DIY Paper Bead Tutorial: Bicone Beads From Magazines & Catalogs
Updated: May 6
In my last outfit of the day post, I shared this DIY stretch bracelet stack made from teal Czech glass druk beads, teal crystal pearls, and paper beads. Today I'm going to show you how to make paper bicone beads for the top bracelet from magazine or catalog pages. I think this is the easiest shape of bead to make and great for us beginners.
Updated 5/6/23 with paper bead dip glaze tutorial link at end.
Let's get started!
Stage 1: Cutting the Paper Strips
--Magazine or catalog paper
--Ruler + X-acto knife + self-heating cutting mat OR ruler + pen + scissors
--Optional: Paper cutter
Step 1: Select your paper.
For my paper, I selected this image of coral from The Economist magazine. For your first beads, I recommend a nice, easy large-ish image that fills an entire rectangular area of the page. If you have a full page image, go for it, but you can use a moderate sized one like this.
Step 2: Cut the image from the paper into a rectangular shape.
I used my paper cutter for this step, but use whatever method you want to. My image is 7" wide and about 4.5" tall. (Of course I could choose to orient my image the other direction if I wanted to make fewer, longer strips.)
Before we start cutting, this drawing shows the basic idea of how to create your bicone strips. Bicone strips are isosceles triangles...this is the classic triangle where both sides come up perfectly evenly to the point at the top. For example, if you wanted a 1" long (measured hole to hole) bicone bead, you would have isosceles triangles that are 1" at the wide end. Those are the light blue triangles in the drawing. The way to get your triangles the right shape is to first cut off a right triangle that is half the width of your bicones...in this case, that would be 0.5". When you're done cutting your rectangular sheet of paper, you will have two of the small cone strips (shown below in the stripes) that are extra pieces plus a bunch of bicone strips (shown below in light blue).
There are many ways to cut your strips. You can basically replicate the drawing above using a ruler and pen (on the wrong side of the image) and then cut the strips out. That's what I did at first. But I found it was faster, plus I could see how the strip would look before I cut, lining up my paper using the ruler on the self-healing mat, placing my ruler where the drawn line would be, then cutting along the edge of the ruler with an X-acto knife.
For this example, I am making 1" long bicone beads so I'm creating triangles that are 1" at the base. But you can use any size you like. Just remember that the first right triangle strip will be half whatever length you decide on!
Step 3: Cut the first right triangle strip (the extra cone strip) to get the right angle set up on your sheet. Start at the corner at the lower left and line up your ruler to where it intersects 0.5" at the top. (On my cutting mat, this is easy because there are grid lines every 0.5" so I just go one grid line over.) This will create the first striped strip from the drawing above. Cut along the edge of the ruler with your X-acto knife. (Or draw this cut line on the backside of your paper to be cut later with scissors.)
Step 4: Now that we have the correct angle created, cut your first bicone strip. Connect your ruler from the point at the top left to where it intersects at 1" at the bottom of the paper. (On my mat, that's 2 grid lines.) This will create the first light blue strip in the drawing above. Cut along the ruler using your X-acto knife (or draw the line to cut later with scissors).
Step 5: Continue cutting your bicone strips, connecting from the point to 1" at the other end.
Now depending on the exact size of your paper, you might get one last perfect right triangle cone strip as in the drawing above or you might need to cut away some of the excess paper at the right to get the matching cone strip. If you aren't interesting in salvaging the extra strips to make a pair of cone beads, then you don't even need to worry about it.
Here are the 8 isosceles triangle bicone strips made from my coral magazine image. They are 1" at the wide end and about 4.5" long.
Here are my two extra right triangle cone strips cut from the edges of the image. They are 0.5" at the wide end and also about 4.5" long.
We have our strips so it's time for Stage 2!
