Guide to Beads for beginners

Are you new to crafting jewelry? As a follow up to my jewelry making supplies for beginners, I have created this guide to beads for beginners, so that you can navigate that complicated world. (Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links)

 

Your full guide to buying beads for jewelry making crafts and DIY projects! This is geared toward helping beginners understand various bead shapes, materials, and types.

 

Beads come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and most importantly, materials. There are thousands of options to choose from, and it can get very overwhelming. 

 

When you are setting up your jewelry-making stash, you’ll probably be tempted to get ever single bead in the store. It’s the funnest part of supplies shopping (for me, at least), and knowing what you NEED will help you figure out where to start. Follow this guide to help you learn how to discern between bead types and materials, and find out which beads are great for a beginner!

 

Differentiating between beads for beginners:

 

 

 

 

  • Sizes: Beads are also measured in mm. Larger sizes such as 10-14mm beads make for great funky, trendy pieces. Smaller sizes such as 3-4mm are accents. 6-8mm beads are perfect for in-between. For starters, I’d get a small selection in 4,6, and 8mm in some of the styles listed below.

 

 

  • Colors – Of course, beads come in the largest variety of colors, tones, patterns, etc. These are often defined by the material, but not always. Even natural beads are often dyed or bleached. I’d recommend starting off with some neutrals, and then purchase colored beads on a per-project (or “what’s on sale”) basis. 

 

  • Materials: Beads come in a HUGE variety of materials, which I will outline below.

 

Different types of beads:

 

 

“Types of beads” generally refers to the materials that they are made out of, but are not exclusive to that.

 

Materials: cheap but quality beads will often come in glass and wood. Glass beads has a huge selection of effects, styles, and more -which there is no use in my going through now (it will just overwhelm you). If you want to learn more, browse a bead catalog, book, scour a website…  My favorites are simulated pearls. In my opinion, plastic or “acrylic” beads look like children’s play (with a few exceptions.) 

 


 

You can also get crystals, including Swarovski branded Austrian crystal for more upscale designs. These are a popular choice in higher end costume, and sterling silver jewelry. They simulate the sparkle of a high quality cut gem stone, but without the cost.

 

I love playing around with inexpensive gemstones  and pearls (though you can get high-end stones too.) The variety out there is massive! I tend to bargains hop with these, but you don’t really need to, as they have value.

 

Other materials include horn, shell, rubber, metal, and more.

 

Cabochons – these are un-drilled with a flat back, and can be glued, wire wrapped, or set.

 

Seed beads – are those tiny beads that come in a massive rainbow of colors. People literally make huge drawings by weaving seed beads. You’ll only need these if you plan to do woven beadwork (I don’t).

 

FocalsThese aren’t really beads – they are components, but are often sold alongside beads and made of the same materials. They are larger pieces that are meant to be the decorative focal point of your piece.

 

Spacers: spacer beads come in many forms and sizes, and are generally used to add a little dimension to a strung piece. For me, 3 and 4mm metal balls are standard.

 

 

So where should you start with beads for beginners?

 

 

Start off with a few styles in some basic colors, and sizes as listed above. Start with glass bead mixes and pearls,  and wood beads, plus the metal balls  if you plan to follow along with my crafts. You’ll want to buy beads more specifically for each project, but having some basic colors that can coordinate with others is a good place to start.

 

Look for sales at craft stores, Michaels, Amazon, eBay, and more! You can find lots for sale on eBay, destash supplies on Etsy, etc.

 

I’d highly recommend figuring out the style of jewelry you like. Scour Pinterest, and Etsy not to imitate but to see what pulls your eye. Start a small stash based on those beads. And finally, set yourself a budget, and use it smartly. Allot, say $50 (depending on how much you’re putting into your initial stash) and find how you can best assign it. 

 

And finally, keep in mind just how many beads you’ll be needing. Some pieces are built almost entirely of beads. Some use beads as accents. Don’t overdo it, but have a good selection handy.

 

 

Want to know where to buy beads? I shared my favorite places, what I like about each, and when I shop where right over here!

 

Any questions regarding beads for beginners? Feel free to comment below, and I will reply ASAP!

 

 

Your full guide to buying beads for jewelry making crafts and DIY projects! This is geared toward helping beginners understand various bead shapes, materials, and types.

