A mosaic is decorative composite art that features small, individual stone, glass, or ceramic pieces together in a pattern. Mosaicists arrange the tiles, called tesserae, onto a surface to make designs. You can find mosaic art on the walls and floors of cathedrals and government buildings. Notable historical examples of mosaics include the Roman mosaics at the Villa Romana del Casale in Sicily and the Chora Church in Istanbul. You can create mosaics to decorate your home and garden. \nMosaics are an ancient art form, and the word “mosaic” has a long history:\n\n- __Etymology__: The word “mosaic” comes from the Greek word "mousa," which means "a muse.” “Mousa” is the root for the Late Latin word “musivum,” meaning “decorations with small set stones,” which relates to the Medieval Latin word “musaicum.” The word was adapted to the French word “mosaïque,” which means “mosaic work,” before becoming the Middle English word “mosaic” sometime in the fifteenth century. Contrary to popular perception, the word “mosaic” is not derived from the Biblical Moses, though the word “Mosaic” with a capital M does mean “pertaining to Moses.” \n- __Ancient mosaics__: The earliest known mosaic is from Mesopotamia in the third millennium BC features stones, shells, and ivory. Mosaic work became more complex in Ancient Greece and during the Roman Empire—the Ancient Greeks and Romans created images and patterns as wall art and floor mosaics for large-scale public structures.\n- __Byzantine mosaics__: Mosaics were also famous during the Byzantine empire and appeared in churches and palaces from the sixth century to the fifteenth century.\n- __Modern mosaics__: Mosaic murals fell out of fashion during the Renaissance, but in the twentieth century, Art Nouveau artists, such as Spanish artist [Antoni Gaudi](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/antoni-gaudi-life-and-architecture), led a resurgence in mosaic artwork. Gaudi created mosaics all around Barcelona using both traditional supplies and mixed media. Modern mosaics are in public spaces, such as the subway stations in New York City. A well-known modern mosaic is the Mosaic House in Venice, California, where the entire house features a mosaic pattern. \nMosaics are typically large-scale artworks for public buildings, but you can create smaller-scale mosaics at home using art supplies from a craft store. The supplies you will need include:\n\n1. __Mosaic base__: Choose a surface for your mosaic to lie on that’s rigid and strong enough to hold the weight of stones and the plaster. Examples of bases for interior mosaics include table surfaces, picture frames, glass windows, or metal sheets for wall art. For outdoor mosaics, use weather-resistant concrete or terracotta pots, but make sure to add a protective sealant.\n2. __Tesserae__: The small pieces of mosaic designs are called tesserae, and an individual piece is called a tessera. You can use hard, non-porous objects in different colors such as glass, stones, shells, ceramic, or smalti, which are specialized mosaic tiles. You can buy round glass gems from a hardware store or craft store to avoid handling broken pieces of glass.\n3. __Cutter__: Use a hammer, tile nipper, or glass cutter to cut down shards of glass and tiles. \n4. __Adhesive__: Use an adhesive to adhere the tesserae to the base, typically a mortar made from [cement](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/concrete-vs-cement). Your adhesive will depend on the materials of your base and if you plan to display the mosaic indoors or outdoors. Use a water-resistant adhesive, such as a thin-set mortar, for outdoor mosaics. Epoxy resins work well on metal pieces, and acrylic-based adhesives work best for slippery materials, such as glass or ceramic. \n5. __Grout__: You must grout the mosaic pieces to hold it all together. You can use colored grout or paint the grout after it dries. \n6. __Sealant__: Add a bond to your finished piece to protect the mosaic from damage. For outdoor mosaics, polyurethane works best.\n7. __Gloves__: Wear gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges and glue. \n8. __Safety glasses__: Be sure to wear safety glasses if you're crushing or cutting glass or other hard objects. \n9. __Spatula__: You’ll need a spatula to apply the glue and grout to your mosaic. \n10. __Sponge__: Use a sponge to wipe off excess glue and grout.\nWorking on a flat surface is the easiest way for beginners to create mosaic art. When you have become more comfortable, you can move on to curved surfaces, such as stepping stones, flowerpots, or a birdbath. Follow these steps to make a mosaic:\n\n1. __Prep your materials__. Clean off any debris from your mosaic base and tesserae pieces. Cover your work surface in newspaper or plastic to protect other surfaces from the mess, and be sure to work in a well-ventilated area.\n2. __Create your design__. Sketch your design onto a piece of paper and transfer it to the base using transfer paper, or use a marker to draw your design onto the base. The more complex your design, the smaller your tesserae will need to be. \n3. __Lay the tesserae onto the base__. Configure the tesserae onto the base, and use a glass cutter to cut down glass and a tile nipper to cut ceramic tiles or broken china to fit the design.\n4. __Apply the adhesive__. Put a bond over your entire design or apply the glue to each piece before placing them on the base. Many professional mosaic artists place the tesserae in a mold before pouring concrete on top, or glue the mosaic onto the base and then flip the mosaic over. This indirect method ensures a smooth surface.\n5. __Wait for the adhesive to set__. After gluing down the tiles, wait for the adhesive to set, which will take a couple of hours. Wipe off the excess glue after it is dry. Wait for the glue to dry before grouting—this will take around 24 hours, depending on the type of adhesive.\n6. __Apply the grout__. Using a spatula, apply grout onto the entire mosaic and spread it evenly, so the grout enters every crevice. Wait for the grout to set, about 20 minutes. Wipe the excess grout off from the surface of the tesserae using warm water. If the grout has hardened too much to remove, use a non-scratch nylon scouring pad. Wait 24 hours for the grout to fully cure before proceeding to the next step.\n7. __Add a protective sealant__. You may need to apply multiple layers if the mosaic is outdoors or if it will be frequently handled, such as a tabletop. After the sealant dries, you can then admire your beautiful mosaic.\nGet the [MasterClass Annual Membership](https://www.masterclass.com) for exclusive access to video lessons taught by the world’s best, including Kelly Wearstler, Ron Finley, Bobbi Brown, RuPaul, and more.\nLearn how to make a decorative mosaic for your home or garden using stone, glass, or ceramic tiles.