at your request ~ applying microbeads ~ tutorial

MarveLes Art StudiosBlogs, Mixing It Up 14 Comments

hi friends and blog readers ~

today’s post is by special request of rike… who recently wrote this comment in response to my watercolor cards, and my microbeading “frenzy!” she said: “no, i’m not really tired by your postcards, and paintings.  they are so beautiful and full of power!  can you please show us how you apply the microbeads?  I cannot find any of them here in germany.  that would be really great! 🙂 have a nice sunday!”

well, i’m happy to oblige! so here’s my best shot at a tutorial using those little darling beads ~ and i appreciate all of you who have emailed, asking me “how to.”   

first, let’s talk about glues.  as you will see in the first photo, below, i have quite a variety, don’t i?!  the selection in the craft world, is, well… endless. i recommend trying whatever you have on hand; from elmer’s glue to modpodge, to gel medium, & craft glues. there are two things to be said about glues {in my opinion}.

1.  they should dry clear {and i prefer a matte finish, not gloss}
2.  a thicker glue is preferable, as it doesn’t warp the paper; specifically watercolor paper, which is what i am working with.
3.  my favorite qualities of glue?  a thicker glitter glue, and bottles with a fine tip. i do also really like decopauge medium ~ matte finish, and i just apply it with a small, finer brush.

let’s talk about microbeads.  i found mine at michaels craft store here in great falls.  and i’ve only been able to find two brands there; one is the michael’s brand, called “recollections” and the other is a martha stewart brand. i prefer the recollections brand, myself. they seem to be a little more ‘weighty’ and most important… richer in color and shinier!!  🙂 would be interesting to see what hobby lobby carries, perhaps online, as we don’t have a store here.

can’t find microbeads?  well… any tiny kind of tiny seed bead and/or smaller types of beads will work really well, i think.  the thing about microbeads, is that they are solid; no holes in the middle, and do well in the glue ~ in other words, you cannot see the glue, only the beads… which is the whole point for my taste.  

various type of glitter glue, mod podge, elmers gel glue, tacky glue! 

i do {now} lay out a white towel {it doesn’t have to be white}, and a dedicated manilla folder, specifically used for glueing beads.  i bend up the upper and lower edges, and even the sides, just a bit.  don’t get crazy about it… hopefully you’ll see why, in the pictures, below, it’s kind of like a corral, or in other words… “organized chaos!”  i also keep a paint palette handy, where i squeeze a bit of mod podge medium into one of the wells, when i want to apply it with a brush:

and my brush?  hmm.  funny thing.  i forgot to clean this one, so guess what?  it’s a permanent “glue brush” now!  that’s okay.  it works… and i use it to push glue around to where i want it, rather than pour straight from a bottle.  
here’s one of my favorite glues, from art glitter.  i purchased this glue for using their super fine glitter, and applying it to clothing i had embellished.  it’s a great product, but it’s ridiculously expensive. but…what i really love about it is the tip, as I get a really fine line of glue, and can place it exactly where i want it.  and this is true for the martha stewart brand as well. it’s nice if the glue has “just the right” texture, so it isn’t so thick that i can’t squeeze it out easily {hand strength issues} and with some accuracy as well! 

here’s the fine line of glue i got using the art glitter brand of glue: 

i’m generous with the glue, but also very generous with the pouring of beads.  it helps to make a better bond, but since they are all a bit of an unruly bunch to deal with, it’s better to work with a large quantity to begin with. which also makes it easier to manipulate in getting them back into the original package, whether it’s a teaspoonful or a cupful!  and more importantly, because i want good coverage, this is not the time to be stingy with the beads.

sometimes i smudge the beads into the glue… sometimes i don’t!  this is the deal.  if you want a super fine, thin line… like the spine of the feathers, don’t smudge.  it will spread the glue and the beads out.  but if you want to… then go for it!

 glues dry quickly, so get your beads on quickly  {but slowly}. just not so fast, they fly everywhere… and get all the glue covered  well, as you pour the beads on top. if you wait too long to apply the beads, or don’t have enough glue down in the thinner spots, you may find that your beads will start to fall off, once the whole project is dried.  {yup ~ i know this for real}.  

