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Today, there are many fuse beads (perler beads, hama beads, melty beads) brands out there and this is a small guide for those who are just starting the hobby. Especially if, like me, you’re on a tight budget. I want to focus on what’s available in Canada, though I’ll mention some tips for other readers too.
First of all, 50$ CAD is a good starting budget. You’ll need 20-30 colors of beads, one square pegboard, one roll of parchment paper (grocery) and lean-tipped tweezers (optional).
Add 25$ for a clothes iron if you don’t own one and can’t borrow.
Of course, you can also try with just a few colors at first and see if you may like the fuse beads hobby.
Things to consider:
- Quality is non-negotiable;
- Availability of the brands and what bead size you want;
- Brands each have their own plastic recipe: it influences the look of your work when fused together and it’s flexibility (see compatibility);
- Package or bulk + price/shipping;
- Colors range;
- Compatibility between brands
This is the first part of my investigation and the knowledge I can share from the past years until now.
Quality is non-negotiable!
You can compare this hobby to roller or ice skating. If you wear uncomfortable, painful skates on your first ride, you won’t go far and will despise your experience. With fuse beads, there are a ton of house-brands and cheap-alternatives out there. More than 9 times out of 10 they’re not worth it! The plastic may be too thin or individual beads will have different heights. No matter how hard you try, it won’t look good after you’re done. I’ll try to go over all the main brands that you can start with AND have a good time with.
Those brands are: Perler, Hama, Artkal, Photopearls (Nabbi), Yihata, Pyssla (Ikea), Creatology.
Availability and size
When you begin, you should pick one brand and a size you’ll like working with.
Perler is one of the two most well known brands. They’re from the United States. I’ve had many people tell me they used to have Perler beads as a child! So it’s well established and reliable.
Note: If you come across “FunFusion” beads, they were also made by Perler.
- Size: Mini 2.6 mm (great for detailed art, portraits, small keychains or jewellery, etc. Can be hard to handle without tweezers)
- Midi 5 mm (commonly used by kids and adults; tweezers optional)
- Biggie 10 mm (10 mm beads are typically for young kids, BUT they are also be an option if you have dexterity issues such as arthritis.)
Melting point/temperature: High 9 / for non-flexible artwork.
Quality/consistency: 9/10, occasional odd size beads, but generally ok. Color is also consistent in each bag, although every few years they might adjust some of their colors. Just be aware that your 2014 bag may be different than your 2019 bag.
They are very common in the US, and Wal-Mart stores have just started carrying Perler beads in Canada. The Michaels stores carry them too, but usually in kids’ activity buckets and a smaller variety of individual color bags.
*Note that the Perler Mini single-color bags have been semi-discontinued in 2018. There are still a few colors available for sale on the Perler website. Otherwise, for Mini beads, they have mixed color trays available.
(Check my upcoming article on where to buy beads online!)
Hama is also at the top and operating for more than 30 years. Based in the UK, they are widely used in Europe and now offered in Desserres stores in eastern Canada. Now I’m talking from personal experience, but Hama beads may look “curvy” and glossy when you iron them. They melt more quickly than all other brands. Personally, I don’t really like them. BUT, some people do great looking things with Hama beads and it fits their ironing technique. So I honestly think they’re worth a try!
Size: Mini 2.5 mm, Midi 5 mm, Maxi 10 mm.
NOTE: Other brands’ Mini beads are 2.6 mm, so these won’t mix at all!
Using Hama Mini on other brands pegboards (2.6 mm) will make your artwork thinner.
Other brands Mini beads on Hama pegboard (2.5 mm) will not work.
Melting point/temperature: Mid-low 5 / flexible artwork.
Quality/consistency: 7.5/10, occasional odd size beads, but generally ok. You can also find odd color beads.
Again, I don’t know Hama beads’ availability in the US or Australia, but they seem easy to find in Canada, Europe and Asia. You can also look for them online.
(Check my upcoming article on where to buy beads online!)
Artkal brand has gained popularity among fuse beads enthusiasts in the past 5 years. It’s due mainly to their very large color palette, but also the quality of their products. They’re based in China, so for now you need to buy them online.
Size: Mini 2.6 mm (A and C series), Midi 5 mm (R and S series), Large 10 mm.
Artkal carries two types of beads; the Hard beads that are similar to Perler brand (C and S series) are made of Polyethylene. The Regular/soft beads that are more like Hama brand (A and R series) are made of EVA. They melt differently.
Hard: High 8
Regular: Mid-low 5? (untested)
Quality/consistency: 10/10, there is the occasional odd size bead, but it’s generally very even.
There are a lot of options with Artkal! Although you need to buy online, I’ve ordered from them many times now and they are very professional. Their customer service always got back to me quickly and my supplies generally arrive in three weeks or less (which is quite reasonable when it comes to shipping from China).
Definitely keep them in mind!
Photopearls, previously called Nabbi, are based in Sweden. As the name suggests, they are intended to create good-looking portraits of your friends, your dog, or your favorite celebrity. You can use them like any other brand, though, and they provide shades of color unavailable in some other brands. Unfortunately, they will be hard to find or expensive to order in North-America. You can find one or two American suppliers online.
Size: Midi 5 mm, Jumbo 10 mm.
Melting point/temperature: Mid-high 7
Quality/consistency: –/10, I honestly haven’t used these enough to rate, but I also never had any problem whenever I use them.
Still a small company from China, these were a good surprise for me in 2018. Yihata has a good selection of colors and their prices are cheap. They also have an online reseller in the US.
