Learn To Bead

At Land of Odds / Be Dazzled Beads – Beads, Jewelry Findings, and More


Posted by learntobead on April 30, 2013


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Color blending with beads is always challenging. It is not like paints, where you can merge and blend colors with ease. Beads are physical objects with set colors. You can’t mush them together, The transition from bead to bead in any piece, requires the eye/brain, when interacting and interpreting colors, to literally jump a cliff between the inevitable gaps of light between each bead. You want the viewer to have a satisfying, pleasurable journey as their eye/brain moves along that line of color-transitioning beads.

It is this transition from color to color that must be managed.

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The Monet’s Garden Bracelet by Kathleen Lynam
One Example of a Color Blending Strategy

The Monet’s Garden Bracelet is a fun project that students love. It is for students who have some familiarity with bead weaving. Kathleen had been experimenting with various strategies for blending colors along the length of a bracelet. At about the same time, Beadwork issued a call for project proposals to be used in a book about what to do with your Bead Stash — all those small quantities of lots of different colors you have left over. This was the perfect type of project for color blending.


This bracelet teaches a mathematical approach for organizing several colors within a color blending scheme. Also presented is a simple math formula for personalizing your bracelet — that is, varying the width and length to suit your needs. The techniques here are Square Stitch and Fringing.

In her pieces, Kathleen loves to draw on nature’s inspiration. She gathers flowers and plants and bring them into the bead shop to match their colors as closely as she can. For her Monet’s Garden Bracelet, she developed instructions for both a Spring Palette, as well as a Fall Palette. However, the instructions would be as useful for a monochromatic palette, such as whites to grays to black, or a Southwest palette, such as turquoise to corals to reds. Use your imagination — and use up your bead stash, in the process!

Color Blending

Your goal is to move from one color to the next, in a satisfying way. You have many different kinds of choices to make, when managing a transition like this.

After you have chosen which colors you want to use, you need to decide what the color will look like as a “base” color, and what the color might look like as a “blend” color. With paints, this task is much, much easier, than with beads. It is not easy to blend beads, not least of which is because it is difficult to find the right colors needed to merge a color from base to blend and back to the base of the next color.
In this project, our strategy is to change the proportions of the base color as we move from one row to the next, until the proportions of the base to the blend in the first row are in reverse to the proportions to the blend to the base in the last transitional row. [And then, the blend becomes the new base, etc. along the bracelet.]

Besides varying the proportions, other options of blending that you have as a jewelry artist:

– Varying the brightness and dullness as you move from base to blend, such as finding colors with either more black, more gray, or more white in them

– Graduating the length of your fringes from row to row to create a sense of layering

– Varying the lightness and darkness as you move from base to blend, such as going from red to maroon or from red to pink

When choosing a set of colors, these do not have to match perfectly, but they do need to be coordinated. It is difficult if you vary the finishes of the beads too much. For example, transparent and transparent AB would not work well together in our scheme. Nor would transparent AB and luster finishes. Yet transparent AB, silver-lined and metallic colors do work well together, but only when you allow one of the finishes to be predominant.

Kathleen:”This Monet’s Garden Bracelet project is about color blending, so I went all out in selecting 14 colors. I could have easily used fewer colors or more colors.
Using the color blending strategy presented for this project, with 14 colors, each color would require 4 rows. So, in a bracelet, the base of which consists of 58 rows, the maximum number of colors we could use would be 14 (that is, 58 divided by 4, with 2 extra rows). I decided that when I got to the end with my 14th color, I would blend it with the 1st color, and color an extra row at the beginning and at the end (thus, my two extra rows), both done in the 1st color. [An alternative for treating the end of the bracelet would be to transition back from color 14 to color 13, and finish off the rows.]

I use a formula discussed below in allocating the proportion of each color, row by row. I played with combinations of different finishes. I was not satisfied with plain transparent beads — not enough brightness or dimensionality. Using all one finish, such as an AB finish or luster finish, was interesting, but too monotonous. It didn’t look like “nature”. I settled on using primarily transparent luster-finish colors, with some transparent AB, transparent silver-lined and a couple of metallic and metallic iris finish colors. This mixing of finishes seemed better. These captured and reflected light in different ways, and drew the eye into the bead differently, thus adding considerable interest. Lastly, I used more matte finishes in my Fall palette, than in my Spring.

My transitions from color to color are relatively quick. Each transition from one color to the next takes up 2 rows. With 14 colors, thus 4 rows allocated for each, you would have 2 full color rows and 2 transitional color rows. However, I could have easily come up with a formula-strategy to make the transitions much slower. And I could have come up with a formula-strategy to transition 3 colors at a time, instead of 2.

For this project, I graduated my colors in a way that seeming pleasing to me. The main transition is from reds to purples to golds and topaz’s.

My flower stalks are two sizes. For the first and last stalks, four 11/0 seed beads long and then topped with an 8/0 and a 15/0 seed bead as the flower tips, about 3/8”. For the 2nd through 7th stalks, six 11/0 seed beads long and then topped with an 8/0 and a 15/0 seed bead as the flower tips, about 1/2″. Because I have used Japanese seed beads, the 2nd thru 7th stalks/tips are the same lengths. I tried a sample going longer (8 11/0 seed beads plus the 8/0 and 15/0 tip), but this wasn’t appealing to me. Also, I would not have gone much longer, because the stalks could more likely bend in half, instead of standing more firmly upright. It was important to use 3 color gradations in my flower stalk, rather than a single color. A sense of “movement” is one of the key beauties of this bracelet. As the bracelet is worn, and the fringe move, I want the viewer to have a sense of watching flowers blowing in the wind. To maximize this effect, I vary the colors from darkest near the base to lightest near the flower tip.

For the Fall Palette, I also vary the finishes from luster to color lined, to silver lined, to AB, so that they eye’s interaction with any glass bead will also vary. I want things to feel like that changing of nature during Fall.

I coordinated the colors of the 8/0 and 15/0 seed beads forming the flower and its tip. In many cases, I found colors that were very similar. In a couple of cases, to add a bit of variety and surprise, and I used colors with a little more contrast, yet in the same general color family. “

The pattern underlying Kathleen’s color blending formula:
Determine the color patterns for the non-transitional and the transitional rows of flower stalk tips (the fringe in her bracelet). This pattern is based on playing with the proportions of the two colors, as we transition between them.

In our instructions today, we use the following patterns:
S=Same or current color
N=Next new color

Non-Transitional Row:
S | S | S | S | S | S | S
First of two Transitional Rows:
S | N | S | N | S | N | S
Second of two Transitional Rows:
N | N | N | S | N | N | N

Color Blending:

It is difficult to blend colors, when using beads. Some people like to make a bead mix of all the beads and colors they want to blend. This “Random” approach to blending works sometimes, but in a random way. Similarly, “Alternating” colors or “Graduating Colors from light to dark, or bright to dull” along your piece, also do not work well.

Usually, to get a great color-blending design, you need to plan, pre-test, plan again, pre-test again, until you work out a more involved, complex patterning.

One way to choreograph things, is to play with color proportions. Go line by line, and begin with the ideal proportionate relationship between two colors. Gradually manipulate this down the line by anticipating the next ideal proportionate relationship between the next two colors that need to follow.


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