How To Transfer Mosaic Patterns Quickly By Tracing
This article explains how to use a charcoal pencil (or graphite pencil) to color the back side of a paper pattern and then trace over the pattern firmly to transfer it to a plywood mosaic backer board.
I have written a separate article explaining why tracing borrowed images is better than drawing for making patterns for small mosaics -even when the purpose is to create original artwork.
If your backer is much larger than your pattern, you can enlarge the pattern by transferring it to the backer using the grid method of pattern transfer instead of the method I explain here.
I used Photoshop to crop and size the image and convert it to a black and white, but you can also use photocopies from books and your own drawings as starting points. Read more about this process in my article How To Make Mosaic Patterns Without Drawing.
Note that the image was sized so that it was 6×6 inches and printed out on regular printer paper.
The Purpose Of The Pattern
For small mosaic icons and tabletops, you can work directly on the surface. Simply draw or transfer your pattern onto the backer. This pattern should look something like the black line drawing from a coloring book, just a map showing the outlines of different colored areas, possibly subdivided to show shading. (Shading and variation in these different color regions can be worked out when you start placing the tile, and so your pattern can be as simple as a cartoon outline.)
Step 2. Fold The Pattern Around The Backer Board
Fold the paper pattern around the backer board so that the image of your figure is centered on the board. Having a border drawn the same size as the backer board helps you line it up.
Step 3. Unfold The Pattern And Remove Board
Step 4. Rub Outlines Of Pattern With Charcoal Or Pencil
*** FOR MOSAIC PATTERNS THAT SHOW EVERY TILE AND HAVE LOTS OF LINES, YOU MAY FIND IT EASIER TO USE CARBON PAPER INSTEAD OF RUBBING THE BACK OF THE PATTERN WITH CHARCOAL. ***
Step 5. Refold The Pattern Around The Board And Tape
Step 6. Trace The Pattern Firmly
Step 7. Remove The Paper And Fill In Missing Lines
Step 8. Make The Lines Permanent With A Marker
Ready For Indoor Use
Variations On This Method
There are a couple of parts of this method that could have been done through alternative means:
Instead of folding the paper pattern around the backer, it could have been cut to the size of the backer and taped on that way.
Instead for rubbing charcoal or graphite pencil on the back of the pattern, carbon tracing paper could have been used.
This article was extremely helpful! I am just starting out as a mosaic artist. I have taken a number of classes at Chicago Mosaic school. I love mosaics as an art form. Also, I am not formally trained as an artist. But, I have studied textiles and have created hand knit clothing extensively.
My question is, when preparing setting bed I find it difficult retrace/ recapture piece after covering image with thin set? Is it better to work in sections? Will this technique assist with re-creating the design as you set tesserae in mortar bed? Also is mesh more commonly used? I find that thinset is challenging, although I love working with smalti. Is thin-set the optimal choice as an adhesive for smalti? What do you suggest?
Working in sections is always best, but you have to make sure you get the sheets lined up during installation and avoid having a slightly larger gap between sheet, which is a common problem. You can work in sections even if your tile isn’t in a grid arrangement.
Thank you Joe for these tips and instructions. Similar to other commenters I am new to mosaics, but enjoy the process. I took my Husband who had dimentia to a course for help with his spacial awareness, and that’s where my interest started. Beryl