Getting Started In Mosaics – What to Expect

(part 1 of 7)
mosaic in stained glass with swirling breaze and leaves

Since you're reading this, my guess is you've been bitten by the mosaic "bug." Welcome to one of the most fulfilling and fun forms of art! Our numbers are growing every day! There are 7 things that are good for you to consider early on:

  • Part 1. Safety & Methods
  • Part 2. Design
  • Part 3. Tesserae & Tools
  • Part 4. Cutting Tesserae
  • Part 5. Backers & Adhesives
  • Part 6. Grouting
  • Part 7. And finally, cleaning and detailing

Since there is a lot of information to cover, I will address one part in each blog post. These posts will give you a good overview of what to expect when you start to mosaic.

Part 1. Safety

Now, before you start any mosaic project, the very first step is to ensure your safety. With many of the activities and materials you will use in mosaics, you should wear protective eyewear and occasionally a facemask. Glass shards, powders from thinsets and grouts, and many other things can be hazardous to your eyes and lungs. So, be sure to practice safety in all that you do. Another safety tip is to never use your hands to "brush" away shards. Always have a small brush available for frequent sweeping away of these sharp pieces. Even though I am careful, I always have a box of band aids on hand just in case.

box of bandages, glass with sharp edges and safetyglasses


There are many different methods mosaic artists can use when creating a project: direct, indirect, double reverse, double direct, modified double reverse and probably more. For this overview, I will mention the 2 most common ones, direct and indirect. The direct method is what I recommend all beginners start with.

The Direct Method:

Using the direct method means adhering your tesserae (tiles, glass, etc.) directly onto the base (or substrate) you are mosaicing to. It is the easiest method and one I recommend for beginners. In fact, it is my favorite method to use. I enjoy working this way because you can see the design taking shape right away and can correct where needed. If you create a 3-D mosaic, you will mostly likely use the direct method.

box of bandages, glass with sharp edges and safetyglasses

The Indirect Method:

The indirect method is also sometimes referred to as the reverse method, and is a little more complicated than the direct method. For the indirect method, you will start with a pattern that is drawn in reverse. You will temporarily place your pieces, face down (or upside down), to a surface such as heavy brown paper that has been coated with a glue that is water soluble. You will be basically working with a mirror image. After you finish placing your tiles and it is dry, the entire mosaic can be flipped over and the back side of the tiles put into a bed of thinset or mortar. After the mortar dries, the paper is then soaked away from the top of the tiles and you will see your design. You can then clean and grout as needed. The main reason for using the indirect method is if you have varying depths of tesserae, the larger more uneven pieces will bury down into the adhesive, leaving a smooth top surface. This is important for floor mosaics and tabletops where you need your surface perfectly smooth.

smaltie on brown paperphoto by Madridmatilde

My next blog post will be about design considerations for your mosaic. Hope you make it back here soon. In the meantime, check out some of the other cool stuff on the website.

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