Stage 2: Rolling & Gluing the Beads
--Isosceles triangle bicone paper strips
--Paper bead roller or a toothpick, bamboo skewer, etc. for rolling. I strongly recommend a paper bead roller! You can find ways to DIY your own, but I bought mine...I got ones from PaperBeadRollers.com. (Some of their items are also available on Amazon.) For typical, somewhat thin magazine and catalog pages, I recommend the red (3/32") or green (5/64") size. However, the blue (1/8") works fine with magazine/catalog covers or thicker magazines (like my alumni magazine). You can also fold the edge of your paper strip over to fit more securely in a larger roller if you need to.
--Glue. I used regular Elmer's glue and put together this fancy set up of glue in a paper spoon on top of a piece of cereal box with a toothpick for applying. Some people put glue into little needle-nosed bottles to apply, but the glue was so thick that it didn't work for me.
--Damp and dry paper towels for cleaning excess glue off your fingers. Trust me, you'll want this. I put the damp towel in a random plastic thing something was packaged in.
--An area for the rolled beads to dry. You can put toothpicks into a block of styrofoam, an old pie tin (as I show below), or a florist foam block. But for the bicone beads, I found that it wasn't really necessary. I just used this old plastic butter container lid to hold the beads while they dried. You don't actually use very much glue at all in making the beads and they don't stick to the plastic.
--Large piece of cardboard, paper bag, or whatever else you have on hand to protect your workspace and minimize clean up.
I recommend Kelly's beginner's video tutorial (under 9 minutes long) for rolling paper beads so you can see the rolling in action. But I am going to lay out the steps below for a couple reasons. (1) If you're like me, you might want to revisit the steps for your reference. And (2) I handle the gluing step just a bit differently so I want to show the photographs for that. I'm also going to add some extra commentary on using magazine/catalog paper vs. the thicker cardstock that Kelly demonstrates.
Step 1: Insert the wide end of the strip into the slit in the paper bead roller with the image side down.
Step 2: Twist the roller toward yourself to get the bead started. If your paper is too thin and pops out of the slit in the roller, fold a tiny bit of the end of the strip over to double thickness and try again.
Step 3: Guide the paper as you continue to twist the bead roller toward yourself and roll up the paper. You want to keep the strip centered as it rolls so that both tapered ends of the bead are the same. It doesn't have to be crazy exact, but do your best. If you find that the bead is getting lopsided, loosen up the paper to unroll it a bit and start rolling again with better alignment. This will quickly start to feel natural to you with a bit of practice.
Step 4: Keep rolling the bead with the strip centered. At this point you can see the bicone shape (thicker in the center) is starting to become apparent.
Step 5: Stop rolling when you get to about an inch from the end of the strip and prepare to add the glue.
This is where my technique differs from those I've seen other people use. Instead of moving the roller/bead from the right hand to the left to apply the glue, I keep it where it is in my right hand and apply the glue with the left hand. It's not difficult, so I recommend you try it out. But if you don't like it, you can easily follow one of the other methods (as in the video above).
Hold the paper in place on the roller using your right index finger, applying pressure from behind, with the loose end of the strip facing you.
Step 6: While continuing to hold the paper in place with your right index finger, use your left hand to apply a small amount of glue on the last 0.5-1" of the paper strip with a toothpick. You don't need a lot of glue and you don't need to be super neat about applying it.
Step 7: While holding the rolled strip in place with your right hand, start guiding the end of the strip upward with your left index finger.
Step 9: Roll the end of the paper up with your left finger while twisting the roller toward you. Your left finger guides the loose end of the paper and keeps it close to the rolled bead as you twist.
Step 10: When you've reached the end of the strip, keep your left index finger pressed against the rolled bead and twist the roller toward yourself a few times to smear the extra glue onto the bead. This works well with bicone beads because they have grooves in them from the angular edges of the rolled up paper and the extra glue just adheres to the grooves and helps hold things together. (Note: this is not the case for tube beads that are smooth; it just makes a mess on the surface!)
Step 11: Remove the bead from the paper bead roller. I just push the bead off with my right index finger.
It should pop right off. But if not, you can use your other hand to gently remove the bead.
