Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Perler Beads: Tutorial on a New Hobby Part III

Time for part THREE of this awesome blog series: how to decide which colors to buy!

You may or may not have noticed this already, but there are a lot of bead colors available. 


Many, many colors, and this isn't even counting the ones that aren't available individually.

So how do you decide which ones to buy?

Well, as I said in part I, the following colors are available in a bucket:

Black, blush, brown, butterscotch, cheddar, clear, dark blue, dark green, grey, hot coral, kiwi lime, light blue, light brown, neon green, neon orange, neon pink, neon yellow, parrot green, pastel green, pastel lavender, pink, plum, purple, raspberry, red, tan, toothpaste, turquoise, white, yellow.

So if you bought a bucket, you already have those. If you didn't, never fear, they are all available in the 1000 count bags except the neon colors, which I don't use a whole lot anyway.

Let me take a minute to give a brief disclaimer before I continue with my recommendations. As you have probably noticed, I make video game sprites primarily. So the colors I'm going to suggest are good if you plan on making a lot of video game sprites, particularly from the SNES era of games.

Also, for the purposes of this list, I will be working in the order of bead colors pictured above and also listed here because I'm assuming you will be ordering off the Perler website anyway.


Don't bother with any of the striped beads right now; I haven't found a whole lot of use for them as of yet, though they are fun.


You will need black. LOTS of black. The vast majority of video game sprites use black, most often as an outline. When we started out, I bought a 22k bucket and sorted all the beads. The empty bucket then got commandeered for black beads. I usually have it at least half full of black beads at any given time, and if it drops below that I start getting an itch to place another order soon. Now, how much black you need will depend on how much you plan on beading, but I'd recommend getting at least 5-10 bags of black to start with.

White is also a very useful color that is present in the majority of video game sprites. You probably won't need quite as much of it as you will of black, but I'd say it would be good to get at least 2-3 bags of it initially.

Every other color, you will probably only need one bag initially, or can get by with what's in the bucket (if it's in the bucket, that is).


 Light Pink and Bubblegum are both colors I use occasionally when I make pink sprites. Pink and Raspberry I use less and Magenta I hardly use ever. Whether or not you need these colors depends mostly on what you want to make. If you have a bucket, you already have Pink and Raspberry, as well as Neon Pink, so you might only want to get a bag of Light Pink and call it good. If you didn't get a bucket, I'd suggest Light Pink, Bubblegum, and Raspberry as useful options.


Cranapple is a great dark red color that I use often. Red and Rust are also very useful. Blush and Hot Coral I use less frequently and can probably be skipped initially, though if you decide to make something with three shades of red, I really like shading cranapple to red to hot coral. (That reminds me, I'll have to do a post about colors that shade well together sometime.) Blush, Hot Coral, and Red are all in the bucket. For ordering purposes, I'd suggest Cranapple and Rust, as well as Red if you don't have the bucket.


Moving on, Peach is a good skin tone color, though I usually use Sand instead, so I don't go through it very fast. Pearl Light Pink and Pearl Coral are also not used very much in my experience. You can probably pass on all these safely.


Butterscotch and Orange are both useful to have; however, Butterscotch is in the bucket already. Orange is not, but Neon Orange makes an acceptable substitute if you really need it. I use Butterscotch a lot more often than Orange anyway, for what it's worth.


I use Creme sometimes, but not very often. Pastel Yellow and Yellow are both quite useful though. Pearl Yellow is not. Cheddar is awesome and I use it quite a lot, especially shading from Butterscotch. From this group of colors, Cheddar and Yellow are in the bucket; I'd recommend ordering Pastel Yellow on top of that and calling it good.


Prickly Pear is one of those colors I thought I'd use a lot, but I really don't. Kiwi Lime, Green, and Dark Green are my main go-to's for the green family. I hardly ever use Pearl Green or Pearl Light Blue. Pastel Green is good as a shade lighter than Kiwi Lime, but I honestly don't need it often. Light Green and Parrot Green are good for a more blue-green color and shade well into each other. Of this set, Dark Green, Kiwi Lime, Parrot Green, Pastel Green are in the bucket (as well as Neon Green). If you have the bucket, you probably only need Green to round it all out. Otherwise, I'd get Green and Dark Green at minimum, and either Kiwi Lime or Pastel Green as a third shade.


Moving on to the blues... Toothpaste, Pastel Blue, Light Blue, and Dark Blue are my main favorites. Turquoise is not as useful. I really like Blueberry Creme and Periwinkle, but honestly I don't use them as much as the first four. The bucket will provide Toothpaste, Light Blue, Dark Blue, and Turquoise. That will probably be enough initially, but if you want you can order Pastel Blue for another option. Otherwise, get Toothpaste, Light Blue, and Dark Blue, with Pastel Blue if you can.


