How To Make Your Own Fimo Beads : An Illustrated Tutorial + Videos

by Andrew

This article will provide you with the instructions you need to make your own Fimo beads (polymer clay beads) at home, regardless of whether you’ve ever done it before or not–in fact, it’s generally written¬†for beginners. The article includes very simple step-by-step instructions, plus pictures illustrating each step, and I’m also going to include two different videos by two different people showing how they make Fimo beads, and there’s a list of resources (links) at the bottom that I feel are particularly pertinent.

What is polymer clay?

Polymer clay isn’t your typical clay. It’s actually a plastic known as polyvinyl chloride. When it’s malleable it can be molded, sculpted, and embossed to take on the shape of your creation. Once you bake it at low heat the particles fuse together to create a hard, durable material that you can sand, paint, or drill. The most popular brand of polymer clay is FIMO Clay which has become a household name and a term commonly used for all polymer clay.

History of Fimo

FIMO Clay was the accidental discovery of a doll maker’s daughter in late 1930s Germany. In the 1960s the product received a licensing for industrial production and other polymer clay manufacturer equivalents started popping up.

Fimo is derived from the original inventor’s nickname, Fifi. Fimo is usually capitalized as FIMO since it’s branded that way by the manufacturer.

How are Fimo beads made?

This is the first of two videos I’ve got that give you a great quick overview of how Fimo beads are made at home–I recommend that you watch it to just quickly get an idea of what you’re going to have to do, and then use the step-by-step instructions-with-pictures that I’ve got below to follow as you’re actually doing it for the first time. The second video is at the bottom of this page just above the links, enjoy:

Techniques

Since FIMO Clay has all the benefits of traditional

clays, polymer clay artists use traditional clay techniques that have been around for centuries. The most popular techniques are cane work and millefiori (which literally means a thousand flowers). These methods were widely used by the Italians in glasswork and

popularized by the Venetians several hundred years ago.

 

Materials and Equipment You’ll Need (plus some recommended reading)

Choosing the Right Clay

There are various brands of clay and they are all basically the same. Some can be more malleable that others, which for making beads is usually preferred but it depends on your project. After you get some experience with different clays you will know which ones you prefer for which projects.

Most clay is sold in small blocks such as 56 gram FIMO blocks. Basic colors can also be bought in large blocks. If you’re a beginner I suggest buying the small packets until you know your preferences on clay color and type.

Here are some different types of polymer clay:

Traditional Polymer Clay: This is the original polymer clay–malleable and durable once baked. What I highly recommend you do, whether you’re going to order from them or get this stuff from your local art supply store (if you are then this way you’ll know what to look for), is go over to Amazon and check out the following products, this is what I recommend:

In addition to that, if Fimo is something that you are genuinely interested in and really want to learn more about in-depth (more that what I can possibly cover here), there are several books that I recommend out of the dozens that are available on Fimo. My personal top 3 are:

  1. The Polymer Clay Techniques Book
  2. Making Polymer Clay Beads: Step-by-Step Techniques for Creating Beautiful Ornamental Beads
  3. The Art of Polymer Clay Millefiori Techniques: Projects and Inspiration for Creative Canework

 

Softer Polymer Clay: This clay is slightly more malleable and great for beading projects. The finished project still turns out durable. Get it here: Staedtler Fimo Soft Polymer Clay – 24-Color Set

 

Doll Making Clay: This clay is stiffer than the others and very strong after baking.

 

Mix Quick: This medium is mixed with FIMO Clay to make it more malleable and easier for children to use. Follow manufacture’s age requirements.


NOTE: If you make your clay too malleable the colors on intricate beads tend to smear so using excessive amounts of Mix Quick is not recommended for intricate cane and millefiori work.

FIMO Clay comes in a variety of colors and effects. These can then be mixed to create even more colors so there are endless possibilities.

There are a variety of pre-made clays which produce a variety of effects. They include:

  • Glamour clay which gives your final project a metallic or iridescent quality
  • Mottled stone clay is available in a number of colors and will give your project an imitation stone effect.
  • Glow-in-the dark clay which is especially fun for Halloween
  • Translucent clay will give your project the appearance of glass
  • Fluorescent clay which children really enjoy

Storing Clay

Wrap your clay in wax paper and place it in an airtight storage container. Store your FIMO Clay in a cool place away from ultraviolet light. If properly stored, FIMO Clay can last for approximately 2 years.

