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How to Choose Colors When Designing Beadwork  

I have a BA in art and have taken several formal classes on color. I wish I could say that all that I learned has made me an expert in choosing colors for beadwork, but I can’t.


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Here are a few things that have helped me get over the hurdle of choosing just the right beads along the way: Instinct Don’t overthink it. (This is a pretty good life lesson in general, eh?) I have to remind myself of this often. It sounds too simple, but go with the beads you loved when you were shopping and lay them out on your bead table. What attracted you then, will still attract you now. For me, a funny thing about instinct is that I am usually happy with the first colors I choose for a project. However, I often struggle when it comes to choose beads for alternate colorways. Look Down, Look Around What colors are you wearing? What color did you paint your wall? What color is your purse? Those are the colors that say “you,” so why shouldn’t your beadwork be the same? People often feel pressured to try new colors. It’s good to challenge your artistic choices sometimes and branch out of your comfort zone, but don’t feel like you have to. Stick to what you love. I’ve also found I spend less money when not pressuring myself to be different. Personally, I can see the color palette I'm drawn to by looking at the beads I've stocked in my shop.  Source Material When the creative juices just aren’t flowing, take a break and find some color combos that inspire you. Google pictures of the beach, open up a magazine, go shopping… inspiring source material is all around. Then, keep a journal for next time. Or create a color board on Pinterest for easy reference. Back when I was editor of Beadwork, I brought in a large bag of paint chips that I collected over the years during house projects. My intention was to use the creative color names to help name projects, but they also ended up being extremely useful when creating colorways. Beads are a Different Animal So now that your source material helped you narrow down the colors you want to use, can you simply match each color to your bead stash? No, sadly, not really. And this is because of the affect that bead finishes have on color. The finishes add irresistible depth, shine, and reflection, but they also add a new layer of complexity. The only way to work through this is by testing. A single bead doesn’t look as bold on its own as it did concentrated in the tube. So don’t be afraid to try and try again until you find the exact look you’re going for.

When creating two colorways of my Suspension Pendants, I choose blue and purple tones as the unifying colors. Turquoise and Dark Blue kits plus digital patterns.


Happy beading! Melinda 

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All jewelry and most images by Melinda Barta; some images by Lisa Jordan, courtesy Starman TrendSetters. 

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