Confession time. I’m a little addicted to making mosaics. I love the way broken bits can be used to make something new. In fact, I have a whole Pinterest board just for them. With that being said, I realized the other day that I haven’t shared an in-depth tutorial on how to take this traditional art form to the next level and create a mixed-media mosaic.
Just a heads up; this tutorial will show you how to combine different objects, textures, and art forms in a mosaic. It’s not intended as a painting tutorial. To make things easier to explain, I’ll be using a zentangle Unicorn, another addiction of mine 😉 as an example of what you can do. If you don’t feel comfortable painting a unicorn, I’ve added some alternatives a little lower down in the post you use instead.
What you need
Mixed Media Mosaic Supplies
- Tesserae (tiles, beads, shells, pebbles, broken pottery, etc.)
- Permanent & Non-Permanent Marker
- Rubber Edge Squeegee or Float
- Carbide Mosaic Glass Cutter
- Strong Clear Glue
- Grout & Sealer
- Safety Glasses
- MDF Board
Painting the Unicorn’s Face
- Craft Paint. I used Unicorn SPiT. Appropriate right!!? 😉
- Gesso (store-bought or you can make your own)
- Pencil and Carbon Paper
- Mod Podge to seal
- Unicorn Template and Printer (optional)
For a mixed-media mosaic, you can use any picture or design as long as it’s simple. Drawings from coloring books work well, as do cartoon characters. Zentangles are great too. The beauty of a mixed media mosaic lies in the way the tiles, beads, shells, or found objects complement other art forms.
I drew a zentangle Unicorn which I painted afterward, but if painting or drawing is not your forte, why not color a picture from a coloring book and have it enlarged at a print shop or use block poster. The image can be Mod Podged on after grouting the mosaic. You can also download images from the internet. Pixabay has a whole bunch of free zentangles here.
Getting your Image Ready To Use
Alrighty then. Before we start the mixed media mosaic, we need to transfer our image or design onto MDF. I used BlockPoster to enlarge my zentangle unicorn. You can download the unicorn sketch for free here.
Position and trace your image or design onto the MDF board. I cut around the whole unicorn with a jigsaw, but it’s not necessary.
When using MDF, I like prepping my board first by giving it a light sanding and a coat of paint. That way, I have a blank canvas to work with, and since it’s MDF, the paint will help protect and seal the board to prevent warping. Wood absorbs moisture, and over time the grout and tiles pop off if it’s not sealed first. If your finished piece is going outside, use a concrete board instead. It’s far more durable.
Transfer the entire image onto the board and outline the areas you’ll be mosaicking with a permanent marker.
Mosaicking the Design or Image
Okay, now that the board is ready, we can start mosaicking 😀 Since I’ll be painting the Unicorn’s face with Unicorn SPiT, I chose tiles, beads, and shells with the same jewel-like tones and vibrant colors as the paint.
If you’re using mosaic tiles, you may need to trim them to fit into your design. A mosaic carbide cutter is perfect for nipping them into shape. Place the tile on your design and mark where to cut with a non-permanent marker before cutting so you can get the best fit. Please wear safety glasses. The cut bits tend to fly all over the place.
Save any off-cuts in zip lock bags or small containers to use in other projects. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found that perfect “already cut” piece in one of those bags 😉
For a bigger impact, use contrasting colors, and don’t be scared to mix tiles and beads to create texture and add visual interest. Just make sure that the beads are as thick or thicker than the mosaic tiles. Trust me; if they’re too thin, it’s a huge pain in the butt to try and find them once you grout your final piece. And don’t try to reproduce the image or design perfectly. That’s what makes mixed-media mosaics so much fun.
While placing the tiles and other whatnots, step back and take a photo. I find that photos give me a much better idea of whether the colors and textures work together. Or not 😉
When using transparent glass beads, I usually color the area where they’ll go first. That way, they’ll blend in and if any grout seeps under the clear beads, it won’t look messy.
Once you’re happy with the layout and colors, glue the beads, shells, and whatnots down with clear glue. Welbond, E6000, and silicone are all good choices. Don’t be scared to pry some of the tiles off if you don’t like something, and remember to remove all the old glue so that when you stick another one down, it’s not wonky or higher than the other pieces. When everything has been stuck down and the glue dries completely, it’s time to grout.
Grouting the Mixed Media Mosaic
So many people say that grouting is the worst part of doing a mosaic, but I love this step. Yes, it’s messy, but nothing beats that “wow” when the tiles finally emerge under the grout. If you’ve ever tiled a bathroom before, you can grout a mosaic. It’s the same process.
Mix the grout with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions. I normally add a little more water. It flows better into all the nooks and crannies, which is especially important when it comes to mixed media mosaics.
Spoon a dollop of the grout and water mixture on top of your mosaic and spread it all over. I use my rubber-edged squeegee, but a spatula or wooden stirrer works too. Trust me on this one; that squeegee is a lifesaver. I learned the hard way when we tiled our patio wall. Grout and broken glass bits can rip your fingerprints right off 😀 Repeat until the entire piece is covered.
Use a sponge or the squeegee to scrape any excess grout off and ensure all the gaps between the tiles are filled. Add more grout if necessary. Rinse the squeegee or sponge and wipe again until the tiles are clean. You may find that the tiles look hazy once dry. Just wipe the haze off with a clean rag or dry sponge.
If it’s hot, it helps to keep the grout a little damp while it cures. The chemicals inside need time to activate and get stronger. If it dries out too quickly, it will crack or crumble. To dampen, simply wipe your mosaic with a clean, slightly moist sponge.
Just look at how the tiles and beads pop after grouting. In my humble opinion, a darker grout always looks better. My personal favorite is black. The way it complements the tiles and beads reminds me of a stained glass window. So gorgeous.
Finishing Off The Mixed Media Mosaic
If you’re going to combine a painting or drawing with your mosaic, as I did with mine, make sure to apply tile and grout sealer first before adding your artwork. It’s especially important to apply the sealer to those areas where the mosaic meets the painting since it stops the fine grout dust from contaminating the paint.
I mentioned earlier that grouting is a messy business, so the area where you’ll be adding your painting or drawing will probably be pretty dirty. Clean and prep the area first with a layer or two of gesso before adding your artwork.
I used Unicorn SPiT to paint the face, but any paint will work. Or you can Mod Podge on a gorgeous picture instead.
Adding a few ceramic flowers and broken shells to the unicorn’s mane create interest.
Aren’t those colors just beautiful? Depending on the paint you used, you may need to seal your piece again. Unicorn SPiT has to be sealed with tung oil or polyurethane for the colors to pop.
Love all those gloriously vibrant colors and the different textures.
And the way the colors change depending on the viewpoint.
By using different types of tesserae (that’s the fancy word for tiles 😉 ) you create contrast and interest that draws the viewer in.
I’m afraid photos will never be able to truly capture how it looks in real life.
But I can try 😉
What do you think? Is it something you would do?
If you like the idea of making a mixed media mosaic, don’t forget to pin it for later
Mixed Media Mosaic – Tips and Tricks Recap
Before I sign off, let me quickly recap some of the tips and tricks for making a mixed media mosaic.
Find the right picture
Simple line drawings and designs work best. Zentangles, pictures from coloring books, or cartoons are great. If you can outline the picture with a permanent pen and it doesn’t look cluttered and messy, it will work for a mixed media mosaic. The unicorn sketch I used is a perfect example of what will work.
Choice of media
With a mixed media mosaic, anything goes as long as you can glue it down, and it’s tough enough to withstand the abrasiveness of grout. Cheap plastic beads and tiles will more than likely lose their color after the grout has been applied. To test, mix a teeny bit of grout (1/2 teaspoon with some water) and rub it over the bead. If it scratches away the coating, then it’s not the right choice.
If you’re going to be painting something, make sure to seal the grout before the time. Unsealed grout “dust” will contaminate the paint and make it murky. Don’t forget to wipe any sealer off of your tiles before it dries. It leaves a film that’s difficult to remove.
I ALWAYS use black grout. Black is so dramatic, and it makes everything pop, in my humble opinion. If black isn’t for you, go for a contrasting color. The purpose of grout is to fill the gaps between the tesserae and to outline each bit you used. And a white outline is just BLEH. I think the only time I’ve ever used white is on a piece I did with delicate pink roses.
Grouting is a messy business, so it’s best to do it outside. If that’s not an option, make sure to protect your work surface. Don’t be in a mad rush to grout your mosaic, either. Not only does the glue need to cure properly, but it gives you the chance to pry any bits off that don’t look right.
Clean the excess grout off as soon as possible. If you find that grout has been left on too long, use steel wool and warm soapy water to remove it gently. And if grout really isn’t your thing, you can always try this no-grout mosaic 😉
Cutting the tiles and whatnots
When cutting tiles, use a non-permanent marker to mark where to cut. Keep a plastic container nearby to collect the shards and store the left-over bits in clear plastic bags for other projects. Pieces that are smaller than 2/8″ (about 1/2 cm) can be thrown away. They normally pop off when grouting because they’re too small to glue down properly.
Use a carbide mosaic cutter for glass tiles and a tile nipper for ceramic tiles, pottery, porcelain, or china dishes. In all honesty, I have a tile nipper somewhere, but I never use it. A mosaic cutter should suffice to cut ceramic tiles or old dishes.
Allow yourself to be imperfectly perfect
Don’t let “little miss perfect” interfere. When I first started mosaicking, the
bitch perfectionist inside kept on trying to take over. No matter how hard you try, the tiles and beads will never fit perfectly. Using a non-permanent marker before cutting the tiles will help, but the tiles still have a mind of their own. It’s okay if your mosaic has flaws. That’s what makes it special and unique. So tell that perfectionist inside to hush up and let your creative soul take over 😉
Shooooo, sorry about the long post, guys. I wanted to try and give as much information as possible so you would feel comfortable playing around with mixed media mosaics. If you’d rather try your hand at a beginner project, then you’ll enjoy this heart doorstop mosaic or these arum lilies. It’s a super easy and fun project to get you started. Or you can make yourself one of these gorgeous mosaic Faberge eggs. They’re guaranteed to wow no matter what your decor style is.
Oh, and if you’re looking for some of the things we used, we’ve got you covered. Disclosure: Clicking on the links below means we may receive a commission from Amazon. But don’t worry it, won’t come out of your pocket, and it helps us come up with more amazing craft ideas to share with you 😉
Or if you prefer to buy rather than DIY
And as always, wishing you a beautiful, crafty week filled with lots of love. Thank you for popping in for a visit.