much anything except the kids or dog.
Outdoors - Cement stepping stones or a cement bench, terracotta pots, cement board for wall hangings, or your car if you don't mind the "eccentric" look. (Avoid anything that will absorb outdoor humidity and warp over time.)
2. Pick a design:
Draw your design onto the surface and be sure to keep it simple...at least a first until you find what works for you. If you'll be using light colored translucent tiles, be careful not to place them directly over the lines you've drawn, as the lines will show through the tile. Consider a background color that will contrast with the focal point of your design. If you're making dark red flowers with dark green leaves and then use dark blue tiles for your background, it will all blend together. A lighter background will help the vibrant colors of your design jump out!
3. Pick a method:
Direct method - Glue tiles directly to your surface, one at a time. This method is the most popular & recommended for most projects. Your end result will give you a masterpiece that looks handmade, which is probably what you want. You don't want to work you heart out only to have something that looks like it was just mass produced in a factory. (For the purpose of these instructions, I will be referring to the direct method.)
Indirect method - Set tiles in place on a sheet of mosaic mount, face down, before flipping over to place on mosaic surface all at once. This method is recommended for a table top that needs to be smooth. The end result will give you a flush surface.
4. Glue those tiles!
Most mosaic adhesives come in a bottle with a narrow squirt-top. You can choose to put a dot of glue on the back of each tile one at a time, or dot your surface as you go, or draw a whole line of glue & work you way across it. It's entirely up to you. If you see too much glue squishing out to the sides of the tiles and filling the spaces between tiles, try using a little less.
The most popular glue in the mosaic industry is Weldbond. Whatever glue you choose, make sure it's waterproof, weatherproof and that it dries clear. Why is weatherproof important? Because adhesives that are not weatherproof (and many aren't) will expand and contract with weather changes, causing your tiles to pop off!
Use the two-wheeled Mosaic Glass Cutters for nipping glass tiles. Even if you plan to glue your tiles in the shape they're already in, there's always that little space at the end of a row, or a corner, or wherever, that you need a little different shape to fill in a space. Use the flat tipped Mosaic Nippers for ceramics or other forms of tile. (These tend to just crush glass tile, while the two-wheeled cutters produce excellent results!) ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS wear protective glasses when cutting tile!!! You may not have ever really put an eye out by running through the house with scissors when you were a kid, but you're never too old to finally put that eye out!
You usually have at least a couple of hours to move tiles around (with some effort, depending on how much time the glue has had to dry). If the glue is really dry, and you just have to reposition a tile, try wedging a flat-head screw driver under one side and giving the end a light tap with a hammer. Keep in mind that the beauty of mosaics is their uniqueness. Don't shoot for perfection! The less perfect it is, the more you'll love it in the end! Tiles that don't lay perfectly flat or in line with each other will play with the light in different ways. This is why the direct method is recommended - your masterpiece will be so much more fun to look at!
5. Time to grout: At least 24-hours after glue has dried.
Pick a color that will contrast with your tiles nicely. If the grout color is too similar to the color of your focal point, your design will be lost in the grout. You're not limited to just black or white either! You can find several wonderful grout colorants at the bottom of this page.
Powder-form - If you're buying grout online, this weighs a little less than pre-mixed grout and will help lower shipping charges. You also have more control over how thick or runny you want it to be (toothpaste consistency is usually ideal), but be sure to wear protective goggles & a face mask while mixing.
Pre-mixed - This comes in a small tub and is ready to go. Either form of grout is good, it's entirely personal preference. (My personal opinion is that pre-mixed grout is typically too sticky & difficult to spread, so powder grout is the best.)
Sanded grout - We sell Glass Pro grout, which is a very fine sanded grout made specifically for stained glass mosaics. Most artwork has relatively small spaces between the tiles, and finely sanded grout can fit right in and look nice & clean when it dries! Some sanded grout is very coarse, which isn't recommended for mosaics, so be careful when buying sanded grout that isn't designed for glass mosaics.
Non-sanded grout - This is good if you need to fill in extra tiny spaces between tiles. It also has a smooth look once it's dry.
Wear gloves if your hands will come in contact with the grout (and they will). This way you won't just be wishing you'd worn gloves while you're still picking grout from your fingernails a week later!! Grab a handful of grout, drop it into the middle of your project and then spread it around using a grout spreader. Spreading with your hands, even with gloves, can give you a nasty cut if you accidentally slide your finger along the sharp edge of a tile.
Once the grout has filled in every last space, wipe off the excess. At first there will still be quite a bit of grout on your tiles, but that's ok. Let it dry for 10-20 minutes, then go back with a wet sponge or rag and wipe again. Misting the tiles just a little with a squirt bottle of water will help clean the tiles while adding strength to your grout between the tiles. Don't overdo it though, you don't want to wash all the grout away! Too much water could also cause the grout to crack after it dries. (This happens because you'll start filling in your spaces with more water than grout, which eventually evaporates, causing insufficient amounts of grout to be left behind.) Just once or twice should be enough. After 24-hours you'll probably see a haze on your tiles left behind by the grout. This is very easy to buff off now that your grout is dry. (Although grout shouldn't be considered completely dry - cured - for at least 2 weeks. Until then, keep all projects indoors.)
Work outside while grouting whenever possible and wear clothes that you wouldn't even wear to answer the door when the pizza arrives. Mosaics are messy work!
On wall-hangings, you may want to place wall-hanging hardware on the back of your plywood before you start your mosaic. It's possible to do it without knocking off tiles after your work is finished, but it's risky. The only reason to wait until after you're done is so that your plywood can lay flat while you work.
If you do decide to nail wall-hanging hardware to you work after it's completed, lay it face-down on a soft surface like a carpeted floor first. Also, use screws instead of nails if possible to avoid exposing your hard work to the impact of a hammer.
Be sure you have enough tile before you start. I typically sell my tile in packages containing 25 square inches in glass, so no matter what size tile you're buying, you always know how much coverage you'll get (diamond shaped tiles and 1" x 1/4" are exceptions to this rule). For every square foot you need to cover, you'll want about 5 standard packages or one Bulk Discount size package.
Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. I'm always glad to help!!
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