Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How to create your own Hama bead portrait


Quite some time ago I came across a pin on Pinterest that explained how to convert a photograph into a graph for a cross-stitch pattern using Photoshop - here.  (Please have a look at this article as it gives quite a bit more detail than I have here.)  At around about the same time, I read an article about an extremely talented Etsy seller who was making commissioned portraits out of Hama and Perler beads.  The Etsy seller is called PXL8R and his shop is here.

At the time I'd only recently been introduced to Hama beads as my daughter had just received some maxi Hama beads as a birthday present. Seeing the 2 separate articles instantly created the desire in me to try to create my own Hama bead portrait myself.

Of course, I had to be a little bit different, so I bought a selection of the mini Hama beads - I later realised that this was possibly not the best starting point!
A, they're much smaller and fiddlier to work with and B, the colour choice for mini Hama beads is not quite so great as the midi range.  Still, I'd bought them, so I had to use them for at least 1 project...

At this point I'd never worked with Hama beads before so this was all quite a steep a learning curve for me.  I do like a challenge!

The first thing I did was find a photograph that I wanted to reproduce. I cut out all of the background and then turned the contrast right up to reduce the number of colours in the photograph.

I switched to indexed colours and selected 10 colours using the custom pallette.  I was able to roughly match the colours in the picture with the colours of my Hama beads.  I played with the dither settings to try to get the colours blending a little.

I then cropped it square.

I needed to reduce my image down to individual pixels, so I reduced my image size down to 57 x 57 pixels.

I then increased it back up to 570 x 570 pixels, ensuring that I selected nearest neighbour.

I created a translucent grid pattern overlay where each line was 10 pixels apart....

... finally I overlaid the grid pattern as a new layer which gave me a pattern to follow.  I wanted to give myself the option of displaying the non-ironed side so I flipped it horizontally to create the mirror image.

I printed out my pattern using the option of 'scale to fit media' so I had a lovely big A4 pattern to follow.


I had a look at quite a few time-lapse videos of people creating large Hama bead images.  There were 2 clear techniques.  One was to put all of the first colour in, followed by all of the second colour and so on until you'd filled in all of the colours one by one.  The other was to fill it in meticulously line by line.  I could see the merits of both, so I tried both at various stages.  The clear choice for me was to fill all the colours in line by line.  I found if I made a mistake I was only removing part of 1 row, whereas if I filled it in colour by colour I was removing far more. The other reason for filling it in row by row from the top down was that there was far less risk of disturbing the surrounding colours if there was nothing below and I wasn't trying to 'squeeze between' colours - especially as I was using the mini Hama beads.

I started off with all of my Hama beads in a divided box with each colour in its own section. I would pick out each bead and place it on the board with my tweezers.  However I later found out that it was much faster to drop 'pinches' of Hama beads onto an empty Hama board and tweezer them directly from there onto my image.  This method was a good 25% faster.

I really love my Hama bead portrait and I've no doubt that I will create similar pieces.  It really was a labour of love though and I estimate that it took me maybe 8 or 9 hours to complete. With practise I think I could probably get this down to 6 hours - which makes those Etsy commissioned portraits excellent value!

As you can see, I ironed my Hama beads to within an inch of their lives.  This was mainly because they weren't all quite the same height, so I was finding that the taller ones were fusing, whilst the shorter ones weren't and I was starting to get into a bit of a mess...  I'd spent so long on it I really didn't want it to fall apart at the final hurdle.  Knowing what I know now, I'd definitely use midi Hama beads next time as I should think they're probably significantly more forgiving.  Every day's a learning day!


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Diana of Diana Rambles said...

I'd love to have you join my Pin Me Linky Party because this is an awesome idea! I'm going to pin it now!

steve8091 said...

Hi Kathryn,

This morning I noticed some traffic in my shop originating from your blog - this is PXL8R, whose Etsy portraits you referenced in your post. Congrats on your first portrait - very well done, and of a beautiful little girl!

It was interesting for me to read about your thoughts and the processes you trialed. I assemble my potraits by hand (no use of tweezers), and one color at a time. I too experimented with the various methods you've described, but having now created over 100 of these, I've manged to cut my time down substantially through practice (much more dextrous fingers) and by perfecting my techniques.

This, along with the ability now to buy beads in bulk, has allowed me to keep my prices as low as I can. Yes, I do create these because there some financial gain, but honestly I do it in large part to be able to share my work with my community and with the world.

In any event, I wanted to thank you for featuring me, and to congratulate you on your first portrait!

- Steve Moore (aka PXL8R)

Kathryn - Craftmehappy said...

Wow, thank you very much for your kind words. You really inspired me!

I obviously need a lot more practice to build up my speed and precision...

Girls in a Cottage said...

You can also try PerlerSnapshots.com where you can upload your image and it will put it into a template automatically. And for free!

Kathryn - Craftmehappy said...

Ha! Thank you for that! I wish I'd seen that website several months ago. It would have saved me a lot of time...

Kendra Tierney said...


I just wanted to let you know that I linked to this post in my new blog www.catholicallyear.blogspot.com so you can expect a big increase in visitors to your site who are my mom and sister-in-law. Thanks for the cute idea, and thanks to girls in a cottage for making it even easier!


my blog

Anonymous said...

Try PhotoPearls, it´s easy to convert digital images to bead pattern! check out www.photopearls.se

Manjari said...

Very cool! I wandered in here off the interwebs when searching how to make my own template.

Mara said...

What was your ironing technique? I've destroyed two different 15,000+ bead projects in the ironing stage and I don't want to do it again!

Also, this is by far the best Perler bead pattern maker I've found so far. Free and very customizable!

Glen T said...

I'm a seasoned Fuse Bead creator but never found an easy way to do a photo from scratch. You provided some excellent pointers and I cant wait to get started on my own. Thank you