Paint and Finishes

Since FIMO Clay comes in a variety of colors and effects it is not necessary to use paint or finishes. Depending on your project though, you may want to experiment before mixing large amounts.

Here are some paints and finishes you can incorporate into your designs:

  • Metallic Leaf Metal sheets come in gold, silver, copper and aluminum and are available from craft stores.
  • Bronze powders are available in a wide range of colors at art specialty shops.
  • Varnish can give your work a glossy or matte finish.
  • Acrylic paint comes in a variety of colors.
  • Enamel paint is best for painting small areas or intricate patterns.

Assembling Materials

Depending on your finished project, many assembling materials can be purchased from craft or art supply stores. This includes:

  • Jewelry wire of different gauges for stringing beads
  • Clip-on and loop earring backs
  • Posts with a safety-pin back for making such things as broaches
  • Elastic string for making bracelets

Equipment

Making FIMO projects, especially FIMO beads, takes very little equipment and most tools you can find around the house or at a drug store.

Essential equipment includes:

  • A craft knife. I find that a wide blade has the best universal use.
  • Tools for rolling out and flattening clay. This can be a brayer or vinyl or glass rolling pin.
  • A small piece of plexiglass or other lightweight flat object for making canes
  • Skewers and toothpicks for making holes in beads and for baking
  • An oven or a convection oven for finishing your project. Microwave ovens and toaster ovens CAN NOT be used.
  • A non-textured plastic cutting surface to protect your table and craft knives
  • Pins, knitting needles, buttons, and other odds and ends for molding and sculpting your creation.

The more advanced your craft becomes the more equipment you may want to purchase. Your local craft store or art supply store has a variety of tools for clay work.

 

Basic Techniques

Preparing FIMO Clay

Before you can start creating with FIMO Clay you need to get the clay a bit soft and playable. To do so, cut off no more than an 8th of a block and knead it with your hands. Roll it between your hands to make a sausage and then bend it in half and repeat the process until it becomes soft. Try not to let air bubbles get into the clay.

 

Something to keep in mind is the temperature of your work area. If it is cool and you’re having a hard time kneading the clay, you may want to store the clay in a slightly warmer area or put the sealed clay in your pocket before working with it.

Mixing Colors

Although FIMO Clay comes in a variety of colors, you can also combine colors to suit your project.

TIP! When mixing dark and light colors, mix in only a small amount of the dark color at a time since it can easily overpower the lighter color.

To mix clay:

    1. Roll your clay into sausages.

 

  1. Twist the two colors like a candy cane.
  2. Continue twisting and kneading until the two colors are mixed.

TIP! Once you get your colors decently mixed by hand, you can roll them out flat and then fold over and continue kneading. Roll it out again and continue the process making sure not to catch air pockets. This will guarantee all your clay is mixed.

Once you get more involved in your clay crafts you may want to consider buying a pasta making machine. It saves time mixing and rolling out colors.

Rolling Out

Roll out your clay on a smooth, clean surface. Use an acrylic rolling pin or a brayer and make sure the clay is rolled out evenly.

 

TIP! If your clay starts sticking to the rolling surfaces dust it with a little flour or talcum powder.

Cane Work

A cane is a log of clay with a pattern running through it. It is derived from ancient clay and glass working techniques.

 

The designs can be simple or you can make a complex pattern or image. You can then reduce the canes and slice the canes to make multiple images and patterns in various sizes.

Here is an example of a very simple layered cane:

    • Using a small piece of plexiglass, roll a log that is no more that four inches long. This will be the center of your cane.

 

    • Using a rolling pin or brayer roll out clay of a contrasting color into a thin sheet. Wrap this around the log and smooth out the seam by gently rolling the cane with your sheet of plexiglass.

 

  • Repeat step two in an alternating color pattern (blue, green, blue, green, etc) or contrasting colors (yellow, blue, white, red, etc.). You can also alternate the thickness of the sheets to make a more whimsical pattern.
  • After you have completed the amount of layers you desire gently roll it with a sheet of plexiglass to join the seams and trim the ends with a knife.

