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Handmade Beads: How to Make Beads Out of Clay, Paper, Plastic, and Glass - Supplies, Techniques, Tutorials, and More

Updated on September 22, 2016
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Rose is a full-time freelance writer who frequently writes about education, special education, DIY projects, food, Milwaukee, and more.

Even though I don't make a lot of beads, I love to use handmade beads in my creations.  The round blue spotted beads beads are from Jen of blueseraphim on Etsy.
Even though I don't make a lot of beads, I love to use handmade beads in my creations. The round blue spotted beads beads are from Jen of blueseraphim on Etsy. | Source

There are a wide range of materials and techniques out there for creating beads with everything from rolling paper to firing glass with a torch. I have covered basic information, supplies, tutorials, and other resources for the following types of beads:

  • Paper
  • Polymer clay
  • Plastic
  • Ceramic
  • Beaded
  • Fused glass
  • Lampwork glass

This is by no means a comprehensive guide for any particular type of bead making. Instead, I have provided an overview with enough resources to get up and running with the technique(s) that you choose. Specific tutorials may have slightly different and/or additional supplies. Happy creating!

Please note that all photos and tutorials are copyrighted. Tutorials are for personal use only unless indicated otherwise. if you're interested in selling your creations, please contact the tutorial authors directly. Thanks!

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These paper beads are made from origami paper.Deb uses a piece of Styrofoam from a package she received for her bead drying rack.Do you save small pieces of paper from other projects?  These work perfectly for paper beads.These beads are made from an old desktop calendar.
These paper beads are made from origami paper.
These paper beads are made from origami paper. | Source
Deb uses a piece of Styrofoam from a package she received for her bead drying rack.
Deb uses a piece of Styrofoam from a package she received for her bead drying rack. | Source
Do you save small pieces of paper from other projects?  These work perfectly for paper beads.
Do you save small pieces of paper from other projects? These work perfectly for paper beads. | Source
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These beads are made from an old desktop calendar.
These beads are made from an old desktop calendar. | Source

Paper beads are one of the easiest and cheapest kind of beads to make, which is why I'm starting with them. You most likely already have all of the supplies that you need on hand with the possible exception of glue. If you do need to purchase glue, a single bottle will be enough to create lots and lots of beads. It does take time and patience to roll beads tightly, but there isn't anything tricky about the process. Have fun experimenting with different lengths, widths, and shapes. If you want to switch up this technique, try using fabric instead of paper.

Supplies:

  • Paper. There are endless possibilities for paper. Anything that is thin enough to roll easily and will look good rolled up will work. Consider magazines, old books, old posters, wrapping paper, and scrapbook paper.
  • Toothpicks. Toothpicks are an easy, inexpensive option for threading your beads while they dry. Other thin wooden or metal sticks work well, too.
  • Large piece of Styrofoam for drying for your beads.
  • Pen/pencil and ruler or triangle template for creating/tracing your beads. If you are planning to create large quantities of beads, it's worth finding or developing a template.
  • Liquid paper glue such as Mod Podge.
  • Crystal Clear Glossy Enamel. To give your beads longevity, it's important to spray them when they're finished. Fingernail polish or other non-aerosol resins work well, too.

How to Make Paper Beads

How to: Egg Shaped Paper Beads, Part 1

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Of course I had to include some tutorials for polymer clay buttons, too.
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Of course I had to include some tutorials for polymer clay buttons, too.
Of course I had to include some tutorials for polymer clay buttons, too. | Source
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Polymer clay is readily available in a wide variety of colors in most craft stores. The most popular brands include Fimo, Sculpey, and Kato Polyclay. Many people prefer Fimo, as it is firmer than Sculpey, but all of these brands will produce high quality beads. Polymer clay bead designs can be as simple or as complex as you like. It is easy to get started with basic techniques and build up your skills from there.

Supplies:

  • Polymer clay.
  • A bead rack. You can purchase a bead baking rack but any heat safe, ceramic bowl will work.
  • Wires. Copper wire, knitting needles, toothpicks, and bamboo skewers all work well. It's best to use a wire or rod with a sharp point. Coat wire with cornstarch before putting your bead on to reduce sticking.
  • Rolling pin or any round object.
  • Some tutorials will require specialty supplies such as powered color pigments, alcohol ink, and more. As you develop your skills, you may want to use such inks and pigments to embellish and finish your beads.
  • Jewelry making supplies. If you are designing beads to make your own jewelry and do not already have jewelry supplies, this will be a necessary addition to your craft supplies at some point.
  • Oven. Any standard oven will work just fine for baking your beads.

Polymer Clay Zebra Bead

Polymer Clay Cane - No Background - Reducing Technique

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These rolled beads are made out of plastic bags!Washi paper or tape is a great option for decorating your plastic beads.
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These rolled beads are made out of plastic bags!
These rolled beads are made out of plastic bags! | Source
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Washi paper or tape is a great option for decorating your plastic beads.
Washi paper or tape is a great option for decorating your plastic beads. | Source

Two of the most popular plastics for creating beads are bottles and grocery bags. If you use plastic bottles, you will have to heat the plastic in order to mold it. Some tutorials have you heat it in the oven while others recommend using a heat gun.

