Working with Uneven Materials (Tesserae)

October 20, 2014


Working with uneven tesserae like millefiori, broken china and ceramic tiles can be tricky. Below we have outlined some methods for achieving a flat or relatively smooth mosaic surface.


  • Smear thinset bonding mortar onto the surface you are mosaicing with a small trowel or putty knife, to a thickness between 0.3 m.m's to 0.6 m.m's. Press your tesserae directly into the thinset, with the thin pieces having more concrete underneath them. Ensure that you have a damp rag, a container of water and dry rag handy to clean up any excess adhesive and keep the face of the tesserae adhesive free. Note, this method will not result in a completely flat surface.
  • Lay your tiles directly onto a bed of thinset and use guides (e.g. wooden blocks cut to the level of the mosaic) and a flat surface (e.g. a square piece of ply or large ceramic tile) to level the tiles. Working in small sections level the tesserae with the flat surface to the level of the guide.
  • The indirect method of mosaics is the most effective method for achieving a flat surface with uneven tesserae. This is because the mosaic is made face down onto an adhesive surface. For more information on the indirect method see our 'How To - Methods of Mosaics - The Direct and Indirect Methods.