Diy Pixelart: Crafting With Perler Beads

Pixel art is a form of digital art where images are created and edited at the pixel level using specialized graphics software. According to Wikipedia, “Pixel art is a form of digital art drawn with graphical software where images are built using pixels as the only building block. It is widely associated with the graphics of classic video games and early digital art.”

The history of pixel art originated with early computer and video games that were developed with very limited screen resolutions and colors. Artists had to work within these constraints to create graphics and visuals for games. According to The Factory Times, “pixel art started as a workaround for technical limitations, but was utilized and refined to the point that it was ubiquitous in gaming culture.”

Today, pixel art continues to be popular for its nostalgic retro gaming aesthetics. Many indie games utilize a pixel art style as an homage to classic games. The constrained nature of pixel art also makes it an accessible art form for beginners to learn. Famous examples of pixel art include sprites from games like Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, and Minecraft.

Perler Beads Overview

Perler beads are small, colorful plastic beads that can be arranged on pegboards and fused together to create pixel art designs and patterns. According to Perler Beads: A History, they were first patented in Sweden in the 1960s as a craft activity for elderly homes. Perler beads have since become popular as a classic children’s toy but are also now enjoyed by adults for crafting elaborate pixel art.

Unlike other craft materials like paint or clay, Perler beads are uniquely suited for creating pixelated designs. Their small, uniform size and shape allows crafters to build up designs “pixel-by-pixel.” The pegboards provide an easy way to arrange the beads neatly in any grid-like pattern. Once arranged, a quick ironing fuses all the beads together into a solid, durable piece. This makes it easy for both children and adults to create detailed pixel art without needing advanced artistic skills.

In recent years, Perler beads have seen a resurgence in popularity for their versatility in crafting pop culture sprites, video game characters, and other complex pixel art creations. Their nostalgic, retro look has also become trendy. For pixel art fans, Perler beads are an accessible, affordable, and highly customizable crafting material.

Getting Started with Perler Beads

Getting started with Perler beads is easy once you have gathered the essential supplies and tools. The key items you’ll need include:

Ultimate Beginner’s Perler Bead Guide

  • Perler beads – These come in a variety of colors and you can buy them individually or in kits. Popular places to buy Perler beads include craft stores like Michaels, Amazon, and directly from Perler.
  • Perler bead organizer trays – Help keep your beads sorted by color.
  • Perler pegboards – These provide the template for placing your beads to form your design.
  • Tweezers – Helpful for precisely placing individual beads.
  • Iron and ironing paper – Used to melt and fuse the beads into a solid design.

For beginners, Perler bead kits provide an easy way to get started. They come with all the essential tools and a selection of beads. Many kits also include activity books with basic patterns to follow.

When starting out, go for larger bead sizes like midi or mega. The bigger beads are easier to handle and place. Slowly work your way down to the classic small sized beads as you gain experience.

Take your time when placing beads and refer back to your design pattern frequently. Planning ahead helps avoid mistakes. If you do make a mistake, beads can be easily removed and repositioned until you’ve fused your design.

Planning Your Pixel Art Design

When starting out with Perler bead pixel art, it’s best to choose a simple design with a limited number of colors. This will make it easier to plan out your bead placement and assemble the project.

example of a pixel art design sketched out on grid paper for perler bead planning.

Begin by sketching your pixel art design on graph paper to create a grid template. Make each square on the grid represent one Perler bead. Map out the placement of each color bead needed to create your artwork. Having a visual guide will be very helpful when you start arranging the beads.

When selecting colors for your pixel art, it’s recommended to limit your palette to 10 colors or less. Stick to solid colors rather than blends when first starting out. Focus on high contrast colors that really pop against each other like black, white, primary colors, and neon shades.

There are many free Perler bead patterns and pixel art generators online that can assist in planning bead placement for your project ( You can also convert an image to a grid template or create your own custom designs.

Take the time to properly plan out your bead colors and layout. This will make the bead arrangement process smoother and help ensure your finished pixel art looks clean and matches your original vision.

Arranging the Beads

Once you have your design planned out, it’s time to start carefully placing the beads on the pegboard. Proper bead arrangement is key to creating a clean, professional pixel art design. Here are some tips for neatly arranging your beads:

Fill rows completely: Work row by row, filling each row across the pegboard before moving to the next row. This helps keep things neat and organized.

Avoid gaps: Make sure beads are pushed together snugly so there are no gaps between them. Gaps can cause beads to fuse incorrectly.

Mix colors thoroughly: When using multiple colors in a row, make sure to mix them well so one color doesn’t dominate a section. Spread colors evenly for best results.

Start from one edge: Begin arranging from one edge of the pegboard and work your way across methodically. This prevents missing spots.

Check as you go: Occasionally lift the pegboard to inspect from underneath. This allows you to catch any gaps or missing beads early on.

Stay patient: Rushing the bead arrangement may result in a sloppy design. Take your time placing each bead perfectly.

