Glass Beads - A Break Down

Glass Beads - A Break Down

I have recently had an influx of new customers who have never used glass beads before and have many questions. It seems like a very intimidating system with a ton of information but I can assure you with some practice you can can master them.

I have been working with glass beads for the last 6+ years and I have learned a lot! There is going to be a lot of information included in this post, so feel free to take a break from absorbing!


I have had questions about how to make glass beads from scratch and the very first point I'd like to make is that I do not make my own glass beads. It should be no secret that I use Golden Paint Works' bead gels and we have since the beginning back when they were still Proceed. I have never tried to make my own glass beads from scratch because Golden does such a phenomenal job with this product and I'd rather not mess with that - I've got enough to think about with the 70+ mixes advertised on my site (many more in storage) without getting into production! If making your own glass bead gels from scratch is something you're interested in, I suggest you do you own research because I won't be much help!

1. What's the difference between Hollywood and Jewelry?

All Hollywood mixes are made with the same amount of mica and glitter (sometimes in different ratios but all adds up to the same) regardless of the color but the Jewelry mixes all vary in additives. That's why you will see that all larger quantities of Holllywoods cost the same whereas not all Jewelrys do.

2. Is primer necessary? 

Primer really depends on the application style you are choosing to go with. When you are applying the beads solid on the wall I would always 100% of the time recommend that you apply a layer of primer prior to any bead application. The glass bead primer gives the wall tooth which is necessary to keep the beads from sliding all over the place because they are just slippery spheres of glass that have been polished smooth. If you are going with a strie or stencil application the primer is not a necessary step as the strie is a more rustic look and the square footage of a stencil is so small you should be able to smooth any areas well in the time before it starts to set. 

3. Can I change the base color?

Yes! You are the master of the finish here and you can change any element you want including application style and base color. Changing the base color will change the overall look of the mix because the beads are clear and the main color is coming from the base color shining through and the additional sparkly elements we add for you.

4. Do I have to apply over a metallic base? 

No, you can apply over any acrylic paint of your choosing. The beads (and elements) are bringing 99% of the shine to the finished surface, so try not to feel limited by a color deck.

5. Do I have to apply with a trowel, and why do you recommend using a plastic one? 

No, but for ease of application in a full coverage situation I would recommend a trowel, much like the ones used for Venetian Plaster rather than a putty knife. It's easier on your wrists and you have more control over the placement and movement of the beads - plus, bigger surface area means you're working faster and your beads aren't drying out on you. The plastic trowel really helps on noise reduction and scratching of the beads. If you are more comfortable with metal, continue to use your stainless but a plastic trowel such as the 817/RS1 I stock is my favorite for bead application (so long as I'm able to get ahold of it).

6. Can I apply more than 1 step in a day? 

Depending on humidity and environment, yes *however* you should not apply wet paint to wet primer base or wet beads over wet paint. Smudging your primer base by painting too early can cause issue in coverage and putting wet beads over wet paint can cause the medium the beads are encompassed in to become tinted and not dry clear!

7. Can I mix my own glass beads and can I add any element to the glass beads?

Gel medium aside, you most definitely can. I'm not going to tell you I'm the only one capable of creating these beauties, however you need to make sure you don't drill the beads for too long because you can introduce unwanted air that can cause drying or troweling issues, though it usually dissipates after some time. Building on that, yes, you can add any of the elements I stock, including your own, to the beads mixes however I highly suggest that you stick to solvent resistant items if it's something you plan to make ahead of time. You will also want to pay attention to how thick the items you are adding in are, you don't want them to be thicker than the beads or you can get scratching issues as you try to pull and smooth them out. 

8. Can you reproduce a mix I've made in my own studio in a larger quantity? 

Yes, so long as you keep an accurate recipe of what you put in there whether you mixed with ounces or tablespoons - I can math those items larger!

9. Can I strie any mix you make? 

Yes, both Hollywood and Jewelry mixes can be stried however, depending on those elements the end look can be quite chunky which is a look all its own! Make sure you are only thinning your beads with glaze and not water as mixing water into beads can cause frosting on the final product. You may also find that you want more or less glaze in a certain mix over the other. I am happy to leave glaze and other elements on the side for you to mix in yourself!

10. Can you send mixes un-mixed (elements on the side)? 

Yes, just request it!

11. How do Jewelry mixes vary? 

Retreat for example only has glass flakes and glitters in it (this also includes Envy, D*or, Rapture, Magic Silver, Rose Gold, G*cci, etc) whereas Pyrite and Hematite have glass flakes, glitters and mica flakes (Black Topaz, Pristine, Paris, Black Magic, Dior with Black Mica, etc are also under this type of blend but each in different quantities and colors.) There are other mixes like King's Ransom, Aqua, Silver Sapphire, Candlelight, etc that are similar to Hollywoods in that they contain only glitter and mica flakes but they don't necessarily follow the same quantities as the Hollywoods making them Jewelry mixes. Some mixes like Zen, Chic, A Night To Remember, Dazzle, etc. only contain various glitters to be complete.

12. Is a mix I ordered before Sue left or Kathy retired going to look the same today as it did then? 

Yes, raw material changes aside, our recipes are all recorded and put away to be looked back on. We never alter what goes into a batch unless it has been previously agreed upon before shipping. 

13. What happened to decks??? 

I get this question a lot - decks were a great and affordable tool for you to show your clients and designers and if you were lucky enough to get a deck when we made them, don't lose it because I sadly have no plans to make more. These decks are hand made every step of the way and they take several hours over several days to complete (including dry time of course). First you have to mark out where the tapes go on your sheet of styrene. Next you tape off your squares, first along the length and then the width. Then you roll a primer coat made for plastic, because glass bead primer isn't really made to stick to plastic, and once that is dry you can then trowel on a coat of the glass bead primer. Once your primer layers are dry you paint the primer before troweling the beads on. After your beads have dried you pull the tape, first the width pieces and then the length pieces. Now that the tape has been pulled you will cut the individual cards out using a straight edge and a box cutter - be careful not to cut the wrong edge or you'll lose an entire row, trim where necessary. When every card has been cut out you will then label the back, punch a hole in the corner and line them up to be added to a keyring.

Repeat 10-13x depending on deck!

I have tried to outsource this process because I can't do everything on my own any more, but the cutting is difficult and if you get too close to the beads it can dull your knife or create an uneven edge.

Until I have found a solution there are 16 oz jars available on the website of every mix and I am considering adding an 8 oz option as well, but going smaller can be tricky when weighing ingredients precisely.


In the end, the great and complicated thing about all these products and why we mix and pour by hand rather than machine and make everything to order is that we (you and I) can manipulate nearly every detail to suit your client, you just have to tell me what to do!
This system is science after all these years, but there is still room for error and adjustment.
Just like everything else, it takes practice to learn the product/system and the only way you really can is by using it. 
Please let me know if you have any further questions!
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