How to make beads with polymer clay?

Polymer clay is a versatile and fun material that can be used to make all kinds of crafts and jewelry. One of the most popular uses for polymer clay is to make beads. Beads made from polymer clay can be used to create necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and more. With just a few simple steps and tools, you can start making your own beautiful polymer clay beads right at home.

What You'll Need

  • Polymer clay in colors of your choice
  • Clay conditioning machine or pasta machine (optional)
  • Work surface like glass or tile
  • Tissue blades, craft knife, or razor
  • Ruler
  • Toothpick or skewer
  • Acrylic roller or brayer
  • Liquid polymer clay or glaze
  • Headpins, eye pins, crimp beads, clasps for jewelry findings
  • Oven for baking clay

Conditioning the Clay

Start by conditioning or softening your clay. This makes it smooth and pliable so it's easier to work with. To condition, knead it well with your hands until it becomes soft and elastic. If the clay is cold, let it sit at room temperature until it warms up. You can also run it through a clay conditioning machine or pasta machine to quickly soften it up. Conditioning prevents air bubbles that can form inside cured clay.

Shaping the Beads

Once your clay is conditioned, you're ready to shape it into beads. There are several techniques you can use:

Hand Rolling - Pinch off a piece of clay and roll it between your palms or fingers into a rounded bead shape. This takes practice to create uniform sizes and shapes.

Cut Out - On a smooth work surface, use a tissue blade or craft knife to cut thin slices from a block of clay. Cut slices can then be rolled into balls.

Mold - Press conditioned clay into a mold to easily create consistent bead shapes like spheres, cubes, discs, etc. Let the clay slightly overfill the mold so it's easy to remove.

Extruding - Use a clay extruder tool or pasta machine to push out long snakes of clay which can be cut into bead lengths.

How to make beads with polymer clay?

No matter which technique you use, try to maintain a uniform size and shape for consistency. Place finished beads on a baking sheet or glass work surface until ready to bake.

Adding Designs

To create more interesting polymer clay beads, impressions and designs can be added. Here are some ideas:

  • Press beads against a textured surface like lace or burlap to transfer the pattern.
  • Roll beads in glitter, beads, seeds, or crushed shells to coat the outside.
  • Use cutters, stamps, or carving tools to create patterns.
  • Layer contrasting colors of clay together, then slice beads to reveal the design.
  • Twist or braid together snakes of different colored clays.
  • Add dots, stripes, and squiggles using acrylic paint pens.

Let your creativity run wild when adding designs to your homemade clay beads!

Baking Polymer Clay Beads

Once your beads are formed, they'll need to be cured in the oven to harden them. Follow the baking instructions on your clay brand's packaging. The oven temperature and time can vary slightly. In general, 275Β°F for 15 minutes per 6mm of thickness is adequate for curing polymer clay beads.

To prevent beads from touching during baking, lay them out separately on a glass or ceramic baking sheet. Place the baking sheet on the center rack of your oven and bake according to package directions. Bigger beads or a full baking sheet will require longer baking time.

Let the polymer clay beads cool completely before handling. The clay will be hardened and retain its shape after proper curing in the oven.

Finishing Techniques

To give your finished polymer clay beads an extra touch of flair, you can add finishing details:

  • Buff the surface with a soft cloth or fine grit sandpaper for a smooth, glossy finish.
  • Brush on liquid polymer clay glaze or use a spray sealant to add shine and durability.
  • Rub a look of muted matte patina onto beads with acrylic paint diluted with water.
  • Use an acrylic roller or brayer with metallic foil transfer foil for accenting beads with a metal look.
  • Attach jewelry findings like headpins, eye pins, crimp beads, and clasps to create wearable bead jewelry.
  • String your beads onto cord or wire to make necklaces and bracelets.

Storing and Protecting Beads

To keep your handcrafted polymer clay beads in great condition, store them properly:

  • Keep unused clay sealed in plastic wrap or an airtight bag between projects.
  • For finished beads, place them inside resealable plastic bags or rigid containers.
  • Store beads in a cool, dry location away from direct heat or sunlight.

With proper care, polymer clay beads will provide years of enjoyment in jewelry making and other crafts. Allow beads to fully cure before use, keep them free of dust and dirt, and avoid exposure to moisture or humidity. Now that you know the basics of working with this versatile material, you can start making your own beautiful and unique polymer clay beads!

Back to blog