With some practice and planning, you’ll be able to master neatly arranging beads for stunning pixel art designs.

Melting and Fusing the Beads

Once your design is complete, it’s time to permanently fuse the beads together. This can be done using either an iron or a bead melter.

If using an iron, place your design bead-side down on a flat, hard surface like an ironing board. Cover the beads with parchment paper (printer paper or wax paper also works). Set the iron to the medium heat setting and slowly iron over the beads using firm, even pressure (Perler). Lift the paper occasionally to check the progress – beads need 10-20 seconds per side to fully fuse (WikiHow). Avoid leaving the iron in one spot as this can scorch or warp the beads. Iron both sides until the beads are flattened and fused into one solid piece.

Bead melters provide a hands-free option for fusing. Place your design on the heating tray, cover with the top tray, and turn on the melter. Allow the beads to fuse for the recommended time, checking periodically to avoid over-fusing. Most designs take 1-3 minutes to fully fuse in a melter.

When fusing, go slowly and evenly. Rushing the process can lead to uneven fusing, misshapen beads, or burned spots. Let the beads cool completely before handling to prevent distortion.

Advanced Techniques

Once you’ve mastered the basics of Perler bead art, there are some advanced techniques you can try to take your pixel art to the next level.

Tips for Larger Projects

For larger projects that won’t fit on one pegboard, you can combine multiple pegboards to create bigger pieces of art. Lay the pegboards right next to each other and build your design across them. Then fuse them one section at a time. Be sure to leave 1-2 rows of beads between sections unfused so you can properly align them when you go to fuse the whole project together. Allow the individual sections to cool completely before fusing the entire project.

Framing and Displaying

To display your finished Perler bead art, framing it is a great option. Purchase a picture frame slightly larger than your project and place the fused beads inside. For stability, you can glue the beads onto cardboard or foam core before framing. Another display option is to glue a magnet onto the back of the beads and place them on the fridge or a magnetic board.1

No matter how you choose to present it, a framed Perler creation makes for unique wall art and a great way to show off your pixelated designs.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Working with Perler beads can sometimes lead to mistakes or damaged projects. Here are some tips for troubleshooting common issues that may arise:

Fixing Bead Placement Mistakes

If you notice a bead is out of place while your project is still unfinished, use tweezers or a toothpick to carefully lift it up and move it to the correct spot. Going slowly and gently will prevent damaging the beads around it. If your project is already fused, you may be able to gently pry up the misplaced bead with an X-Acto knife and replace it. Take care not to damage the beads surrounding it.

Dealing with Warped or Damaged Projects

Sometimes fused projects can become warped or damaged, especially if the beads weren’t fully fused. Gently reheating the project in the oven or with a hair dryer may help flatten it out again. Be very careful not to overheat the beads. If your project won’t lie flat, you can put heavy books on top of it while it’s cooling to keep it flat. Badly damaged projects may need to be dismantled and re-fused or redesigned.

With some patience and care, most common Perler bead mistakes can be fixed. Just work slowly and gently to avoid damaging your creation further.

Creative Pixel Art Ideas

Creating fun pop culture, video game, and original pixel art designs is easy with Perler beads. There are endless possibilities for beginner to advanced pixel artists. You can create simple pixel characters and cartoon icons, or step it up with more intricate projects and color gradients.

Some creative projects to try making include Pokémon characters like Pikachu or Bulbasaur (example). Pokemon are very popular, so perler bead versions make great gifts for fans. You can also make Mario items like mushrooms and stars from the classic Nintendo games (example). For superhero fans, craft Iron Man’s helmet (example) or Captain America’s shield (example).

Some more unique ideas are creating your own pixelized portrait from a photo (instructions). Or make trendy geometric wall hangings combining different colors and shapes (example). You can even make 3D sculptures by stacking multiple designs together.

The possibilities are endless for crafting fun pop culture and original art with Perler beads. Let your creativity run wild and see what you can design!


As you’ve learned through this DIY Perler Bead guide, working with these colorful plastic beads to create pixel art and crafts is an enjoyable, creative hobby. By following the tips on supplies, planning designs, arranging beads, fusing properly, and troubleshooting, you can make your own impressive Perler creations.

The pixel-by-pixel nature of Perler beads allows you to render any digital artwork or photo into a tactile, physical medium. Your finished crafts can be framed, hung as ornaments, given as gifts, or simply enjoyed as decorations. Let the examples and inspiration in this guide spark your imagination to design your own unique Perler projects.

With some beads, an ironing board, and a bit of patience, anyone can become a Perler bead artisan. Approach the hobby with creativity and fun, being open to experimentation. Learn from experience as you complete more designs. No matter your skill level, Perler beading is an accessible way to convey color, shape, and your artistic vision.

Now that you’re equipped with all the essential Perler knowledge, it’s time to get started! Gather supplies, find or create patterns, and turn your inspirations into beadwork reality. Pixel by pixel, build your Perler masterpieces that you’ll be proud to display and share. Happy beading!