Aah this is the question I get asked at every one of my workshops. So what is the right answer? Well truth be told it's not always the easiest of questions to answer. We all have different opinions on what looks good in all aspects of our life and your artwork is no different. A look that I favour may be poles apart from the look that would be most appealing to you. But this isn't very helpful when you're looking for some guidance and advice as you move forward with your mosaic making designs so I want to share with you some standard practice and general rules of thumb when it come to grouting a mosaic. I believe that the more you practice and experiment with the grouting process, the more you will learn what you like, what you think works best with certain tile colours and your confidence will grow in making those choices. And thankfully more often than not you will make the right decision.
What I've learned over the years is that certain colours of tiles really lend themselves to be enveloped by certain colours of grout. For example, I think that bright yellow glass looks wonderful with a pure white grout and using a grey grout with bright yellow tiles can often dull down the overall look of the finished mosaic. I also love black grout and how when using light coloured glass, it really makes the colours pop and stand out.
Below is a photo of a mosaic I worked on earlier in my mosaic making career. I did this at my care home class with a lovely gentleman called Jack who did such an amazing job creating this beautiful fox. We decided to go for a light grout and in my opinion we made the wrong choice. In the pre-grouted mosaic you can see how the mosaic looks solid and bold and the design looks like a complete block. On using the light grout the picture has become very fragmented, highlighting each piece of tesserae that's been used.
If we had gone for say a grey coloured grout we would have maintained the blocks of colour much more effectively and the overall mosaic wouldn't have looked so fragmented. But as I said, we all have different likes and dislikes, so for some this is exactly how they like their mosaics to look. There's no right or wrong, it really is just personal preference.
So here's the general rule of thumb...
1. The start is unified, or looks less broken, because the deep orange grout is a similar colour to the orange tiles used in the star. Notice the background appears very segmented due to the contrast of the orange grout and blue tiles.
2. Here, the background is unified by using blue grout with the blue tiles.
3. A very dark grout that is different from the tiles colours will force your eye to see each piece of tile separately. The dark grout “pushes” the colours forward and can give your artwork the look of a stained glass window.
4. A very light grout that is different from the tile colours will also cause you to see each piece of tile separately. This colour choice does not have the same dramatic effect as the dark grout, but will work to create a lighter feel within your work.
5. Grey grout can be a good choice if you would like your grout to be ‘silent’ and go mostly unnoticed.
6. This example shows a lighter grey. The grout joint lines are more unified and have less contrast
HANDY TIPS TO CHOSING THE CORRECT GROUT
When you've spent hours creating your masterpiece the last thing you want to do is put on the wrong grout and then be disappointed with the overall look of your finished piece.
Create some basic mini mosaics with your tile selection and grout them different colours to see what result you like best.
Look at other mosaics online, Pinterest, Instagram etc. and see what other people have done with different colours of tiles and grout to enable you to start forming your own style.
And finally and this is the biggie...sprinkle dry powdered grout over your mosaic so it fills up the spaces. Use a selection of colours on different sections e.g. white, grey, black. This will give you real insight into what your piece will look like once grouted. Once you've made your choice, tip the dry grout out and grout your piece in your chosen colour.
And if you've gone ahead and grouted without doing these handy tips and you're unhappy with the result (which I've done several times!) and you have the desire and patience, you can always scrape the grout out of your completed mosaic until the grout line is lower than your tile height, then re-grout on top with the colour of your choice, simples! :)