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Starting Out With Perler Bead Crafts
What Are Perler Beads
The idea of fuse beads or Perler beads is a pretty cool one. With these little plastic pieces you can create some interesting works of art. Some people make pieces that are the size of the average kitchen table while others, like myself, make smaller easier to manage pieces based on videogames such as Mario and +Sonic and many others.
Where to Start
Part of the challenge when starting out in Perler beads is picking something to start with. The photo above is the mushroom from Super Mario Brothers, a popular Nintendo videogame franchise. The mushrooms above are not exact replicas though they get the point across, they are close enough to be recognizable.
Picking Something Simple
These mushrooms use a basic set of colors, readily available at most hobby and craft stores near you or on Ebay or similar site. Black and white are the most popular colors in these pieces with either red or green being the second most popular (orangish is used on one of the Mushrooms for variety sake).
There are 210 to beads in each mushroom above, which breaks down as such:
Orange Mushroom (210 beads total):
60 black beads
32 white beads
63 red beads
Green Mushroom (210 beads total):
60 black beads
63 green beads
87 white beads
Large Red Mushroom (224 beads total):
62 black beads
68 red beads
94 white beads
Cost Per Bead and How to Maximize Savings
The costs of the individual beads is something most people don't think about. There are a couple of popular methods to purchasing beads. 1,000 bead single color bags or up to 22,00 bead mixed buckets. Both have their charms, and costs.
1,000 bead bags are usually $2.99 each (not counting shipping or sales tax). That works out to about $0.00299 per bead, or 3.5 beads per penny. Pros here are that you don't have to sort, you can simply purchase the colors you need and start. The cons are that you may only need 20 to 50 of one particular color to complete a project you want to do, which leaves a lot of leftover beads of a single color.
The 22,000 bead mixed buckets cost as little as $0.000568181818 per bead, or 17.5 beads per penny (depending on sales and such that can bring the bucket down to $12.50). The pros here are you get a variety of colors to work with and can see new color combinations you might not have noticed. Cons are that you can't really start a project until you find out exactly what colors you have- that means sorting that bucket in some way.
Costs of a Simple Project
Depending on the costs you paid for the beads you can do these quite cheap.
210 bead pieces cost about $0.1193 to $0.6279 in beads.
224 bead pieces cost about $0.1272 to $0.6697 in beads.
As you can see, the costs for even these smaller pieces can jump drastically depending on what you pay for the beads. This is valuable for those looking to sell their projects at fairs, on Ebay or at comic-cons.
When 2D is Not Enough You Move to 3D
3D perler art is nothing new, people have been doing it for years now. What is new about it is the types of things people are creating with these little beads. Below is a Sega Dreamcast made out of Perler beads. It is 3D, as in it has six sides (top, bottom, left/right and front/back). It is rather small, about 3 inches by 3 inches square and about 1 inch tall, or so. This may seem like something that is incredibly easy to create but it is far from it.
The beads in the corners have to be alternated in such a manner so that they are "interlocking". This helps give stability to the final project (gluing the pieces together helps immensely). This would make a great item to have on the desk, turn into an ornament for a holiday, or Christmas, tree (it is quite lightweight) or just putting on a bookshelf as a conversation piece.
More complex items that can be created include cars (such as Ecto-1) or robots (like basic Transormers). The only thing holding back creating these items is the time to figure out the patterns and purchasing the beads required to create them.
This Sega Dreamcast has no removable parts and is complete as a stand alone item.
Getting Complex with 3D Perler Art
The Nintendo Game Boy is a slightly more complex creation. There has to be supports in the middle for the screen area, a properly sized cartridge slot (complete with removable cartridge) and a curved bottom right edge (adding to the complexity). What is great about creating Nintendo Game Boy's out of Perler beads is the number of colors that were released over the years. This gives greater freedom in individualizing your project from the countless copycats (it is hard to create a 100% original, and protect it, Perler project).
Nintendo has released a plethora of colored Game Boy units over the years (specifically the mid to late 90's). Red, Yellow, Clear, etc were all colors chosen for the seminal Nintendo portable.
Due to the simple nature of the Game Boy's graphics you can even replicate super simple games on the screen as you create your version of this great gift idea. Tetris could easily be replicated, or at least close to, on this little screen but something like Super Mario Land would be nearly impossible, unless you use the newer "mini" Hama (another brand of Perler beads out of the United Kingdom) to create the screen part. Mixing mini (2.5 millimeter) and regular (5 millimeter) beads is more complex than it sounds but can have rewarding results.