Supplies:

  • Plastic bottles or plastic grocery bags. Smaller bottles that are made out of smooth, thin plastic will most likely be the easiest to cut.
  • Heat source. As mentioned above, most plastic bottle tutorials involve an oven or a heat gun.
  • (For baking tutorials) Baking sheet and aluminum foil.
  • An older pair of scissors.
  • Permanent markers. Decorate your plastic with a medium that will not wear off or smudge.
  • Mod Podge and straws or toothpicks. If you will be making plastic bag beads, Mod Podge is a great glue medium. Depending on your desired bead width, straws or toothpicks may be good options for wrapping your beads.

Plastic Bottle Beads

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The ceramic beads terminology refers to all fired clay products. The most common types of materials for making ceramic beads are earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain. Making ceramic beads requires the following processes: piercing, staining, glazing, and firing. As the process for making any ceramic bead includes kiln firing, I recommend taking a class or finding a friend with a kiln to practice the technique before buying expensive equipment. Additionally, many studios and individual kiln owners will rent out their kiln space. If you do not want the expense and/or do not have the space required for a personal kiln, this option will still allow you to create create ceramic beads at home.

Supplies:
In addition to the kiln, ceramic bead supplies include clay, dowels, shaping tools, and glazes and other decorating materials.

About Making Ceramic Beads

Making Ceramic Beads

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I have an entire article about beaded beads over here. If you do not have any experience with seed beads and/or beadweaving, this may seem like an overwhelming technique. While I would not recommend choosing beaded beads as a first seed bead project, there are some simple beads that you can learn to make after a few beadweaving projects. If you are already experienced with beadweaving, I highly encourage you to consider included your own beaded beads in your projects. There are so many possibilities for them. Check out the original article for additional patterns and inspiration.

Supplies:
Typically all you need to create beaded beads is thread, seed beads, and one or two beading needles. Most patterns include clear specifications for the required seed beads. Many beading books give recommendations for thread and needles.

How to Make a Beaded Bead

Beaded Bead Tutorial: How to Cover a Wooden Bead With Peyote Stitch 1/2

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The term fused glass describes glass that has been fired or heat-processed in a kiln anywhere from 593°C (1,099°F) to 816°C (1,501°F). Yep, this is another bead making technique that requires the use of a kiln.

The three temperature ranges within this process are slumping which occurs at the lower range temperatures 593–677°C (1099–1251°F), tack fusing which occurs from 677–732 °C (1251–1350 °F), and full fuse which occurs from 732–816°C (1350–1501°F). You can apply any and all of these techniques to a single piece to add relief, depth, and shape. To learn about the techniques required for fusing glass, including stacking, ramping, and soaking, check out this article.

Supplies:

  • Fusing glass
  • Fiber paper
  • Glass cutter
  • Prepared kiln shelf
  • Glass fusing kiln



Fused Glass Beads with Barbara Tilley

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How to Add Details to Your Flameworked Beads | Delphi Glass

Glass Bead Making: Flamework for Beginners

The process of lampworking beads consists of melting glass around a metal rod or mandrel by applying a direct flame with a temperature of approximately 800 degrees. There are a wide variety of beads shapes and sizes that you can make as well as textural elements, such as dots and swirls, that you can add to your designs. Additionally, you can create pieces with multiple colors of glass.

Lampwork glass bead making can be one of the most expensive bead techniques here because it involves a torch that must be used in a well ventilated area. This often involves renovating, renting, building, or purchasing a dedicated studio space. This process also requires the use of a kiln. While the shaping work is done with a torch, the annealing process is still completed in a kiln.

Supplies:

  • Glass rods
  • Bead release and bead reamer
  • Mandrel (available in varying widths)
  • Torch with glass-appropriate head
  • Lighter for the torch
  • Bead rake
  • Marver
  • Bead shaping tools including tweezers, pliers, knives, and graphite paddles
  • Fiber blanket and bowl of water (in case of emergencies)

© 2012 Rose Clearfield

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    • Monisha Jayesh profile image

      Monisha Jayesh 18 months ago from Kerala

      I liked making beaded beads and ceramic clay beads the most!!

      Wondering how you learnt such a lot!!

    • profile image

      Jacobb9205 2 years ago

      Amazing!

    • randomcreative profile image
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      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      That's a great tip, ThePelton! Thanks!

    • ThePelton profile image

      ThePelton 5 years ago from Martinsburg, WV USA

      You can also create small beads from wood using a hole saw and a drill press, available from a wood tool store. They will make a bead that is 1/8 of an inch (3mm) smaller than the width shown on the hole saw.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks so much Eileen! Have fun creating your beads. :)

    • Eileen Goodall profile image

      Eileen Goodall 5 years ago from Buckinghamshire, England

      What a stunning hub - so very, very clever and I just love everything (can you tell?) you certainly live up to your name - I have to find some time to try out all of these and I know my daughter would love the beaded beads bracelet.