Size: Mini 2.6 mm, Midi 5 mm, and 10 mm.
Melting point/temperature: Mid-high 7, they can look a little bit glossy like the Hama brand.
Quality/consistency: 7/10, I only ordered once, so I can only rate that particular batch from last year. While the color was consistent, there were a lot of beads of different heights (it happened with two of my midi-size colors especially). Later, I communicated this with the customer support and was assured that the product was improved. I would like to order again from Yihata soon, and will write an updated review then!
If you want to check and maybe try Yihata for yourself, you can visit their Instagram account and contact them there. They don’t have an official website yet, to my knowledge.
Ikea – Pyssla
Ikea brand and their Pyssla beads are from Sweden, with stores in 29 different countries. In Canada, they’re located in BC, AB, MB, ON, QC and Nova Scotia. Now, the product seems appropriate for kids and for newbies as their only product is a bucket of 5mm Midi beads in mixed colors. It’s about 10,000 beads (?) or one pound for around 9.00$ CAD, so it can be a very affordable way to try the hobby! There are no bags of individual colors.
For the actual melt temperature and quality, I can only guess from pictures as I haven’t tried this brand myself. They seem to melt similarly to Hama beads and so they might have the same flexible plastic type. I cannot tell about the quality as there’s always the factor of who is ironing them. I’d like to try them eventually so I can give you a better review.
Creatology is one of the brands sold at Michaels crafts stores across Canada and US. Actually… I’m empty handed on these ones. I heard of these beads until a few months ago, but it seems like Michaels switched back to Perler now. So I can’t tell if they will be available in the future.
Mix or bulk?
The bigger companies, Perler and Hama, have a lot of options for buying beads. They have many children’s sets that come with pegboards of various shapes, like stars and animals, with included patterns. Also, they have trays with a selection of 10 to 30 colors, pre-sorted in compartments, and finally the infamous mixed buckets of 11,000 or 22,000 beads.
The question: to sort or not to sort?
The buckets contain a lot of colors (30 in Perler) and are a great deal when you consider that one bag of 1000 beads is worth from 3.50$ to 5.50$… and the 22,000 bucket costs around 30$. You pay only 1.36$ per 1000 beads! But be aware that sorting that amount of beads is VERY long for most people. — Fun fact, it took me 3 years to finish sorting mine! Most times, I would just dip my hand and reach for the colors I needed. Still, it’s what got me started! I found a deal on Amazon.com and paid less than 30$.
Price and shipping
I will cover this more extensively in my upcoming post on Where to buy beads online. Although it’s usually quick and convenient to go to a local store, you’ll find the savings online. I recommend you check out the different brands websites first. Their own prices are pretty good compared to department stores and such, and shipping from US or Canada is really not that long.
My favorite part. Here’s a look at the color palette from each brand.
- S-series (regular): 156 standard colors, 3 metallic, 8 pearl colors, 12 striped, 6 translucent (clear), 6 glitter, 4 neon, 7 glow in the dark, 4 UV/sun reacting colors. A total of 206.
- C-series (regular mini): 157 standard colors, 7 pearl, 7 translucent, 7 glow in the dark. A total of 178.
- R-series (soft): 91 standard colors, 3 metallic, 7 pearl, 6 translucent, 4 glitter, 3 glow in the dark, 4 UV/sun reacting. A total of 118.
- A-series (soft mini): 157 standard colors, 7 pearl, 7 translucent, 4 neon, 7 glow in the dark, 4 UV/sun reacting. A total of 186.
- Midi and Mini: 52 standard colors, 3 metallic, 1 pearl, 6 striped, 6 translucent (clear), 6 glitter, 6 neon, 3 glow in the dark. A total of around 83.
- Maxi: 16 standard colors, 6 neon.
- Midi: 67 standard colors, 3 metallic, 15 striped, 2 translucent (clear), 6 glitter, 5 neon, 4 glow in the dark. A total of around 102.
- Mini: 34 standard colors + 2 clear in assorted trays, 13 standard colors in individual color bags. A total of 43 different colors.
- Biggie: 8 standard colors.
- Midi and Mini: 52 standard colors, 1 clear, 3 metallic, 11 striped. A total of 67.
- Midi: Around 39 standard colors, 5 pastel, 3 metallic, 7 pearl, 7 striped, 5 translucent, 5 neon, 1 glow in the dark. A total of around 72.
- Jumbo: 15 standard colors.
Ikea – Pyssla:
- Midi: 10 standard colors, + 8 pastel colors in a different bucket (may not be available in Canada).
Combining different brands, you can find almost any color you need for any project!
Compatibility is usually based on the type of plastic, Polyethylene or EVA, the melting temperature, but also the thickness of the plastic. If you use these brands, the thickness will be very similar. Here’s a summary of what should be compatible.
- Perler + Artkal S or C + Photopearls + Yihata = hard, less flexible artwork.
- Hama + Artkal R or A + Photopearls + Yihata + Pyssla = soft, more flexible.
Hama and Perler, for example, could still be mixed. It will be more difficult to get a good looking result, though, as they are made of two different plastics that melt at different speeds.
I suggest you first try and find a small amount of beads and material to see if you like the hobby. Even if you or your child end up not liking it, ask other family members if they would like to try. Fuse beads make way for a lot of creativity, no matter your age! Portraits, jewellery, sculptures, dream-catchers… you make it a reality!
For ideas and inspiration, check my monthly article on my favorite perler artists and their creations!