Paper Beads

How to make paper beads using our Digital Design Papers
  1. Cut the paper in a series of "v" shapes across the page making sure to allow at least 1/2" of width on the widest end and taper your smallest end to a point. Try not to make your bead wider than 1 1/2" for stability. You can use decorative edged scissors for a more interesting look.
  2. Using a water-soluble glue stick, cover the unprinted side of the paper with glue.
  3. Starting at the wide end, tightly roll the paper towards the narrow end, wrapping it around a plastic straw (for a large hole) a cotter pin or straight bobby pin (for a small hole), or a plastic knitting needle depending on the size of hole you want, to create a nice taper. Apply glue stick at the end to hold the point shut.


In a tall, resealable plastic pitcher or container, mix about 2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of white glue. Shake often to keep mixture suspended. If your mixture just barely drips when you dip your finger in it, then the proportions are correct.

Using a smooth aluminum or plastic tube, or short rod, slide the beads on, keeping them apart from each other with tape or plastic wrap. 3-4 beads per "stick" is about right. You can spray WD-40 very lightly on the rod to keep the beads from sticking to it. Dip the beads into the glue/water mixture about 6-8 times and let dry for at least 10 minutes between dips.

The paper color will become brighter and the color more saturated, and you want to feel a smooth bead with no ridges. The bead will feel very hard when it is dry. After it is fully dry, (allow at least 4 hours) dip the bead one last time into a water-based polyurethane or acrylic finish to seal in the surface.

Hints, tips and tricks:

Making your beads look more exotic and adding interest to them:

When making cylindrical beads (rather than tapered beads) try these treatments,

  • Using a small hand-held hole punch, punch random holes in the papers so that when rolled, the lower layers show through. When finished, the beads will not be completely symmetrical, but if you layer several different papers or choose a design that changes, the result will be very exciting.
  • After rolling the bead and before beginning the dipping process, wrap metallic or varigated thread around the bead. You need to use a thread that will lay fairly flat, so use a fine gauge. Tie small knots and work from one end to the other.

For tapered beads or cylindrical beads,

  • When mixing up the glue and water for dipping your beads, try adding pearlescent pigment additives (find them with the acrylic paints at art supply stores in powder form) in VERY small quantities, or a bit of powdered metallic eye shadow.

Using your beads in jewelry: Hints for stringing.

It may take a while to perfect your beadmaking skills, so that the bead's natural ends look good, and the hole size works well with your headpins or whatever you are using for stringing your beads, so here are a few tips on how to compensate for irregularities:

  • After dipping and drying, you can, with a sharp x-acto knife, slice your bead's end to make it flush. A very nice effect is to roll a long tapered bead (2" or so), then after dipping and drying, slice it in half and string it with a rondel or large square glass bead in the middle. Makes a nice centerpiece for a necklace or a bracelet.
  • If the hole in the end of your bead is irregular, you can use either bead caps, or, if your bead is a cylinder, then a small sequin makes a nice end as well. For a tapered bead, a very small (4mm) glass or metal bead can fit nicely in the hole and stabilize the bead.
  • Whether you do your final polyurethane dip in a gloss or matt finish, remember that your bead's stability will depend on the number of times you've dipped it in the glue mixture and on how tightly you've wound the paper. Make sure it is strong enough to withstand any structural demands you put on it in your design.
Copyright 2011
Myra Anson Nicholas