Glass Mosaic Tile Art – Color and Contrast

Making wonderful glass mosaic tile art is easy! Let me show you how.

Working with color in mosaics is much more challenging than most other art media, such as paint and colored pencils. The painter's color palette is limited only by the painter's imagination in mixing any number of colors until the desired hue is achieved. In contrast, the mosaic artist's color palette is constrained by the limited colors that glass manufacturers decide to produce, which are typically determined by what sells best.

As an example, let's compare the mosaic artist's choices for the color blue to the painter's choices. One of my favorite online mosaic tile stores offers 14 various colors of blue vitreous glass tiles; whereas, a popular online artist's paint store offers only 13 colors of blue paint. However, the paint store also offers 91 various shades of reds, yellows, oranges, greens, purples, pinks, browns, grays, whites, and more. The painter can choose to blend any one of the 13 blue colors with any number of the other 91 colors. Unlike a painter, the mosaic artist can not blend various colors to create a new one. So, while the mosaic artist is limited to only 14 colors of blue, the painter has an almost limitless palette.

If we, as mosaic artists, can not mix colors to create new ones, are we stuck with what the glass manufacturers give us? Certainly not. This is where the artist's imagination and creativity are tested. Unlike the painter who mixes colors to create new ones, we blend different colors and shades by placing them next to each other to give the illusion of color change. For example, by alternating small pieces of dark blue and light blue tesserae, the result is that our eyes interpret the pattern as medium blue when viewed from a distance. If we view the pattern from only 12 inches, then our eyes can distinguish the pattern and we see an obvious checkerboard. However, when viewed from 12 feet, we must focus more to distinguish the checkerboard because our eyes interpret the blend as a single color (ie, we see medium blue instead of a bunch of small pieces of dark blue and light blue).

Color is equally as important to your mosaic's look as andamento (ie, the visual movement of your mosaic created by placing tesserae in specific patterns). Artists choose colors to stir emotions or simply because they like how the colors look. The brain is sensitive to certain color schemes, so whatever motivates your color choices, you must ensure the combinations do not irritate or bore the viewer.

Be aware of how the eyes see varying color characteristics when colors are juxtaposed. Plan your desired look before cutting and gluing any tesserae. Do you want contrast or do you want an intentional blended look where the colors are barely discernable? When you determine the overall look, mood, and feel that you want your mosaic to represent, you'll know how to achieve it by combining color with andamento.

Experiment with different hues, tones, and intensities to create texture and shading. Browse the Internet for mosaic artists of different styles to see how they use color. Note the feelings that each piece evokes in you, then think about how the artist's use of color contributes to creating those feelings.

The best way to learn how to use color in mosaics is to start cutting and gluing your own glass. Yes, you'll probably make a few mistakes along the way, but learn from them and do not repeat them. Maybe someday, I'll be in a museum marveling at the incredible use of color in one of your mosaics!

Remember, making mosaic art is easy. You can do it. Yes, you can!