What Are the Different Types of Polymer Clay Beads?

Tara Barnett

There are many different types of polymer clay beads, and any small sculpture made of polymer clay can be turned into a bead by creating a hole through which string may pass. Some common types of polymer clay beads include plain beads, millefiori beads, and stamped beads. Polymer clay is a very flexible medium, and artists often create unique beads that do not conform to any predetermined type.

Polymer beads can be made by cutting a rope of clay into pieces and using a toothpick to make a hole.
Polymer beads can be made by cutting a rope of clay into pieces and using a toothpick to make a hole.

The most basic kinds of polymer clay beads involve rolling clay into a ball or other three-dimensional structure. These beads can be in any shape and are often strung in lines. By using more than one color of clay, these beads can become more interesting. It is also possible to create patterns on the surface of these beads using toothpicks or other textured items.

Polymer beads may be used in the creation of artisan jewelry.
Polymer beads may be used in the creation of artisan jewelry.

One of the most interesting types of beads is made by a unique technique called millefiori. This process involves rolling bars of clay together to create logs, which display colors in beautiful patterns when sliced apart. These slices can then be placed on the surface of the bead to create a pattern covering the entire bead. While millefiori is traditionally used to create floral patterns, it is possible to create many different images using this technique.

Polymer clay beads are often created as small sculptures that can be used as pendants in necklaces and other jewelry. Any small sculpture can become a bead, but those that are not too heavy are easier to incorporate into jewelry. Pendants can also be abstract and may not represent any particular object.

One interesting technique that can be used to create polymer clay beads involves incorporating wax into the soft design. When the beads are baked, the wax melts out and leaves hollow spaces. This can be used to create beads within beads or even to suspend beads around other beads. It is also possible to include materials other than clay in polymer clay beads, although sometimes these must be applied after the clay is hardened if the other materials are sensitive to heat.

The possibilities for polymer clay beads are limited primarily by the artist's skill and imagination. Most of the time, these beads differ in terms of their shape, color, and texture more than anything else. Shape can be modified by sculpting the clay, color can be changed by using different colors of clay together, and texture is modified by pressing on or otherwise marking the clay. By making changes along these three parameters, it is possible to make a nearly infinite number of different beads.

Beads can be made in almost any color, thanks to the variety of colors and mixing ability of polymer clay.
Beads can be made in almost any color, thanks to the variety of colors and mixing ability of polymer clay.

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Discussion Comments


@browncoat - I don't know, the figures might be better either way. Polymer clay is quite expensive. Making your own canes would be fine if you are really going to make quite a few, but if you only need them occasionally and you don't do anything else with the clay, it might not be worth having to buy all the different colors you'd need for even the most simple kind of cane.

High quality polymer clay can cost $5 or more per slab and that's only if you're buying the smallest available kind.

If you're making, for example, Fimo clay beads you're going to end up shelling out quite a lot, particularly if you're trying for complex patterns.

There's a reason so many people sell canes online. They are able to buy the clay in bulk and pass the savings on to the people who only need it in small amounts. I wouldn't discount it as an option if you are doing this as a hobby, or maybe as a small crafts person.


@KoiwiGal - It's not all that difficult to create a millefiori cane for yourself. There are plenty of tutorials to choose from online.

If you are only planning to use millefiori once or twice it might be worth getting a cane. But with all the shipping costs (polymer clay is heavy!) and the fact that you don't have full control over colors and shapes and so forth, I think it's really worth just learning how to do it yourself.

It might take some time to figure out how to do the more complex patterns, but I think it's almost definitely going to be worth it in the end, particularly financially.

And it will be much more satisfying to know that you know how to make polymer clay beads from scratch.


If you like the idea of using millefiori beads but you don't want to make them yourself, you can find unbaked logs online that incorporate all kinds of colors and patterns. They call them millefiori canes and they are often fairly cheap.

That way you can position the bead holes where ever you want, or you can use the same design to create different kinds of beads, rather than straight circles.

You can, for example, layer thin slices of a cane around a central shape in order to create a larger focus bead.

Or you might want to create something else with the cane. Polymer clay jewelry is so diverse, it really is up to you.

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