How to Make Ceramic Tile Mosaics

A mosaic tile table top
A mosaic tile table top | Source

Creating simple art projects are the best! Whether it is making a wall hanging, coffee table, candle holder or numerous other pieces of art, using ceramic tiles to design a mosaic piece is a fun and easy project even for the non-artist. First, decide what project you want to tackle. Here are some ideas for beginners: a picture frame, mirror, garden pot, serving tray, birdhouse, wall mural or a small patio table. Next, select what base is best for your project. Ceramic tiles can be attached to just about any surface with the proper preparation and adhesive.

Time to Complete a Tile Mosaic

Mosaic projects can be quick or quite extensive, depending upon the design, size and materials chosen. Obviously a larger piece and a more intricate design will require more time. Another big factor is the selection of tiles. It is far simpler to use pre cut tiles than to cut your own. Regardless, you should follow these guidelines:

  • 24 hours for the glue to dry
  • 24-28 hours for the grout to dry
  • 24 hours for the grout sealer to dry

Ceramic tiles
Ceramic tiles | Source

Supplies You Will Need

  1. A base to apply the tiles
  2. Ceramic tiles
  3. Adhesive
  4. Grout and grout sealer
  5. Rubber gloves
  6. Rags
  7. Q-tips, paintbrush, spongebrush
  8. Miscellaneous tools like sandpaper, ruler, pencils, etc.

Ceramic Tile Mosaic Supplies

Next, gather your supplies. Ceramic tile can be found at online retailers such as Mosaic Mercantile or Occasionally you can find mosaic supplies at craft stores such as Michaels' or Lowes, but be aware that ceramic tiles found at these places are typically larger and will require cutting down in size. For an easier project, buy ceramic tiles that are pre cut, this also eliminates any sharp edges from cutting the tile. If using wood as your base, a good rule of thumb is, "the larger your base, the thicker the wood must be to keep it from warping under pressure." If making a piece for outdoors, make sure the wood is marine grade. You also need to purchase an adhesive. There are several types to choose from based on your application and the base your have selected. For example, if you are making a tile mosaic on cement, you will need a cement-based adhesive; silicone is best for a mirrors and most other applications can use a multipurpose adhesive. Just make sure to read the label for indoor and outdoor use. Although an epoxy is a strong adhesive, I do not recommend using it, as it is extremely messy and has strong fumes. If you choose to grout your piece, you will also need a sanded or cement-based grout. Lastly, you will need a grout sealer to finish your piece.

Sizing the base
Sizing the base | Source
Sealing the base
Sealing the base | Source

Project Preparation

Select a room to work that is not carpeted. Set up your work area by covering your work surface with old newspapers. Make sure to have a trash can and wet rags on hand. Also, if you are cutting any tiles, be sure to wear safety goggles for protection.

Once you have selected your base medium, you may need to size is appropriately for your project. If using wood, use a rule and circular saw to make straight cuts. Use sandpaper to smooth the edges so you don't get splinters while you work. You also need to "key" the wood surface to roughen it up a bit. This helps the adhesive stick better. You can use sandpaper or score it with a box cutter. If using a metal base, use a rough grade of sandpaper or steel wool to score it.

Next, you must seal the wood surface so the wood will not warp over time. You can buy a special sealer for mosaics or use a diluted adhesive. Get an old plastic container and mix one part adhesive to two parts water. Then apply it to the wood base with an old paintbrush. Give this ample time to dry. If using glass as your base, make sure if is clean and dry. Remove any dirt or grime by wiping it with denatured alcohol.

Laying out tiles
Laying out tiles | Source

Layout the Design

Once your base is prepared, lightly sketch your design or if you prefer, you can use carbon paper to transfer a photocopy of an image onto your base. Next, begin laying out tiles. Although you may be tempted to immediately begin gluing the tiles to the base, resist! Go ahead and layout all your tiles the way you want them on the base. Try to evenly space the tiles, leaving the desired amount of space for grout. When selecting colors of tiles, remember using too many colors for one object will distort the image. This is especially important for larger pieces.

Adhering the tile
Adhering the tile | Source

Adhering and Grouting Tile

The simplest way to attach ceramic tile is to use a multipurpose adhesive and glue it directly to the base. You can work in small sections at a time, applying the adhesive and then the tiles. You must work quickly to attach the tile before the glue dries. If you will be using grout, be sure to leave the same amount of space around the tiles for continuity.

After all the tiles are affixed, it is best to wait 48 hours for the glue to completely harden. When that is complete, you are ready to apply the grout. Many mosaic suppliers carry ready-made grout in various colors. I prefer to use grout that comes in a powder ready to mix. This allows me to control the consistency and to mix the exact color I wish to use. While you can apply dyes to the grout, I find it easiest to mix in a tad of acrylic paint until I achieve the desired color. Use an old container to mix the grout and let it sit until it is thick, but not hard. Use a sponge brush and apply the grout in between the tiles. Careful, not to apply too much as this just means more cleanup! Wipe the excess grout off the tile with a wet sponge and allow the piece to dry completely. You may need to wipe the piece several times to get it clean. Once dry, apply a thin coat of grout sealer and you are finished!

