How to Mosaic on Mesh 13

Sometimes,  it is easier to mosaic on mesh first, rather than directly onto the substrate.

I buy my mesh from a Tile shop. Then, once I have my design idea drawn onto the mesh, I apply a watered down  glue to the back of the tile and stick down on the mesh. Except it’s not that easy. All sorts of things can go wrong. The glue might block the holes of the mesh, the mesh gets stuck to your work surface. If the weather is wet the glue never seems to dry. If the completed mesh squares get wet, or are kept in a humid environment, the glue stops working and the pieces fall off. All of these things have happened to me, and were accompanied by lots of swearing and worrying about the commission being a big flop.

Then I would go to sleep and in the morning I would have the solution. Use a wet towel under the mesh to prevent the glue problems. Carefully drag the mesh squares onto a board and transfer onto metal drying shelves- before the glue dries. Use a sprayer to keep the towel wet while you work. Dry the completed work thoroughly and store away carefully in a dry environment.

Installation is fairly straightforward, place your mosaic mesh squares onto a prepared bed of tile adhesive. Tap down using a flat piece of wood until the adhesive oozes up through the mesh. Allow to firm a bit, sponge off, and clean up, apply grout the following day.

I always use bonding liquid in the tile adhesive and grout, which makes the mosaic strong and waterproof. I would never mosaic on a timber substrate, (because unless the piece lives in a controlled indoor environment, it wont last)


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13 thoughts on “How to Mosaic on Mesh

    • Lisa Williams

      Dear Mary Lou,
      Your post is most helpful.
      It’s good confirmation that I will be able to use mesh while making mosaics. I have stayed away from the mesh thinking tha tI had to place the mosaic pieces face down, but I see that you work w/ the “right side” of the image facing out!!!! I like that better. I’m not quite sure about why the wet towel is helpful, but I’ll take your word for it, and hopefully find out why, while using one!!!!!
      Thanks for sharing and helping!!!!
      Your art is lovely!!!!
      My best,

      • Marylou Newdigate Post author

        Thanks for your comment Lisa.
        The damp towel is useful to slow down the glue drying process. I since found a product in SA called “permabond” which works much better than diluted cold glue. If the glue dries too fast, when the mesh square is done, you cant remove it from the shelf and all the pieces get dislodged when you try, making you do the job twice. I had to do some mesh squares about 3 x before I started applying solutions to the challenges I was having.. If you have plastic under the mesh, the glue blocks the holes and takes too long to dry. You might find that your weather conditions play a role too. experience is the best teacher.

  • Retha

    Hi Maryolou, thank you for you advice! I will still try that. At the moment I am trying to give mosaic classes but found that the pva glue solution takes too long to dry when doing the indirect method and I want to do a class where we finish a project completely in 2 and a half hours. I haven’t tried permabond yet what would you suggest I do?

  • Marylou Newdigate Post author

    I am sure that one could use tile adhesive- that sticky white glue- as long as only the tiniest amount is used, so that the mesh does not get blocked? That dries quickly. If you want to do a quick project- see my post on mosaicing a rock.. I must find the link but it is on my other earthmaid blogspot. I would avoid using the mesh altogether if project is quick and small.

  • Silva Hayes

    Hi, I really like your work and your blog! Here’s how I use mesh. I trim the sides and top of a ziplock baggie, open it up so that I have one layer of plastic. I tape it to a flat surface. I next tape the mesh down on top of the baggie. Then I mosaic, using Weldbond or MAC glue, taking care to leave lots of surface un-glued, using just enough to make it stick. I wait until the glue is starting to set up, but not necessarily until it is perfectly dry. I carefully remove the tape around the edges of the mesh. I lift the mosaic/mesh at an angle and rip it off the baggie. I then lay it, upside down, on another flat surface and let it completely dry.

    • Marylou Newdigate Post author

      I found it dried very quickly on the holey metal shelves, but I did also use thin sheets of plastic in between them, and also poked them after 5 or 10mins on shelf, from underneath to make sure they werent sticking to the shelves. You get into the swing of it…

    • Silva Hayes

      Hi, Tess. I just received an email today (August 24) alerting me to your question. (Don’t know why such a delay; hope you come back here.) Not sure what metal you refer to. The glued mesh is separated from what is below, by the plastic baggie. The plastic baggie is taped down securely. So when you peel the mosaic-on-mesh up and away, the plastic baggie remains taped down, and you have just the mosaic-on-mesh in your hand. Lay it upside down somewhere to thoroughly dry. Whenever you are ready, you then glue your mosaic-on-mesh to your substrate. Hope this helps. Here’s a link to an article I wrote about mosaic on mesh:

    • Marylou Newdigate Post author

      I see Silva Hayes suggests drying them upside down. I wouldnt cut up a zip lock bag for plastic though (see her comment) as those are expensive. Just slip the mesh square onto a tray, cover with plastic, put another tray on top, flip over- remove tray and the underneath part should be on the top.