For those who’ve known or seen me online for a while, you’ll know that I enjoy making sprite art with Perler Beads. You can see some of my art on my Pinterest or Instagram accounts. I decided to make a brief post sharing some of said art, while also talking a little about the basics of Perler art. So, let us begin.
WHAT ARE FUSE/FUSION BEADS?
Fusion beads are tiny plastic beads which are used to create a design on a pegboard and then said design is fused or melted together in order to display your work. There are various companies that make their own versions of these fusion beads, the most common brands are Perler, Hama (common outside of the US), and Melty Beads. The beads are placed individually onto some kind of pegboard as each bead has hole in the center which allows it to remain in place on the pegboard. There are generally three different sizes of beads:
- Standard – 5 millimeter diameter beads
- Mini-beads (Hama/Perler) – 2.5 millimeter diameter beads
- Giant/Mega (Hama/Perler) – 10 millimeter diameter beads – Generally aimed at children or beginners
What kind of image or pattern you will make depends on what kind of art you are interested in creating. I’m a fan of video game art, so I tend to create video game related bead art. But, if you are interested you can find patterns for all sorts of various different images on the internet. Finding a pattern that interests you will be a big motivation.
WHAT DO I NEED?
To get started, you will need a few key items:
- Beads – I mean, this seems obvious, but you will need beads in order to actually make your art. I prefer to purchase pre-sorted beads, but if you are really feeling daring there are discounts in buying mixed up multiple colored buckets of beads. You can pick up beads directly from the manufacturer, at Walmart, or at most craft stores. Mini-Beads I find are easiest to find in the US at Jo-Ann’s Fabric and Michaels.
TIP: Try to avoid mixing bead types. Melty and Perler beads each melt slightly differently, so putting them together can lead to a disaster when one type melts faster than the other creating issues for you.
- Tweezers – You can use some of the larger and standard beads by hand, but honestly – it becomes a lot easier to do when you are using tweezers. Honestly, the mini-beads are impossible to maneuver onto a board without tweezers. Perler one for their standard beads and their mini-beads that I find work incredibly well, and are relatively inexpensive.
- Pegboard – A lot of Perler kits will come with odd shaped or tiny boards. They are useful, when making the exact tiny template provided in the individual kits. If you want to make anything other than the very specific niche item presented in some of these kits, you’ll need a bigger board. Perler makes clear, interlocking pegboards which can be used individually or locked together to make larger projects. They also make similar, smaller versions for their mini-beads.
- Iron – Get yourself a nice iron that evenly irons surfaces. Even ironing is important to ensure the beads are evenly melted and do not come apart.
- Parchment Paper – Some people swear by wax paper or the fancy paper Perler personally makes, I like Parchment Paper. You can get it from your grocery store in the baking section. I think it works the best.
WHAT DO I DO?
Once you have all your supplies together, you need to pick out an image you want to create! You can look up different images online, or come up with a shape or design on your own. The possibilities are endless! While I’m sure there are those who will recommend going after something easy to start, I say go for something you like first and foremost. My first Perler stuff while not perfect, was based on sprites and games I liked. I got better and have been able to do more detailed work since then, but continuing to try out different things is important. If you are motivated, if you are excited, you’ll be able to do it. Just make sure you have all the right beads.
Once you’ve selected your design, you can get to work on individually placing the beads on the pegboard to make your design. For example:
Once you have the entire image laid out on the board, you can iron it. Do NOT place the iron directly onto the beads. That’s what the parchment paper is for. Place a sheet of the parchment paper between the iron and the beads. Move the iron evenly across the surface in a circular pattern until the beads are melted. Do NOT press down hard, especially with mini-beads, as you will flatten you art project. Also of note, do NOT fill your iron with water as the steam will ruin the beads.
Once the one side is ironed, carefully flip over your piece while holding onto the pegboard. Carefully slide the fused beads off the pegboard and iron the other side. Once that is done, get ready to flatten out your ironed artwork. I recommend placing it between heavy books.
Once the item is cooled, you can present your piece however you like! Some like to attach it to other items to create something new, such as my Doctor Who clock presented below.
Here are a few resources I find useful when doing fusion bead art.
- Perler’s YouTube Channel – While there are a lot of reviews of their products, they also include some fundamental how to videos helping with ironing techniques.
- Pixel Art Shop – Kyle McCoy does some intense fusion bead artwork (seriously, check his page for details some of it is amazing), but also has prepared a number of useful and interesting videos to help people learning about designing and preparing fuse bead art.
- Spriters Resource – Spriters Resource is a website which has whole sheets of video game sprites. This includes old school games and newer games.
I hope this proves to be a helpful resource for those interested in getting into creating your own fusion bead art. Feel free to comment below or share links to your own creations!
Header Image – Design: 8-Bit Link vs Dark Link Tic Tac Toe Game. Bead Type: Standard Beads (Board), Mini-Beads (Link/Dark Link). Crafter: Jennifer Newman (Board), Matthew Newman (Link/Dark Link)