Now that you have a cane, there are many things you can do with it including:

  • Make cylinder type beads by simply slicing the canes in different lengths. The diameter of the beads can be varied by just rolling the cane before slicing. You can make the same bead in various sizes.
  • Thinly slice the canes and attach the slivers to projects such as millefiori beads.

 

TIP! If your clay gets too warm and malleable, the colors may run and slicing canes may not be even. You can fix this by placing your cane in the refrigerator for about an hour before slicing it.

Making Beads

FIMO beads can be made into many different shapes and sizes. In addition to a multitude of shapes and sizes, beads can be decorated by using different techniques and different finishes so the possibilities are endless.

Simple Beads

Simple beads can be incorporated into your project as-is or you can use them as a base for more intricate beads.

Round Beads

Round beads can be made by simply rolling the clay in your hands or using your sheet of plexiglass by placing the clay under it and moving the plexiglass in a circular motion.

Cylinder Beads

Cylinder shaped beads are made by rolling a piece of clay under plexiglass, trimming the ends, and then slicing the log into the desired length of beads.

Oblong Beads

Make a round bead and then gently roll it under plexiglass in an up-and-down fashion until you achieve the desired shape.

Square Beads

Square and rectangular beads can be made by simply using your craft knife to carve it from a piece of clay.

TIP! You have a better chance at getting all the sides even and all the beads the same size by rolling a round bead first and then cutting off six even sides.

Whimsical Beads

Beads can be made into any shape that will be large enough to make a hole for threading. For example, I like to make a square bead and then gently apply pressure to all six sides with my finger tips to make a concaved square.

 

TIP! Excess pieces of clay can be made into simple beads and then used as a base for placing your patterned cane slices. The base color of the bead doesn’t matter as long as you cover it completely.

Making a Hole

 

To make a hole in the bead for threading you have two options:

After you are done shaping the beads use a wooden skewer and gently start the hole in one side of the bead. Roll the skewer back and forth between your fingers to drill the hole through the bead. Fill up the skewer with beads, being careful they do not touch. Now you are ready for baking!

 

TIP! Be careful not to distort the bead when making a hole. Fix any distortion after the beads are placed on the skewer. To prevent distortion, you may want to drill the beads after they are baked. See below.

You can also bake beads and then drill a hole in the beads after they are baked. There is more work involved but you don’t have to worry about distorting them and the end result can be more professional.

Baking Beads

Beads can either be strung on a wooden skewer or they can be placed between sheets of cardboard. It is important that they do not touch or they will fuse together in the baking process. Suspend them on a metal tray. Bake according to manufacturers specifications.

 

TIP! After your bake your beads sand off any excess around the hole opening.

Marble Beads

Marble looking beads can be made easily and the end result can be a stunning piece of jewelry.
It is much like mixing clay; however, you do not completely mix the clay so you are left with a marbling effect.

    1. Roll your clay into sausages.
    2. Twist the two colors like a candy cane.
    3. Continue twisting and kneading until the two colors make a marble pattern. The more you mix, the more variegated your pattern will be.

 

    1. Shape your clay into the bead shape or shapes you desire.

 

  1. Make the threading holes (or drill later) and bake according to the manufacture’s directions.

Complex Cane Work

Now that you have created some basic canes now you can create more complex canes and eventually make millefiori beads which literally means “thousand flowers”.

Here are instructions for a basic flower:

    1. Using your piece of plexiglass roll a small yellow log about 4 inches long. This will be the middle of your flower.
    2. Roll a white log about 3 times thicker than your yellow log.
    3. Cut the white log lengthwise into 4 equal pieces and trim about 1/8th of an inch off the center wedge.

 

    1. Roll out flat a thin strip of blue clay and cut it into 4 strips the same width as the quarter white log pieces
    2. Assemble the cane with the yellow log in the center and alternating the blue strips and white quarter logs around the yellow log. Gently press the clays together to give the clay a temporary hold.

 

    1. Roll out a thin strip of light blue clay and wrap the cane with the strip. Gently roll out the cane with your plexiglass to smooth the seams. Trim the edges.

 

    1. Now that you have your cane you can roll it out to the desired diameter and thinly slice it. You can continue to decrease your cane and make pattern pieces of various sizes.

 

    1. Attach your pattern pieces to pre-made baked beads or uncooked beads. After you have a bead covered, gently roll the bead to blend the seams.

