How Do You Stick Beads To Clay?

Adding beads to clay is a fun and creative craft technique that allows you to customize and decorate clay pieces. By carefully pressing beads into the surface of clay and baking it, the beads adhere permanently for a beautiful embedded effect.

Clay beading is an easy way to add color, texture, and interest to plain clay. It can be used to make jewelry, figurines, bowls, wall decorations, and more. The techniques work for both oven-bake clay like Sculpey as well as air-dry clays.

With some clay, glue, beads, and a few simple steps, you can create an endless array of dazzling clay and bead pieces. This guide will walk through the entire clay beading process from start to finish, providing tips and tricks for success.

Types of Clay for Beading

There are three main types of clay that work well for attaching beads: polymer clay, air-dry clay, and oven-bake clay. Each has its own properties and is suited for different beading techniques.

Polymer Clay

Polymer clay is very versatile for beading. It doesn’t require baking until the very end, so you can take your time perfecting the design before permanently setting it. Polymer clay can be conditioned and blended to achieve custom colors. It also holds fine detail well for intricately patterned beads.

Air-Dry Clay

Air-dry clay is a good choice for quicker bead projects. As the name suggests, air-dry clay dries and hardens at room temperature without requiring heat. This makes it fast and convenient. The clay remains pliable while you work and allows time for repositioning beads before fully hardening.

Oven-Bake Clay

Oven-bake clay offers an alternative to air-dry and polymer clays. After shaping and beading your piece, it hardens in a standard oven at relatively low temperatures. Oven-bake clay can be reused after baking if you need to rework a design. Just soak the clay in water to soften it again.

Preparing the Clay

Properly preparing polymer clay is an important first step before adding beads. Here are some key techniques:

Conditioning – After opening a new package, you’ll want to condition the clay by kneading and mixing it. This softens the clay and makes it more malleable. Knead the clay for a few minutes until smooth and uniform in texture.

Rolling – Once conditioned, use an acrylic roller or rolling pin to roll out the clay into an even sheet or slab at your desired thickness. Roll in different directions to prevent sticking.

Cutting – Use a tissue blade, craft knife or clay cutter to cut the clay base into desired shapes or sizes. Cut shapes should have smooth, even edges.

Baking – Before adding beads, clay must be baked/cured according to package directions to harden it. Bake in a dedicated oven at the recommended temp and time. Let cool completely before decorating.

Taking the time to properly prepare the clay will ensure your beaded clay designs hold up once completed and baked. The clay base should be smooth, conditioned, and hardened before applying beads.

Choosing Beads

When selecting beads to apply to polymer clay, there are several factors to consider:

Material – Beads come in a variety of materials like glass, metal, wood, and plastic. Glass and metal beads work best as they can withstand the baking temperatures required to cure polymer clay. Plastic beads may melt or deform.

Size – Consider the scale you want for your project. Larger beads make bolder statements while tiny seed beads can create delicate details. Mixing sizes can provide visual interest.

Shape – Round beads are classic while square, triangle and other shapes can provide unique effects. Long tube or cylinder beads work well on the edges.

Color – Select colors that coordinate with your clay base or create an interesting contrast. Metallic, iridescent and translucent beads add dimension.

Take time to arrange and experiment with different beads on a sample of clay before committing to a design. This allows you to achieve the look you envision for your finished piece.

Applying Glue

Glue is essential for getting beads to adhere properly to polymer clay. When applying glue, there are a couple key things to keep in mind:

Types of glue: The best glues for attaching beads to clay are strong multi-purpose glues like E6000 or super glue. Avoid weak glues like standard white school glue which won’t form a strong enough bond. Cyanoacrylate (super glue) provides an instant bond while E6000 takes 24 hours to fully cure.

Amount to use: Add just a small drop of glue – a little goes a long way. Too much glue will seep out around the beads. Apply glue to the bottom of each bead using a toothpick. This allows you to control the amount of glue precisely.

Let the glue cure fully before baking the clay, per the glue manufacturer’s instructions. This ensures the beads are firmly attached and the glue has dried properly before being subjected to high heat.

Pressing in the Beads

Once you’ve applied the glue to the clay and placed the beads where you want them, you’ll need to neatly press the beads into the clay. Here are some techniques for getting a clean, professional look:

  • Use a toothpick or skewer to gently push each bead so it’s partially embedded in the clay. Apply even pressure so the bead goes in straight.

