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I asked a question earlier regarding how to make traditional mosaic art in a less time-intensive way, and was told pretty unanimously that the only way to go about it would be by working on tiles individually. So I have set off on creating designs tile by tile, and yet still it looks...well, really bad. I've created multiple sets of brushes, used the shape builder tool to no avail. I know mosaic tile art is just geometry and it should be possible in illustrator, but it's feeling nearly impossible to do. Does anyone have any tips or techniques that help mimic real traditional mosaic tile art?

-Hi Scott. I guess what I am referring to is, if you look at the added image, this artwork was made digitally, but you can see the movement of the tiles. But if I use something like offset path, it doesn't come off like this at all. I guess what I'm trying to ask for is some direction on how to make designs like this. enter image description here

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  • The thing about old world mosaic tiles is that the tiles themselves were not uniform. Each tile was not a perfect geometrical shape. The natural deformations of the tiles is what created the interesting "gaps" between tiles. I don't understand what you mean by "rules for making..." There are no "rules." Like most things you look, note the aspects that make something unique and try to replicate those. If you want to mimic tile sin AI, you need a collection of dozens of slightly varied, but similar, shapes.
    – Scott
    May 14 at 6:44
  • Just a question. Is tedius equal to impossible.
    – joojaa
    May 14 at 9:31
  • I wouldn't mind tedious if it meant I could reach the destination I wanted. The issue is that all the methods I have been using look terrible and I'm just looking for a way forward.
    – Kmo
    May 14 at 11:39
  • Do not expect anything automatic. The sportsman shape is a line drawing. Its edges and numerous other form defining lines have got pattern brush like in the next example: youtube.com/watch?v=w_KG3Uiec2Q One might want an one click conversion which turns a photo to Byzantine mosaic, but getting it look right is a dream . Something maybe usable for your purposes can be found in this older case: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/156493/…
    – user287001
    May 14 at 13:07
  • The artwork example you post must of course be digital to be able to be printed, but that doesn't mean that it's necessarily a vector drawing made from scratch. It could also be based on a photograph of an ancient mosaic which has been manipulated and turned into sharp 1-bit graphics. The resolution isn't quite high enough to examine it closely, but it looks like the pattern breaks a bit apart here and there. Doesn't look like it's all well-defined vector shapes. Hard to tell if it's just something that happens in print though.
    – Wolff
    May 14 at 14:15

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I am going to post this as an answer although it is probably more of a long comment.

I too am fascinated with these "old era" mosaic works.

Honestly, the video by Spoon Graphics linked to in the comment above from @user287001 is very good and the closest you will get to a more automated way to make your mosaics. If you want to pursue this then I suggest you study this video tutorial until you fully understand the techniques he uses to achieve his results. The pattern brush and offset paths are pretty straightforward- the harder part is filling in the gaps and making the overlaps convincing. Anyway, it is good stuff.

Back to the more "old world" mosaics- the only thing I can say is that I see these as absolute artistry. I have seen 2 different styles of this from antiquity. The first is more geometric pattern designs or simple drawings- usually with fewer colors like these.

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The other "style" is more like a painting or a depiction of a scene. These are not simply the "drawings" of things or scenes (which would be like a cartoon depiction) but involve what I would call "fine artistry"- namely involving lighting and shading. This requires a true artists eye to create as well as a deep understanding of lighting and shading (otherwise they will look like a cartoon). This can be learned some and does come more natural to some people but requires an ability to "see the light" and reproduce that rather than just only the scene.

Following is an example of this- notice the shading on the figures and especially the shading of the fan shapes above the characters. This is a flat mosaic wall but, even in an extreme close up view the depth can be seen. And notice the transition coloring of the tiles in the shading. This is the thing that is next to impossible to do "automatically" digitally. Hence all the suggestions to the effect that this is a more manual process which can be done digitally (of course) but is a learned and painstaking process which requires a deep level of skill and understanding and time.

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These photos are from a trip to Italy I was fortunate enough to make several years ago. Some are from Pompeii or Herculaneum (can't remember which) and some from Rome. If you like this I highly suggest a trip there- it will knock your socks off- as it did mine.

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