Selling custom photo beads online is a way to generate income and develop skill with photography and graphic design. If your inventory appeals to a popular style or trend, you could earn a quick profit with little risk: The upfront cost is affordable, especially if you can buy your startup materials in small quantities. "Some of our customers are photographers, artists and crafters who have online stores," says Susan Bokurak, co-owner of Photo Jewelry Making, a supplier of jewelry findings, kits and photographic papers in Ann Arbor, Mich. "Many of them started out small buying a few supplies and found out that there was a demand."
Media and Materials
Consider your creative interests and goals when designing your beads. If you want to focus on photography, you can measure and cut your printed images to fit inside beads manufactured especially for the purpose, sliding the photos behind plastic, resin or glass. This kind of photo bead is strung with others into necklaces, bracelets, bookmarks and key chains. If you want to make your own beads, however, you can use polymer clay and transfer photos to the surface using gels or solvents. Another method of making photo beads is by rolling, puncturing and twisting thick paper or cardboard into a spherical or oblong shape, adhering or printing photos while you are working.
Photo Styles and Effects
In most cases, you will need to modify your photos so they look good on beads. Open them in Photoshop or Picasa and try various tonal effects to find an aesthetic statement you like. Adjust the contrast, saturation and lighting. If you have a collage or scrapbook style, cut photos into sections -- extracting the interesting parts -- and combine the pieces with each other in another document. Keep your deigns small, but not so small that they are hard to work with. Save final compositions with an identifying name, grouping common images together. For example, you might have a folder of bird-in-flight images, a folder of fruit segments and another of vintage typography.
Themes and Presentation
Organize your images into themes that are visually interesting and speak to your target audience. Use your favorite images in different ways -- perhaps changing the color or shape -- and develop a jewelry piece for each variation. Choose a bead size, shape and style that best displays each collection. For example, your abstracts might look good without any framing whereas your close-ups look better in glass, plastic or resin. Consider how the medium -- clay, paper or metal -- complements your photos. Spend some time experimenting with different techniques and supplies. Ask friends for candid feedback.
Printing and Finishing
Before fusing or applying artwork to beads, measure the amount of space available for photo placement. In most cases, you will need to size the photo to fit inside its designated space. You can do this with image-resizing software especially for photo jewelry, such as Bokurak's EZ Photo Resizer. Some artists prefer this method over others because you can print an entire collection of photos at once. If you want to resize images one at a time, you can use Photoshop, Picasa or another photo-editing program. Print the designs on photo paper, decal paper or another material you have chosen and cut them out. After they are inserted into the beads or transferred with solvents, make sure to seal them to prevent loss or damage. Wear the beads yourself a few times: If there are any problems to address -- such as fading -- you can solve the issue before selling them to others.
- Jeanne Rhea: Transferring Images to Flat Polymer Clay Surfaces
- Susan Bokurak: Personal Interview
Amy Stanbrough is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in "Bust," "Woman's World," "Southern Exposure" and many other publications. Stanbrough holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from George Mason University.