Beads provide a satisfying medium for making mosaics without the hassles of snipping tile or glass and dealing with sharp edges. Large or medium plastic beads offer an introductory way for children to learn about making mosaics, while you may prefer working with tiny beads such as seed beads. Plot your design in advance and work in small sections at a time for best results.
Planning the Design
While you could re-create even complex images with a bead mosaic, stick with images containing only a handful of colors at first, to make the task a bit easier. Cartoon-style illustrations or brightly colored paintings without tiny details are potential mosaic subjects, or you could draw your own design. Draw or print the image on paper in the actual size desired for the mosaic. While you could create the mosaic directly on paper, a sturdier surface such as cardboard, chipboard or wood holds up better over time. Select a smooth project surface so you can transfer the design to it with ease.
Things You'll Need
Markers, crayons or colored pencils
Project surface such as cardboard or wood
Artist's brush or small foam brush
Beads in assorted colors (mostly the same size)
Set the paper version of your design atop the project surface. Slide a piece of carbon paper between the paper and the project piece so the carbon-coated side faces down. If unsure which side is which, rub your fingernail over the top piece of paper. The carbon paper should leave a mark on the project piece if it rests carbon-side down. Tape the edges of the paper and carbon paper in place with painter's tape to help prevent them from slipping.
Trace the design atop the paper using a pencil. Go over all detail lines and areas where the color changes, as these indicate places where the bead color changes as well. Lift the carbon paper frequently to ensure the design is transferring onto the project piece, but be sure neither the top paper nor carbon paper slides out of position. Remove the paper and carbon paper after tracing.
Color in the design on the project piece using markers, crayons or colored pencils. Use a color that closely matches one of the bead colors you plan to use in the design; for instance, if you are using dark blue beads to represent dark green shaded areas on plant leaves, color those areas in with dark blue. There's no need to color the areas in completely; a hint of color is enough to let you know which bead color belongs in each area.
Apply a thin line of bead glue along the outline of one small area, representing one bead color. Line up individual beads atop the wet glue, touching one another. Use beads that best represent the color of the line beneath the glue. If using tiny beads such as seed beads, grab and position the beads with tweezers.
Continue applying glue and beads along outlines of the design, working in one small area at a time until all lines are beaded.
Squirt glue onto one of the areas requiring beads to fill in the design. Smooth the glue out with a foam brush or artist's brush in an area not much larger than an inch in diameter if working with small beads, otherwise the glue may dry before you put the beads on it. Fill in the area with beads of the appropriate color.
Fill in additional areas with glue and beads, one small area at a time, until the entire area is covered with beads. Allow the glue to dry for at least several hours, or as recommended on the glue packaging.
- If you wish to protect the work a bit, apply a spray-on polyurethane. Spray only in a well-ventilated area. Do not use a spray sealer over materials that may bleed color, otherwise the color may affect the finished bead design.
- Use large or visually interesting beads as focal points in your mosaic, such as eyes in a portrait or fish-shaped beads in an ocean scene.
Simple Kid-Friendly Bead Mosaics
Allow children to create free-form mosaics or draw a simple design in advance on cardboard or posterboard. As for the beads, use Mardi Gras beads still attached to the string. Snip the beaded necklaces to make long ropes of beads. Coat each design area of the posterboard with a craft glue, then apply the beads in a spiral shape to fill in various areas. Use a bead string of another color to create outlines. Snip the strands of beads into shorter lengths if filling in small areas with just a few beads.