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DIY Paper Beads: Magazine and Catalog Bicone Bead Examples - Part 1

In my bicone paper bead tutorial, I demonstrated the technique of cutting and rolling the beads using this photo of coral from a magazine because it was a neat rectangular image with a fairly regular pattern. It's obviously not an absolutely perfectly regular pattern like a piece of scrapbooking paper because (1) like other biological phenomena, the coral has grown organically, so there are differences across the image and (2) the bottom right corner shows the seawater and a couple of divers.

But it's regular enough that cutting the paper in this way...

...and rolling it produces fairly regular paper beads. A few of them have more of the deeper sea blue in them, but overall, they have a lot of similarity from bead to bead.

I strung 7 of the 1" wide bicone beads with 5mm aqua glass pearl beads to make an easy stretch bracelet. You may notice that I spaced out the beads with the deeper blue centers to split up the beads without that deeper blue; that design symmetry pleased me.

But as you start looking through your recycling bin for magazine and catalog pages to make into bicone paper beads, you will quickly see that most images are not as regular as the photo of the coral! What happens when these irregular images are made into beads? Let's work through a couple of examples!

Example 1

This is another neat rectangular image from The Economist magazine, this time a painting in lovely muted shades of yellow, brown, orange, and dark pink-red. Unlike our coral, which had the blue-green color scattered fairly evenly across the image, this one has various swathes of color. The top has the orange/pink/red shades, the center has a lot of the yellow, and the bottom is mostly brown. If I were to cut the strips sideways on this image, I would get some orange/pink/red strips, some mostly yellow strips, and then some brown strips. Depending on what you have in mind, that could be a great way to do it. But I wanted each strip to include all the colors, so I oriented the page this way to cut top to bottom.

I cut 1" bicone strips again with the cone strips left from the edges. (There was actually another image of this painting in the magazine that I was able to cut up too so I have a multitude of strips here.) Notice that the strips are yellow in the center and either (1) orange/pink/red at the tip and brown at the wide edge or (2) brown at the tip and orange/pink/red at the wide edge. This follows from how we cut a triangle strip one direction, then the other, then the first direction, then the other, etc. When your image has bands of color like this one, you will get those alternating colored strips.

It's critical to remember that when you roll up your strips into bicone beads, a lot of the paper isn't going to show! The area that will show is very roughly sketched in the drawing below--the tip of the strip and the long edges. How big that visible triangle at the tip is and how wide the visible areas along the edges are depends on how long and how wide your strip is. Short, squat bicone strips will show more of the paper and long, narrow bicone strips will show less of the paper. The upshot is that (1) the appearance of your strip in that middle white section below doesn't matter because it's going to be covered by other paper when it's rolled and (2) the appearance of the tip of your strip matters a lot.

So as you might have guessed, the alternative colors of the bicone strips have created finished beads that alternate between having brown ends and orange/red/pink centers and orange/red/pink ends and brown centers. All the beads have the yellow in the area between the center and each end. The other thing to note here is that the final beads have an overall striped look but the details of the original image are not visible at all. There are no mountains, buildings, rainbow, or mysterious beast visible on these beads.

What if you didn't like that brown area and didn't want it to appear so prominently on your beads? You could have cut the bottom 1" or so from the paper so that you had the orange/red/pink at the top and the yellow at the bottom. Then when you rolled the strips, you'd have alternating orange/red/pink centers and yellow centers. (Your bead would also be skinnier around, of course, because you reduced the length of the strips.)

Example 2

Let's look at another example where this point will be even more obvious: a large rectangular image of a painting from Audubon magazine. In contrast to the delicate color-washed look of the previous painting, this one has large-scale figures with more distinct blocks of color. Again I wanted to include all the colors in the strips so I oriented the page this way and cut the strips up and down; that way the dark color of the man's shirt would appear in all the strips.

When the strips are cut (again 1" bicones plus the two cone edge pieces), you can see the alternating sky blue and dark brown/black tips, and there are some strips from the center of the image that are mostly beige because they include the man's head and hand.

When rolled into beads, 3 different patterns appear from the strips. On the left are the beads made from the 4 strips that had sky blue points. In the center are the beads made from the 3 strips that had dark brown points. And on the right are the beads made from the 5 strips that are dominantly beige from the center of the painting.

Example 3

This page from an alumni magazine had four beach town photographs in a similar pastel color scheme arranged on it, so I cut around the edges of the images to create one rectangular sheet to make my strips from. You'll notice that unlike the first two examples that had bands of color across the sheet, this sheet has some strong color similarities in the pale blue, grey, beige, and white areas, but that the lower two photos have some green, aqua, and warm camel that do not appear anywhere else.

I chose to cut sideways to create more, shorter strips from this sheet. The strips cut from the top section are dominated by the light neutral colors while those from the bottom section have green and/or aqua in them.

These strips produced beads that are more dissimilar to each other than the strips from the first two examples. I split the finished beads into two groups: the smaller group at bottom left have a lot of green and warm beige to them and the larger group at top right have some green and beige but also the grey, white, and aqua colors.

I ended up using 7 of the beads from larger group plus simple round 6mm silver spacer beads to make this stretch bracelet. The beads are less alike than in the bracelet made from the coral image, but they coordinate nicely and bear a strong family resemblance. By being selective about which beads you include in your piece and how you arrange them, you can create a more symmetrical pattern as I did here (and is my default mode) or lean into the dissimilarity to create a more random or unbalanced effect.

Example 4

For our final example today, this is an illustration from The Economist that had the pale pink background I was looking for as the primary color of my beads as well as some darker pink in the flower petals that would work quite nicely. I wasn't entirely sure what to make of the white/blue map much would it show up in the beads? I knew I didn't want some of the beads to have a lot of the map section so I cut my strips vertically on this sheet so the blue would be dispersed across most of the beads.

This is how they turned out. Sorry for the blurry photo! But you can (I hope) see that most of the beads have a little bit of the blue-on-white map color showing but that the beads are primary pale pink with some darker pink.

I placed the beads with the most dark pink toward the front of the bracelet next to the silver butterfly bead and kept the plainer beads at the back. When I am wearing the bracelet, the little blue bits are so small and faint that I mostly can't even see them unless I look for them.


(1) Only the tip and edges of your triangular strip will be visible in the final bicone bead.

(2) The tip is the most visible part of the strip.

(3) Any large-scale pattern or image will be unrecognizable in the final bead.

(4) Think about how the orientation of the paper when cutting the strips will affect what colors are included in the bead.

(5) Trace amounts of an "off" color can show in the final bead but are likely to be mostly un-noticeable.

I really enjoy the process of selecting images and seeing how the strips roll up into have some control based on the colors in the image you pick and how you cut the strips, but the final result is always a bit of a surprise!

When I was first getting started with making paper beads, I searched the Internet high and low looking for examples of this kind, but there wasn't a lot out there...especially when using recycled paper with non-regular patterns rather than scrapbook paper. But here are a couple of links that may be of interest:

How to Choose a Patterned Paper for Your Paper Beads (scrapbook paper)

Paper Bead Samples (scrapbook paper)

I have been documenting my paper bead making so I can share more examples and helpful hints in future posts. Even if you never make a paper bead yourself, I hope you can enjoy seeing how a colorful piece of paper turns into various interesting beads!

Blogs I link up with are listed here.

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