 

  1. String the beads on a skewer and bake according to manufacturer’s specifications.

 

Now that you have made a more complex cane you can use more layers and make more ornate flowers and even images such as hearts and letters.

After your beads have cooled you can spray them with a glossy finish to give them a glassy appearance or leave them as-is.

Here’s the second video, I think this one might be just a bit better since it includes audio instructions:


Further Reading and Other Resources

Wikipedia Article on Fimo Beads

Very cool blog about polymer clay beads: How to make beads from Polymer Clay

Another nifty blog about polymer clay beads, here’s the description on the site:

“I started making Polymer clay beads in 2005. I sold my first batch and started sending them out to the bead stores and bead shows. I started a blog to share my experieces with polymer clay and started a tutorial blog to show how I make some of my beads. Now I add my on-line store so you can buy what you want here.”

Check it out here: Silastones

The Polymer Clayspot (part of the polymer clay webring)

Bead making tips from Humblebeads

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Josh Nekrep June 13, 2007 at 10:39 am

Great article! I love how this site is shaping up!

Ponsawan June 13, 2007 at 2:56 pm

Hi Andrew
Have to admid that I don’t like reading an article. I like to look at the pictures and figure it out by myself what to do. The information you have is good. Making cane is intimidated, I only make a few canes since I started 3 years ago. I rather show the pictures of how to make beads than write about it. My camera has Macro which allow me to go as close as 2″ from the object. I sit near the window so I get natural light. Most people can roll a ball and a snake, that’s why I start this particulat post.
Keep up the good work. email me if you have any question. :)
Ponsawan

SunnyBC June 13, 2007 at 7:42 pm

Very imformative!! :smile: I wouldn’t use such thick bamboo skewers to make holes though. They cause too much distortion. I use a needle to pierce the bead and then drill after baking through the needle hole.

Andrew June 13, 2007 at 9:26 pm

Thanks very much Josh, I always appreciate your feedback.

Ponsawan–what would you think of an instructional video? Seems I’ve seen one out there somewhere, I’m going to post it in that article later along with some links.

Thanks for the help, Sunny–I wouldn’t have thought to use a drill, seems like it might cause cracks, I guess not.

Cheers,
Andrew

Ponsawan June 18, 2007 at 6:36 pm

Andrew, I use double end knitting needle size 0000 to piece hole on my beads and bake. It is a bit bigger than the regular needle but glide through beads fairly well.

jsm6022 June 20, 2007 at 1:59 pm

Nice illustrations & nice centralizing of basic bead videos. Enoyed stopping by.

Cindy June 27, 2007 at 8:23 am

I am in the process of marketing a children’s game, however, the game involves clay beads. I am looking for someone who would be interested in making beads for me. Can you help?
Cindy
cindyhupp@fuse.net

tovorinok July 4, 2007 at 11:58 pm

Hello

Great book. I just want to say what a fantastic thing you are doing! Good luck!

G’night

Anonymous July 9, 2007 at 3:51 pm

Hi Andrew
Don’t let the clay hags on Polymer Clay Central bum you out. Most of their work that is posted over is at best maybe made by a 2 year old. Hang in pal and get you some hag spary to back off the flies they carry on them. :twisted:

Andrew July 9, 2007 at 5:53 pm

ROFL, thanks for that whoever you are :mrgreen:

I actually NEVER went over and read the ‘frustrated’ blog article nor the forum posting about all this, because after I read some of the comments I knew that I REALLY didn’t want to, it’d just be a big waste of my time and I’d end up getting pissed off with not much I’d really be able to do about it.

FYI, all pictures besides the very first one at the top (which is credited AND listed as public domain on Flickr’s site), are OWNED BY ME–I bought this article from someone I specifically commissioned and paid to write it, and when I bought it I also purchased the pictures and all copyrights to them as well as the text, so NO I don’t need to attribute the other bloody pics since I own them.

Cheers!
Andrew

K.C. Gagne September 10, 2007 at 5:48 am

Great information! I have a website on fimo beads if you’d like to share some link love. ;)

Nurit Hailey September 19, 2007 at 1:56 pm

and they also said, that we couldn’t last togethe. Nurit Hailey.

