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

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.

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!

Paper Beads

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: Egg Shaped Paper Beads, Part 1

Tutorials and Resources:

Polymer Clay Beads

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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Read More From Feltmagnet

Tutorials and Resources:

Plastic Beads

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.

Tutorials and Resources:

Ceramic Beads

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

Tutorials and Resources:

Beaded Beads

If you do not have any experience with seed beads and/or bead weaving, 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 bead weaving projects. If you are already experienced with bead weaving, I highly encourage you to consider include 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

Tutorials and Resources:

Fused Glass Beads

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

Tutorials and Resources:

How to Add Details to Your Flameworked Beads | Delphi Glass

Lampwork Glass Beads

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)