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Mosaic garden project: Stepping-stone

by timber press on March 18, 2015

in Craft

The bold contrasting colors of this simple spiral design have big visual impact. Image: Justin Myers

The bold contrasting colors of this simple spiral design have big visual impact. All images: Justin Myers


This stepping-stone mosaic is a beginner-level project that can have a big impact in your garden. The spiral design is simple and timeless, and the bold colors are eye-catching. Stepping-stones are fun to use for walkways in your garden, or just as neat pieces of color popping up at ground level wherever you choose to place them.

• 12 × 12-in. cement paver
• Cartoon
• Stained glass
• Sticky mesh
• Clear contact paper
• Thin-set mortar
• Cementitious grout
• Grout sealant

• Felt-tip marker
• Pistol-grip glass cutter
• Glass runner
• Two-wheeled nipper
• Painter’s tape
• Dust mask
• Bucket
• Bowl
• Flat mixing trowel
• Notched metal trowel
• Small painter’s trowel
• Rubber grout float
• Cotton cloths
• Small sponge

For this project, I used a 12 × 12-in. cement paver that I purchased at a hardware store. Precast cement pieces are ready to be mosaicked—they don’t need sealing or any other preparation.

For the color scheme, I decided to use contrasting colors of blue and orange. Notice how the interior of the spiral is made up of darker orange tesserae, which creates depth, and then transitions outward to lighter orange tesserae. The transition gives the impression that the spiral is coming toward you—it’s a neat trick of perception.


The sticky mesh and cartoon are taped to a temporary substrate, and I’ve begun to dry lay the tesserae. Notice the lines I’ve drawn on some of the tesserae using a felt-tip marker. I’ll score and cut those pieces to create custom shapes.

1. Secure the cartoon and sticky mesh to a temporary substrate. Though this mosaic will ultimately end up on the cement paver, it’s much more convenient to work on a lightweight 12 × 12-in. temporary substrate such as wood or wedi board. Your cartoon should fit on the 12 × 12-in. temporary substrate with a border of at least 1/8-in. between the edge of the cartoon and the edge of the substrate in order to leave enough space for a shoulder that will be grouted later. Lay the cartoon face-up on the temporary substrate and place sticky mesh—sticky side up—on top of the cartoon. If the sticky mesh inhibits your view of the design, use a marker to darken the lines of the cartoon. Then, tape down the corners with painter’s tape to affix the cartoon and sticky mesh to the temporary substrate so that your work surface and design will be secure and properly aligned while you lay the tiles.

2. Dry lay the tesserae. Dry lay the entire composition directly on the sticky mesh over the cartoon. When you get to the corners, remove the painter’s tape so that the tesserae can properly adhere to the sticky mesh. Finalize the design at this stage and check the borders to ensure that no tesserae have crept over the edges of the cartoon. If they have, switch them out for smaller pieces to avoid creating a sharp edge or an insufficient shoulder for grouting.

3. Cover the composition with contact paper. Take a sheet of contact paper, slightly larger than the composition, and gently place it—sticky side down—on the surface of the mosaic, locking all the tesserae in place. Press the contact paper firmly onto each and every tessera, being mindful of the sharp edges under the contact paper. To avoid cutting yourself, use a balled-up cloth to press the tesserae down.

As the spiral widened, I transitioned from using a single tessera per color field to two tesserae per color field. When you’re filling in a color field, the outside edges need to form a smooth line. The interior edges (when you’re using two tesserae per color field) can have some variation, but make sure the edges between colors are neat. You can even create a more deliberate grout line, possibly slightly thicker, to really highlight the separation of color fields.

As the spiral widened, I transitioned from using a single tessera per color field to two tesserae per color field. When you’re filling in a color field, the outside edges need to form a smooth line. The interior edges (when you’re using two tesserae per color field) can have some variation, but make sure the edges between colors are neat. You can even create a more deliberate grout line, possibly slightly thicker, to really highlight the separation of color fields.

4. Remove the composition from the temporary substrate. With the aid of a flipper board—a board that you use to flip the composition over—remove the composition from the temporary substrate. The board can be any flat, lightweight board you have on hand—a spare piece of wood, plastic, or wedi board. As long as it’s slightly larger than your mosaic, it will work. To safely remove your composition, place the flipper board on top of it. Hold both the top and bottom boards (the bottom being the temporary substrate) securely—with the tesserae sandwiched safely in between—and simply flip them over. After you’ve executed the flip, the temporary substrate will be on top of the pile. Remove the temporary substrate. Gently pull the cartoon and sticky mesh away from the tiles, being careful to pull slowly to avoid dislodging the tiles from the contact paper underneath. Discard the sticky mesh.

