Mosaics have a long and wonderful history, being used extensively in Italian villas during the height of the Roman Empire to decorate floors. As the Roman's conquered the British Isles, the use of mosaics began appearing there too, and soon they became widespread.
Mosaics can be ornate designs, much like the art we would hang on the walls today, or they can just be a simple checkerboard pattern used in your kitchen or bathroom. A great deal of patience is required when installing mosaic tile patterns, but the finished results will be well worth it.
Mosaic Tile Materials
Most commercially available mosaic tiles are sold in sheets, with the mosaic pieces being anything from 1/2-1 inch square, however of course you can make your own more irregular mosaic tiles by reusing broken pots, or even tumbled glass pieces.
Glass mosaic tiles are commercially available too and can make a really attractive addition to your standard mosaic design, or even used on their own. They are a little more tricky to work with, as they require more specialized cutting equipment, but as long as care is taken, there is no reason you can't use glass in your mosaic design too.
You will of course need either some tile nibblers or a wet diamond cutter to shape your pieces (unless you are buying them ready-made), adhesive and grouting; we will look at these in detail in the following stages.
Choose Your Mosaic Design
Mosaic tile patterns can be as regular or irregular as you like. Regular and uniform square patterns are the norm, but you can use irregular shaped pieces with as intricate a design as you wish. You can even incorporate round elements and glass into your design too.
Of course personal choice should be taken into account, but you should also consider the area you are tiling before choosing a design. If you are tiling in entryways and hallways then your design is likely to be quite narrow and linear, for example.
Sketch out some ideas first, and then draw it out to scale on a larger piece of paper when you've made your decision.
Waves, circles and swirl designs are very popular and work well in most areas of the home - the wave design would be especially stunning in an ocean themed bathroom. Or why not opt for an abstract design, or even try to reproduce a particular image if you are feeling brave. There are some designs in the image gallery below, to give you some inspiration before we get on with the 'how to' of this project.
Image Gallery: Examples of Mosaic Tile Designs & Patterns
Mosaic Scroll Pattern
Fish Tail Mosaic Design
Fruit Mosaic Design
Mosaic With Sun Pattern
Roman Style Mosaic Pattern
How to Cut Mosaic Tiles
You can cut mosaic tiles using a pair of nibblers, or a wet diamond cutter. These cutters aren't as expensive as you might think, and can definitely be worth the investment in terms of accuracy and time saved - you could also consider leasing one from a hardware store. If you are using glass tiles you will also need to get a specialist blade for use with this cutter too.
Glass mosaic pieces can be more awkward and possibly dangerous to work with unless you have experience or have attended a suitable course in this area. Another way to get the same type of glass mosaic look is by constructing a wire frame with your image and then melting small plastic pellets (from craft shops) between these pieces to create a kind of stained glass effect.
Time for Tiling!
The type of adhesive you use for your mosaic tiles, depends not on the tile, but on the location you are tiling. When tiling a shower cubicle you will obviously need to use a waterproof adhesive, for example. If you can find it, opt for a non slip tile adhesive where possible - this is especially important in mosaic tiling due to the exact and precise nature of your mosaic design.
Work in very small areas at a time. If you are doing a straightforward background, then before adhering your tiles to the surface, use a 3mm notch spreader, and then use a rubber float to push the tiles into the adhesive. However, if you are working on a part of the design that is particularly detailed, just spread a small amount of adhesive onto the back of each tile piece (or tesserae) one at a time.
The best plan of action, is to have your drawn out design beside you, and work on the main areas of your design first - you can fill in the background afterwards, and then neaten everything off with a border at the end. It is much easier working this way, as the main part of the design is obviously the focus, and then the background doesn't get in the way.
For swirls and circles however, work from the outside in. When you get to the tight center section, you can use smaller mosaic pieces to fill in any gaps. With borders, start at the corners and work your way outwards.
Finishing Off & Grouting
When you are done, all your tiles need now is to be grouted. If you are creating a mosaic design on the floor, then you will need to look at using a sealing agent over the top, but leave it a good few days before you do this, to allow everything to thoroughly dry.
Creating your own mosaic tile patterns certainly isn't a quick process. But if you follow these steps and add a dash of patience, you'll have a unique wall or floor decoration that will last for years to come.