Everything You Need to Start Mosaicing.

As I mentioned in my article about the household items you can use, mosaicing can be started with very little initial cost, determined by how much effort or imagination you use. We have found out that the Topps Tiles store nearby has a skip out the back in which they dispose of broken tiles. They assure us that it is okay to help ourselves and I am sure a bit of local enquiry will find out if any tile or diy store offers the same.

Don’t get stuck in the mentality that you only use square glass or stone tiles to mosaic, because to be quite frank I hardly use them at all these days. You can use anything you can stick down to mosaic with, from pebbles and shells, to glass bottles, buttons, broken china and even dried pasta.

Please Note, all the links on this page go to the actual products that I use myself and come highly recommended.

In some kind of order:

What you really need to get started with mosaicing properly is a substrate. This is whatever you are going to stick your tesserae onto, whatever tesserae you use. This can include;

  • Precut wooden shapes such as the things I get from Baker Ross like the owl decorations and the tea-light holders.
  • Any piece of spare wood or mdf you can get your hands on.
  • Cardboard can be used as well and I get a lot of the cardboard boxes and other things that you would use for decoupage from a variety of local places. UK readers, have a look in The Works because they often have wooden and cardboard trinket boxes, right up to large jewellery cabinets that are often pretty cheap. Amazon and eBay are good places to shop for these kinds of substrate as well.
  • Household objects such as lap trays, trinket boxes even furniture such as small tables and drawer fronts can be given a whole new lease of life with the addition of a bit of mosaicing.
  • Artist canvasses are also great, especially if you are doing a larger piece. The reason for this is that the canvases only have wood around the edges and are not solid. The piece will therefore be a lot lighter if you intend to hang it from a wall.
  • Glass and plastic can be mosaiced on but you need to find the right sort of glue to get that to work.
  • Plant pots make great substrate and when broken can be used as tesserae, especially terracotta and stone ones.

This can be literally anything you can stick onto your substrate:

  • Shells, pebbles and sea smoothed glass make good cheap tesserae.
  • Pre-cut glass tiles that you can find from any mosaic supplier.
  • Uncut tiles that you can get from regular tile places and then cut into the shapes you need for your piece.
  • Buttons and charms that you have lying around or can buy from haberdashery stores.
  • Glass and plastic beads.
  • Foam stickers
  • Gemstone chips, beads and crystals.

Some of the tesserae I use.

Glue. For most of the work you will be doing unless you intend to mosaic on glass, plastic and metal you can get away with using pva glue. I went to a hardware store and got builders pva as it is a little more waterproof than the classroom variety. You may want to experiment with this though and eventually invest in some of the glues that do allow you to mosaic on glass and suchlike.

Tools. You will need a variety of tools as you get more involved in mosaicing, but to start of with, these are the essentials;

  • Tweezers.
  • Glass cutters of several varieties. This can be glass snips, proper wheeled glass cutters and even scribe pens. As I have mentioned elsewhere, you do not necessarily need these when you are doing your first piece if you use tesserae that doesn’t require cutting but after a while you will definitely want proper glass cutters somewhere in your tool box.
  • Paint brush for putting the glue onto the substrate, a glass or plastic jar to hold water to clean your brushes and something to dry the brush when you have cleaned it. Also an orange stick to keep stirring the glue so it doesn’t dry out and go all lumpy.
  • Scissors to cut out any patterns, templates and backing material.
  • A separate paint brush for applying varnish if you choose to use liquid varnish.
  • Some kind of drying rack or drying space to leave your work to dry in between the different stages.
  • Some kind of sandpaper or emery board to smooth down any rough edges.
  • Grout applier if you are choosing to grout.

Grout. Whether you grout or not is an individual choice and I personally rarely do because grout doesn’t look good on micro mosaiced pieces. You can buy premixed grout in quite small tubs, mix your own grout in quite cheap packets and even pre coloured grout. You can also get powders to mix with your grout to produce a huge range of other coloured grout for your work. Some artists prefer to use tiny beads in between their tesserae rather than grout and it is all individualistic. It’s probably a good idea to at least have some plain white grout with you in case you need it. You can use acrylic paints mixed with grout for colouring as well and you can often pick up acrylic paint in art, children’s and mosaicing stores but also from places such as The Works and Wilkinson's.

Varnish. As I mentioned in the Varnish article, whether you varnish or not is up to you, but it might be a good idea to invest in some spray varnish at least. If you choose to colour your design in with felt tip pen or paint before you start work, having a spray varnish can help keep the colours true once you cover them in glue.

Note how the felt backing gives a professional finish.

Backing Material. If you want to make your projects look as finished as possible the consider backing them in some kind of material. I use felt but any clean, nice looking material would work. Stuck on and trimmed nicely it gives your work a very professional looking piece of work.

If you want to save money as you start out then check out our article The Top Ten Household Tools for Mosaicing. You may be surprised how much you already have at home to work with!

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