  • For small or delicate beads, use a soft paintbrush to press them in instead of a toothpick. This prevents breakage.

  • After the initial pressing, go back over all the beads and push them in slightly further so they are about halfway embedded in the clay.

  • Roll over the beaded clay area gently with an acrylic roller or brayer to make sure all beads are even with the surface.

  • If any beads pop out, apply a tiny bit of glue and press back in place. Let dry fully before baking.

  • Avoid pushing the beads in too far – they should still have height and dimension on the clay.

Taking your time to neatly press in the beads will give a smooth finished look. It can take some practice, but the results are worth it!

Baking Clay with Beads

Properly baking clay with beads is crucial to get a durable, finished product. The baking time will depend on the type and thickness of the clay. Follow the package instructions, checking the clay package for recommended baking times and temperatures.

As a general guideline, bake 1/4 inch thick clay for 15-20 minutes at 275°F. For thicker pieces, increase baking time by 15 minutes for each additional 1/4 inch of thickness. Bake until the clay is completely hard.

To prevent damage to beads while baking:

  • Use low heat-resistant beads that can withstand baking temps.
  • Brush a glaze over soft or plastic beads before baking to protect them.
  • Only bake up to the beads’ recommended temperature limit.
  • Allow clay to cool completely before handling to prevent damaging warm beads.

Proper baking ensures your clay art will be sturdy with beads firmly attached. Always check package directions and test smaller pieces first when using new beads or clay.

Finishing Techniques

Once your clay beadwork is complete, there are several finishing techniques you can use to enhance the look:


After baking, you can paint details onto the clay with acrylic paints. Let the paint fully dry before applying a protective top coat like varnish. Painting allows you to add color accents, patterns, and designs.


Applying a varnish will give the clay beadwork a glossy finished look. Polyurethane and resin varnishes work best for a durable, protective top coat. Apply in a well-ventilated area and let the varnish fully cure before handling.


Consider adding further embellishments like metallic rub-ons, glitter, rhinestones, or other glued-on decorative elements. This can take a plain beaded clay piece to the next level. Plan embellishment placement carefully for the best design impact.

Design Ideas

When it comes to designing pieces with beads on clay, the possibilities are endless! Here are some ideas to spark your creativity:


Clay beads make beautiful jewelry components. String clay beads onto cord to make necklaces and bracelets. Or use clay cabochons decorated with beads as focal points in rings, earrings, and pendants. Layer different sized and shaped beads for an organic look.


Sculpt detailed clay figurines, animals, or abstract shapes and use beads to add color, texture, and personality. Outline features like eyes and noses with beads or use them to create patterns over the surface. Beads can turn a simple slab of clay into a work of art.


Make personalized holiday ornaments by shaping clay into balls, stars, hearts, or other forms and decorating with beads. Use beads to create names, dates, designs, or words on the ornaments. These meaningful keepsakes will become family treasures.

Wall Art

Roll out slabs of clay and cut into geometric or abstract shapes to make wall hangings. Affix beads in any pattern you like across the surface to add color and interest. Or press beads into clay wall plaques or sconces to embellish. The variations are endless!


In summary, decorating clay with beads is a fun and creative way to make beautiful handcrafted jewelry, decorative items and more. With some basic preparation of the clay, choosing compatible beads, applying strong glue, and properly setting the beads, you can achieve stunning results. Polymer clay is generally the easiest to work with, but air dry and ceramic clays can also be suitable options. Glass, metal and ceramic beads tend to work best. Be patient in pressing the beads firmly into the clay before baking or drying to ensure a good bond. Additional finishing techniques like sanding, painting and sealing can further enhance your beaded clay designs. With some practice and experimentation you’ll be able to create endless unique pieces. We hope these tips have provided helpful guidance on successfully combining clay and beads for your next arts and crafts project.

Some final tips are to work slowly and carefully, don’t overload the clay with too many beads at once, and enjoy the creative process. Refer to manufacturer’s instructions for proper baking times and temperatures. Clean up glue before it dries and wash hands after use. Store unused clay and beads properly between projects. Most importantly, have fun designing eye-catching works of art with this versatile mixed media crafting technique.

Similar Posts