Archive for Mosaicing guides

getting started : mosaic setup checklist

// December 16th, 2013 // 4 Comments » // Mosaicing guides, Safety, Tools



  • Safety glasses – always wear these when cutting/breaking materials for your mosaic, or when using power tools (it’s much easier to put on a pair of safety glasses than replace an eye!)
  • Dust mask – wear it when mixing dried grout, mortar (cement mix), pigment etc., also when sanding/grinding your substrate or tesserae.
  • Latex gloves – grout and mortar mixes are caustic. Wear latex gloves when grouting to prevent skin irritation.
  • Soft brush, eg; wide paint brush – to sweep dust etc. from your mosaic project. Never sweep away glass shards with your bare hands!


  • Wheeled mosaic cutters – a versatile tool for cutting/shaping tesserae from a variety of mosaic materials.
  • Tile nippers – use for cutting/shaping thicker tiles etc. into tesserae.
  • Tile scorer/breaker – cuts larger ceramic tiles along a straight line.
  • Tweezers (various sizes) – to pickup/move tesserae. Useful for moving a piece without disturbing surrounding tesserae.
  • Craft sticks – for applying adhesive/mastic to back of tesserae, or spreading adhesive directly onto substrate.
  • Assortment of probe type tools (dental picks etc.) for positioning mosaic tesserae. A pottery needle can be used to clean excess adhesive from grout lines, and to unplug glue bottles.
  • Hammer (see Hessian sack) for smashing tiles/plates etc. – always remember to wear protective glasses, and gloves if smashing glass or thin materials which may have sharp edges.
  • Hessian sack (see Hammer). Place tiles/plates etc into sack before smashing, this will prevent pieces flying everywhere.
  • Tools for grouting – rubber float, spatuals, trowel, grooved spreader, and sponges.
  • Newspaper – for cleanup after grouting. Also useful as drop-sheet. Never dispose of grout or cement down the drain!

non-essential tools

  • Hammer & hardie – traditional tool for cutting marble and smalti.
  • Carborundum stone – to smooth rough edges of cut glass.
  • Glass grinder (electric) – to smooth and shape edges of cut glass.
  • Glass cutter – for scoring stained glass; the glass will break along this line using one of the tools listed below.
  • Breaker pliers – for snapping smaller pieces of stained glass along score-line.
  • Grozing pliers – helps to smooth the edge of jagged cuts.
  • Breaker/Grozing pliers – combination with breaking pliers on one jaw & grozing pliers on the opposite jaw.
  • Running pliers – use to snap stained glass along longer, straight or curved score-lines.


stick it! : mosaic adhesive guide

// December 12th, 2012 // 1 Comment » // Adhesives, Mosaicing guides



To correctly choose an adhesive for your mosaic, you will first need to know which materials you will be using for both the substrate (backing) and tesserae (mosaic tiles) as well as the intended use and location of the mosaic. Failure to choose an appropriate adhesive or not allowing it sufficient time to cure, may result in tiles falling off your completed mosaic.

Here is a quick adhesive reference guide to get you started. For best results, always follow instructions on the the label.

PVA – Polyvinyl Acetate (aka Craft or Wood Glue) – white glue, dries clear

  • Suitable for use in Direct Method mosaics as tiles can be coated with glue prior to placement on substrate.


  • Also suitable for Indirect Method mosaics when diluted 2:1


  • Not suitable for load bearing, can be used on mosaics that lay flat or that will not be required to bear weight.


  • Non-waterproof, therefore is not suitable for exterior applications.


  • Diluted it can be used as a sealant for porous substrates such as terracotta and unglazed ceramic pots.


EVA – Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (sometimes labelled as Exterior Craft/Wood Glue)

  • Water resistant but not water proof – do not use on mosaics that will be submerged in water.


  • Can be used in outdoor locations that will get wet.


Epoxy Resin – two part adhesive    

  • Suitable for internal and external mosaics.


  • Extremely strong adhesive.


  • Produces a lot of fumes (use in well ventilated location).


  • Suitable for outdoor mosaics which may be submerged in water.


  • Can hold heavy tesserae (eg; stones, heavy tiles).


  • Can be tricky to work with as they are extremely sticky, can be quite runny and usually set fairly fast.


  • Not recommended for beginners to mosaics.


