thin paper is easiest to work with, like origami papers or pages from books, but you can use whatever you like. get creative and stamp, draw or paint on plain paper and turn them into beads. papers with really small details work well because when folded they make a beautiful pattern.
the more coats of glue, varnish, mod podge, or whatever you use to coat them, the more glassy and glossy they’ll look. if you aren’t using them in a context where they may get wet, you could just leave them unvarnished. totally up to you. as for me, i love anything shiny. and glittered. the ones above are unfinished and unglossed.
so what to do first? cut the paper into a long and skinny triangular strip. that’s the easiest shape to start with. but be bold and experiment with the shape of your papers…different cut shapes = different shaped beads. don’t be afraid to play around!
the easiest way to cut the paper is with a rotary paper cutter. of course you could go the heavy duty utility knife/cutting mat/ruler route, or a pair of scissors…whatever works best for you. you might even try quilling strips if you’re lazy. just try to make the cuts as smooth as possible. for a different look, tear the paper and roll it lengthwise for a long skinny bead.
get your glue on: white glue or decoupage glue typically just makes a total mess because it’s too thin. uhu glue sticks are alright, but if you try a uhu glue pen you’ll get good results because it has a narrow tip and you can more precisely direct the flow of the glue. same with tacky glue. use a good amount so it’s sticky enough to stay rolled up.
you can roll your beads either on a toothpick or onto a piece of wire, rolling from the wide side, as tightly as you can, ending with the teeny skinny side and make sure that that end is glued down well. you can get about a dozen beads on a foot long piece of wire, and they’ll come off pretty easily. don’t try getting all creative and using wooden skewers coated in vaseline or something, because the beads will stick to that.
now the creative part. at this point, you could paint the beads, add sparkle ink, glitter, or whatever you like., jacquard has really great sparkly pigments that can be put right onto the bead or added to utee (a thick embossing powder) and then the bead can be rolled in it and heated. or heat the utee in a pot and dip your beads in. use different finishes to make the beads look like metal, gems, or pearls, even glass.
if you don’t want to go the utee route, mod podge is always an excellent choice…and so many types of mod podge are available too, from matte to super glossy, to glittered…so many choices!
once you’re done varnishing, you can sand the edges a bit or sand the whole thing for another look altogether. the options are endless. make small beads that are more plain, or big ones to use as pendents, and make them into any shape. if you wanted to just layer them, you can cut out a form and go from there, or decoupage over something and drill a hole later. so many options!
don’t be afraid to try different things. this is an inexpensive and fun project, and anyone can do it…even little kids. for those of us that save every little scrap, this is perfect. hey, i wonder how fabric would turn out? hmmmm…
a couple of tips: use either a non-stick cookie sheet or some waxed paper so you don’t get glue and paper and gunk all over your table. if you use the utee, it can burn you so be careful with it. baby wipes are a great thing to have handy so you can get the glue and junk off of your fingers in between beads, as well as cooling off your burned fingers!