Our guide to mosaic

Our guide to mosaic

First published date April 07 2014 Amended date May 27 2014

Learning any art can be a rewarding experience, but there aren’t many more so than one that was favoured by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The art of mosaics dates back to over 4,000 years ago, but it was the Greeks in the 4th century BC who turned pattern making with pebbles into an art form. Mosaics were used to decorate buildings, floors and to represent certain cultures and religious beliefs. Take one of our mosaic courses and you will learn the techniques used by these ancient artists.


What is mosaic?

Mosaics is the art of creating images and patterns by decorating a surface with little pieces of stone, glass and tiles called tesserae. To create a mosaic the materials used will be of different colours; this will help give the design definition and make it stand out. Mosaics are used as a type of decorative art or interior design and can often be found on walls, furniture and even on the floor, which are named pebble mosaics. Throughout history many ancient cultures have adored the art of mosaics and many of their most famous pieces would have needed an immense amount of technical skill and creativity to achieve. Cultures that are famous for their detailed mosaics include the Ancient Greeks, Ancient Romans and Byzantine Empire and there are religious ones too like the Islamic mosaics and Christian mosaics.


What will I learn?

Studying any art course can be daunting at first, but a mosaic course will teach you all you need to know about the techniques involved. You will learn how to cut and shape the different pieces of tesserae for your needs, from there you will learn how to apply these pieces in patterns and discover how to create different designs. You might be tasked with your own project, creating a mosaic sign of a house number, or name, or perhaps designing your very own drinks coaster. Sounds daunting, but projects will be achievable and your tutor will help you with one on one guidance which will help you progress as a mosaic artist.

For some courses there may also be some theory and background history involved and this is always fascinating to learn about, but also helpful for your progression. Studying famous mosaics from different historic cultures will teach you vital techniques used by the experts of mosaic art.


Using your broken crockery

Think about all the mosaics you could have made if you had kept all that crockery you have thrown away in the past. Keeping broken crockery and other similar bits and pieces from around the house could all start to build up a collection of mosaic materials. Tesserae can be bought from craft shops and much of this doesn’t even need cutting. It can be reasonably cheap but it is still worth collecting your own materials that can provide unique looks and colours while saving money.

Do we still create mosaics?

While mosaics might not be as big as it once was, we still can see modern mosaics all around us, even showers use glass mosaic patterns to fit in with modern interior designs. Modern mosaics also plays an important role in modern art and despite it being a niche form, it is no less impressive. Modern mosaics can be seen all over the world and like in ancient times, is still being used in architecture of new buildings, today. You can see some of the most impressive modern mosaics on the British Association for Modern Mosaic. Taking a mosaic course will enlighten you to an extremely fun new hobby, and you will be able to create plenty of great pieces of art to decorate your house. Some people even create their very own mosaic tables. Who knows, you may even prove yourself as an artist and be paid for your work!


How to make a mosaic in four steps

  • Create your design: The most important thing at this stage is choosing a design that will be suitable for your skill level. If you are reading this guide you are probably a beginner so it is best to start with a simple design. Draw it straight onto the surface you’re working with.
  • Prepare the tesserae: prepare the tesserae that you want to use, pick out the colours you think will look best and if need be you can cut the tiles into shape. The tiles don’t have to be perfect. Half the appeal of mosaic is the rough edges and uneven look.
  • Glue the tiles down: Starting from the edges of your design, put a strong adhesive on the bottom of the tiles and glue them down slowly working inwards. Once the tile is laid down, remove the excess glue around the edges to make it look neat and tidy.
  • The finishing touch: Once you have finished putting the tiles down, leave the design to set for 24 hours. The next step is to grout between the gaps, once this has dried you can clean and polish to give it that finished look.