    • randomcreative profile image
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      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks so much truthfornow! I'm sure that there are even more methods out there, but these are some of the most popular ones. You're right about the glass beads.

    • randomcreative profile image
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      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks Sarah! You'll have lots of ideas now. :)

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks creativelycc! I was familiar with most of these methods before I started my research but I didn't know that you could make beads out of plastic bottles. You learn something every day.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      You're welcome Rebecca! Definitely not.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks Pamela! It is amazing how many different types of jewelry people can make with these beads.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      You're welcome Daisy! I've been making jewelry for years, too, and honestly have only ever made my own beads a few times. Maybe all of my research will inspire me to do it more often.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Very nice hub, well researched and full of colorful and inspiring fun kinds of beads. Had no idea there were so many different kinds. Those glass beads are so pretty. Voted up.

    • SMD2012 profile image

      Sally Hayes 5 years ago

      What a cheerful. fun and inspiring hub! I'd never even thought about making my own beads, but these are just so lovely! Voted up, beautiful, useful and shared! - Sarah

    • creativelycc profile image

      Carrie L. Cronkite 5 years ago from Maine

      Very nice, I didn't realize that there are so many different types of beads and ones that could be easily made at home. This is wonderful, great hub!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks for this great collection of beading ideas. No bored kids THIS summer!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 5 years ago from United States

      This is a craters dream! Your hub is amazing using all those different types of materials to make such attractive jewelry. Up, awesome and beautiful!

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 5 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Rose,

      Thanks for publishing this very comprehensive article regarding the types of beads one can make.

      I've been creating jewelry items for a number of years, but I've only made polymer clay beads.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks RTalloni! That impulse to find a bead project is a good sign! Have fun with any future projects. :)

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Enjoyed seeing the variety of ways to make beads that you have highlighted here. Thanks for the links and videos to refer to. Makes me want to stop everything and create a project that "needs" beads. :) Hope to make good use of this resource in the future. Up, of course.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks Deb! It was a lot of work, but hopefully it will be worth it. You're welcome! Your pictures are great.

    • profile image

      storybeader 5 years ago

      what a great post! I can tell a lot of work went into this - good for you! Thanks for using my pics for your explanations of paper beads - I'm glad I could help. {:-D

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks so much Stephanie!

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 5 years ago from New Jersey

      This is a great and useful hub. The layout is beautiful and easy to follow. Thanks for offering such great projects for making beads. I will try my hand at this one day. Thanks for sharing.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks Kris! That's awesome that you've had fun making paper beads. Sometimes the simple processes are just as satisfying as the more complex ones.

      Thanks for sharing this hub!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      What a wonderful and very thorough hub! I learned how to make paper beads last summer and had a blast doing it. I'm not the most creative person so it was something easy and straightforward - and I had fun sharing it with my nieces. And I'm in awe of the other styles of bead making you've shared here.

      I'm glad someone posted this on Hub Hoppers or I would have missed it...and I'll share with my followers:)

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Marlene, that's awesome!

      Ebower, thanks! The detail that goes into a lot of lampwork glass beads is amazing.

      Thanks Brittany! That's great. Have so much fun creating. :)

    • brittanytodd profile image

      Brittany Kennedy 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

      This is such an amazing hub! I have had the tab open for three days waiting until I had time to comment (and I will probably keep it open for the rest of the month so I can make some of these beads!). I can't wait to start creating with the help of the videos, links and supply lists you've included in this hub! Excellent job! I will definitely vote up, share and click on the feedback. Great work!

    • Ebower profile image

      Erin Bower 5 years ago from Georgia

      I love all the various types of beads, but I haven't seen the unique-looking lampwork glass beads before. This is a terrific hub; I voted it up and useful. :)

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 5 years ago from Northern California, USA

      Excellent! I am so happy I ran across this hub. A friend of mine gave me a bracelet made with paper beads. It is so beautiful and I could not figure out how paper could be made into beads. Now that I know, the bracelet is even more valuable to me. Thank you for such thorough information on all of the different techniques for making beads.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks agusfanani!

      Cyndi, thanks! I can spend hours in a bead store, too. I'm sure that's a big surprise. :)

      Thanks Linda!!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Fantastic ideas and your directions are so easy to follow. The photos, tutorials, the entire hub is rock star status!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      I love the colors, beads and all the ideas in this hub! I can spend hours at the bead store. :)Votes and more!

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 5 years ago from Indonesia

      This is an awesome, inspiring hub. I like it very much.Vote up !

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks cloverleaf! I didn't know much about making beads out of plastic bottles, but it seems like it's a pretty popular technique. Enjoy the videos here!

    • cloverleaffarm profile image

      Healing Herbalist 5 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

      Great hub. I love polymer clay. I have used that for years. I never realized you could make beads from plastic bottles. I have bookmarked this so I can come back and watch all the videos.

      Voted up, useful and awesome!

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks so much Jenna! I'm so glad that this was inspirational.

    • Jenna Pope profile image

      Jenna Pope 5 years ago from Southern California

      I would vote this "up" a hundred times if they'd let me! I had no idea that you could make your own beads. This was really inspirational.