Do you love pixel art? This technologically inspired type of work is a charming way to recreate life, square by square. If you’ve always wanted to produce your own portrait made of pixels, then you’ll want to try Perler beads. The material—also called fuse beads, Hama beads, or melty beads—mimics the look of pixels and is an easy material to master. Plus, it’s great for kids or adults.
To use, simply place the colorful beads on a specially made pegboard. When your design is complete, use a sheet of parchment paper and an iron to melt the beads into place. (It takes between 15 and 20 seconds to do this.) Once cool, the plastic beads are now one sturdy unit and can be displayed as art or used as coasters, keychains, and more.
Scroll down to learn more about Perler beads and for some design ideas to create your pixel art.
Learn how to create your own pixel art when you use Perler beads.
Why use Perler beads?
There are many reasons to try making your own Perler bead art. For one, pixel art provides a unique artistic challenge: how can you recreate an image without using lines? The exercise will force you to think about color, shape, and placement; you’ll likely be surprised by how detailed you can get in creating an image. Plus, you can go beyond two dimensions and piece together your melted shapes into 3D sculptures.
From a logistical standpoint, there is a low barrier to entry when it comes to working with Perler beads. The material is cheap and plentiful—it is sold in bulk—and is available in a variety of colors. These beads are also easy to find and are readily available at craft stores and on Amazon.
Another technical advantage is that you don’t need to glue or sew the beads in place. Because they melt, your basic iron will do just fine, and this also makes Perler beads a tidier activity than painting (provided you keep them all sorted).
Perler Bead Supplies
Your Perler bead supply list is a short one. Here is all you need to get started.
As mentioned before, Perler beads come in a variety of colors and are available in bulk packaging. Some packs have pre-sorted colors while others are mixed in large jars. From an organizational standpoint, it might be best to get the pre-sorted colors—especially if you have a design in mind or a pattern you’re planning on following.
Perler Bead Pegboard
A pegboard is how you will secure your design before it is ironed. Square pegboards are the most common and offer the greatest artistic freedom. But if you have a design in mind, look into getting pegboards that have pre-cut shapes (like hearts or flowers). That way, the hard part of getting a perfect shape is done for you.
If you’re a baker, you might already have parchment paper in your kitchen. It is used when you’re ready to fuse your beads. Place the parchment over your design and, based on the manufacturer’s instructions, hold the iron on top of the paper.
Remember, parchment paper is not the same as wax paper. Do not use wax paper for your Perler bead art.
Here’s another item you might have on hand. Grab your basic iron for when you want to harden your design. Just make sure the steam setting is turned off.
Tweezers aren’t a necessity, but they are a nice-to-have tool when it comes to creating designs with Perler beads. After all, the beads are so small, and adult-sized hands might fumble putting them on a pegboard. Tweezers are a big help! The Perler brand produces its own tweezers that are plastic so as to not puncture the beads.
Perler Bead Patterns and DIY Tutorials
The possibilities are endless with Perler beads. While this is exciting, it’s also daunting. Need some inspiration to get you started? Check out what other people have done or buy a pattern to make a design that you love. Etsy shop NekoNeko has a variety of incredible 3D patterns that will guide you to creating everything from Animal Crossing characters to fruit. But if you’d prefer to try it freestyle, check out helpful YouTube videos below.
Fruits 3D Pattern
Mushroom 3D Pattern
Lobster 3D Pattern
Deer 3D Pattern
Toucan 3D Pattern
DIY Fortune Cat 3D Pattern
Vintage Polaroid Camera 3D Pattern
DIY Minecraft Bee
10 Easy Food Keychains and Magnets
DIY 3D Fidget Cubes
20 Perler Bead Designs
Perler Bead Ideas
Beyond patterns and tutorials, get inspired by what others are sharing online.