Beading Design Basics

Five Great Layouts for Your Beading Designs

Sometimes a beading design comes freely, and we feel inspired and rewarded as we see our jewelry piece quickly come to fruition. Sometimes we have a glimmer of a vision but we’re not sure how to execute it. More often than not, we have a fabulous bead or strand of beads that we want to use but have no idea where to start. Getting familiar with some basic beading design layouts and learning about the elements of composition will help get you on track to utilize your materials and your skills in pursuit of the perfect finished piece!

Mother of Pearl Beaded Necklace

Centerpiece Design Layout

1. Centerpiece Design

One of the most widely used layouts, the “centerpiece” design starts with a main focal element located in the middle of the piece. This is often a pendant on a necklace but could also be a focal bead on a bracelet or even a set of focal beads that make up the centerpiece collectively.

Sometimes the focal bead is alone against the background but usually there are “secondary” and “tertiary” focal beads. That means there are other highlighted beads that stand out from the background but are not the central focus. In the main image shown here, the shell flower pendant is the centerpiece and the large pearls are the secondary beads. The small pearls framing the larger ones could be called tertiary beads. The smaller mother of pearl beads are what we call “background beads”. With the centerpiece layout, you could start with your focal bead and work out the background. You could also start with the background and seek out the perfect centerpiece.

Agate and Pearl Beaded Necklace

Repeating Pattern Design Layout

2. Repeating Pattern Design

Often used in understated or more conservative beading designs, the repeating pattern is a classic choice. Usually we’ll start with a great strand of beads but we need more length. Or maybe we want to show off each individual bead with some spacing.

The repeating pattern can be simple or complicated. It could involve one style of bead separated by one spacer or it could involve ten different beads that repeat a sequence. The choice of pattern will determine how dynamic the design ultimately becomes. Remember that you can change the “texture” of the piece both visually and physically with color, sizing and bead variety. If you want a simple, understated look, go for less variety and beads that have similar sizes and colors. To add more punch to the look, go for more contrasting colors and more variety of size.

Chalcedony & Botwana Agate Necklace

Asymmetrical Design Layout

3. Asymmetrical Design

Why not design outside the box and go for something asymmetrical?! Who says we have to have the exact number of beads on each side of the center? Asymmetry provides a surprise to the viewer and a chance to wear something a little different.

When working with an asymmetrical design, it’s important to consider visual and physical weight. Physical weight becomes obvious right away: if you have a heavy bead on one side that isn’t balanced out by one or more beads on the other side, the necklace or bracelet will turn until the heavy bead is at the bottom or center.   Visual weight is a little more subtle to discern but it is controlled through color and the size of beads.  Some colors recede or hide in a piece while others pop and show themselves right away. If your piece is mostly red and you introduce a tiny bit of black – the black will pop into your vision first.  Similarly, the actual size of a bead will cause it to be seen right away or fade into the background. Honor the asymmetry you are craving, but use color and size to create a feeling of balance.

Swarovski Crystal Silver Chain Necklace

Random Design Layout

4. Random Design

Random designs are surprisingly challenging but really effective when well-executed. A truly random assortment of beads might turn out a great piece of jewelry but it might also result in a weird, unbalanced combination of beads! With this beading design, we want the appearance of chaos combined with a pleasing composition. It takes complete visual and physical balance into consideration.

Random designs need to consider all the aspects of composition that we have been talking about. Use bead sizes to control texture. Stay in control of visual and physical weight. Dictate how the eye will travel around the piece by placing colors and sizes that advance or recede. Just don’t repeat your pattern or it won’t be random!

5. Combos!

In truth, we will probably combine these basic design elements a lot of the time. For instance, a centerpiece design usually has background beads in a repeating pattern.

Remember that there are no hard and fast rules that we have to follow. Sometimes just having some good options to play with, or even just having the right words to talk about our beading designs, will be all we need to get the creative juices flowing and the design off the ground!