The mosaic process is very easy, relaxing, and fun. Mosaics are the perfect addition to any studio. After a piece is finished there is always a sense of accomplishment and pride. Please read below for a detailed photographic description of the steps in the mosaic process from start to finish. It is amazing that something so beautiful can be so simple. Use your imagination and create a masterpiece!
The first step in the mosaic process is to find a rigid surface to mosaic. We chose a Basic Picture Frame. Glass, metal, wood, ceramic, and other rigid surfaces are idea. Make sure that you use the correct type of glue for each surface. Tile mastic, available at your local hardware store, works on all of these surfaces. However, a silcone product such as E6000 or Weldbond is more effective on non-porous surfaces. White glue is also very effective on non-porous surfaces.
After you choose your surfaces, it is time to design your piece. Your only design limitation is your own imagination. You can draw it on paper first or lay it out on your surface. We decided to use Metallic Gems and Smalti for our piece. We decided to work from the outside in. Lay down your adhesive in sections. Avoid using so much adhesive that it squishes up between your pieces. This leaves no where for the grout to go.
If you want to cut and nip tesserae for your designs, it is very simple. You can use either a Tile Nipper or Wheeled Glass Nipper as shown here. You will simply put your tesserae in the "mouth" of the tool and squeeze down. Nipping and cutting allows you to cut pieces to specific sizes for your designs. The Wheeled Nippers are a TotalMosaic.com favorite! For studios who simply don't want nipping to go on, the perfect solution is Nibbles & Bits, our pre-nipped glass in a wide variety of colors. It is hand cut, nipped, tumbled and washed!
Now that you have your first section of adhesive down, you will now apply your tesserae (mosaic pieces). Place each piece on top of your adhesive as desired. You need to leave a minimum of approximately 1/8" between each tile to leave room for grout. You can space your pieces out further if you like. A good rule of thumb is a 1/8" minimum and 1/2" maximum space between pieces.
Lay down your next section of adhesive. Work in small areas at a time. This keeps your adhesive from drying out if you are working slowly. It will also give you stopping points if you want to take a break. You don't have to do a project in one sitting.
Start applying the rest of your tesserae to your piece. It can make it easier to grout if you make the pieces near the edge of your surface somewhat flush to the surface. Work section by section until you piece is completely covered as illustrated in step six below.
Here we show the piece completely covered with tesserae. You can also mosaic the sides of your Frame, Mirror, or Plaque if you like. You should let your adhesive set for 24-48 hours before grouting. After it has cured for this amount of time you are ready to grout your piece. It is up to you as to what color of grout you use. If the main them of your piece is darker tesserae then you might want to use a lighter grout so contrast the tesserae and make it stand out. The opposite is true if you used light tesserae.
On most of our designs we use a pre-colored sanded Grout. Our grout come with mixing instructions. If you buy your grout elsewhere, follow the instructions on the package. You will want to put your grout in a disposible container then add 1 tablespoon of water to your grout until it has a thick oatmeal like consistency.
Pictured here is the oatmeal consistency that your grout should be. If you accidentally add to much water simply let it sit for a few minutes and it will thicken up, or you can add more grout. Stir until smooth.
We suggest that you use Gloves when working with Grout. It is non-toxic, but it can dry your hands out. You can easily go through 2 or 3 pairs of Gloves while grouting. Apply the grout with your fingers as pictured. It is sorta like icing a cake with your hands. Press it down in the spaces between your pieces. Sculpt it on your edges to make a nice smooth edge. Generously cover your entire piece.
Once you have covered your entire piece and filled all of the spaces, wipe off as much of the excess as you can with your gloves or hands. After you do this you are going to let it sit for 20-30 minutes or until the grout become hazy on the piece.
Now, take a very slightly dampened sponge or cloth and begin wiping the haze off. You can then use a dry cloth or your hands to remove the remaining haze and residual grout. Try to remove as much grout as possible. If you don't get it off now, it will be much harder to do so later. Clean each tile if you desire. Do not use paper towels, they flake off and stick in your grout.
You are done with your grout. Throw it away. Never wash it down the sink! If needed, take a cloth or sponge and polish your piece up. If you did not mosaic the edges of your piece, you can finish it with an acrylic that matches your grout. The end!
Enjoy your new masterpiece!