Large Round Beads for Jewelry Making Projects – Polymer Clay Tips

Make Your Own Jewelry Beads

Best way to get large beads with an organic, natural and even exotic look… make them yourself with Fimo or Sculpey clay:

This whole blog thing has introduced me to all kinds of new people and friends. I love it how the questions and comments come in from all around the world. In order to help me understand who all of you are a bit better, I’ve been asking a few questions of my own.

Today’s post includes a back and forth email chat I had with Carolyn Reeves. So grab a cup of coffee if you like, and ‘listen’ in.

Carolyn: Desperately need instrux for forming large beads max. 20mm, shaping by hand (I like the “organic look” in beads)–see XO Gallery-Ruby Lane for reference; and color mixing. Thks, Carolyn

Cindy: Hi Carolyn, I don’t know what your “XO Gallery-Ruby Lane” reference is. Can you provide me with a URL?

Carolyn: Dear Cindy: So Sorry…Please try rubylane.com/shops/xogallery. I love her beads (not so much the “ethnic style” but the beads themselves. Thank you for your speedy reply.

Cindy: Those are beautiful beads from Ruby Lane [See photo above]. I like them too! So that I can best help you, please tell me at what stage of the learning process you are at.

Would you say that you already know about the basic principles of bead making with polymer clay?

What is your level of experience with jewelry making in general?

Is it that the large 20mm beads you have tried to shape by hand, did not turn out as planned?

What is it about your beads that you feel is not working out so well?

How will you be using the beads once you come up with a design that you like?

I ask these questions because I don’t want to make any assumptions about where you are at in the learning curve.

Carolyn: Dear Cindy: Well…I have 2 pkgs of Studio by Sculpey, an ink pad with “Vivid” colors by Clearsnap (which by the way I may give to my husband so I can purchase re-inker bottles to dye the clay instead; and a book: “Clay Techniques to ‘Dye’ for. The pkgs are not opened yet! Also, i purchased “Polymer Clay Treasures with Lisa Pavelka”.

I have 8 years beading experience and have sold many pieces: pearls, semi precious, sterling silver, etc. So actually, I am a complete newbie to polymer clay.

The problem I have always encountered has been that I can’t find great looking large (20mm beads). So I am hoping I can create them from polymer clay. My plan is to create semi matte beads with lots of vibrant and deep colors..very HOT and tropical for use in necklaces, bracelets and earrings. I plan to accent the large beads with ceramic spacers dipped in silver OR eventually make my own from PMC…a very modern Carmen Miranda-look.

Hope this gives you more information.
Thank you again, Carolyn

Cindy: What you are trying to do is very doable and sounds exciting! Making your own beads out of polymer clay is the perfect solution to getting exactly what you want.

Since you are able to create your own designer colors by mixing the clays as well as adding inks like you mentioned, you can make the beads to fit the jewelry you are creating. You can also make the beads any size or shape, with any sized holes that you wish. This gives you way more flexibility and creativity as a jewelry designer.

The large beads you pointed out on Ruby Lane can be created in polymer clay through a variety of different techniques. The Studio by Sculpey clay you have purchased has a more suede like finish than the Premo Sculpey clay I usually recommend. It may or may not get the look that you are craving, so you’ll probably have to experiment a little with the different brands as well.

As far as getting that organic look with round beads, you are right in thinking they should be rolled by hand. Practice rolling round beads, by placing a chunk of clay in your non-dominant hand. Keep that hand flat and still. Then use your dominant hand to move the ball of clay in small circles. First one way than the other. A video in my course shows you exactly how to roll a perfectly round bead by hand, if you don’t get what I mean.

To give the beads more texture and an organic feel, roll the shaped bead over very coarse sandpaper, bark or a rock. Painting and or antiquing the bead after it is baked will help accentuate the texture and make it look like stone, ceramic, metal or wood depending on the techniques used.

For a smooth but matte finish, you will need to properly sand your beads and only buff by hand. Using a power buffer will bring the beads to a high shine, but hand buffing will bring a rich low sheen that I think gives a professional and quality look and feel.

In order to save yourself a ton of time and money, I really would recommend that you purchase my Polymer Clay Basics Course for Bead Making (shameless self plug :).

The 39 videos demonstrate everything from choosing the right clay, which tools to purchase, baking instructions, sanding techniques, buffing and professional finishing. This multimedia course will help you get to making those Carmen Miranda beads *much* quicker than if you try to learn on your own with just books.

It was a pleasure chatting with you Carolyn. I hope these sculpey tips will be helpful in your quest to learn how to make large polymer clay beads.

Are there any others out there just like Carolyn who have already been making jewelry… and now would like to learn how to make your own beads too?

Can you see how great it would be to have the exact bead you need, when and where you want it? Large beads, organic, natural, exotic, colorful, vibrant. What kind of beads would you like to have, but are having trouble finding? Please do tell me your stories below in the comments section.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor


  1. Cindy Lietz, 04 September, 2008

    I’m really curious to find a bit more about all of you who visit and read this blog. Which of the following best describes you?

    1) Fairly new to polymer clay and/or bead making.

