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Mosaic guide

Guide and technique to basic mosaic, as supplied by Suzanne - 082 859 0198

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Use safety glasses when nipping or cutting, seeing that small pieces tend to fly around. Be careful because you will always have sharp edges where glass is involved. When you grout wear a dust mask and gloves. Glue in a well ventilated area. Wear shoes because glass shards can be a sore point. Always clean surfaces with a brush – NEVER your hands. Please keep animals and children out of your mosaic room. Don’t dispose of grout and cement down the sink, it may cause blockages.


Keep in mind that your mosaic will be much heavier when finished, therefore the object that you use should be strong enough to hold the extra weight.


Plywood, MDF and hardboard will be the most suitable, however it must be sealed completely (even the edges). The larger your mosaic, the thicker the wood would be, to keep it from warping. Seal it by applying a mixture of water and PVA adhesive, (1:1 PVA and water) – for indoor use and Bond-it – for outdoor use.

Plastic, porcelain, rocks, concrete and metal

Because of their smooth surfaces, a product called Key It and Plaskey (manufactured by Tylon) must by painted on surface before gluing. Mix the two products according to manufacture directions – 1 part Plaskey (powder) and 1.5 parts Key it. The mixture resembles dark grey cement paint with rough pieces in it. Drying time - 24 hours.


Use Flex tile glue and a waterproof grout.


Seal with PVA/water mixture.


PVA (water resistant)

Water resistant PVA is perfect for indoor use. It is also user friendly – no odour and can be easily washed off with water and soap, but it takes long to dry and is not that strong. PVA is white and clear when dry.


Silicone is used to glue glass on glass or for Perspex because it is transparent. It is also used to glue mirror because it will not damage the silvering on the back.

Flex-tile glue

This glue is suitable for indoor and outdoor projects. (I prefer this glue). The glue is sold in small containers. Do not use directly from container, rather decant into a plastic spout bottle (such as those used for tomato/mustard sauces). This glue is white and clear when dry.

Direct Method

This means attaching the glass directly onto your base, face up. It works for most mosaic projects and for beginners. Squeeze a line of glue from a tube onto your base. Place glass onto the glue line. Another direct method is to butter each glass individually and then place it onto the base. When you press glass into place, a bead of glue should emerge from around the edges.

Apply a thick layer of wet cement to object, press mosaic pieces into cement. No grouting will be necessary.

In-direct Method

Use wallpaper glue or water based PVA glue and glue the glass face down onto brown paper. This method is suitable for project with dark backgrounds where you cannot transfer your design with carbon paper. The other advantage is that you can finish large mosaic indoors. The mosaic done this way has an even surface.

When the design is completed and dry, place the mosaic, paper-side up onto the adhesive. Press gently, but firmly to make sure that is has stuck and level gently with a rolling pin. Leave until adhesive is dry and thoroughly wet the paper with a sponge and leave to absorb the water for 15 – 20 minutes. Peel paper off gently. If any tiles come off, replace them making sure there is enough adhesive. Clean mosaic with a damp sponge. The gaps between glass depend on your preference. Small projects require about a 1mm gaps and large glass requires 10mm gaps.


This is an integral part of the mosaic, therefore not only to fill in the gaps, but is part of the design. Follow the manufacturer’s directions – add water or grout additive (Bond It), stirring in a little at a time until the mixture’s consistency is that of mayonnaise. Mix well, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl. Allow to stand for 5 minutes, stir again before grouting your mosaic project. Do not add more water or additive.

Household grout is a grey powder that can be mixed with water or a waterproof additive (Bond It). It is useful for direct method.

Mosaic cement base white adhesive usually used for swimming pools. Mix with water or a waterproof additive (Bond It). It can also be used as a grout. Follow manufacture instructions – 2.5 part cement powder to 1 part water or Bond It, leave 10 minutes to form a gel, mix again and apply to object. Do not add more water or additive.

Wear gloves when mixing and applying grout to your mosaic. Spoon grout onto your mosaic project and work in a criss-cross manner with a squeegee or spatula from left to right and top to bottom to fill all the spaces in your mosaic. Allow to set for 10 – 15 minutes (summer) and 15 – 30 minutes (winter) before wiping off the excess grout from your mosaic with a damp sponge. The project does not have to be totally clean. When your project is thoroughly dry (24 hours) buff it to a shine with a clean, soft cloth. When buffing a mosaic project that has mirrors, wipe gently as the grout may scratch the surface.

You can wash your mosaic project with warm water and soap after 2 days to remove dust and buff again.

Grout colours

Tylon Grout can be bought in different colours. Most books and articles on mosaic suggest that you add paint to the grout to colour it. The paint actually interferes with the chemical reactions in the grout. Instead use white grout and when grout has dried, mix craft paint with water until you get a milky consistency. Paint onto grout and buff off the tiles. Your grout colours will be much brighter.

Helpful tips

Draw the pattern you chose onto a wooden surface, by using carbon paper. Keep in mind that you are working with a very rough medium; therefore be careful of too detailed images.

As a beginner start gluing the border of your mosaic first. This will give you time to get into the gluing technique.

Remember to keep spaces between your tiles to allow for grouting.

Tiles might come loose while grouting – do not panic. Remove tile (remember where it should go) and finish grouting. Remove grout carefully, add glue to tile and replace. Grout around tile again.

Should you not clean grout properly off your mosaic work and it hardens – not to panic. Loosen it with sandpaper.

Do not place grouted project in the sun or wind to dry quicker.

It is always advisable to nip off small sections off a tile at a time, because you will have a cleaner looking tile.

When using the indirect method cut the brown paper (buy a strong brown paper) 2.5cm larger than your project. Wet paper by swiping it through a bath of cold water. Place on a clean board and fix it with paper masking tape. Wait till paper is dry before gluing your mosaic.

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