Part of the fun of making rolled paper beads is that you can start with almost any kind of paper and end up with a beautiful bead. Some kinds of paper work better than others, though, and some kinds of paper require different techniques to end up with the best possible paper beads. This guide will help you sort through your paper choices to make exactly the kind of paper beads you want to make.
Paper Beads From Magazines
This is the most common kind of paper to make paper beads from. That’s because it’s so plentiful–nearly every household has some old magazines sitting around–and needs to be recycled. Magazines can make beautiful beads, if you know how to choose the best pages. Understand that the edge of the page will be the most visible part of the bead, so you want a page with colors on the edge. You may need to trim away white borders around pages, or use full-page ads. You won’t be able to recognize specific pictures once your paper is rolled into a bead. You’re looking for colors rather than pictures.
To use magazine pages, open the magazine to the middle and remove the staples, separating the magazine into loose paper. Then cut your beads in strips running from one side to the other, across what was two pages. This gives you longer strips, which makes fatter beads. This is important because magazine pages tend to be very thin, so your beads will be very skinny without long strips.
Paper Beads From Newspapers
Newspapers, with their long lines of text, can make interesting black and white beads. The pages are very large, which is a plus. However, you’ll have to experiment with different methods of sealing your beads. Some sealants may cause the ink to run, because the ink used on newsprint tends to be impermanent.
Paper Beads From Old Books or Sheet Music
Old books or sheet music make interesting paper beads, particularly if you cut the strips to leave a wide part on the end, rather than narrowing all the way to a point. This allows the bead to show more of the source material. Dictionaries, in particular, are good for bead making. However, be aware that most books are too short to make long enough strips for good-sized beads, so you’ll have to glue multiple pages together before you cut them.
Paper Beads From Gift Wrap
Gift wrap can make stunning paper beads. It tends to be printed in gorgeous colors, with a repeating pattern, which is perfect for making beads. You may find gift wrap with sparkles or iridescent colors, which gives a bit of glitz to your beads. The best part about using gift wrap for making paper beads is that it comes on a long roll, enabling you to cut strips as long as you want. This gives you the possibility of experimenting with very fat, or even round beads.
The drawback to using gift wrap for paper beads is that it’s thin, slick paper, and it has a tendency to wrap too tightly, making it impossible to pull off of the wrapping stick. As you’re rolling a paper bead from gift wrap, check it frequently to make sure it can still slide on the stick. Unlike other kinds of paper, being loose at the beginning doesn’t ensure it will still be loose when you finish.
Paper Beads From Scrapbook Paper
There are two kinds of scrapbook paper. One is paper-weight, about the same as typing paper. This weight makes great paper beads. You have a wide variety of prints to choose from, and the uniform, fully-printed squares make cutting easy. Scrapbook paper is probably the easiest paper to use when first learning to make paper beads.
The other kind of scrapbook paper is cardstock-weight. This can also be good for paper beads. The thicker paper is a plus for making fatter beads, and it has the same benefits as the thinner scrapbook paper. However, it’s more difficult to roll and should probably be left until you have some experience with rolling beads.
Paper Beads From Your Own Paintings
This is where paper bead creativity really takes off. Start with blank paper–even typing paper will work–and paint it in whatever colors you want. Remember that you’re looking for colors rather than pictures, so swirl colors together in whatever pattern appeals to you. Let it dry, then roll it into beads that are uniquely you. This allows you to make beads in any color combination without having to try to find papers that match your vision.