Creating your own mosaic substrate with folds and waves is both fun and rewarding. Not only does it add texture and depth to your artwork, but it also makes the final piece more dynamic and interesting.

Creating your own mosaic substrate with folds and waves is both fun and rewarding. Not only does it add texture and depth to your artwork, but it also makes the final piece more dynamic and interesting. This step-by-step tutorial is filled with tips and tricks and will show you how to make your own using inexpensive materials that you can find anywhere. #ACraftyMix

This step-by-step tutorial is filled with tips and tricks and will show you how to make your own using inexpensive materials.

Creating your own mosaic substrate with folds and waves is both fun and rewarding. Not only does it add texture and depth to your artwork, but it also makes the final piece more dynamic and interesting. This step-by-step tutorial is filled with tips and tricks and will show you how to make your own using inexpensive materials that you can find anywhere. #ACraftyMix

And it’s surprisingly easy to do.

Creating your own mosaic substrate with folds and waves is both fun and rewarding. Not only does it add texture and depth to your artwork, but it also makes the final piece more dynamic and interesting. This step-by-step tutorial is filled with tips and tricks and will show you how to make your own using inexpensive materials that you can find anywhere. #ACraftyMix

RightyO, before I share how to make a mosaic substrate or surface with folds and waves, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. And don’t forget to subscribe so you’ll never miss a post!

What you need

Something to build the waves and folds on. I used one of our pallet scraps. An MDF board or flat artist canvas will work too. To make a substrate with folds and waves, you’ll also need the following:

  • Thinset or tile adhesive
  • Fabric
  • Large bowl
  • Plastic spoon or fork for mixing
  • Aluminium foil
  • Water
What you need to make a wavy substrate

How to make a mosaic substrate with folds and waves

The key ingredients to make a wavy, folded substrate or backer for a mosaic is fabric and thinset.

What is thinset?

Thinset or tile adhesive is a cement-based product that’s used to “glue’ tiles to a variety of surfaces, such as concrete, cement board, and plywood. It gets its name from its consistency, which is thinner than traditional mortar. Unlike mastic, which is an organic, gooey glue, thinset is typically a mixture of cement, fine sand, and a polymer that provides the necessary bonding strength and flexibility.

Thinset or tile adhesive is a cement-based product that’s used to “glue’ tiles to a variety of surfaces, such as concrete, cement board, and plywood. It gets its name from its consistency, which is thinner than traditional mortar. Unlike mastic, which is an organic, gooey glue, thinset is typically a mixture of cement, fine sand, and a polymer that provides the necessary bonding strength and flexibility.

It comes in ready-mixed buckets or a dry mix and can be found at any hardware store that sells tiles. To make a wavy or folded substrate, you can use either the pre-mix or the dry mix. I used the dry mix since we had a bit left over from another tiling project. When using the dry mix, make sure you wear a dust mask and work in a well-ventilated room or outside.

What fabric can I use as a substrate?

I used an old muslin scarf for this mosaic, but towels, t-shirts, bed sheets, and sweaters work too. One thing to remember, though, is that tightly woven fabrics don’t absorb the mixture and tend to buckle under the weight of the mosaics. If you don’t have any loosely woven fabric, you can add more layers of thinset once the first layer has cured fully to reinforce the waves and folds. Curing time is anywhere between 12 and 24 hours, depending on the brand.

Making a wavy or folded mosaic substrate

Just a heads up, this is a messy business, so prep your workspace before you start. I put some cardboard down and covered it with a large plastic bag.

Prep your work area by laying down a piece of cardboard covered in plastic

Since I’m not a big fan of wearing gloves, I put loads of hand lotion on before making the substrate and wash my hands often in a bucket of water while I’m working. Thinset will suck every bit of moisture out of your hands if you give it half a chance. 

If you don't work with gloves wash your hands frequently and apply lotion

Grab a bowl, some water and Thinset. The bowl needs to be big enough to submerge your fabric. I used a large, empty tin can.

To mx the thinset (tile adhesive) you need a empty bowl, water, something to mix with and the thinset mix

If you’re using a premixed tile adhesive, add a little water to thin it out. If you’re using the dry mix, pour the dry mix into the bowl and add some water.

Mix up a watery batch of thinset

Mix well until you have something that resembles warm cake frosting (oh wait, I know nothing about baking) chalk paint. The mixture needs to be thin enough to soak into the fabric.

