As you may know from previous blog entries, I am a bit obsessed with pixel art, and the best way for me to make my own is with Perler beads.
If you don’t know what Perler beads are, I’ll tell you!
They are these things:
You arrange them on peg boards.
And you make things like these!
Super cute, right!?
And it’s so easy to do yourself!
Get to it!
Oh, okay… I’ll show you how to make one. But which one, which one….
Pixel plant inserts?
A full-sized sword?
So. Many. Pokemon. (I have all the patterns, so if you would like one, just request it and I’ll have it made for $3 each. Or you could do the research and find your own pattern! I got mine from Bulbapedia.)
Or how about a Pixel Winnie!?
This is the original pattern I found on Google.
There is no shame looking for a pattern and inspiration, search til your heart’s content! I changed details to match my dorky dog, like the eyebrows, fur markings, the length–the vet said she is a little longer than other Pembrokes, what a weird-ling. She has a dark tail and a sable patch on her back, and also she has a white collar that wraps around the back of her neck and ends on one side. Do whatever you like, I’m making my Winnie.
To begin, you’re going to need four pegboards. They snap into each other. I recommend these because you can add boards when you need them, and you can make odd-shaped projects. There is an extra large pegboard, but DO NOT use that one. It warps horribly, which makes fusing your project frustrating and sometimes it turns out awful with some beads not melting, and others melting too much.
Start with the outline, always. I usually have a black outline, it makes the pixel art pop. I’d like to point out, if you are going to make your own Pokemon creations, the sprites have a lighter outline on the bottom of the designs; don’t do a lighter outline, make it all black, trust me, it looks so much better. There a few exceptions I’ve found. Like Gastly. He’s a rule-breaker.
Following the pattern takes some practice. You can print out a pattern, but I don’t. I feel guilty enough for wasting paper with my writings and artwork, so I’m making a conscious effort to be more green working with my Perler bead art. Although, if I really think about it, Perler beads are plastic, so…. NOPE, not getting into that debate with myself!
I’ve learned how to recognize groups of pixels: single beads, pairs of beads, groups of 3, 4, and 5. Once I learned how to recognize those commonly grouped pixels, reading a pattern goes much faster. You can also count pixels if you are unsure, just takes a while longer and can be cross-eye inducing.
With the outline done, fill in the design one color at a time. This is so you’re not going back-and-forth switching colors all the time. Use tweezers to move and pick up beads, fingers can work, but you’ll more likely knock over other beads and then it’s all one big frustrating clusterf***. As you do more pixel art, you’ll get better at placing and manipulating the tiny beads.
Now’s the time to fuse the beads.
You’ll need a regular old clothing iron, and the specialty paper that keeps the plastic beads from sticking to your iron. I can’t tell you how many projects I lost because I forgot to lay down the paper.
If you do get plastic on your iron, turn off the appliance immediately, wait for the iron to cool and then you can scrape off the plastic. I’m fast to do this when I realize my mistake, because i don’t know if the beads will catch fire… I don’t think they will, but I’m a worry-wart and I don’t want to ruin my iron–that and irons cost money and I am a poor college student/soon-to-be poor college graduate who’d rather spend her money on food and if we’re being totally honest here, crafting supplies.
The specialty paper comes with kits or is sold separately. It’s some sort of parchment paper, I haven’t quite figured it out, but I’m not willing to experiment, I’d rather just stick to what works for now.
The iron needs to be on a temperature setting for wool, if you have that option. If you don’t have a wool setting, medium-high heat is about the same. You want it hot so it melts the beads quickly and they fuse evenly.
Moving the iron correctly takes practice. Try to move it from one side to the other in one smooth motion without lifting off. Circular motions are also effective, particularly for larger projects. When you come to a partition between pegboards, you may need to press down on the beads here so that they fuse; the boards may bend into the creases and not allow the beads there to heat to optimal temperature with the surrounding areas. Don’t press too hard or the boards my shift or even lift off the ground and all your hard work is a jumbled mess.
And I can’t believe this needs to be clarified but…: When using an iron, be aware that you are working with a heating instrument.
The heating instrument is hot.
*takes big breath*
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE BE CAREFUL!
DO NOT LET YOUNGIN’S USE THE HOT IRON!
DO NOT LET THEM USE A WARM IRON!
IN FACT, DON’T LET KIDS USE AN IRON AT ALL!
I’M A LITTLE WEIRDED OUT BY THE FACT I FEEL OBLIGATED TO ISSUE THIS WARNING, BUT MY LOGIC IS THAT IF A COMPANY HAS TO PRINT DIRECTIONS ON HOW TO COOK A FREAKING POPTART, AND ONE OF THOSE DIRECTIONS BEING “REMOVE PACKAGING BEFORE TOASTING,” THEN THIS IS JUST IN CASE.
EXCESSIVE CAPSLOCK IS EXCESSIVE!
I’m done now.
So you’ve ironed your project. Lift it from the pegboard, it may be stuck to the paper, just peel that off. Flip over your project and lay the paper over that side and iron it as well. Fusing both sides will make your project stronger, and sometimes the beads will curl your project, so flipping sides and ironing multiple times might need to occur to get it to lay flat. If you are having a particularly hard time getting your project to lay flat, shove it under a textbook. Textbooks are great flatteners. It’s not like I get to use all these textbooks for anything else after I graduate…. *grumble grumble*
After ironing, the beads will be hot, but it doesn’t take long for them to cool down. Be careful to not bend the project as the beads will snap apart if too much force is applied. Other than that, Perler’s are very hardy, weatherproof, and don’t fade.
And remember, Perler beads were originally designed for kids! (The beads, not the ironing part.) The tiny beads are perfect for strengthening fine-motor skills, and it teaches hand-eye coordination and pattern recognition. EK Success, the makers of Perler beads, recommends for ages 6 and up, but I’m sure younger kids can have a go at it. Parental supervision necessary as the beads can be swallowed. There is another set, too, that is made for younger kids. The beads are bigger and easier to grasp.
I especially love that EK Success’ website features project ideas (link). You can even download and print patterns that fit to the pegboards, so you don’t have to follow along on the computer screen, and that way is easier for a child to make the idea.
Some of my favorite patterns that are featured now are:
I just realized this was one big advertisement for EK Success. Can I get some free Perler beads?
So there you have it. You’ve got your own pixel corgi, or more specifically, The Majestic Winnafred.