I’ve posted the tutorial for custom beads below, however, I’ve added a few tips and information in this tutorial that I couldn’t fit into the video. I try to make my videos short and think that I leave a lot out.
The idea for a way to ’decorate’ a bead has been swimming around in my head for ages. I used a lot of products and a lot of trial and error to finally figure out the four best methods for making a bead that is both legible and wears through hand washing and normal wear. I found a video HERE that really opened my mind up to all of the other possibilities.
For the actual bead, I like to use wooden beads. These methods will also work on bubblegum or glass beads, but I feel like the whole design really STICKS to the wood. I soaked the glass beads in water for days after placing the design, and even with a resin coating, the design would sometimes start to come off. I feel like using a wood bead just assures you that the design will stay.
I used this waterslide paper from Amazon to print on, and I used CANVA to add the text. Canva is free unless you want all of the fancy upgrades. You can use the free version to make your text or add designs. To add text, Open Canva, Choose Letter or any template that is for 8.5×11” paper. For 10mm beads, font size 8 worked for me with most font choices. It’s best to have all of your designs though out beforehand so you don’t waste a whole piece of paper. After you open your template, type out the words or insert the photos that you want on your bead, and do a test print on regular typing paper. Hold your bead up next to the design to ensure that it will fit. The smaller the design/type, the easier it will be to add it to the bead. You want it to be legible also, so a perfect fit will make the entire process easier.
When you are ready to print on the waterslide paper, insert the paper and make sure the ’MIRROR’ option is clicked. I use an Epson EcoTank Inkjet, but any inkjet will work.
I prepped each bead by cleaning them lightly with an alcohol swab and using a bead reamer to make sure the holes were clean and uniform in size. Next, cut your text/design out and place it in a tiny dish of warm water. It doesn’t have to be warm, but for me, I find that the water saturates the paper faster and comes off easier. The directions state to leave the design in the water for a couple of minutes, but I only leave it for about 10-15 seconds. I also have found that using a straight pin (used for sewing and quilting) works perfectly to hold the bead in place while keeping my fingers off of it.
With a pair of your favorite tweezers, place the design on your bead. Get your fingers wet with the warm water and slowly start pressing the design down after you get it placed where you want. I find it easier to slowly slide the paper off than to remove the design and try to apply it. If the paper isn’t coming off, just work more water around the entire design until it slides off. Once the design is on the bead, you must be very patient and gently with the design and start ’molding’ it around the bead. I try to work from side to side to remove all of the water under the waterslide and ensure a permanent placement. This takes time and patience, but once you get the hang of it, you won’t want to stop making them 🙂
Before applying your topcoat, make sure that the bead is completely dry. It is best to let it set overnight, but it can be done immediately after design placement if you use a hair dryer or heat source.
Brite Tone has been one of my go to sealers for years. I’ve actually that little tub for years. It seems to be the less toxic of all of the sealers. It takes many coats to get a glossy seal, but it stands up to wear just as well as resin. If you decide to use the Brite Tone (Also called Cystalac), place the gloss in a small bowl and apply at least three coats, waiting several hours between coats. After the coats are dried, it is finished! You can polish it up with a little car wax if it is tacky at all, or if you want a little more sparkle.
I chose THIS UV resin, because it had good reviews and also because it came with a UV light. I have since found the UV lights in the fingernail aisle at Dollar Tree, and those work just as good and are bigger (for a buck). To use the UV resin, place a wee bit of foil all around the bottom of a bottle cap or tiny bowl and put a few drops of resin on the bead. Use a tiny brush to paint a small coat of resin all the way around the bead. I just set my entire pin over the bowl and it held the bead well. Place the bead under the light and turn it over each time for at least three times on each side.
I wait overnight and if the bead is even a tiny bit tacky, I add a tiny bit of car wax to a cloth and buff it up until it’s dry, shiny and perfect.
The Epoxy/resin method is both the most professional look and the most hazardous. Please read all of the warning and wear all of the required safety gear when using epoxy. This art resin is the only brand of epoxy that I have tried and not had a major reaction. Other brands have caused major damage to my lungs and severe skin reactions across my entire body. Please only use in a ventilated area, and please, never around children. When you use the epoxy, mix it per directions (Art Resin is 1:1) and place it on the bead with a brush. This can be a little thicker coat, but if you do not have a spinner/cup turner, I highly suggest only using a thin coat. To dry, I place my beads on a pool noodle on my spinner (as shown in video). For my epoxy beads I used two coats, which took two days because they needed all night to dry. No wax should be needed after using epoxy.
I’ve left the easiest method for last. I experimented with Krylon triple thick as the final bead coat and it actually worked amazingly well. As pictured above, I placed a bead on a pin and then put it on this redneck piece of pool noodle. The trick to using triple thick is to only do it in THIN coats. I just used short bursts when painting and then twisted it around with my redneck pool noodle. I let each coat sit about half an hour before applying another. Three coats was the magic number for me. The bead looks really nice and has stood up to water just as well as all of the others.
TIP: Throughout coating and spinning all of the beads, I would use the bead reamers after the top coat was dry. The UV and ART resin sometimes slides into the hole and if it’s not removed, it will dry inside, making the bead un-useable. After I did the final top cot of the bead I would not ream it, because I wanted a completely smooth and shiny bead.
THE FINAL RESULTS: The text on these beads looks a little pixelated, but it is an extreme close-up and they like top notch to the naked eye. The triple thick made a nice beautiful glaze, the Brite Tone worked beautifully and the Art Resin/Epoxy looked pretty but no matter what I did, I could not get all of the teeny bubbles out. I tried heat gun, thinner layers and using less, but everytime, I got bubbles. I don’t think I’ll use epoxy for the beads again. There is just too much prep and cure time involved in the epoxy method and honestly, I am always afraid my body is going to react horribly to it. The UV Resin looks really pretty and is a good option for that hardness and shine.
If I could only choose one method, I would choose the Krylon triple thick. It’s the most affordable, doesn’t require a spinner for curing all night and it LOOKS SO PRETTY!
When considering making your own beads, let your imagination go, and think about all of the ways you could hand paint it or use the bead as a tag for your handmade items with your business name, signature or logo. I would absolutely love to see anything that you made using these methods.
Truly, the only limit is your mind. I painted some little faces on beads and covered them with epoxy. They turned out so much cuter than I expected.
If you can imagine it, you can create it.