5. Apply thin-set mortar to the cement paver.

6. Drape-and-set the composition onto the substrate. When a substrate is too heavy to pick up comfortably, you can drape-andset your composition onto it. To begin, rotate the composition so that the top edge of the mosaic is closest to you. Using a balled-up cloth, give the composition another sweep over the contact paper. Then, firmly take hold of the corners of the contact paper that are closest to you. Lift the contact paper, and, measuring with your eyes, align the composition with the substrate, and gently drape the composition onto the substrate, tile side down. The contact paper holds the tesserae better when you hold it so that it hangs vertically; try to avoid holding it horizontally. Once you’ve laid it down, you can shift it more precisely into place so that it’s centered on the substrate. If any tesserae popped off the contact paper, fit them back into the design.

When you’re coming toward the edge, be sure to leave room for the spiral to wind around, while still leaving a 1/8-in. shoulder for grout. Before you finish laying the tesserae, use a tape measure to double-check that your design will fit the dimensions of the cement paver.

When you’re coming toward the edge, be sure to leave room for the spiral to wind around, while still leaving a 1/8-in. shoulder for grout. Before you finish laying the tesserae, use a tape measure to double-check that your design will fit the dimensions of the cement paver.

7. Seat the tesserae. Smooth down the entire composition through the contact paper, pressing each tessera into the thin-set mortar to ensure adhesion. Use a balled-up cloth during this process to avoid cutting yourself on any sharp edges. Place an even weight (such as a book) on the top of the mosaic to help the setting process, and let the mortar begin to cure for approximately 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, gently lift a corner of the contact paper. If you feel confident that you can pull away the contact paper without pulling up any tesserae, do so. The mortar will still be wet at this point, so if necessary you can do some final fine-tuning to the mosaic design.

8. Clean up any extra adhesive. The adhesive will be visible in the interstices. This is a problem only if it has squished up between the tesserae so much that it might block the grout. A good way to check for problem spots is to look at the contact paper after you pull it off—if it’s spotted with mortar, the adhesive has risen above the level of the tesserae. If you see any problem spots, clean them out using a small painter’s trowel or a thin piece of wire. Then let the thin-set mortar cure for 24 hours.

9. Grout, polish, and seal the mosaic.

The bold contrasting colors of this simple spiral design have big visual impact. Image: Justin Myers


brody_mMark Brody has been teaching mosaic in schools and art centers for over a decade in Portland, Oregon. His website is markbrodyart.com.



Click image for a look inside this book:


“This thorough guide to techniques, tools, and materials is filled with expert tips and tricks. The detailed project instructions will inspire you.”—Lorene Edwards Forkner, author of Handmade Garden Projects

1 Linda G. May 14, 2015 at 3:50 am

Love the look of this mosaic pattern and I would put it in the garden by my driveway so I could get a glimpse of it every day!

2 Amy M May 14, 2015 at 4:22 am

I’d use it as an accent in my back yard… thanks for the tutorial. I’ve always wondered how to do these, and I didn’t know about using mesh!

3 sandra May 14, 2015 at 4:31 am

i’d use it commemorate when we’ve moved into our new home

4 Dawn May 14, 2015 at 5:42 am

I have been planning to design some stepping stones to weave between our aspens to create a walkway (or the idea of where the walkway generally is across the grass).

5 karen j kennedy May 14, 2015 at 5:54 am

I would love colorful stepping stones placed throughout my garden, this would be a great addition. If I don’t win I will have to find the time to make one!

6 Rachel H May 14, 2015 at 5:55 am

I have a beautiful whiskey barrel that I’m using as a rain barrel in a very prominent place in my perrenial beds. I would love to place this colorful stepping stone under the spigot to replace the blah, grey one I have now. :-) It’s a very fun design!

7 Cathy Dover May 14, 2015 at 6:36 am

my walk way would be the perfect place for it

8 Jen Smith May 14, 2015 at 7:10 am

I would use it in my garden and make many of them to form a path!

9 Becca RB May 14, 2015 at 7:13 am

Gardeners are artists! Incorporating mosaics is a wonderful way to reuse broken glass, pottery, and terracotta. I have a collection of these awaiting a mosaic piece! It would be fun to give this a try this year.

10 Mary May 14, 2015 at 7:15 am

I’d love to put this at that spot by my side garden gate where the grass won’t grow! It would be a nice welcome into my backyard.