Weldbond – similar to PVA glues

  • Recommended by many mosaic artists for internal mosaics.


  • Can be used on cement, concrete, bricks, plaster, metal, glass, wood and tiles.


  • Stronger than the average white craft glue.


  • Water soluble, no fumes, non-toxic and easy to clean up.


  • Dries clear making it suitable to use for glass on glass applications (see manufacturers instructions).


  • Not waterproof making it not suitable for exterior applications.


  • Suited to Direct Method of mosaics as tiles can be coated with glue prior to placement.


  • Diluted it can be used as a sealant.


Cement Based Adhesives (polymer modified cement glue)  – Thin-set is a cement based adhesive

  • Recommended for exterior mosaics.


  • Suited for the Indirect Method of mosaics for making an adhesive bedding. Works best for outdoor work, floors and heavy traffic areas.


  • Best adhesive to use if using the Direct Method and uneven tesserae.


  • Its flexibility and strength can be improved by adding an acrylic bonding additive.


  • Great for stepping stones, birdbaths, terracotta and an exterior mosaics.


  • The bond to both the teserae and the backer material is improved by adding an acrylic additive to the adhesive and priming the backer material, before applying the paste.


  • Available from tiling specialists.


Mastic – pre-mixed adhesive that is either latex or petrochemical base

  • Not as strong as cement based adhesives.


  • Used to attach tile to drywall.


Clear Silicone – silicone

  • Dries clear, so it is great for glass on glass projects.


  • Waterproof.


  • Also available in a variety that won’t damage the silvering on mirror (check label for suitability).


what are little tiles made of : mosaic tile guide

// November 28th, 2012 // 23 Comments » // Materials, Mosaicing guides


Materials used for tesserae (mosaic tiles) are many and varied, however there are important considerations to ensure their suitability and durability.

very important safety notes:

  • Always wear suitable eye protection when cutting, scoring or breaking; especially important with glass/glass tiles.
  • Always wear a dust mask when drilling or grinding glass, and when mixing dry mortar based products such as cement and grout.
  • Wear latex gloves when mixing/handling grout or cement, as these substances are caustic and may cause skin irritation.


things to consider before choosing materials and colours for your mosaic:

  • Location
  • Climate
  • Uses
  • Ensure numbers or lettering have good contrast with background & grout colour


materials include, but are not limited to:

  • Ceramic tiles – glazed and unglazed.
  • Smalti
  • Gold leaf smalti
  • Vitreous glass tiles (Venetian glass)
  • Iridescent glass tiles
  • Porcelain
  • China
  • Stained glass – transparent, translucent, or opaque.
  • Mirror – plain, coloured, or textured.
  • Glass nuggets
  • Sea washed glass
  • Sea shells
  • Marble
  • Slate
  • Pebbles
  • Millefiori
  • Hand made tiles or pottery
  • Gems
  • One-of-a-kind re-used items


 Comments on this post are now closed.

behind the scenes : mosaic substrate guide

// March 16th, 2012 // 12 Comments » // Materials, Mosaicing guides


Just as important as your choice of materials for your tesserae (mosaic tiles), is the choice of substrate (base on which to mount your mosaic).

Substrates should always be rigid, as any flexibility will cause the tesserae to dislodge. The substrate should also be suitable for the chosen location of your mosaic, ie; if your mosaic will be in a wet area such as a bathroom, the substrate must be waterproof. Outdoor mosaics should have a frost-proof substrate if they will be in a location which may be prone to frosts.

Porous materials such as wood, terracotta or cement should always be sealed before use.


suitable substrate materials include:

  • Metal
  • Glass
  • Plastic
  • MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) – not suitable for outdoors or wet areas
  • Plywood (including marine ply) – not suitable for outdoors
  • Cement backer board
  • Cement
  • Pottery


My next mosaicing guide will be about adhesives…

un-stick it : tip for screw top containers

// March 6th, 2012 // Comments Off on un-stick it : tip for screw top containers // Mosaicing guides

Here’s a quick and easy way to banish those hard to open screw top containers such as jars and bottles etc.

Smear a small amount of Vaseline around the outside of the container’s screw top thread, avoid getting the Vaseline inside the jar/bottle (otherwise you may render the contents unusable).

Screw the lid on… next time you open the container, the lid will be much easier to unscrew.