Mosaics are one of the easiest art forms for a beginner. The materials are cheap/free and the tools are things you already have at home.

You can make them from pebbles, broken crockery, china and glass, tiles, garage sale finds, and even paper!

I am going to address making things with broken tiles and pottery pieces.


Something for your base... wood, flower pot, stepping stone, anything concrete, I have even done tree stumps.

Products for the design.... tiles, pottery, china, clay pieces.

Any tile nipper is nice, but not a necessity.

A hammer for breaking tiles ..... (cover tile with a rag so a stray piece doesn't hit you in the eye).

A pail for mixing your mastic if you buy bagged dry mastic (Thin-Set) ; a pail for grout mixing; a pail of CLEAN water.

Something to mix with... sturdy big Spoon, a trowel if you have one... anything.

A big flat sponge for cleaning off grout.

Rags to clean your fingers, and to wipe the tiles.

Buy either dry powered "Thin Set" if you are working on concrete, or Tile Adhesive already mixed, for everything else.

Buy a bag of dry grout (just add water till like very thick cream); or already mixed grout. I prefer Sanded Grout for most things, as I do rugged outdoor things a lot. If you are doing something quite small with very tiny grout lines, use Unsanded Grout.

And you will need either Indoor or Outdoor Tile Grout Sealer.



Pencil in your design.

Mix only about a cup at a time of the dry Thin-Set Mastic, mixed with water like very thick cream. Mix it THOROUGHLY and let it sit for 10 minutes to really totally dampen each bit of it.

You have about an hour or so of gluing before it starts to get too thick..... don't add more water to the mix as it ruins it.... simply mix up another batch, in your bucket that you have cleaned very well.

Put a thin layer of Thin-Set on your cement piece, just on the part you will be doing within the next 20 minutes. Don't leave any high lumps... spread it nicely. Then apply a thin amount to the back of each piece of pottery (called "buttering"), and push it down tightly. Clean off any mastic that gets on the top of the tile as you go, and don't let it come clear to the top on the sides, as you want room for the grout to fill in the lines. An old knife is handy for that. Toss tools into the clean water bucket between uses.

Continue to work until you have finished your design, breaking more tiles and adding more pieces. I like to put the largest pieces in first and then fill in around them.

When you are done, check to be sure no mastic is on top of the design, or too high on the sides, and let it dry overnight. This is VERY IMPORTANT as you don't want to loosen your tiles while grouting them.

The next day, either use premixed grout, or mix your own, in a clean bucket. You can mix enough for the whole project (unless it is HUGE!) as the grouting goes quite fast. Let it sit for about 10 minutes after thoroughly mixing it, so each bit is dampened. One thing I learned by a bad experience, don't grout in the SUN!!! It dries it almost immediately and doesn't give you enough time to work.

When working on projects with shape (not flat floors, walls etc) I wear rubber gloves, and with my hands, push the grout in between the tiles very thoroughly. If you have all the tools, a Float (rubber covered board with a handle) works great (and is a MUST for floors, walls and flat things), but hands work just as well. When you have thoroughly pushed the grout into all cracks, let it sit for about 15 minutes. Then wipe across it with a large barely damp flat sponge, to get the mess off.

Clean the sponge in the fresh water, ring it out as much as you can, and do it again and again, being careful not to remove grout from the cracks. I wipe mine with an old rag at this point to get most of the excess away. Let it sit for 15 minutes or so, and using a clean rag, polish the tiles really well. Any grout film left on top will dry too hard to remove later. The grout sets up a lot faster than the Thin Set.

Let your piece dry a day or two, and then with a tile sealer (your hardware store will tell you which is for outdoors) seal it really well twice, and wipe the sealer off the tiles. Don't wait after the first coat. Do both coats quickly and all at once, as once it is dry it won't take more sealer.

Your project is done.

There are a lot of variables, but the above is just basic instruction for a beginner. I use Acrylic Ad-Mix instead of water for my Thin-Set and Grout, as it makes it stronger. It is available at any hardware store. And, when doing large flat pieces like a stepping stone, I use a notched trowel to apply the base coat of Thin-Set (1/4 inch notches).

The main thing is just to dive in and start. It is really easy as there are no rules... and the finished pieces are gorgeous.

I use grey grout for outdoor projects so it doesn't look dirty from dust etc., but for indoor things colored grouts can add a real bang to your piece.

Thin-Set Mastic can be used for indoor or outdoor projects. Most grouts can be used for either. If in doubt, use Saltillo Tile grout, which is made for outdoor floors, for your outdoor projects.

Sealers for outdoor pieces must be OUTDOOR sealer and of course that would work in or out..... but INSIDE sealers will not hold, outdoors.

Tile nippers, saws, spacers, etc etc. all are helpful but not necessary when first starting.


Learn about the products by reading the instructions. Be safe and don't breathe the powders... don't take a chance with your eyes when hitting tile.... if you are allergic to the caustic mixes, wear rubber gloves.... Wash all tools immediately as once these materials set up, they are permanent! Wash them outside so you don't plug your plumbing!! An old metal pot scrubber and a bucket of water work great.

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