    2) New to polymer clay but have been making jewelry for a while now.

    3) I know a thing or two about polymer clay but am always open to learning more.

  2. Lois, 05 September, 2008

    Hi Cindy,
    Excellent information. I found you through a search for copper wire. I have never tried the clay but have been looking at the PMC clay. Just waiting for a good opportunity to buy a kiln. I think this sounds like a great mid winter project. Do you work at all in PMC?
    I’m going back to your blog to read a few more articles.
    Thanks for the info.
    Lois

  3. Cindy Lietz, 05 September, 2008

    Hi Lois, I haven’t worked in PMC (Precious Metal Clay) yet though it is something that intrigues me. The nice thing about polymer clay is that you don’t need a kiln and the materials are way less expensive to work in.

    Polymer clay may be a great place for you to start since many of the techniques can be transferred over to PMC. A lot of artists combine polymer clay and PMC, which is wonderful too!

  4. Lisa Potter, 13 October, 2011

    Can anyone suggest a good kiln to use with PMC. I don’t want to over buy more kiln than I need. Been looking on line, but too many. I feel like a bing commercial.

  5. Cindy Lietz, 28 October, 2011

    I’m sorry Lisa but I don’t work with PMC so I don’t have any kiln suggestions for you. Maybe someone else will pop in and give you a recommendation.

  6. Lois, 05 September, 2008

    Thanks Cindy,
    I didn’t know you didn’t need a kiln for the Polymer Clay. Maybe I will pick some up and play. lol. I will be back to your site. Good info.
    Lois

  7. Cindy Lietz, 05 September, 2008

    Yes Lois you can actually bake it in a toaster oven or your regular oven. To learn more about how to bake polymer clay, type ‘baking’ into the search box at the top of the blog. Or click on the ‘Baking Polymer Clay’ link beside my name.

  8. Michelle, 06 September, 2008

    I’ve been playing around with polymer clay for a few months now, mostly doing some sculpting, but am also interested in beading, though I have zero experience in it.

    I found your website doing a search for how to get rid/minimize fingerprints :)

    ~Michelle

  9. Cindy Lietz, 08 September, 2008

    I’m so glad you found this blog Michelle! Hopefully found the finger print info you needed but if not, click on the link beside my name for more info.

  10. Elizabeth, 28 December, 2008

    i love your beading its pretty im not as good as you are you a professional?

  11. Cindy Lietz, 28 December, 2008

    I’ve been working with the clay for awhile Elizabeth. With practice you will get good at it too! Thank you so much for your sweet comment!

  12. Paula, 31 January, 2009

    I am also trying to make large beads and am having a hell of a time. I am using styrofoam and then covering with clay but I think I have the wrong clay.I am trying Seth Savarick’s technique but it is not working. I am following his directions working with marble powder and the recipe is not getting me what it’s supposed to. I don’t think he has the right proportions down. And then when the marble mix is thick enough to dip the clay balls in, then getting them off the stick breaks the bead coating. Lots of trouble….I’m frustrated. Also, some clay is not taking the water color I am dabbing on, it’s not soaking in. Any pointers, would help. I am on my way to Tucson and will go to the Clay Party and hopefully get some info….

  13. Cindy Lietz, 01 February, 2009

    Paula, I am actually not familiar with Seth’s technique of using marble powder, so I’m afraid I can’t help you with that.

    I do have a technique for making large beads by covering tinfoil balls with regular polymer clay like Fimo or Premo. If you click the link by my name it will take you to that post.

    As far as water color sticking to your clay… The problem with water colors is that there isn’t much pigment or binders in them, I’m not surprised they won’t stick to the clay.

    Use acrylic paint or alcohol ink instead. If you want either of them to look more watery, water them down with Future Floor Finish that should get you the look you want.

    If you need more help, just ask.

  14. lynn watts, 21 February, 2009

    I would like to share how i colored some of my clay which was translucent. I had bought a lot of the gel pens when they came to be a hot item, i soon found i could not get some of them to write. I proceeded to disassemble them, of course keeping every part from the pens themselves. Any who i took the tube with the ink and blew into one end til some ink came out on the clay. If you mix by hand use gloves, or you can use your pasta machine. Be sure to clean the rollers when you change colors. They make some very pretty colors along the pastel range. The other parts of the pens i will use some where. I have a tri-bead roller and some other rollers and those colors make pretty beads. Hope some of you can use this idea, thanks for letting me share. Lynn watts

  15. Cindy Lietz, 22 February, 2009

    Lynn what a clever idea! How resourceful and non-wasteful you are to think of using the ink from your gel pens!!

    I have done some cool ‘transfers’ by drawing on paper with gel pens then laying face down on some clay and burnishing until the drawing transfered. So I was aware of the ink being compatible.

    But I never would have thought of removing ink from the pen and adding it to the clay. That is really cool! Thanks for sharing your idea!

  16. Phaedrakat, 05 May, 2010

    I love Lynn’s idea here with the Gel Pens! I have some that do not write very well, so taking them apart and repurposing the ink is the perfect way to make sure they don’t go to waste. Thanks!

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