If you like the cut-face look of smalti but don’t like the price, remember that you can cut recycled glass tiles in half and mount them on edge to get the same look and feel as smalti.
Since your “halves” of tile won’t be perfect halves, they will all be slightly different heights when turned on edge. The surface formed by these tiles make can’t help but have an interesting texture.
The slightly uneven surface emphasizes the tiles as individual pieces, and the mosaic “effect” of the image is enhanced:
Artist Denise Cook’s mosaic portrait of Frida Kahlo is a great teaching example. It illustrates several important tips for making better mosaic artwork. The background and skin tones are made more visually interesting via variegation of shade and hue respectively. There is also a satisfying andamento in the background, and the use of found objects to represent pictorial elements is done seamlessly.
Visual Interest In Backgrounds
Portraits often have simple “monochromatic” backgrounds so that the central figure is more iconic.
In painting, it is easy to avoid boring uniformity in a nominally “monochrome” color field merely by being a little lazy. If the paint isn’t overmixed to perfect uniformity on the palette, every brushstroke can’t help but have a slightly different shade or hue or both.
In mosaic, you can achieve similar results by using 2 or 3 different tints of the same or similar hue. That is what Denise did in her Frida Kahlo portrait.