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5 Considerations Before You Design a Mosaic

Creating a mosaic design is very different from other art forms, because we are working with solid materials trying to blend colors, create color gradients and flow, and this is very challenging. There are 5 main considerations you should address before beginning your design: tesserae, flow, colors, simplicity and pattern.

First, consider the tesserae you want to use. Tesserae is a term for any object used in creating a mosaic; for instance, vitreous tiles, stained glass, found objects, ceramic tiles, smalti, etc. So choosing tesserae that has different thicknesses, or needs different adhesives, uses different cutting tools, are all details you will need to plan for.

Flow, or the laying out of your tiles, is very important to the design. Some terms you should be aware of: Andamento and Opus. Andamento refers to the flow and direction of your rows of tesserae. Opus refers to the actual pattern of the tesserae. These are important because they affect the movement of your tesserae and impacts your entire mosaic. There are many more tile-laying techniques which you can research more if you like.

3 common ways to lay tiles (Opus)

1. Opus Regulatum – grid – all rows aligned - good for creating background patterns

2.Opus Tessellatum – brick laying pattern with each row being offset – helps from obscuring the design – keeps background from overpowering the design

3.Opus vermiculatum – laying a winding manner

Third, color is a very important consideration for your design. When choosing colors, it helps to lay them out beside each other so you can see how well they work together. Contrasting colors tend to intensify each other so experiment with different colors until you find something that works for your project. Using a color wheel can help you make your decision too.

Next, simple, simple, simple. Keep your design as simple as possible by eliminating unnecessary and confusing details. Simpler is better; as you are working with lots of small pieces to create one image, you need to let your viewer easily see what you are trying to convey. Too many small puzzling details will detract. Some of my favorite mosaics by other artists have very simple designs.

Lastly, the pattern. If you want to use a pattern, and if you're like me and can't draw very well, you can either use free patterns or use a software application like Photoshop to create your own design. If you don't have your own printer, office supply stores can print them for you.

I hope this overview helps you create mosaics easier and more satisfying. Have fun in the process!



  • This was very informative. Thank you

    I fell in love with Mosaic art when I was a little girl. i used to hang out at Simon Rodias “Watts Towers” in the 1960’s and I saw it from a few blocks away when I walked to my high school.

  • Lovely 🌹
    Thanks for the tips & ideas. You make it seem so simple!

  • This is an excellent web site. I have a lot this evening esp. with the design first, and the backing/adhesive. Now to find the time to start a project. Yea! Thank you for the wonderful ideas and tricks of the trade.

  • Excelente información, muchas gracias por compartir

    Carmen Calle
  • Your list of suggested approaches and considerations is most helpful. Thank you.


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