Mix up a watery batch of thinset

Completely submerge your fabric into the mixture, squishing it down firmly. Remove the fabric from the mixture, wring it out and submerge again. Repeat until the fabric is totally saturated.

Soak the fabric in the thinset (tile adhesive) mixture

Lay the drenched, wrung-out fabric on the plastic bag and use your hand or a craft stick to add more thinset if you see any spots that look a bit iffy. Make sure to flip the fabric over and check the backside too.

Soak the fabric in the thinset (tile adhesive) mixture and check that it's covered fully

Creating waves and folds

Once you’re happy, place the fabric on your board or scrap wood and use your hands to create folds. For large, high folds, I add a scrunched-up aluminium foil “worm” underneath so it keeps its shape while it dries.

Create tin foil worms to support the fabric folds

Don’t make teeny, squished-up folds since they’ll be impossible to mosaic later.

Use your fingers to create folds and waves in the fabric

Spread the creases out so there’s enough space for the tiles and your fingers to get into.

While making the folds, use a cut tile to check that the folds aren't too close together

Leave the folds to dry completely before adding another layer of watery thinset.

Add a second and third layer to the fabric folds to strengthen the substrate

The thinset dries rock hard and, with each new layer, becomes stronger. Here’s a short video of what the substrate looked like after applying the second layer.

https://youtu.be/n4a_gdEI_9Y

With each new layer, fill up any areas that aren’t level or where the folds are too small for a tile to stick. I did four layers on my substrate. 

A view of what a good fold looks like compared to a bad fold. Bad folds make it difficult to place the tiles and apply grout

You should end up with something like this.

Smooth out the folds and waves

Add a layer of thinset to the back of the wavy substrate to reinforce it and keep the tinfoil strips in place.

Apply thinset (tile adhesive) to the back of the substrate

When the layers are completely dry, you can add your mosaics.

Test fitting the first tiles

Mosaicking a substrate with folds

Mosaicking a wavy or folded substrate is a little more challenging, especially if you add a pattern. I suggest doing a plain piece first to get the hang of it. You’ll also find more mosaic the tips and tricks I’ve learnt over the years in these tutorials:

The steps to making the finished piece are the same as for any other mosaic.

Step 1: Choose the type of tesserae (the fancy word for tiles, glass, ceramic, stones, or any other mosaic materials). Cut your tiles based on the size of your waves or folds. The tiles I used for this mosaic are 1 cm x 1 cm iridescent crystal squares (similar affiliate link below). They were all cut into 4 – 5 smaller pieces.

Focal20 Mosaic Tiles Square Iridescent Crystal Mosaic Glass Tile for Crafts, Mosaic Pieces DIY Picture Frames Handmade Jewelry Art Decoration Gifts,100 Pieces (Dazzling)

Step 2: Plan your design and do a rough sketch on a piece of paper. This helps visualize the final product and ensures the colors and shapes are balanced.

Step 3: Working in sections, apply some adhesive and arrange your tiles using your design as a guide. It’s kinda like building a jigsaw puzzle, but you can create the jigsaw pieces any way you want to.

Work from the outside inwards as you lay down the tiles

Don’t try to cut the exact shape and leave a gap between the tiles for the grout.

Leave gaps between the tiles for the grout

Step 4: Wait for the adhesive to dry completely before applying the grout with a small trowel or craft stick. You can make a mini trowel by wrapping the handle of a plastic fork or spoon in silicone tape. It makes it easier to get into all the creases and will save your hands from nicks and cuts.

To make a quick trowel that will get into all those folds, wrap silicone tape around a plastic fork

Ensure the grout fills in all the gaps between the tiles. When grouting the folded substrate, I apply two layers of grout. The first one is watered down quite a bit, so the grout flows into the gaps between the tiles. The second layer is mixed according to the manufacturer’s instructions and applied over the first once dry.

Mix the first batch of grout so it's watery

Step 5: Use a damp sponge to gently wipe off any excess grout from the surface of the tiles and polish with a soft cloth to remove any haze or residue.

Using the folded mosaic substrate

Whenever I feel uninspired, I always end up making a mosaic.

Creating your own mosaic substrate with folds and waves is both fun and rewarding. Not only does it add texture and depth to your artwork, but it also makes the final piece more dynamic and interesting. This step-by-step tutorial is filled with tips and tricks and will show you how to make your own using inexpensive materials that you can find anywhere. #ACraftyMix

Big or small, it doesn’t matter. It’s like meditating.

Creating your own mosaic substrate with folds and waves is both fun and rewarding. Not only does it add texture and depth to your artwork, but it also makes the final piece more dynamic and interesting. This step-by-step tutorial is filled with tips and tricks and will show you how to make your own using inexpensive materials that you can find anywhere. #ACraftyMix

Choosing the colors and patterns, cutting and placing the tiles, and seeing the finished product is so satisfying.

Creating your own mosaic substrate with folds and waves is both fun and rewarding. Not only does it add texture and depth to your artwork, but it also makes the final piece more dynamic and interesting. This step-by-step tutorial is filled with tips and tricks and will show you how to make your own using inexpensive materials that you can find anywhere. #ACraftyMix

I used the folded mosaic substrate in this tutorial to transform a piece of scrap wood into home decor that’s unique and eye-catching. You can also turn a well-loved sweater or top into a work of art (tutorial coming soon).

Creating your own mosaic substrate with folds and waves is both fun and rewarding. Not only does it add texture and depth to your artwork, but it also makes the final piece more dynamic and interesting. This step-by-step tutorial is filled with tips and tricks and will show you how to make your own using inexpensive materials that you can find anywhere. #ACraftyMix

Finally, display your folded mosaic art in a prominent place where it can be appreciated by all.

Creating your own mosaic substrate with folds and waves is both fun and rewarding. Not only does it add texture and depth to your artwork, but it also makes the final piece more dynamic and interesting. This step-by-step tutorial is filled with tips and tricks and will show you how to make your own using inexpensive materials that you can find anywhere. #ACraftyMix

You can hang it on a wall, frame it, or create a pedestal of some sort.

Creating your own mosaic substrate with folds and waves is both fun and rewarding. Not only does it add texture and depth to your artwork, but it also makes the final piece more dynamic and interesting. This step-by-step tutorial is filled with tips and tricks and will show you how to make your own using inexpensive materials that you can find anywhere. #ACraftyMix

Have you played around with different mosaic substrates? Let me know in the comments.

If you’re keen to make your own mosaic substrate with folds and waves, don’t forget to pin it for later.

Creating your own mosaic substrate with folds and waves is both fun and rewarding. Not only does it add texture and depth to your artwork, but it also makes the final piece more dynamic and interesting. This step-by-step tutorial is filled with tips and tricks and will show you how to make your own using inexpensive materials that you can find anywhere. #ACraftyMix

Sharing is caring.

Creating your own mosaic substrate with folds and waves is both fun and rewarding. Not only does it add texture and depth to your artwork, but it also makes the final piece more dynamic and interesting. This step-by-step tutorial is filled with tips and tricks and will show you how to make your own using inexpensive materials that you can find anywhere. #ACraftyMix

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 make more amazing crafts to share with you 😉

Substrate materials

CUSTOM BLDG PRODUCTS SimpleSet Pre-Mixed Thin-Set Mortar 1 QT
Nature Linen Needlework Fabric, Plain Solid Colour Linen Fabric Cloth Hemp Jute Fabric Table Cloth Garments Crafts Accessories, 20 by 62-Inch (Color 1)
Craftend Collapsible Bucket 10L 2.6 Gallon Cleaning Bucket Mop Bucket Folding Foldable Portable Small Plastic Water Supplies for Outdoor Garden Camping Fishing Car Wash Space Saving

Mosiac Basic Supplies

White Powdered (Sanded) Grout - 2 LBS
Lanyani Vibrant Broken Ceramic Tiles for Crafts Mosaics,Irregular Polished China Tile Scraps Stained Glass Pieces, Mixed Colors- 2Pounds/0.97 Square Foot
Swpeet 5Pcs Heavy Duty Glass Mosaic Cutter Kit, 8 Inch Wheeled Glass Nipper Pliers Tool with 2Pcs Replacement Blade and 2Pcs Allen Wrench

And if you prefer to buy rather than DIY, then maybe these beauties will appeal.

Garden Mosaics Project Book: Stylish ideas for decorating your outside space with over 400 stunning photographs and 25 step-by-step projects
Sale The Complete Pebble Mosaic Handbook
Beginner's Guide to Making Mosaics: 16 Easy-to-Make Projects for Any Space (Fox Chapel Publishing) Step-by-Step Instructions & Photography for Window Sills, Tables, Flower Pots, Picture Frames, & More

And as always, wishing you a wonderful, crafty week filled with lots of love. Thank you for popping in for a visit.

Made with love by a Crafty Mix