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Step 4. Mosaic style, not all mosaics are the same

Imagine you had Picasso, Rubens and a first year art student all painting the same still life, the results would be very different, and perhaps not all of them good...

The style that the mosaic tesserae are laid in is equivalent to the brush strokes of a painting and can be just as distinct and individual, the competence with which this is done sets apart the mosaic masterpiece from the simple craft.

So read on here and begin your journey to becoming a mosaic connoisseur

So what should you look for in a mosaic?

There are two main aspects to consider when looking at the artistry of a mosaic work:

The laying style or Andamento and

The craftsmanship


The same design can be made in mosaic in many different ways. Traditionally this is called the Andamento, with each Andamento being given a name or Opus, Latin for work. These styles have very different feels and involve differing degrees of skill to execute. The core of the main Andamento styles are the degree of flow involved in the courses of tesserae. Here are the main styles.


OpusRegulatum1Opus Regulatum Tiles laid in a regular grid pattern are called regulatum, a special tray is often used for laying the tesserae out and papering so that the tiles are presented ready for fixing on square sheets of paper. Generally speaking bathroom tiling is about all it’s good for as the whole system seems to negate the essential nature of mosaics. However some startling results have been achieved on large scale mosaics, in particular the exchange of computer pixel for tile has produced some amazing photographic mosaics. Regulatum has also been used effectively by Paulozzi at Tottenham Court Road, presumably to reduced the cost of covering such a large area and because the grid pattern fitted with the artists style.

OpusTesselatum1Opus Tesselatum Tesselatum involves using the tiles to form a basic regular pattern repeat, usually the regular brick pattern style which immediately introduces an element of direction into the tile laying i.e. do you lay the brick pattern horizontally or vertically? Other more complicated patterns can be produced by introducing cut tiles, perhaps in the manner of carpet design.


OpusVermiculatum1Opus Vermiculatum Vermiculatum, from the Latin ‘worm-like’ is the most expressive form of mosaic tile laying. The tesserae are laid along the contours of the image, describing its form, you should be able to make a rubbing of the mosaic and see the design. The whole image is given a dynamic power that is unique to mosaics but which is extremely labour intensive and takes a high degree of skill to do well. The essence is to begin with a tesserae size and complete the mosaic in flowing courses of tesserae of that size.

OpusClassicum1aOpus Classicum As its name suggests this is the traditional style found in many mosaics from the great Roman mosaics of the Levant to the many trade craft Victorian Classical floors that can be found here in England. The technique combines opus tesselatum with vermiculatum. The main objects of a design are created in vermiculatum and these are placed on a more regular, tessellated, background. Where the two meet the background takes the form of the object, so each object has a background halo around it. This technique creates a very strong sharp and clear image.

OpusPalladianum1Opus Palladianum This technique gives a more modern feel. The tesserae are cut into haphazard shapes and laid like crazy paving. This buzzing texture is also used for backgrounds but is labour intensive if done well.



OpusSectile1Opus Sectile This technique is used extensively in Islamic tile design where it is known as ‘Zillij’. The tiles, usually larger glazed ceramic tiles are cut into shapes that describe the form, i.e. an eye shaped tile would be used as an eye. This usually has a great effect on the tile size to design scale, requiring relatively larger tiles. The technique is closely allied to marquetry.


modernstyleOpus Musivum A more modern style of mosaic making has developed utilising the unique properties of mosaic, excentuating texture, reflectivity and pattern in differing sizes of tesserae. This vibrant lively treatment is ideal for internal wall murals and panels. The individual style of the artist/maker is heightened resulting in the most expressive form of mosaic art.



And so we come to Craftsmanship. This is the skills built up through years of practice and to those new to mosaic art can be difficult to see.

Here is a simple eight point list that will reveal to you the secrets of the craft so that you can become a true mosaic connoisseur.
Look out for the following points:


The Good Points

Even grout lines The lines formed between the tesserae are as important as the tesserae themselves, even sized grout lines are a sure sign of a well crafted mosaic. Triangular grout areas are an indication of poorly cut mosaic.

Flowing courses Back again to the idea of brushstrokes, a mosaic master will use the courses of tesserae to form flowing lines which help describe the design irrespective of the colour of tesserae.

Attention to edges The area where a mosaic meets the outside world is a critical area. Well made mosaics will usually finish with a border or course of whole tiles to bolster edge stability.

Twinkling tesserae The use of different shades and hues to heighten an area of plain mosaic adding texture and vibrancy.

The Bad Points

Rivers and Ladders These are common mistakes by amateur mosaic makers. Ladders are formed when courses of tesserae, say running right to left, start to line up top to bottom, giving a ladder like look. Rivers often occur where courses of tesserae are turning corners and the grout begins to line up at 90 degrees to the flow giving what looks like a crack across the mosaic.

Popping Grout Holes appearing in the grout when it is dry, caused by the use of too much water in the grouting stage.

Cut tiles at edges Small cut tesserae along the outside edge causing ragged edges and weakening the vital border between mosaic and outside world.

Lipping Particularly important on floor mosaics this is where an edge of a tessera does not sit flush with the surrounding tesserae. This only counts if it's in an isolated patch and should not be confused with the deliberate angling of tesserae to create texture and light effects on wall mosaics.


By choosing a mosaic from me you can be confident of a finely crafted mosaic that only 20 years of experience can bring.

Now we can look at how will your mosaic be constructed.


Or if you prefer just give me a call now and we can discuss your own unique project directly

TEL: +44 771 952 9520 .
enquiries@mosaicmakers.co.uk .






Rupert Murdoch in 'Opus Regulatum' style using vitreous ceramic and vitreous glass


Clarke Gable in 'Opus Palladianum' style using porcelain/ vitreous ceramic


St. Cybi in 'Opus Vermiculatum' style using Venetian Smalti


Apollo in 'Opus Classicum' style using vitreous ceramic


Elizabeth I of England in 'Opus Vermiculatum' style using vitreous ceramic

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