Sunday, May 18, 2014

Perler Beads: Tutorial on a New Hobby Part V

Time for another installment of how to make perler bead sprites! So now you know what supplies you need, how to get them for cheap(er), what colors of beads to order, and where to get sprites. Next comes the fun part: making cool stuff!

The basic steps of making a perler bead sprite are thus: take a pegboard. Put beads on the pegs to form a specific pattern. When finished putting beads on the board, carefully put parchment paper on top and iron until the beads are melted together. Remove from pegboard. Repeat parchment paper and ironing steps on the other side. Pile heavy things on the ironed sprite until cool. Remove parchment paper and find somewhere cool to display the piece, or do whatever you will with it.

I will talk about ironing another time, but first I want to talk about shading. Choosing what colors of beads to use can be tricky, and ultimately, those choices can make or break the finished product. The biggest thing I have learned from experience is never base your color choice solely off of what shows on the computer screen. Look at the whole sprite - notice what color it is as a whole, what the shades of colors are accomplishing, etc. That might affect your choices of color. For example, if you look closely at sprites that have "blonde" hair, you'll notice that it is actually more tan/brown:

But depending on how you want the finished sprite to look, you might choose to use a yellow shade with light brown, or two yellow shades. There's no right answer - but whatever you choose, the hair still needs to look distinct from the skin. So keep that in mind as you plan which colors to use for each. 

Maria and Draco (with Ultros and the 4t weight) from the opera in FFVI. Here I use creme, tan, and light brown for the hair.
A closer shot of Maria.
You can see in the original sprite there are two skin tone colors. Normally my go-to skin shading pattern is sand, tan, light brown - but in this instance, I knew that wouldn't work because I was using tan for the hair. So instead I used sand and peach for the skin. 

By the way, a good general rule of thumb is that before you decide your shading/the piece looks terrible, take a step back and look at it from a distance - several feet back if possible. The closeup of Maria doesn't really look that great, but the shot that's further away gives some needed distance. As a result, you can better appreciate the overall effect without getting as caught up in the details.

Another tip I'd recommend is making tester strips:

Top row: dark blue, light blue, pastel blue, toothpaste
Middle row: Glow in the dark blue, pearl light blue, turquoise, blueberry creme, periwinkle
Bottom row: hot coral, blush, pearl hot coral

These can be done for each individual project, or you can make general ones for reference. The idea is that they serve as a reference point for you to look at to see which colors look good together after being ironed. In the above picture, it shows two of my blue tester strips and one of my pink tester strips. Some people make these for individual projects, lining up the progression of shading so they can capture the general effect before spending hours placing all the beads. This is especially nice for larger projects. 

I've already mentioned my common shading pattern for skin tones, but I thought I'd give a few other common shading patterns I use as well, listed from dark to light:

Pink: (shading from purple: use plum; dark pink: use Magenta) - pink - bubble gum - glow in the dark pink - light pink - peach
Pink (orangy pink): Hot coral - pearl hot coral - blush
Red: Cranapple - red- hot coral
Orange: Gold metallic (for dark orange) or rust (for reddish brown) - butterscotch - cheddar 
Yellow: Glitter yellow - yellow - pastel yellow - creme - white
Green: Dark green - green - kiwi lime - prickly pear; 
Green (with more blue in it): Parrot green - light green
Blue: Dark blue - light blue - pastel blue - toothpaste
Blue-purple: Periwinkle - blueberry creme
Purple: Glitter purple - purple - lavender
Gray: Black, dark gray, pearl silver, light gray, white

My current color palette tester strips

I feel that I have gotten much better at judging color choices with experience, but even now I still find myself redoing parts of sprites every now and then to see if a different color combination will look better. Get second opinions if you aren't sure, and don't be afraid to undo some work if you aren't satisfied. It's worth it in the end to have it just right.

As far as the actual beading goes, find a system that works for you. Some people do one board at a time, or one color at a time, or one row at a time. For me, it depends a lot on how big the sprite is. For small ones, I'll do one color at a time, starting with the black outline, then moving on to the colors I am most sure about. For large sprites, I'll try to do all the black first, and then work on sections. Medium sprites get some weird hybrid. For example, when I did Brachosaur (pictured below, I did all the black, then the purple/white underbelly parts one color at a time, then worked on the body in sections (neck, feet, tail, etc.). Do what works for you.

Hope that helps, and happy beading! 


  1. Do you still do commissions?

    1. We do! We have an etsy shop ( that has many listings to choose from, or you can request a custom order there. Thanks for stopping by!