Why choose a photo mosaic?

A look back at the history of the mosaic and how a photo mosaic is created.

Mosaics through time

The concept of a mosaic dates back to the 3rd millennium BC where traditionally a mosaic is made up of small, flat, roughly square, pieces of stone or glass - known as tesserae. Often used for interior decoration, there are many examples of mosaics throughout the world.

Roman beware of the dog mosaic bikini mosaic

Greek & Roman

Pebble mosaics from the bronze age have been discoverd in Tiryns, and the most ancient mosaic dating 4th century BC is the Beauty of Durrës, discovered in Albania; this mosaic depicts a womans head surrounded by flowers. Formed in the 3rd century BC, the Greek figural style mostly consisted of Mythological subjects, pursuits of the wealthy, or hunting scenes. They were popular as centrepieces and often had a strongly emphasized border.

During the Roman period, mosaics were used in a variety of public and private buildings and were highly influenced by the earlier Greek mosaics; often including famous figures from mythology and history.

Christian & Jewish Mosaics

During the building of basilicas in the late 4th century, wall and cieling mosaics were adopted for Christian uses. While the earliest Christian mosaics have not survived, there are many examples of these mosaics still around today; such as the Santa Costanza church.

The Jews also decorated their synagogues with floor mosaics Under Roman influence. Some interesting examples of such mosaics were discovered in Galilee and the Judean Desert.

early christian mosaic art zodiac mosaic synagogue

Modern Mosaics

Fast forwarding a few centuries, mosaics are still as popular. Some notable 19th century mosaics include those at St Pauls within the Walls in Rome and more recently the mosaic in the Museum of Natural History station in the New York City subway. Mosaics have also become a very popular craft by hobbyists, where mosaics today are being made out of almost anything, from traditional tiles, glass, beads to more inventive choices such as skittles and cups of tea.

Looking to create your own mosaic?

What is a photo mosaic?

Much like the traditional mosaics stamped throughout history, a photo mosaic is a mosaic made up of much smaller photos. Each tile - or tesserae - is replaced with a unique individual photo that matches in colour to the main photo.

A photo mosaic is a form of art where smaller photos (known as 'Tiles') are used in a combination to produce a larger photo. When up close to the photo mosaic you will be able to see the individual photos but when viewed from a distance you will the see overall photo.

How is a photo mosaic made?

A photo mosaic is made using a combination of state-of-the-art software, image enhancing and a keen eye for attention to detail. Here at Mosaic Photo we are actively involved in developing software to produce mosaics, this very powerful software is used by our expert team alongside their very advanced image processing skills to ensure we can produce an incredibly high quality photo mosaic.

A quick overview

Your main photo is converted into a grid, with the grid varying depending on the number of photos in the collection and the type of mosaic being produced.

Each cell of the grid is then analysed comparing each pixel to each photo in the collection. Once a potential match is found that photo is then assigned to the cell and we move onto the next cell. Once all are cells are filled in, we will then re-evaluate each cell determining if that photo is the best suited for that position.

Results can often vary greatly with smallest of changes and so our expert mosaic artists are able to optimise and enhance your photo collection for the best possible photo mosaic.

A technical explanation

The generation of a photo mosaic uses a tile collection and a set of fixed locations on a 2D grid and this may be likened to the problem of attaining an optimal distribution of limited resources; a problem that can be resolved with evolutionary computing.

The problem is to arrange a set of tiles in such a way that the resultant arrangement resembles the target image as close as possible, for this we can use a genetic algorithm.

The generation of a photo mosaic begins with a blank canvas that is equivalent in size to the target photo. The canvas is viewed as grid of K pixels wide and a height of L pixels. Each tile has a width of k pixels and a height of l pixels. Therefore the canvas can accommodate K/k = n tiles in each row and L/l = m tiles in each column.

The total number of tiles for the photo mosaic with then be n x m = C.

Cells are filled in sequential order from the top left of the grid to the bottom right corner of the grid. Figure 1 is a simple example and contains a total of 6 tiles in the mosaic.

mosaic generation fuzzy

The fitness of a generated photo mosaic is calculated as the sum of the pixels differences between the generated photo mosaic and the target photo.

mosaic formulation

In this formulation, target(i,j) is the pixel value on ith location on K width and jth location L height of the target image and likewise for individual(i,j) on the generated photo mosaic.

The gentic algorithm chromosome is a concatenation of C tiles in a single list. A chromosome is generated by placing tiles from the collection into each cell of the chromosome, initially randomly but a new best photo mosaic is identified in each evolutionary run based on the fitness value.

With photo mosaic problems the best fitness value remains unknown and this is because the value of the pixels in the generated photo mosaic will never be an exact duplicate of the target image. Below is a very basic example of a mosaic being made over a number of generations.

genetic programming example

Layered Mosaic Photo

Our layered mosaics are very unique and you won't find these anywhere else.

layered photo wedding photo

A layered mosaic photo works the exact same way as any other photo mosaic, however, once the mosaic is produced we will then carefully remove the background from your main photo and overlay the results onto the produced mosaic.

This then creates a final image where only the background is turned into a mosaic - this greatly emphasises the main focus of the photo.

We think these types of mosaic photos are perfect for Weddings.

Best uses for a photo mosaic

Photo mosaics have been increasing in popularity recently, in part because they are able to capture many memories in a single picture. Why have one photo on your wall when you can have all of them in a stunning and artistic mosaic.


A very popular choice for a mosaic photo is weddings. Capture the happy day in a unique and eye-catching way. We would highly recommend our layered mosaics for an even better result - for these will leave the happy couple untouched but turn the background into a mosaic.

Babies & Children

We have great success with baby mosaics, especially close up photos of babies. These work great in our classic mosaic.


Having worked with Sainsburys, Ambrosia, Ferrari and many other businesses, we can help you achieve your mosaic desires. A photo mosaic is an eye catching peice for an office or exphibition.

Top tips for the best mosaic

So what works best for the optimal photo mosaic?

Follow these few short suggestions and you will help our team here create you the perfect photo mosaic:

  • Try to select a photo a good quality photo. Although we do have great success with scenic photos, the best results tend to be with close up photos.
  • The more photos you can supply the better the mosaic results will be - and the less we will need to duplicate your photo collection.
  • Try to provide a high resolution image for the main photo - especially if ordering a layered photo mosaic. We do have success with images from Facebook too.

The number of tiles in a photo mosaic often varies depending on the detail required in the overall photo. Our experts will be able to decide what works best and quite often will send you more than one preview with a few variations in tile size and overall detail in the mosaic.

Ready to order your mosaic?