 

25 Comments

  1. Pingback: Tips for Buying Beads for Your Jewelry Making

  2. Could you suggest some other online bead stores? In General Michael’s, Jo-Ann and other stores are pricey for my area.

  3. I have just started to do macrame and I need to know how to tell the size of the whole in the beads so they will fit the thread. Can you help me with that?

  4. what size beads would you recommend that I use for making memory wire bracelets??

    • Hi Alexandria – it depends how you want it to look. You can do cool ones with small seed beads or 3-4 mm beads. I would definitely recommend keeping the thickness of the bead no more than 6mm to allow it to lie comfortably on the wrist.

  5. Hi, I have a small problem. I get all these great ideas at 3am while on Pintrest about beading and other crafts. Now I have bags of toilet paper rolls, empty cereal boxes and a utility box from a hardware store full of beading supplies. I always want to make necklaces or bracelets, but by the time I get everything sorted, I’m tired. Any better cost efficient organization ideas?? Thanks in advance.

    • For recyclables: I limit myself to a small box. I actually threw out a whole box of recyclables I had saved for crafting when I moved recently and started from scratch. As far as beading supplies: I kept things in small resealable plastic bags sorted into larger shoe boxes by category (depending how many you have) –> gemstones and pearls in one box, glass beads in another, findings in one box, “specialty findings” such as headband hardware, unique components in another box… Baby shoe boxes are great for this! I bought a limited amount of bead storage containers and pill boxes and stored my most-used items in those, where I can keep them handy on my work surface and I only need to find the things that are unique to that piece.

  6. I have just started to do beading, and am having a problem starting the peyote stitch. Is there a simpler way to get started? Problems with the brick stitch, I’m just lost getting started. Help!!!!!!

    • Hi Aurora, I never got into that style of beading – I mainly do strands – so I can’t really help you there! Maybe you can search for tutorials on YouTube?

    • There is a quick start peyote card, it is useful to start! You can also use right angle weave and simply take it off when you have a sturdy few rows.
      Also when you string your firat 2 rows you can take an extra needle to hold the rows apart, (simply strand your beads and run the extra needle through the row you are not working on)…. You can send me a pm on FB if you need to, or email [email protected] and i will be happy to send you more info, i am working on tutorials as well. Its not easy to explain in words photos would be better.

  7. Hi There
    Do you know of any fair trade website to buy finding?

  8. I’m having trouble finding long bugle beads. All I find are short one or black and white.

  9. What do you suggest for beading beginers to use as a starting point, beading wiring,elastic beading cord,etc. I realize it depends on what’s big made. But, for example for a beginner what materials can be used for making necklaces that are a traction but not end up looking like they were made at a child’s craft party? Lol.

    • Hi Angela, that’s a great question. When I did a jewelry making workshop with twelve year olds I used tigertail beading cord, and then I closed it off for the children. It really depends on what you mean for beginners. Are they already learning how to fix on clasps? If so, you should definitely use the tigertail. If they can’t you can use elastic. The main thing that will keep it from looking sophisticated and not childish is bead choice. I would recommend gemstone beads – even imitation ones, such as 8mm round circles that are affordable and look great. You can also get glass beads, Swarovski crystals, or other crystal beads – just avoid bright and colorful plastic ones, wooden ones, or even odd assorted cheap glass beads that look less mature.

  10. Hi, Im. completely new at this but I have been reading and searching for the best way too get started. I’m wondering if you have ever considered making starter” boxes (for lack of a better word) and perhaps selling them? Every time I think I have it figured out I sew a new post on how to do it better. I’m overwhelmed with it all. I did beating when I was younger but it’s been years so I’m just looking for some real help!!! Thank you.

    • Hi Lorinda, That is a very clever idea and would definitely be up my alley! As of now, I don’t see it happening in the near future, as there are too many complications with sales tax, etc. But thanks for suggesting it! I do hope someday to create a course on it.

  11. I didn’t see the answer above. how do you know what size hole you will need and what size hole are actually in the bead itself? need a hole large enough for crochet thread to fit into and be able to feed the beads on. thanks

  12. Hello I’m new to jewelry making and my question is when or how do you decide to use wire, cord or thread for bracelets other than the stretch magic…

    • Hi Paula,
      It depends on the qualities you want. Do you want something stiff, like a bangle? Go for wire. Do you want something flexible but strong? Cord or tigertail beading wire are great. Thread is good for more intricate beaded projects.

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