DIY Jewelry Tutorial: How to Handpaint Beads to Make a Colorful Statement Necklace
Using your own handpainted beads is a quick way to make a stylish and bold statement necklace. Painting your own beads is easier than you think and a fun way to make a colorful necklace that expresses your own personal style.
This jewelry tutorial uses just basic paint supplies and some jewelry items that you can pick up at your local craft supply or big box store. This project is great for teens and adults, and can be adapted for younger children.
Read through all these directions before starting this project.
Basic Materials for Painting Beads
- Beads: You can use a variety of beads that graduate in size, or some that are all the same size, depending on the look you want for your necklace. The beads need not be round—they can be square or some other shape of your choice. As long as you use acrylic paint, your beads can be made of wood, plastic, or ceramic. You can even recycle beads from old pieces of jewelry and paint over them to give them new life!
- Acrylic paint: Acrylic paint is a good choice to paint your beads because it sticks to most surfaces and cleans up with just soap and water. I painted my beads in shades of purple, but you can use whatever combination of colors you want. This tutorial describes how to paint your beads in gradual shades of color. To do this, I used purple, white, a little bit of black, and a little bit of rose pink to paint my beads.
- Cotton Swabs (like Q-tips): These swabs are the perfect paint applicators for this project. Make sure the swabs you use are spun tightly and don't have a lot of loose fiber hanging off them. I liked using the swabs with the smaller heads, as they made a smaller dot on my beads.
Setting Up to Paint Your Beads
I took some time to create a convenient set up to paint and dry my beads. I found the beads hard to hold while painting and didn't know the best way to let them dry without messing up my paint.
After some thought, I created this painting and drying rack for my beads. I used a bunch of my double pointed knitting needles and stuck them into a large sheet of styrofoam. This arrangement worked well because I could place my beads on the tops of my knitting needles and spin the needles as needed as I painted. Then I could leave them to dry. Not everyone is going to have knitting needles to use for this process, but you might have some pointed sticks or skewers that you can use instead.
You should also lay out your beads and decide on the design for your necklace. This will help you figure out the colors you will use to paint your beads, and if you want to include other filler beads in your necklace (see "Adding Additional Beads to Your Necklace" below). I chose to paint some smaller beads to place in between my larger beads to continue the color change in my necklace.
Painting Your Beads for Your Necklace
To paint my beads, I used a gradual shade change in one continuous color. To begin, I added just a little black paint to my purple to make my darkest color. Then I used the purple paint right out of the tube for my next color. From then on, I added a little white paint to gently lighten my paint. Then I chose to add a little rose pink to turn my purple towards a light pink tone. The color spectrum I used is shown in Example 1.
For each of my beads, I used a dark shade, a medium shade, and a light shade to cover the surface. Then for the next bead in line, I used the medium shade from the previous bead as my darkest color, the lightest shade from the previous bead as my medium color, and then included the next lighter shade.
So for my largest center bead, I used Color 1, Color 2, and Color 3 from my color spectrum example. For the next two smaller beads on my necklace (on either side of my large bead), I used Color 2, Color 3, and Color 4. The next pairing of beads were painted with Color 3, Color 4, and Color 5. I continued this pattern to paint all my primary beads.
Applying the Paint to Your Beads
After mixing up the colors of paint you want to use, dip just the tip of the swab in your paint and press it against your bead to make a dot. As you lift up the swab from your bead, slightly twist your swab to create a round mark on your bead. You may want to practice your paint dots on a piece of paper to decide the amount of pressure to apply to get the size dot you want.
Randomly place your dots of color over each bead until the surface is completely covered with paint. I started with my darkest color, covering about 1/4 of each bead surface with dots. Then I used my medium color to cover about 1/2 the surface, overlapping some of my previous darker dots. Then to complete my bead, I filled in the unpainted spots with my lightest color. If needed, you can add a few more dots of your previous colors to get the balance of colors you want on each bead.
Adding Additional Beads to Your Necklace
These painted beads make a beautiful necklace design on their own, but you may want to include additional beads to create a statement necklace that is truly your own.
You can include metal, glass, or other store bought beads as accents in your design. These beads work particularly well as spacers on your necklace.
I chose to paint some smaller beads in solid colors to add to my necklace. I painted each of these smaller beads while I was painting my larger beads, using the middle tone from the bead next to it to continue my gradual color change on my necklace.
Designing and Stringing Your Necklace
There are many ways to string your necklace and you want to decide how you want to do this before painting your beads. You want to choose beads that have a large enough hole to fit on whatever you use to string them, or choose something to hang them on that will fit through the holes in your beads.
1. One of the easiest ways to string you beads is to use a length of cord, ribbon, or even a long shoelace. You can tie a knot in your cord between each bead to add a decorative detail to your necklace design. I've used these items for a number of my necklaces and just tied a bow in the back to keep it around my neck. Be careful not to choose a rough material as it may scratch and rub against your neck as you wear it.
2. You can also use a simple length of chain that you already have in your jewelry box to string your beads. To make this easier, choose a chain that has a small thin hook and clasp on it that you can slide your beads over. Otherwise, you will have to remove the clasp on your necklace to put your beads on, then put the clasp back on to finish your necklace.
3. I chose to use a combination of memory wire and chain to hang my beads. I cut a piece of memory wire that was a few inches longer than what I needed to hold my beads. Then using needle nose pliers, I bent the piece of memory wire into a deep U. The memory wire is a little bit hard to handle, but will stay in the shape you want once you bend it.
I strung my beads onto my U in the arrangement I wanted. Then I joined my memory wire U to a length of coordinating silver-tone chain by bending the end of the memory wire into a loop with my pliers to attach it to the end my chain. I cut the chain to the length I needed for my necklace, trimmed the end of my memory wire, and attached the other end to the chain using the same loop method.
Once my necklace was put together, I added some additional color by tying a bow to one side of my necklace. I took a length of thin coordinating ribbon and tied it in a bow around the chain section where my necklace met my memory wire. Once I liked the shape and placement of my bow, I sewed it in place using a needle and thread. I made a series of small stitches in the center knot that went through the link of my chain. These stitches hold the bow to the chain and I hope will keep it facing forward.
I like my bow detail, but this necklace also looks beautiful without it!
Copyright © 2015 by Donna Herron. All rights reserved.
Questions & Answers
I have used white artists acrylic paint on a bracelet that was originally ivory in color. I painted two coats, and now wonder what is the best way I can seal it to avoid wear. Is there an acrylic paint sealer?
Yes, Krylon makes a spray sealer called Clear Coat which works well with acrylic paint. I believe it comes in both glossy and matte finishes. Make sure to spray it in a well-ventilated area, preferably outside. I would first spray a light coat, then let it dry completely. You can add additional coats if needed.Helpful 2