Designing Your Mosaic.

With a box like the one below you need to get measurements of all the surfaces that you will be mosaicing. So for me, this is the top and sides, the trim and the back and the drawer fronts.


Blank 3 Drawer Chest.




These measurements are as follows;
Top - 95 mm x 95 mm.
Sides - 100 mm deep and 95 mm wide.
Drawer Fronts - 85 mm wide and 26 mm deep.
Front Trim - There is a 5mm trim between each drawer and around the edges.
Back Trim - There is a 5mm trim all around the edges of the back.
Back - 90 mm x 85 mm (plus trim).


I have made my measurements in millimetres because I specialise in small items with small tesserae and so need to make sure my design all fits.


The first thing you need to do is work out what substrate you are using and its dimensions. (See Substrate). You cannot begin to plan your design until you know the exact dimensions of a project. On this page I am going to be demonstrating with a small chest of drawers I am decorating.​


The next part of the process is to choose a design that will fit into the parameters you have measured. I find it extremely useful to plan it out on squared paper - the kind they used to call graph paper at school.  Draw the dimensions onto the paper so that you can see if your design will fit, but don't forget to allow for the size of the tiles you are using so that the pattern is to scale.

Once you have your design planned out your next step is to get the pattern onto your substrate. If you are doing a plain coaster which is say 9x9 1cm squared tiles plus room for grout you can just use your plan as a map of where to put your tesserae. If you are using a more complicated picture though I find it helps to trace the design using tracing paper or carbon paper straight onto your project. For the micro mosaicing that I do I also like to colour mine in because the beads are see through and I don't want the wood colour at the bottom showing through.


It is also worth noting that if you do colour the bases in before mosaicing you can created some really nice shaded effects. For example on a recent butterfly key-ring I coloured the wings yellow. I then covered it with clear beads with a slight rainbow sheen to them. This has made the wings look like sparkly gold wings and is gorgeous. Any clear bead will let you do that for example putting a pink colour on with a clear blue bead on top creates a really lovely purple. Degrees of colour can show shading, so if you colour lightly on one side and darker on the other and then go over with transparent beads it looks brilliant.



I have recently discovered that you can get sheets of carbon paper on places like Amazon and eBay. These make the whole design transfer process much easier as you do not need to do so much tracing back and forth to get the picture the right way onto your substrate.


On this piece, anything that ins't drawn on is mosaiced in
blue gemstone chips for the water of the koi pond.
As you may have noticed from the name of the blog I specialise in Micro Mosaicing. This is mosaicing on a very small scale. I use beads as small as 1 mm round and also gemstone chips ranging from 1 mm up to about 9 mm tops. To me the biggest benefit of this is that you get so much control over colours and can work in much smaller detail. Not as physically demanding as large tile mosaicing it still requires immense concentration and a steady hand (I stand the beads up on their sides). This does mean that you can create extremely complicated designs with a colour palette you would usually only associate with large scale pieces.

The dragonfly really stands out against the gemstone lily pad. Note how more designs have been added to the surface. I haven't coloured this piece in because I wanted the browner shade to add depth to the water.

So obviously your designs may have some limitations. If you are using the tiny beads that I use, that limits the size of your design unless you want to be working years on the one large project. Bigger projects can’t get the same attention to detail that you can get with using smaller tiles or beads, its swings and roundabouts either way.

If you can't decide between regular mosaicing and micro mosaicing you can always use both. Some of the best pieces of modern mosaicing use a combination of things as tesserae, buttons, pasta, sequins, large beads, shells, seeds, broken glass and really anything they have to hand up to and including beetle shells!

I am getting inspiration for a knitting project box at the moment that I intend to create the inner picture with small glass pieces using beads instead of grout to set the form.

You see with mosaicing, the only real limit is your imagination. Especially if you are making pieces for non-commercial use. No one cares if your mosaic is a random mess, a conformist boundary piece or a dot by dot representation of a Monet painting. Or a dog, or a carrot or a diamond or indeed a zombie. Because the mosaic is made up of two things, the tesserai and whatever you are using as grout. (See upcoming article Grouting or Grousing). This means that unless you want them there, there are no borders or boundaries to hold you back. So knock yourself out, let your imagination wild and create what it on your heart.

Just don't forget that if you are recreating a Monet masterpiece in 1 mm glass beads, that you can't actually sell that kind of thing because of trademarks. I make a lot of Minecraft things because Mojang says its fine to use the designs on there for commercial pieces as long as you tell the world all about themselves! But check on the pieces you do use from other people for their own terms and conditions.

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