11 M. Jackson May 14, 2015 at 7:16 am

My daughter and I would love to create a long lasting Memory Stone in front of our garden bench.

12 Christina Bingham May 14, 2015 at 7:19 am

A beautiful way to be creative and to personalize my yard and gardens!

13 Caroline May 14, 2015 at 7:21 am

I’d place this in the sitting area in the flower garden so we could enjoy the beautiful colors.

14 Vicki Carbone May 14, 2015 at 7:22 am

We have a back deck that is an entrance to our back yard garden from our family room. I’d put it right there; a burst of color to introduce our garden.

15 Christine May 14, 2015 at 7:24 am

I would enjoy making this with my children and placing it near our veggie garden.

16 Hazel Ainslie May 14, 2015 at 7:25 am

I’d love to try my hand at the mosaics – they’re a great added feature to any garden. I’d like to hang it from my fence so I could see it from all over the yard. Thanks TimberPress.

17 Susan Decker May 14, 2015 at 7:30 am

As a beautiful decoration in my garden area :O)

18 Jolene Metty May 14, 2015 at 7:31 am

I would put it in the center of my vegetable garden, in between the raised boxes.

19 Burns Decker May 14, 2015 at 7:32 am

I would use it as a teaching project for my children.

20 tami May 14, 2015 at 7:32 am

I’d use the stone in my garden, which has a glass and metal theme. It would be perfect!

21 camilla wilson May 14, 2015 at 7:34 am

Would love this for my garden

22 Terry Zignego May 14, 2015 at 7:35 am

I would put it in our library garden.

23 Glenda Jenkins May 14, 2015 at 7:37 am

I’d add it to the stepping stone path off our patio to brighten up the space!

24 diana shenderovich May 14, 2015 at 7:38 am

would love to try

25 KittyPride May 14, 2015 at 7:39 am

Would really add some punch to the landscape, I would use it by my outdoor faucet to highlight the area and hopefully avoid stepping on my plants :D

26 Wendy May 14, 2015 at 7:43 am

I so want to do this. I keep finding marbles in my yard, so I might try it with those.

27 bryan back May 14, 2015 at 7:45 am

This would be used as the first step into my flower garden!

28 The Loopy Librarian May 14, 2015 at 7:49 am

Beautiful! I want to try it!

29 cine May 14, 2015 at 7:51 am

the colors remind me of the Ukraine where my grandparents emigrated from in the early 1900’s. the spiral brings to mind the Fibonacci spiral and God’s beauty in nature. and lastly, the design looks like the light at the end of the tunnel that i’m focusing on while going through a difficult time. thank you for the opportunity to win.

30 Janice Milliken May 14, 2015 at 8:00 am

I’d use it as a fun project to do with the neighborhood kids! They will love it!

31 Patti B. May 14, 2015 at 8:00 am

Very nice colors in your project. It would be a great book to read and use.

32 Lauren B May 14, 2015 at 8:03 am

A lovely piece that would be a great accent for my garden. Thanks for this!

33 Nancy Narma May 14, 2015 at 8:06 am

I am in the process of turning a corner of our front yard into a perennial garden. Years ago, my late Mother ordered what she thought were Stargazer (pink & White) lillies. She had me plant them where she could see them from the living room window. Sadly, they did not bloom before she passed. I moved them so they would be the focal point of the new garden…and they bloomed!! They turned out to be the most amazing shade of rust and yellow!! The mosaic stepping stone would look perfect in front of the lillies, where I could enjoy both. The design reminds me of the “Wizard of Oz” and the yellow brick road. Thank-you for such beauty!

34 Kimberly Flickinger (@kaflickinger74) May 14, 2015 at 8:15 am

I will use it as an accent in my back yard

35 Anne L. May 14, 2015 at 8:24 am

I might set this design at the entryway of a labyrinth…

36 Toby May 14, 2015 at 8:24 am

We had kept a small piece of our son’s spring set as a keepsake of many fun days! This would be beautiful underneath it for a more visually beautiful display.

37 Earen H May 14, 2015 at 8:54 am

This looks like a fun project. I love eclectic garden designs.

38 Paige May 14, 2015 at 8:54 am

Wow, what a cool project for my hs art students!

39 Mel May 14, 2015 at 8:56 am

Looks like a ton of summer fun

40 Paige May 14, 2015 at 8:57 am

also, I would use this for the community garden project.

41 Janis May 14, 2015 at 9:00 am

I have just the place in my back garden! Fun project.

