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Glues and Adhesives: A Sticky Subject

Posted by Juanita Canzoneri on

There are 3 main types of glues/adhesives used in mosaics. None is inherently better than the others; they all may be used depending upon the other materials used in the mosaic process and the levels of toxicity and/or ease of use required.

They are: Water-based, Solvent-based, Cement-based



Adheres as the water in the adhesive mixture evaporates. These glues may contain various materials to enhance the durability of the bond.

Good for gluing almost anything (glass, ceramic, etc.)  to a porous substance (wood, plaster, terra cotta, unglazed ceramic, some stone etc.).


  • Low toxicity level
  • Generally dries clear
  • Soap and water cleanup when wet
  • Can be used with indirect work


  • Dries flat making it difficult to work with materials of differing thickness.
  • Some glues have a high slip factor when working 3-D.

Brand Names

Crafter’s Pick

Tacky Glue




Hardens and adheres as one of the chemical components, often ammonia, in the mixture evaporates.

Good for gluing two non-porous substances (glass, metal, glazed ceramic, stone, etc.)


  • Keeps depth when dry making it useful for working with materials of varying thicknesses.
  • Several types start and dry clear
  • Silicone-based adhesives are often tool-able.


  • Cleanup more difficult than water-based
  • Higher toxicity levels
  • Smells as drying
  • If gluing stone, test to make sure oils in glue won’t discolor stone.
  • Some brands are not tool-able making it necessary to back butter each tesserae.

Brand Names

Liquid Nails—original (putty colored), clear (clear)

Silicone—various brand names

Glue Bond 527

Crafter's Goop



Cement-Based Adhesive

Hardens and adheres as the cement cures. For strongest bond allow for a slow cure. This may include covering in plastic and misting occasionally over 48-72 hours.

Best for exterior and architectural applications. Works on wood or cement bases


  • Durable cure
  • Low toxicity level
  • Keeps depth when dry making it useful for working with materials of varying thickness
  • Comes in white or grey, can be colored


  • Once the cement is mixed with water it must be used within 30-60 minutes before hardening.
  • Some brands need an admix for strongest cure

Brand Names:




This information is by no means extensive or exhaustive. This sheet was compiled from the instructor’s limited knowledge and experience.


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