About this project
Our kitchen is Mexican themed. Not original, no, but given my love of bright colors, glitter ala Kathy Murillo and tin artwork, well, we had to devote a room to it. Our basement door is in the kitchen, and was pretty banged up when we moved in-- cracks in the nine layers of paint, etc. Eventually it'll be either stripped and stained or stripped and repainted, but for now, I decided to dress it up with a faux mosaic. It's almost like pointilism, I suppose.
Pluses to this sort of piece:
-It's cheap, especially if, like me, you already have ninety thousand bottles of cheap craft paint. All I had to buy was some poly sealant.
-It's easy to fix mistakes, unlike real mosaics.
-You can paint over it if you have to move or don't like the end result.
-You can do pretty much any design, and are not limited by the availablity of certain tile colors. You also can do very small details because you don't have to try and find a teeny little piece of tile-- you just use a very small brush.
Minuses to this:
-It's not mosaic. It looks like one, especially from, oh, twelve feet away, but it's not for real, which can leave you feeling a bit fakey. Me, I don't care.
-It takes a really long time. Even simple designs take quite a while, because you have to fill in everything with dots instead of just slapping the paint on with a wide brush. My design was simple, but it still took me two days of solid, every-spare-moment-spent work.
-It can be hard to make your work look imperfect on purpose. In real mosaic, the tile pieces aren't perfectly shaped; they're sometimes off-kilter, leaving more or less grout showing. The temptation to make a "perfect" faux mosaic is there, especially if you're used to painting things nice and neatly. But hell, if that's what you're after, you might as well use the Rasterbator.
You Will Need
First, paint your surface the color of your "grout." The grout is the stuff that's normally inbetween the tiles on a real mosaic. My door was already white, so I skipped this step. Let the paint dry completely before going to the next step.
When you're ready, sketch your design out on your surface. It doesn't have to be perfect; you can always erase errant lines if you don't like them. You can label each section with color codes-- "B" for blue, "A" for aqua-- or you can make a mini-sketch on a piece of paper and label the colors there.
Mix any custom colors you need. Make sure to mix more than you think you'll need, especially if your paint is thin (some colors need several coats to be opaque- the orange on my design did). Using baby food jars is great for this because if you need to stop your work for a while, you can close them up and not have to match a secret paint formula the next day.
Start painting. I started with the sun, but you can really start anywhere. I'd suggest starting with the side opposite your "strong" hand-- i.e., I'm right handed, so it makes sense for me to start on the left side of the design. That way I can paint freely without dragging my hand or sleeve through the wet design.
The tiles can be random blobs, geometric shapes, whatever. I think squared-off random blobs look nice, but that's me. The important thing is to be random about it. To "force" randomness, you can also paint a tile or two in a big open space, and then fill in around it. If you keep doing this, it'll change the pattern you're unconsciously making with the tiles. It can also help to work on one area for a while, and then work on a different area.
On my piece, I used several layers of paint on the sun, to make sure it was vibrant, and to create blended-color tiles. On the sky area, I went over random tiles at the end, making them a bit darker than the surrounding tiles. I thought it made it look more realistic. Varying the color of the tiles just a smidge, I think, makes the tiles look more like, well, tile and less like paint.
When you're done, let the whole thing really dry. Then seal it with a coat of polyurethane. I haven't done this on my door yet, but it seems like a good idea. You can skip it if you like; my door has held up just fine in the year since I did it. But again, that's me.
-What about using glossy paint for the tiles, and matte paint for the "grout" background? It may give a more realistic texture to the piece.
-Obviously, you don't have to paint one of your doors-- you could use this on anything: a canvas, your old combat boots (use leather paint, hey?), a coffee table, the hood of your car...
-I used plain paint, but who's to say you can't mix in some metallic or glitter paints?
If you try this out yourself, let me know how it goes! Send pictures! I'll hopefully add more faux mosaics to the door as I get more free time (but given it's December and I have two young kids, who knows when that'll be?).