Step 12: Let your bead dry. How long this takes depends on the glue you're using, but I found that mine were dry in 20-30 minutes. You can put the bead onto a drying rack or leave on the plastic to dry.
Once dry, your beads will look something like this! My beads are pretty skinny around with a flat-looking shape rather than a fat bicone shape because I used fairly short paper strips, about 4.5" long. If you used longer strips, your beads will be fatter.
This is a good time to mention that there are several pieces to consider when figuring out how big your beads will be. I would advise not to sweat the details on this because you're not going to be able to easily predict the exact size of your finished bead, experimentation will teach you a lot, and the sense of "ooh how is this going to turn out" is part of the fun of making paper beads. But there are some general concepts to keep in mind that I've summarized here.
One part that's a bit counter-intuitive is that the width of your strip determines the length of your bead (measured hole to hole) and the length of your strip determines the...I don't know what the term is, but the fatness or chunkiness of the bead. It's not complicated once you've thought it through...the longer the strip, the more layers of paper build up on the bead and the fatter it gets...but I have read about people finding this confusing, so I want to take a moment to let that sink it.
My strips were 1" at the wide end so my resulting beads are 1" long. With a 4.5" long strip, made of lightweight magazine paper, rolled on the smallish red (3/32") bead roller, my resulting beads are 3.5mm thick in the middle when measured with a calipers, which is indeed pretty skinny. I personally wanted skinny beads for the bracelet I had in mind, but if I had wanted fatter ones, I would have needed to use longer strips, thicker paper, and/or a larger bead roller.
I will note that some people have success making fatter beads by rolling multiple stripes of paper at a time, but I think it's best to master the basic technique before trying that. For a beginner like me, it's not as easy as it looks to keep all those layers lined up right.
I have two sizes here because I used some of the magazine image to make some 0.5" bicone beads as well as the 1" beads. They differ only in their length because the other aspects of the strips (strip length, paper weight, and bead roller size) were the same.
Stage 3: Glazing the Beads
You absolutely need to glaze your beads to toughen them up. There are a lot of different methods you can use, but I tried the Diamond Glaze technique shown by Kelly at Paper Bead Rollers, described below.
5/6/23 update: I can also recommend a dip glaze method for glazing a larger number of beads. See my tutorial here.
--Dry paper beads
--Judikins Diamond Glaze (which can be a bear to open; I have dedicated that green gripper thingy to it)
--Something to hold your glaze...I just tear a piece of cardboard from our recycling so I can just throw it out when I'm done instead of having to wash something, but a little paint dish works too
--Bamboo skewers and a floral foam or styrofoam block to hold them
--A flat-edge paintbrush and jar of water (not shown...oops)
Kelly has an under 10-minute video that shows the exact technique that I use. It's very straightforward...you're basically just painting the glaze onto the beads...so I'm not going to set out the steps here. Just watch the video and it will make sense! I do two coats of Diamond Glaze on my beads. I will admit that it's a kind of tedious process but I like how quickly the Diamond Glazed beads dry compared to other sealants and the final beads look great.
You can use your paper beads a million different ways, just like you would any other beads. I've been using mine to make bracelets using 0.5mm Stretch Magic and spacer beads, with a double knot reinforced with GS Hypo Cement. (There are a billion tutorials out there on Pinterest.) It didn't take long for me to settle on 7 1" bicone beads plus 6 or 7 5-6mm spacer beads to make a bracelet that is about 8" in circumference. I make typical beaded bracelets about 7.75" but go up a bit when using paper beads for two reasons. (1) The paper beads are a little stickier to the skin when putting them on, and (2) the longer beads make a bracelet that isn't as easily moldable to the shape of your hand when rolling the bracelet on and off. (Definitely roll the bracelet on and off if you don't want your elastic to break!)
I hope this tutorial has given you a place to start with making paper bicone beads. Leave a comment if you have any questions about making paper beads and I will give you my take on it as a fellow beginner and point you to other tutorials/information that I know about. I will be following up with additional paper bead posts in the future, so stay tuned!
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