42 Ronnie May 14, 2015 at 9:07 am

I would put this beautiful mosaic on the path leading to my garden bed.

43 sue roegge May 14, 2015 at 9:07 am

This is beautiful!

44 Emily May 14, 2015 at 9:12 am

I have tile left from a bathroom remodel project. The tile cutter cut the tiles incorrectly. I think they would make an interesting pinwheel type of design, perhaps as a stepping stone or inlaid into a table top.

45 Marty C. May 14, 2015 at 9:19 am

Love the design! I’d put it in the front yard between the driveway and walkway, where the grass is always getting scuffed away. I made a few of these last year, and in one I used some weird taxidermy eyes I’d gotten at a garage sale and didn’t know what else to do with. Bad choice. The paver with the plastic eyes drove our chickens absolutely insane; they’d gather around and peck at it for hours.

46 Layla Olin May 14, 2015 at 9:38 am

It would take three of them, but I would use them right below our porch steps. For some reason the bottom step is much taller than the others (old house), and these could make up the difference while bridging the indoor/outdoor (domestic/wild; man-made/natural, etc.) space with color.

47 Chantal May 14, 2015 at 9:41 am

I would put in my garden near the river so everybody boating could admire it.

48 Tina Knezevic May 14, 2015 at 9:46 am

This would look absolutely fabulous in my Shangri-La Pergola Garden! I am in the process of updating my backyard and recently added a pergola and this beautiful stepping-stone would complete my backyard!!!

49 Sandy May 14, 2015 at 9:47 am

I “sign” all my hypertufa troughs with this design, love it, reminds me of snail shells, nautilus, & ammonite fossils. I have wanted to try mosiacs for a long time, this would get me going in that direction.

50 Rebecca May 14, 2015 at 10:07 am

I would use this mosaic stepping-stone as a launching point to dance among the daisies.

51 Robin Sparkman May 14, 2015 at 10:18 am

I love working on mosaics, but have never made one for outdoors. How beautiful!

52 sharon May 14, 2015 at 10:21 am

I would use this stepping stone in a children s garden that I volu teer at…fli t spri GS garden and nature club. We would use it as inspiration to create more.

53 Michael DiSciullo May 14, 2015 at 10:34 am

I will use it in my new backyard!

54 Marilyn May 14, 2015 at 10:39 am

Love this stepping stone! I would make several and use them in amongst my big perennial beds so I can weed easily without stepping on my plants. They would be both decorative and practical.

55 Barbara Bibel May 14, 2015 at 10:46 am

This would make a lovely addition to my back yard. It would add some color to the drab bricks.

56 Tricia May 14, 2015 at 10:48 am

I would add it to my path of stepping stones I’ve collected that wander from my deck to and throughout my gardens in the back yard.

57 Sharon M May 14, 2015 at 10:51 am

This would make a wonderful focal point in my herb garden.

58 Sherry Schweyer May 14, 2015 at 11:08 am

i would use it plus others to make a walkway from my back gate to the back yard along side our new deck.i have been trying to figure out what to do with that corner, now I know!!! LOVE IT ❤️❤️❤️❤️

59 Marlene May 14, 2015 at 11:13 am

This would go on the path back to my straw bale tomato garden.

60 Kristen Abram May 14, 2015 at 11:32 am

I would use it to start building a walkway alongside out deck.

61 Paula May 14, 2015 at 11:36 am

I have the perfect spot for this mosaic in the narrow strip between my driveway and the neighbor’s. We like to keep the plantings short for visibility, so a colorful stepping-stone would really pop!

62 Teri Melton May 14, 2015 at 11:42 am

I would take this to my granddaughter’s and do it as a project with her for her garden. She is seven and grows flowers and vegetables.

63 Lin Eucalyptus May 14, 2015 at 11:58 am

This is lovely. I have an arbor area with a blue bench with yellow cushions. I would make this with my grandson and put it near the bird bath and the arbor. He would love this.

64 Caroline Lennek May 14, 2015 at 12:04 pm

This would be the perfect stepping stone that leads the way to my raised bed vegetable garden.

65 Sherri May 14, 2015 at 12:13 pm

I would put it in my secret reading place.

66 Margot S. May 14, 2015 at 12:26 pm

I would use it in the pathway to my vegetable garden.

67 Hilda Bishuti May 14, 2015 at 12:36 pm

What a pretty design and bright colors. I would put this near my patio so I can see it everyday. It would brighten my space and bring a smile to my face.