once the beads are down, you probably only need to wait 10-30 seconds, and then, {very important}  gently slide the beads off the card, onto the manilla folder.  i then turn my card over, and tap gently from the back to remove any excess.  don’t tap too hard, or you can tap blobs of glue off too {yes I know this to be true!}:  

so there’s my pile of excess beads, the ones leftover, now laying on the folder.  time to get them back in the container… 

meanwhile, this is what the finished feather looks like, with that thinner line of now embellished, microbead embellishment now looks like:

to put the beads back, i now fold up the manilla file folder, encapsulating the microbeads inside, and carefully {and hopefully accurately} … tap them in the container.  {this was a little tricky holding it with my left hand while i took a picture with a heavy camera in my right hand!} but i think you get it, {hopefully right?}

 below, i used my “dedicated” brush to add “artisticly applied” glue onto this feathered card:

 pour the beads:

 tap gently and/or slide them off onto the folder:

the glue isn’t dry yet, {you can see some white spots, below}… but it will dry very quickly, so place your art in a “safe” place {preferrably not on the floor where you can roll over it with your chair!} lol  — how DO i know this?! yes, i did just that… {sigh}.  so it goes.

 here’s the martha stewart brand of glitter glue.  although it does tend to get a cloggy tip {therefore the pearl head pin comes in handy} and i love it for it’s precise application.  but I have noticed the glue has thickened up over time, and this does cause me a bit of difficulty in squeezing it out {hand strength issues}.

 i learned very quickly, {when the beads went bouncing everywhere}, that i needed to keep the chaos at a minimum, so the edge of the file folder helps to keep them trapped onto the folder’s surface.  any unruly ones that bounce over that folder’s edge, end up on the towel surface, trapped into the terry cloth of the towel.  and i’ll take care of them… {later!}

gathering up the wayward beauties that escaped onto the towel, can actually result in creating your own “custom” mix! and in my mix, i have glitter, and all kinds of colors in this “upscale” {lol} beautiful mixture of beads:

this is the only method i can think of, {short of shaking the towel outside and sparkling the lawn}, which is to gather up the towel, wrap into a loose kind of cylinder… and then shake the little darlings into a container…which happens to be a leftover aluminum food tray.  i can bend the lip of the tray in one of the corners, to make a spout, in order to pour them out and this works great.  i usually have to pour them onto the manilla folder, however.  i don’t have that accurate of an aim into that small little round opening of the container the beads originally come in, unless you buy them in the bulk sizes… and in that case, it’s much easier.

that’s the scoop!  and i do mean scoop… {especially if you spill them!}  so… i’ve learned it is better to STOP … and take a second or two to put that CAP back on the microbead container, when I am changing from color to color. I’ve needed to be mindful {and patient} of those tipsy little containers… because when I am not, they get knocked over!  
one last note, if you choose to apply different colors …  wait for the glue to DRY in between those color  choices.  otherwise you will have the colors mixing… which is also fine. just so ya know that is likely to happen.  and… sometimes it’s very appealing, too! 

what i really love about microbeads, is the texture, dimension and of course, the tiny shiny little bits they provide to a simple card.  and i have other larger works in progress… we shall see how they turn out, and i’ll show you more of my results.

thanks for reading.  for asking!  and always, for your encouragement!  i’m grateful.  blessing on your day!

Comments 14

  1. Love the tutorial. Thanks for sharing. I actually think I have one tube of these microbeads in a Martha glitter set that came my way….hmmm, time for some journal play I think! xox

  2. Thank you for the tutorial – they add so much to your watercolors. I'm currently playing with my watercolor pencils, but have yet to produce anything as beautiful as yours are. I'll keep trying though because I love the watercolor look. I'll put the microbeads on Marches list, as I've already spent my Michaels money for Feb! 🙂 Karen

  3. I like the micro beads…but now…if I could actually use watercolors to make anything as beautiful as yours…well….I'd think I died and went to heaven. You've got the talent for sure!


  4. First, I didn't know that Elmer's makes a gel glue. The fine glue tip and the thin paint brush explain a lot. And no holes in the beads, definitely a plus. Great timing as I'm making a run to Michael's this week. For/with the grand kiddies, don't ya know! lol A great tutorial, Les!

  5. Dear Leslie,
    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! Now, I know how to use and apply the beads. And now, I know for what I have to look for in the shops. 😀 When I will have found them, I will try this technique immidiatly.
    Greetings, Rike

  6. Great Tutorial!

    Question: How firmly does the glue hold onto the beads? will you see beads falling off after sometime or is this a permanent type of glue?

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