MARY November 17, 2007 at 6:17 am

I LIKE YOUR INFORMATION COS I LIKE TO START WORKING FIMO.NICE AND INTERESTING TNKS FROM MALTA

claire December 22, 2007 at 10:24 pm

what temperature do i use???

Shaina December 23, 2007 at 8:55 pm

I always wondered how they made those flowers…
Thanks for the tips!

Zerah June 28, 2008 at 1:35 am

Great informative article! Thanks

sarbjit July 6, 2008 at 8:35 am

you should put a video of how to make the food beads! :mrgreen:

Anonymous July 8, 2008 at 7:29 am

:razz:

milu September 27, 2008 at 5:36 pm

:mrgreen: cute…so nice ^^
but there says i cant use microwave CAN NOT be used , then what kind of microwave i have to use??
thank u ^^

anchi October 6, 2008 at 8:03 am

hey :razz:
i luv making things like this :!:
:mrgreen: but how do you make it to a moon shape :?:
:shock: i always wondered!
:oops: i need help :cry:
:razz: could someone help :roll: :wink:

anchi October 6, 2008 at 8:05 am

:cry: :evil: :!: :!: :!: i dun no wat to do :!: :!: :!: :evil: :cry:

anchi October 6, 2008 at 8:08 am

if u wana help take this
flower-peach2hotmail.com
:razz:
:oops: :oops: :oops: :oops: :oops: :oops: :oops: :oops: :oops: :oops: :oops: :oops: :oops: :oops: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

winson October 6, 2008 at 8:17 am

eeww
:mad:

Anonymous October 8, 2008 at 10:54 am

RARRG

Shifa October 11, 2008 at 8:05 am

:idea: very nice ideas thanx

dot November 27, 2008 at 3:36 am

I really would like to know what oven temprature is for baking. I keep getting 275 what is that in layman terms
Thanks

275 what? It’s either degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit–if the clay is from the U.S., then it’s Fahrenheit, anywhere else Celsius (yes, we need to go to metric, I know I know I know…)

Andrew

dot November 28, 2008 at 7:27 am

Sorry that wasn’t a very useful answer. I found out my self in a cook book. 275 is electric which equals 1 in a gas oven. Thanks anyway

R & D RACING December 25, 2008 at 11:09 am

I am in need of some black /white checkered tube beads on a regular basis for a racing store I have. If anyone is interested in making then please email me. subject: fimo racing – so I will open the email. thanks

flora March 12, 2009 at 3:23 pm

:grin: exelent

Carrie March 14, 2009 at 3:11 am

Beautiful

NinuH April 4, 2009 at 9:05 am

:cool:

he he ; P

NiCe…!
:smile:

Dana April 4, 2009 at 11:23 pm

THANK YOU ANDREW!!!

this tutorial means the world to us! :D

Andrew April 5, 2009 at 3:17 pm

You’re welcome, Dana, I’m really glad this article has become as popular as it is, it seems to be quite a help to people looking to do this themselves. Any tips or additions people think the article needs should be added in the comments and will be very welcome.

–Andrew

Craft Jobs April 21, 2009 at 11:02 am

That was great. Very nice tutorial.

Anita May 4, 2009 at 10:13 am

Awesome..
Good Job..:>

zoi May 24, 2009 at 12:09 pm

:razz: i am come from greece sory for my english…here we use “fimo” because there arent anything else…we bakes them at 11o c …maybe it is used for u

Jessi April 5, 2010 at 9:57 am

Once upon a time I tried making fimo canes, but the clay was too soft and when all the beads were squishing as I cut them I sort of gave up. This article really helped me see what I was doing wrong.. and it doesn’t hurt that I’m old enough to see it now either. :]

salma September 22, 2010 at 1:23 pm

its great …..but i didnt find except white fimo clay can i coloured with acrylic paint and when i colour it before baking?

julie October 20, 2010 at 9:20 am

:razz: i love making fimo beads and they turn out amazing in the oven aswell!!
i make jewellery and sell it in my mum’s shop

i am only 14yrs old!! :lol:

ro sapchi October 25, 2010 at 11:13 am

:razz: ADOREI MIMUITO OBRIGADO PELAS DICA.

nana January 5, 2011 at 12:00 pm

:!: hey does anyone know how to make a little house using clay :!:

Hnanjqtl July 4, 2011 at 6:21 am

vintage tattoos the book of old school skin art,

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