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I'm Ready to Mosaic - Where Do I Begin?

gold tile being placed on a seahorse shaped backer

Often I hear, "I have a mosaic project I want to make but where do I start? Do I mosaic the sides first, start in the middle or do the border? What's the trick?" Well, there's really no trick to it. It's basically just common sense and it depends on your design. Here's what I mean.

The basic rule of thumb is to create your main elements first then lay in your background. For instance, if your mosaic has a single subject in it like a flower, then create your flower first, then fill in the background. For a mosaic that has a border and one subject, I would start with the border. This gives you the ability to resize the subject, if needed, so it fits within the border. You can also resize your border to enable your subject to fit - they both go hand-in-hand.

Another important question regarding borders is, are you tiling the sides of your mosaic? If so, you need to mosaic the sides first, then apply your border tiles so they extend slightly over the side tiles for a nice, finished look. Here's an example:

gold tile being placed on a seahorse shaped backer

Now, if your mosaic contains people or other living things, I highly recommend you start with the eyes and create them first. Then build the face and go from there. The reason for this opinion is that eyes are the key to your subject's emotion. So once you get that right, you can capture the rest of their expression more successfully.

For mosaics that include many main elements like flowers and maybe butterflies, grass, trees, and so on (you get the idea), create all these elements first. Your background should be the final area you mosaic.

Another question that comes up occasionally is if you are outlining an element in your mosaic, should you mosaic the outline first or do the inside area first? If you create the outline first, it will be much easier to then stay inside the outlined area (like coloring inside the lines) so you won't be able to accidentally place tiles where the outline should go.

Starting with elements that are in the foreground allows you to mosaic the other elements that are behind it more easily and succinctly. An exception to this, of course, is if you are layering tesserae on top of each other. Another hint is, if there is one particular section that is real challenging to you, tackle it first if possible. As they say, "eat your frog first, then everything else is easy!"

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