The Various Grouting & Polishing Techniques in Mosaic Art
Image source: Mozaico
We hope everyone is still working on their mosaic art interests and building their skills this summer! Recently, we’ve covered a variety of DIY mosaic art projects, as well as the basics of working on your own handmade mosaic pieces. This week, we’ll talk some more about the techniques and types of grouting for mosaics, as well as the use of both polished and unpolished tiles.
Learning more about the various steps and materials of mosaic art designs can help your progress towards project goals, as well as help you appreciate the finer details of mosaic art pieces that you see in person or online. We’d also like for you to feel knowledgeable and comfortable about any purchases you make – whether it be for materials or whole pieces of mosaic wall art.
As we talked about in our previous blog on mosaic how-to tips, there’s more to making mosaic art than just gluing down the tile pieces (also called tesserae, if you’d like to impress your friends!). The final steps involve adding grout to the whole piece, which fills in the open areas, smoothes out the rough edges, and makes the individual components stand out.
Once you’ve glued all the pieces of your mosaic design into place and let the adhesive cure, you’re ready to apply grout. The next step is to select the right type of grout for your work in progress.
Grout comes in two main types, and in a couple of formulations. How do you select the right one?
Unsanded grout is meant for filling in very small spaces. How small? Under 3 mm is usually the maximum. Otherwise, your unsanded grout will begin to crack later between the tiles.
Sanded grout is grout with sand added, as you might surmise. This mixture keeps the grout from shrinking as it dries, leaving a smoother surface between tile pieces.
Once you’ve determined the type of sanded or unsanded grout you’ll be working with, you can choose a premixed or the powdered form that you’ll mix yourself with water. For our pre-made mosaics installation you can choose sanded or unsanded grouting.
What color is best for grout?
Part of your successful grouting technique is choosing the best color for your mosaic tile art. Although the pattern and individual tesserae are the stars of the show, they need the right background to look good. Selecting white, black, or colored grout for mosaic designs is a big part of the process. Let’s take a peek at some of the ways your grouting choice can make your art shine.
For some mosaic designs, it’s best to choose a grout color that will contrast with the tiles such as black or charcoal colors. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine the impact that the filled-in spaces will have on your design. In the photo above, the dark grout sets off the pattern, and both colors of the tiles very nicely.
Grout in a real color can also be a part of your total mosaic design. Look carefully at this mosaic wall art, and you’ll see that different colors of grout were used, each in harmony with a particular section.
Light grey is a nice color for many types of mosaic, providing just a bit of contrast and separation between tiles.
Do I need grout?
Some mosaic art that’s meant to stay inside might not need grout. If you’ve used enough thinset mortar when you placed the pieces, it may fill in the gaps. (This is how the ancient Romans and Greeks worked!) However, if your mosaic art will live outside, exposed to water or moisture, or if you just want a clean finished look, you’ll want to finish your project with one of the grout choices we just went over. Also, it is vital to note that any floor mosaic art design, whether indoors or outdoors, must be grouted to protect the grout, gaps, and ensure durability. After grouting, using a marble sealer is a must in order to protect the grout and the mosaic from natural factors. It is advised to apply marble sealer on indoor and outdoor mosaics to support their durability.
Polishing up on tile types
Another part of mosaic tile art and design is the type of finish used on the tesserae. Perhaps you’ve begun working with commercially prepared tiles in your own designs, or have ordered a kit, such as the one we sell.
As you read the descriptions for the individual tile types, you may have questions about the finishes that are available. As we are experts in using natural stones in our catalog of mosaic art designs, we’re happy to assist you with some examples and descriptions.
Normal, or Natural, or unpolished finishes are straight from nature. The marble pieces are available in a huge variety of shades, with no additional finishing or polish added to them. This type of finish works well with reproductions of ancient mosaic art and in designs with a rustic look.
This replica of the famous “Cave Canem” mosaic from Pompeii utilizes a natural finish on the marble tesserae. It’s easy to imagine what it looked like as it was originally installed in a villa. Also, note that “Normal” doesn’t mean earth tones. Colors are always available in this type of tile.
In this sheet of field tiles, you can get a close-up look at the color variations and slightly rough edges of this type of finish.
Our Capo Di Ponte floor mosaic design is also shown here in the natural finish.
A Tumbled finish is produced after the stone tiles have been tumbled just enough to give them a somewhat rougher look. This Ananas kitchen backsplash design colorfully displays the effect that this sort of treatment can produce on marble mosaic art.
The finish is also used in this medallion design.
Polished tile finishes are just as they’re described. Each piece has been buffed to a glossy look that is very eye-catching.
The large mosaic rug shown here is a perfect example of polished tiles of all colors and sizes. Zoom in to see how this finish makes the most of every design element.
The bright colors and bold abstract mosaic design in this mosaic wall or floor art look better with a polished finish. It’s an effective way to add a little bit of light and reflection to darker rooms or color schemes. Both polished and unpolished mosaic art designs have the same characteristics and durability, so it is safe to say that choosing between polished and unpolished is a matter of aesthetic preference.
It’s amazing how the subtle changes of grouting types and tile finishes can affect the end result of mosaic art projects. We’re having a great time sharing the love of mosaicing this summer. If you’re trying out DIY mosaic activities this summer, or thinking about how to decorate with mosaic designs, we’d love to hear about it! What would you like to learn about next, as you expand your knowledge base?