Pastel Lavender and Purple are both must-haves. They both come in the bucket. Plum is not as useful, but it's also in the bucket anyway.


Sand, Tan, Light Brown, and Brown are all excellent and used quite frequently by me. Gold Metallic is less useful and not necessary initially. The bucket will provide Tan, Light Brown, and Brown, but you will definitely want to get some Sand on top of those three - it's my default lightest skin tone.


Clear is handy to have to connect loner beads to the rest of the sprite (say, if one bead is only connected to the sprite diagonally), or to add to the edges of particularly delicate areas to protect against them breaking off accidentally. I use Pearl Silver, Grey, and Dark Grey quite a bit as well. I highly recommend getting all four. Clear and Grey are both in the bucket.


Glow in the Dark Green is cool for specialty projects, but unless you have something specific in mind, you can probably pass. You can pass on the mixes too, for the most part; they are not really needed. I do get the Glitter Mix on occasion, because that's the easiest way to get Glitter beads (for extra color options when shading), but to be fair the only ones I really use much are Glitter Purple and Glitter Yellow (because there aren't a lot of color options in the purples or yellows).

Now, if you want someone else's opinion, look here. The recommendations above are only based off of my experience, and quite honestly, there are very few colors I hardly ever use - most of the pearl colors, most of the neon colors, half of the glitter colors, and all of the striped colors stay on my shelf and never get re-ordered, but I do use the remainder of my collection. I've tried to highlight the ones I use the most to make your initial ordering easier, but keep in mind that most people I know who start this hobby end up getting most of the available colors eventually.

As far as quantity, I personally try to keep 2-3 bags of each color on hand at any given time - more if it's a color I use a lot, like the entire brown family and gray family (including white and black). Also keep in mind what colors your local craft store stocks; if they never carry dark gray, you might want to order more of that one online so you don't get stuck mid-project if you run out and have to wait a week to get more shipped. But for starting out, you will probably be all right with 1 bag of each color (aside from white or black) initially, and as you do more projects you will get a feel for what colors you need more of and how often.

Please let me know if you have any questions so far - I'm more than happy to help!

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for doing this series! Let's say I wanted to do all the main character sprites from Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. What do you think I would need? How far would a big bucket go, and would I need additional squares?

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  2. All the Chrono Trigger main characters will take about 3k beads total, across about 30 colors. If you buy a bucket, you will need in addition dark gray, sand, light green, orange, cranapple, peach, creme, pastel yellow, green, pastel blue, and maybe periwinkle, and probably and additional bag of black just in case. Of the remaining colors, an 11k bucket should provide enough of each. I think they take 2 trays usually. As for Final Fantasy VI... there are a lot of characters, so it may take me a while to figure that part out.

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  3. Thank you so, so much for this blog entry. I've been scouring the internet, researching, researching, researching...And then this laid it out all so nicely!!

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  4. I agree this is a terrifically helpful resource! I'm wondering if you're aware of Perler Light Gray. Putting the pieces together, and I may be wrong in several of these details, they made it for a limited time under the number 80-15171, and it was more of a very light beige than a gray. Then they discontinued it and brought it back under the number 80-15181, and from the pictures, the new one looks more like a true light gray? I'm not positive. I recently bought a bag at Michaels, but the ones I have are the light beige color, so I use them for skin tones. I therefore presume it's the older light gray rather than the new, that they had sitting around in stock, but I can't verify this, as I threw the bag away before I knew to look at the number. Would be interested to know if you know anything about this/these color(s)!

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    1. You have it right, there is a new Perler Light Grey that is in between white and grey. If you order from the Perler website, that's the one you will get. Before that launched, there was a very limited run of a different shade of grey with the same name (as you described) that was more skin tone, but I never was able to get my hands on any before it disappeared again. If the one you have looks like it's more in the beige family, it's probably the first one, because the Perler Light Grey available now is definitely in the grey family of colors. It shades beautifully with white and grey and wouldn't look good as a skin tone. Hope that helps!

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  5. I just wanted to say thank you so very much for the information. My husband and I are getting back into making things with the Perler Beads. Is their anyway you can make a pdf of the colors listed. It would help us out so much and do you know of any stores online that either sells or gives away Perler patterns. I have been searching for two days now,getting ready to give up. Thanks for being so knowledgeable its nice to come upon this.Keep up the great work. Peggy Snyder

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    1. I'm not able to make a pdf of the colors listed, but check out www.perler.com to see all of them. They have come out with a few more since this blog post went up.

      For patterns, I get most of mine from www.spriters-resource.com - they have a huge database of sprites from video games. Google image searches work well too if you want to see what other people have made that isn't necessarily video game specific. I would not pay for Perler bead patterns as there is so much available online for free. You can also create your own using Microsoft Paint - zoom in as far as you can, and each pixel is a bead in your pattern. Hope this helps!

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