68 Kathy May 14, 2015 at 12:37 pm

I would leave it by by my garden pond so that I could see it when the sun first hits it in the morning

69 Mary Beville May 14, 2015 at 12:48 pm

I would place it between my 2 girls (dogs) that have passed, they have a beautiful place in the yard and it would really showcase them for me.

70 Marjorie Petesch May 14, 2015 at 12:55 pm

This beautiful stepping stone would look great in my front garden!

71 OK Gardener May 14, 2015 at 1:05 pm

I would use this in my backyard by my faucet

72 Verline Ferris May 14, 2015 at 1:09 pm

This stepping stone would go between the driveway and the walkway and cover the bare spot where grass should be. It is beautiful and should fit easily as a stepping stone in the front of my yard.

73 jennifer May 14, 2015 at 1:29 pm

I’d use it in the bottom of a water fountain.

74 Linda. Hancock May 14, 2015 at 1:29 pm

This would be beautiful in the center of my Fairy Garden !
Thank you for the great tutorial, I have some broken
China that I’ve saved for a project like this

75 Kari Judd May 14, 2015 at 1:56 pm

I Love the Mosaic Gardening Projects!! I would do this with my little granddaughters to have bonding time, and Create something special!

76 carol clark May 14, 2015 at 1:57 pm

i believe i would make a section just for this its beautiful so id buy a wooden arch and add running pink roses to it and add a water bath and add the stones it would be beautiful

77 Denise Simmons May 14, 2015 at 1:59 pm

I’d use this under my arbor as a stepping stone.

78 marci May 14, 2015 at 2:36 pm

I would use the stepping stones in the back yard near our fire pit. Using sparkling glass that would catch the light of the fire.

79 Debbie Wright May 14, 2015 at 3:10 pm

as an accent in my flower bed!

80 Mary Stascak May 14, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Mosaic Garden Projects -inspiration to add a colorful surprise in an unexpected area of my yard. Thanks for the paver instructions. Also, like the Asian garden lantern.

81 susan renison May 14, 2015 at 4:06 pm

great directions! I am making an outside bathtub area and this would be perfect to use as part of the wall holding back the garden bed along one side where the tub will be.

82 Goathead May 14, 2015 at 4:58 pm

I would use this as the beginning of my very own Yellow Brick Road!

83 smfsprout May 14, 2015 at 8:16 pm

I would love to make several of these with the kids and use them in the yard as stepping stones to the playset.

84 Rémi Pharand May 14, 2015 at 8:20 pm

Quelle belle réalisation! Ça donne le gout de réaliser de beaux projets


85 Gina Thompson May 14, 2015 at 9:35 pm

This mosaic would be beautiful hanging on the wall under the arbor.

86 susan beamon May 14, 2015 at 9:56 pm

I would put this at the start of the non-walk I have in my front yard that is there to cover the sewer pipe replacement trench.

87 Dianne May 14, 2015 at 10:18 pm

We just moved into a new home. The yard has been neglected for quite a while. I would love to use these stepping stones to help me get started with creating my family an outdoor sanctuary; where we can all gather together.

88 Jennifer Essad May 14, 2015 at 10:25 pm

I’ve been looking for the perfect design and tables for our pool patio, this would be the right fit for what we need. Thank you for offering us this amazing chance

89 James Kennedy May 14, 2015 at 11:34 pm

I’d use it as a decorative stepping stone near my hummingbird feeders.

90 AnneMarie May 15, 2015 at 1:25 am

Love all things made with glass and or tile. :)

91 Mark Diprimo May 15, 2015 at 3:44 am

I would love to make this and display it by our Koi pond.

92 Elaine Breton May 15, 2015 at 9:28 am

I would give it to my friend for her secret garden path!

93 Linda Gribko May 15, 2015 at 10:28 am

I would place this beautiful tile in my shade garden to mark the path for the electric meter reader.

94 Cindy P May 15, 2015 at 11:35 am

If I could make a mosaic this gorgeous I’d hang it on my garage with the hayrack planters.

95 linda s. johnson May 15, 2015 at 12:15 pm


96 Amy Pederson May 16, 2015 at 6:13 am

In my garden.

97 Florence Brick May 16, 2015 at 9:24 am

The design that you have made reflects the happiness, joy, love that is in my heart. I would place it in my garden so all could enjoy it, and smile when they remember seeing it in my garden.

98 Michelle May 18, 2015 at 5:40 am

This stepping stone would be a perfect addition to our daffodil garden area. Love it!

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