Hand Painted Beads-They’re back in fashion

There are many kinds of beads, made out of many kinds of materials. But some of the first and earliest beads, were hand painted to give them colors and patterns. And, while there are now, automated machines that do the work for artisans, hand painted beads, are coming back in style.

A little history on beads:

The history of beads dates as far back as 40,000 years ago and have been made by every culture since then. Egyptians were making glass beads by 1365 B.C., and several thousand-year old glass factories in Lebanon are still in production. Evidence China has been making and exporting glass beads for centuries has been revealed in archaeology sites. Glass and Brass beads are found in burial sites of many cultures: Egyptian tombs, Roman catacombs, Saxon, African, and American Indian.

Around 1490, Venetians started to make beads from tubes of drawn glass; Egyptians may have used this process centuries before. With this procedure, a master glassmaker took a glob of molten glass from the furnace and formed a cylinder. After working the cylinder into the desired shape, he attached a rod to the cylinder. An assistant took the end of the rod and run down a long corridor before the glass cooled. The drawn glass tube was about one hundred and twenty meters long. The length of the tube and the amount of glass used determined the size of the beads. Once the tubes cooled, they were cut into meter long pieces. These pieces were cut into beads of various sizes. The cut beads were placed in a large metal drum containing lime, carbonate, sand, carbon, and water. While the metal drum turned, heat was applied to the outside causing the rough-cut edges to be smoothed. After the beads were smooth, they were cleaned and then placed in a sack of fermented bran and vigorously shaken to polish them. The monochrome glass beads of today are not much different from those made five hundred years ago.

Hand Painted Beads

There was a time when, hand painted beads, would cost you a small fortune. But, now, they have Amazon and several hundred bead companies, that sell them for more than a reasonable price. Part of the attractiveness of these beads, is due to the fact that, no two beads are exactly the same. Even if, the same artist is painting the same design on the beads. They are and always will be unique individually.

What kind of paint is used

Typically Acrylic or enamel paints are used. These are your every day, hobby paints. One isn’t any better than the other for use on painting beads. If you are painting on metal beads, one might also want to look into a Pantina Dye. These dyes are specially formulated for coloring metals, and give it an antique look.

If you are planning on painting your own beads, be sure to clean them first, as any oil or dust will make the paint crack and peel off of them. Rubbing alcohol works well to clean them. Then make sure they are good and dry.

It can be a bit tricky painting beads. Especially smaller, round beads. I suggest you get a piece of florist foam. You can find this at any MIchaels craft store, Walmart, and most anywhere you can buy craft supplies. I also suggest buying a package of wood skewers. These can be found in most of your larger grocery stores, and your large chain stores, like Fred Meyer, or Costco, or anywhere you buy food. They will hold the bead well on the pointed end and give you more freedom to spin and work with the bead. The other end will push into the florist foam easily for drying.

You can use a paint brush to paint your design with. On a small bead, a very thin lining brush would work best. If you are going to paint the entire bead, Q-tips work well, as you can dab the paint on, whereas a brush might leave brush strokes. However, the brush strokes can also be used as a background texture as well. It all depends on what you desire. After all beads are painted, be sure to spray a clear coat over them to protect the paint and keep it from chipping or peeling.

A trend that should last

I, for one, am very excited that the hand painted beads are coming back to fashion. They tend to look more elegant and feel a little more special, knowing that someone put all of their artistic love and labor into them. Not to mention, no one else will have ANYTHING like it! 🙂

I hope that some of you, will expand your horizons and give hand painting beads a try. It’s very rewarding, getting compliments on a piece of jewelry that you LITERALLY designed yourself. Or, maybe you’ll buy some that are already painted. Either way, it will enhance your wardrobe, whatever it may be, and you will be the only one that owns that particular piece of jewelry.

Have a beautiful day beaders!

Until next time!


Machele VanVoorhis


  1. Hi Machele,

    Thanks for your post.  I came across this site as I am trying to get Christmas presents organised for my wife (early for a change).  She is a fan of beads and wears them daily – they are usually crystal beads as she likes to out essential oils on them as well.  Which leads me to my question.  I am looking to get her something a little different this time but with the glass and acrylic paints I just wanted to check if essential oils might damage the paint at all?


    • Hi Paul.

      They actually make special beads for essential oils…There are lava beads, and diffuser beads,  You can find these on Etsy, Amazon, and most Internet Bead websites.  I highly suggest that you stick with the beads that are made for the oils.  There are many different ingredients in different oils, and some may cause erosion of paint and protective coating.  There is a large variety out there, so take a look around on the internet.  I’m sure you will find something that will suit your wife.  Good luck!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *