How to choose colours for your next jewellery-making project

Sometimes I find myself having some limited amount of spare time where the best way to spend it is, of course, beading. But not every time I have any projects ready that I can continue working on, or any particular project I would like to work on right now. I just want to start something new.

Let’s say I have a nice cabochon, a crystal, a pendant, a charm, anything I like and want to use. That’s a good start, so let’s choose the rest of beads to go with it. Oh, wait. I need to choose the right colours too. And at this point, one can become filled with frustration, and quit. I guess every person sometimes struggles with the same issue. Fortunately, there are some beading colour selection tips that can help if you find yourself lost in all those shiny hues, shades and tones.

First, decide how many colours you want to use for your project. Ask yourself these questions to influence your final decision:

  • What kind of jewellery do you want to create? Is it a necklace, a bracelet, or a pair of earrings?
  • For what occasion is this piece of jewellery made? Should it be made in versatile hues for every day casual wear, a bit crazy and colourful for occasional wear, or a shiny piece for some special event?
  • Will I need to purchase a nice piece of clothing that needs matching jewellery? Or do I already have some piece of clothing I can wear it with my project-to-be?
  • Have I already chosen a central cabochon to start with? What colours go with it?
  • Do I have enough beads to finish this project?

Those are only some helpful thoughts that can help guide your decisions. Depending upon how many answers you gathered up until now, you can then choose the number of colours to work with.  You may also want to check out our blog post about keeping up with new bead shapes.


For somebody, the ultimate go-to idea and easiest to work with. For me personally, there is no such thing as one colour. I can’t work with simply one colour, but I can imagine working with different tones, even when talking about black. It is so easy to get lost in today’s huge variety of beads, but it also provides us with great jewellery-making colour options to narrow things down (and still have so much to work with).

Combination of smooth/frosted/matte finish

Surprisingly simple, but varying matte or frosted finishes with smooth or shiny bead ones offers so much potential – that’s the great combo of smooth and frosted surface. It goes especially for black, but works miracles in almost every beading colour combination.

Tone on tone

You have one favourite colour, but so many different shades of beads? Technically, this option shouldn’t be in one colour section since you will be actually working on a monochromatic scale, but who cares, this is your chance to use lots of your favourite beads! However, be careful.  This can be a bit more complicated simply because not every green bead looks great with the other. If you feel helpless, keep it simple, use maximum of five different shades that go well with each other.


Shades of grey and more

If I am in a hurry trying to choose two colours for my project as quickly as I can, I usually go for one “neutral” and a distinctive colour. In other words, the first colour is usually black, white, or grey, the other one can be anything. Then it’s up to you how dominant your neutral colour will be. Are you going to use just a splash or will that colour prevail in your project?

We love metallic finishes

I don’t know how about you, but metallic finishes are my favourite. They are so easy to work with and they look amazing almost every time! Especially the classic “metals” – silver, gold, copper. Then you have brass, nickel, pewter… You can mix just them and you are set! You want to use your favourite colour for your project and want it to stand out? Add some beads in metallic silver or gold finishes and you are all set!


One, two, three?

When two is not enough, and yet you feel like three distinct colours are too much? Meet halfway! Find a complementary colour that is somewhere in between those two and create a visually pleasing transition from one colour to the other. I could write poems about this option!


Use colours of your central piece

Above we discussed choosing a cabochon or other (central focus) material to work with first. All you have to do then is to choose beads to go with it. You can use some of the tricks from above – add black, grey, silver or gold. Those usually work in 90% of cases. Nevertheless, you don’t have to JUST draw upon the colours dictated by your primary design components.

The ultimate hack

Still lost? Or you want to use more colours then just three. Even for such a crisis, I have a solution: it is called HSL model. I won’t bother you with the detailed information (that will require a whole separate blog post), but know that it can be very useful for you. It will help you decide what colour is complementary to your chosen colour. It will also show kinds of colour harmony – you can go with monochromatic, analogous, triadic, tetradic, … You can simply type into Google “interactive colour wheel” or “colour calculator” and you’re set! Choose your colour, then pick the harmony, and the app will show the results to you. Then, it is only up to YOU as to how you will mix it up 😊

Some links at the calculators:

I hope this post has been some help to you – helping you to spend less time pondering over the infinite colour combinations, and more time beading!

-Tereza Drábková
Potomac Bead Company Europe


Dealing with New Beads & Shapes

How a jewelry-designer can sensibly manage the growth of new jewelry-making supplies

It is now 2018, and 6 years have passed since the launch of the Twin Bead & SuperDuo. In that time, multi-hole beads (and other new single hole bead shapes) have become the rage in jewelry and bead weaving design around the world.  Some people LOVE this.  They enjoy playing with the latest and greatest jewelry-making supplies from around the world.

Others hate this trend, and longingly wish for the return of the 1980s and 1990’s when almost everything revolved around Miyuki Delicas and crystal bicones.  Probably much of this frustration is actually caused by the large stockpiles that many beaders and jewelry-designers have built with those two original product lines.

— What is new and what isn’t —
Although many new shapes have been recently developed from 2012 – 2018, a common misconception is that ALL of the shapes are new.  In many cases, manufacturers are going back to old bead molds from the 1920s-1960s and remaking classic shapes.  In effect, this is just a new trademarked name on an old product.  This is true of a variety of popular bead shapes like the O Bead, DiamonDuo/GemDuo, Candy bead, 2-Hole Lentil, and many other shapes.

Other bead shapes are new.  For example Potomac Bead Company has put a lot of effort into creating new molds and shapes for popular bead products like the IrisDuo, RounDuo, DiscDuo, AVA Bead, and RounTrio.  Other products like the CzechMates Crescent, QuadraTile, Arcos Par Puca, Spiky Button, and ZoliDuo are also all newly designed bead shapes.

….read this post to learn more about how Czech Beads are made.

“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change -”

— Change, and how to cope —
Whether we like it or not, the bead world will continue to grow and change over time.  New products will constantly be developed.  Some will be wildly successful… others will fade into oblivion.  Much of the success or failure of any new bead shape depends upon how bead and jewelry-designers use those latest beads in their designs.

So  how does this impact you?  To start, take a look at each new product and do the following:

1) Consider “Do I like this bead and does it give me ideas?”  If the answer is no, then you are probably safe to simply skip that bead and find another.  If you find a new bead design intriguing:

2) Buy a few flexible colors of new shapes.  Silver, gold, bronze, copper, black, white are good starting colors for any bead shape.  They will easily blend with other bead colors in your designs.  Buying a handful of colors gives you the opportunity to test how much you really like new shape without spending too much buying products you might not use later.  At least with Potomac Bead Company products, nothing will be eliminated right away once launched, so you will have some time to make decisions.
Flexible Colors

3) Make unique creations.  Demand for patterns, ideas, and inspiration is at a premium in the first 3-6 months after a new shape has been released.  By being someone who is experimenting with new shapes and colors before many other people, that can position your designs in the market at a time when few other patterns have yet been created.
— Finding resources and inspiration  —
Of course, perhaps you don’t like to design on your own, and would prefer to make beaded necklaces, bracelets, earrings, pendants, or rings once other people have created patterns.  If you are interested in specific new shapes, you will want to first subscribe to Potomac Bead Company’s YouTube channel.  Potomac Bead Company is most often the first company to come out with new free patterns… a variety of designers work at Potomac Bead Company’s headquarters, and even more around the world work with Potomac to create new inspiration.

You can also set up Google alerts by email to notify you when specific terms become available.  For example if you are interested in finding patterns for the new IrisDuo bead that Potomac Bead Company released in 2017, you can set up Google alerts to notify you when the terms “IrisDuo” “Bead” and “Pattern” are found together.  Pinterest boards, Potomac Bead Company’s private Facebook group, and the websites of your favorite designers are also other great places to check regularly to see what is new.

Picking colors (link)
Picking bead colors is always a popular topic discussed, and one worth noting when it comes to new bead shapes.  You may be interested in reading a blog from Potomac Bead Company’s Tereza on this topic on combining colors.

Generally, Potomac Bead Company will consistently launch new shapes with the same consistent popular color selection.  These will usually include:
*Aztec Gold, Vintage Copper, Copper, Aluminum Silver, Zinc Iris, Lava Red, Ancient Gold, Crystal Labrador Full, Crystal Capri Gold, Crystal Amber, Jet, Jet Bronze, Jet Hematite, Jet Red Luster, White, White Lila Luster, White Baby Blue Luster, White Teal Luster, and White Lila Vega Luster.
Starting Colors

Depending on the shape, additional colors and metallic finishes may also be launched at the start.  Other factories and bead producers do similar things, often launching with many of the same popular bead colors.

What are your favorite colors?  Do you try to maintain consistent colors across many different bead shapes in your collection?  That is always a good place to start…  as new patterns become available, having a few flexible colors in your pallet will help you to begin creating right away!  Over time, as more beading patterns become available for any new bead shape, you can later indulge by adding more varied colors to your own personal bead collection.  Keep in mind also that most new beads will launch with 20-40 colors… over the next year that number almost always grows as the bead shape gains traction in bead stores and bead sites around the world.

Of course, if a new bead does not sell well, sometimes that shape may maintain a very simple color selection, or could also be eliminated over time by the manufacturer.  If you ever wonder how popular shapes are, take a look at Potomac Bead Company’s Czech Beads pages to see how many colors you can find.  Generally the more colors you find, that indicates that the shape is more popular.  Other slower movers may have more limited selection, and you can always contact Potomac Bead Company to ask for more detailed forecasts for specific bead shapes.

Flexibility in Designs

Observing, testing, and experimenting.

As you design, bead, and make your own jewelry, there are three essential processes to remember that will help you to stay up-to-date on the latest beading trends and jewelry-making trends.

1) Observing: Watch what is happening in the beading world, particularly from bead industry leaders like Potomac Bead Company.  Subscribing to this blog will help to keep you up to date, and receiving Potomac Bead Company emails will help to keep you informed about what is new in the industry.  Of course, the 2-3x weekly free patterns on the YouTube channel will also help to feed your creative side ;).  Other resources around the web, magazines, blogs, and more will also help to keep you updated about what is happening in beading in 2018, 2019, and beyond.

2) Testing & Experiementing: Be willing to test assumptions and ideas about what works for you.  Whether you are just a hobbyist, or even sell your handmade beadingPendant creations, it is important to push your boundaries.  Not only is it fun to learn new skills and work with new products, but doing so is good for your health and creative side.  Experimentation is essential for the modern beader… jewelry making is always changing, so a willingness to test new ideas, new products, and new techniques makes every single one of us more complete.



At Potomac Bead Company, we are looking forward to the next few years challenging ourselves to constantly produce new inspiration for each of our customers.  We love being a part of the larger jewelry-making community.  The challenges of stocking over 50,000 products gives a lot of opportunities to experiment with new beads, shapes, and colors.  It also means we must be very careful in not biting off more than we can chew.  Thanks for reading, and we enjoy having your on this beading journey with us!

by Nathan Buchman
Co-founder, Potomac Bead Company