SImple ceramic tile flowerpot project
SImple ceramic tile flowerpot project | Source

Try This Easy Ceramic Tile Project

A flower pot is an excellent choice for a beginner. Select a terra-cotta pot and let the fun begin! Determine your workspace and gather your supplies (tiles, adhesive, sponge brush, grout and grout sealer, if you choose to use it). Because it is so porous, terra-cotta must be sealed first before adhering any tile. Do do this, get an old plastic container and water down the adhesive, two parts water to one part adhesive. Apply this with a sponge brush to the pot. While this is drying, you can plan out your design of tiles. Next, use a Q-tip to glue each tile to the flowerpot. I like using an adhesive that dries clear, especially if I am not planning on grouting the piece. For a simple flowerpot, it is not necessary to grout, although it is a personal preference. Once finished, you have a fun, artsy pot to showcase your flowers.

Comments 17 comments

Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I'd love to try this and I have so many pots I could start with. I'm thinking I could use these as gifts with a nice plant.

LauraGSpeaks profile image

LauraGSpeaks 4 years ago from Raleigh, NC Author

Susan, yes a mosaic flowerpot would make a lovely gift. Good idea!

rex michaels profile image

rex michaels 4 years ago

Excellent detail. I love doing projects like this. So many do-it-yourself articles leave out the small details, I like the way you walk us all through the process, thanks. You covered all the bases.

R. Michaels

LauraGSpeaks profile image

LauraGSpeaks 4 years ago from Raleigh, NC Author

Thanks Rex. There are a lot of details in making a mosaic, but I find them fun and rewarding to make. Its like working a puzzle, except you get to create it yourself.

denisemai profile image

denisemai 4 years ago from Idaho

Great article, Laura! I haven't done a mosaic project in quite a while and am afraid I have forgotten many important details. Thankfully, I can use this hub to refresh my memory!

KrystalD profile image

KrystalD 4 years ago from Los Angeles

Very nice hub. You communicated this with great detail. I can't help but to gather my supplies and get started!

LauraGSpeaks profile image

LauraGSpeaks 4 years ago from Raleigh, NC Author

Thank you denisemai and KrystalD for reading!

earth angel Susan profile image

earth angel Susan 4 years ago from Central Flordia

Quite informative and the pictures are awesome for a project like this. It is so helpful to actually see what is being done as apposed to just reading about it! Nice job!

LauraGSpeaks profile image

LauraGSpeaks 4 years ago from Raleigh, NC Author

Earth angel, thanks for commenting. Making mosaics really is a great creative outlet. You should try it!

Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona

I've often wondered how mosaic tile artwork is done. There are some big ones atop two-story buildings which I see all the time. They are flower mosaics. Must be a heavy-duty cement-based adhesive used on the outdoor types of mosaics that have to withstand all weather elements.

You've provided a great description of the many steps involved. Voting way up.

LauraGSpeaks profile image

LauraGSpeaks 4 years ago from Raleigh, NC Author

Thank you Pamela. Yes, some commercial mosaics are massive. There is one at the new terminal at the RDU airport that is so beautiful, but it is inside. I know there are products to protect tiles and grout from outside elements, but I imagine they still take a beating over time. They are such beautiful pieces of art. Thanks again for reading.

chrissieklinger profile image

chrissieklinger 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

Very useful hub, I would not have realized the wood surface needs to be prepared before to prevent warping later. I hope I find time one day to try a tile project, they are so pretty.

LauraGSpeaks profile image

LauraGSpeaks 4 years ago from Raleigh, NC Author

Thanks for reading Chrisssie. Making sure the wood is properly prepped is vital to a successful tile mosaic. If its not prepped right, not only can the wood warp, but the tiles can pop off too.

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

I love mosaics and this really helps to get me started. Thanks!

LauraGSpeaks profile image

LauraGSpeaks 4 years ago from Raleigh, NC Author

Thanks for reading Glimmer Twin. I hope you get started on a project soon!

mjkearn profile image

mjkearn 4 years ago

Hi Laura

What a fabulous creative idea. I never look forward to tiling but this hub has made me get enthused again.

Great hub, instructions and pics. Extremely well written with a superb layout.

Voted up, ticked and shared.


LauraGSpeaks profile image

LauraGSpeaks 4 years ago from Raleigh, NC Author

Thank you mjkearn! Creating a mosaic is like putting together a puzzle, but you get to create it as you go along. It is a creative outlet that usually results in a beautiful piece of art.

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