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What are Mosaic Tiles?

By Josie Myers
Updated May 16, 2024
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Mosaic tiles are a classification of tiles that are usually 2 inch (5 cm) or smaller pieces. They can be squares, most commonly found in home improvement stores, or odd shapes usually purchased in a craft or art store. They are made of various materials including glass, ceramic and porcelain.

The term mosaic refers to a picture or design that is made up of many smaller pieces of material. The artwork by this name originated thousands of years before the modern age in all areas of the world. The original mosaics were made of materials ranging from terracotta and stone to gold pieces and glass. Eventually, pieces were created specifically for use in creating these elaborate pictures and the mosaic tile was born.

Today, mosaic tiles are popular for creating elaborate patterns like those found on backsplashes and entryways. They are also used for making tiled or random patterns on clay pots, mirrors and other decorative items. Their small size makes them an excellent material for assembling intricate designs and combining a variety of colors. When many mosaic tiles of the same color are placed side by side in a single area, the effect can be a very striking modern look.

The color palette for mosaic tiles is very wide. They are traditionally very bright and vibrant, but can be found in just about any color imaginable. Many are iridescent or textured in an unusual way to increase their versatility and artistic interest.

There are two ways mosaic tiles come packaged for purchase. The most common way they come packaged is on paper or mesh sheets that hold the tiles together in a properly spaced pattern. These are extremely convenient for making solid color walls and floors. Single tiles can be pulled and replaced with other colors to create random patterns. Very small pieces or odd shaped ones tend to come in large bags of like color.

To lay mosaic tiles, the process is very similar to laying any other tile. Thinset mortar is used as the binder between the surface and the tile when working with a backsplash, floor or other home tile surface. In these situations, the tiles are grouted after they are set. For making patterns on smaller decorative objects, many choose to use a mortar and grout combination that serves both purposes and requires only one step. The tiles are pressed into the mixture until they are set within it. This is particularly helpful when dealing with odd shaped or recycled glass pieces that are very difficult to grout.

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Discussion Comments
By giddion — On Aug 05, 2012

@StarJo - Mosaic wall tiles come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Some are even made to be fit together to form shapes such as palm trees or fish.

I think the coolest kind are the ones that are made to fit together like a puzzle. The tiles are cut to fit into each other perfectly. If you buy a set of these, you can’t go wrong with your design.

If you want something a little more eccentric, you can find tiles that are cut into random shapes with rough edges. Then, you can scatter them across the wall in whatever way you see fit.

By StarJo — On Aug 05, 2012

I once saw a coffee table that had mosaic mirror tiles on its surface. The owner of the house had scattered shells and trinkets across it, and they reflected in the tiles, so it was a cool effect.

I want to do something out of the ordinary with tiles. I would like to put some on my wall, but I want to arrange them in an offbeat way to look artistic. Does anyone have any suggestions for a cool design?

It would be neat if I could find some oddly shaped tiles somewhere. I would just like to use something other than the typical square pieces.

By seag47 — On Aug 04, 2012

Porcelain mosaic tiles can stand up to abuse better than many other kinds of tiles. They are made out of the same stuff as a toilet, so they are pretty tough.

I once dropped a porcelain tile on my foot while installing them, and it left a bruise, even though it was pretty small. Those tiles are thick and heavy!

I think that for an area with a lot of traffic and humidity, porcelain mosaic tiles are the best kind to use. I frequently have guests stay at my house, so I put these tiles in the guest bathroom.

By Perdido — On Aug 03, 2012

I think that glass mosaic tiles are beautiful, especially when they are tinted. My sister has some turquoise mosaic tiles in her kitchen that make the whole room seem vibrant.

I love the way that they reflect the light. Each piece is slightly different in color, and some even have a slightly swirled effect. So, her backsplash does not look uniform and boring at all.

If I were ever going to put tiles in my house, I would use glass mosaic tiles around the bathtub. I would probably go with sea-green or light blue, since those colors remind me of the ocean.

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