Mosaicing is a unique artform in that it makes special use of not only colour but the relationship between your chosen colours and space as the distances betwen the coloured tiles also have an impact on the finished work.


One of the limitations of mosaicing is this special relationship between colour and space and the fact that unlike painting, mosaicing doesn't offer the possibility of blending or combining colours. Although there is a wide range of colours available on the market today, the colour ranges still don't allow for gradients of colour that painting can achieve.


Creating something with many colours is also prohibitive due to cost or the difficulty in finding wide colour ranges.


Bear in mind when selecting your colours that the true colours and their combined effects are can only  be seen in natural daylight so bear this in mind when choosing your tiles as artificial light can blur or distort the relationship between colours.


Another common mistake that beginners sometimes make is using colours which have too much of a suble contrast. As mosaicing is NOT painting, tiles (or tesserae) that have only a slight or suble change in colour may not produce the desired effect as these very suble changes are not often seen due to the spaces between the tesserae and the effect of grout. Coloured grout can have a blending or mismatching effect, depending on how it is used but the final projection of a smaller mosaic will still only feature your strong or prominent colours. A general rule of thumb is that if you can't see the grout then the mosaic artist has done a good job especially if the subject of the mosaic is of something realistic.


One thing to note is that not all tiles, when examined up close will look the same when placed next to other coloured tesserae. An easy way to solve this problem is to place the tiles on the floor next to each other in a well-lit room as if you were already creating your mosaic and check if the chosen colours contrast or compliment each other. If you don't get your desired effect then try another colour and check if the appearance is improved.


Some colours also serve to improve the intensity of other colours and not just act as a simple contrast.


While mosaic artists may not be able to manipulate colours by blending them, we can certainly control how light affects the individual pieces (remember the last article on types of light) and with this in mind, you will be able to produce fantastic looking work.


Going back to the matter of space - the gaps left between the tiles (the interstices) - also have an effect on the colour of the tiles in when the same tiles are packed together very closely, the colour is intensified and if the tiles are placed very loosely with large gaps between them, the colour is muted and results in a lighter overall colour.

Mosaic Colour Basics:

Colors have four different ‘properties’ that are used to categorize them during selection for mosaic making:

  • hue - this is the colour in its most basic form (examples are red, blue and yellow - the pure hues of the colour spectrum and its from these that all other colours are derived),
  • tone - this is the darkness or lightness of a particular color. A specific hue can have dozens of different tones. In mosaic making, different colors of the same tone usually match. A lighter or darker tile alongside another colour of the same tone creates a contrast which either diminishes or intensifies the effect of one of the colors.A good example of this would be dark-tone tesserae. When a very dark piece of tesserae is placed beside a lighter-tone tesserae (or even white tesserae which is the lightest tone of any colour) the tone of the dark piece is magnified.
  • intensity - this is different from the tone of the color in that it is the overall appearance of the colour an example of this is pink where it can either be a bright or a pastel color - vivid colours are said to have a high intensity..,
  • temperature - this refers to the to the warmness or coolness of a colour. Reds, oranges and browns are considered warm or hot, while violet, blues and green colours are cooler colours.

Balancing Selected Colors and Mosaic Size

When creating a mosaic, play around with different color tones, hues and intensities before settling for specific, individual colors. try and use background like cardboard or paper to ‘test’ what colors can combine to form a cohesive blend or what is known as organic unity. Organic unity the "flow" that the combined colours create - this can include contrasting colours in order to draw you eye to aspects that you want to stand out.


The size of the mosaic also affects the overall projection of the mosaic: for example, having 50 gold tile pieces and another 50 ruby red ones will produce a completely different mosaic to one having a different combination of these colours.


As for the color of the grout, here are some quick reminders:
*White grout can draw the eyes to the white/negative spaces. Do not use white grout if you are aiming for a more seamless mosaic.
*Dark grout can be used for colorful mosaics. However, pastel-colored mosaics do not do well with dark grout.


Here are some basic effects produced by specific color/color groups when used in a mosaic:

Receding effect:

Space and distance for the foreground of the mosaic:
*Pale blues
*Soft purples

Maximum contrasting effect:

Strong outlines can be achieved with two tones of the same hue (lighter inside whith a darker-toned "border").

Next time we will be exploring how to prepare your equipment and materials for mosaic making.


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