BDawg Makes Pixel Art
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Differences in Bead Brands
Mini Artkal Beads
I came across mini Artkals when I was bummed out about mini Hama beads epic fail. It seems to me that Artkal beads are based out of China. Artkals come in standard 5mm fuse bead size (like Perlers) and also in smaller 2.6mm size, the minis. I liked how it was advertised that mini Artkals were flexible and durable once ironed. You can actually bend your projects. This has been wonderful for me because I don't see any of my projects warping like with stiff Perler projects.
Another reason I prefer mini Artkals is because they are just that, mini. I can create larger pieces without the finished product turning out to be very large in size. I like to display my projects on the walls in my home, and 5mm size bead projects just take up too much space. Not to mention I very much dislike ironing pieces that big. I used to dread the ironing part of my projects, but with the mini beads, even 100x100 pieces aren't torture to iron.
One of the only issues I have with mini Artkals is the way to edge beads blow out. Even with having a hole poked in the masking tape, they sort of just blow out anyways. Its not a consistent thing, so I wonder if it may have to do with over ironing. My solution to that problem is to outline some of my projects in clear beads. That way I'm not bothered so much if the clears blow out, since they aren't a part of the original design anyways. After ironing, I cut away the clear bead edges with an xacto knife.
Perler brand fuse beads are what I played with as a child. They're probably the main brand used in the US. Perlers are usually easy to find at any decent sized craft store. There's also the Perler Bead section on the EKSuccess website, and of course ebay and many other online sources. Perlers are a good size and easy to work with. The color variety is decent. Once ironed together, the project is very firm.
I have run across some problems with Perler beads that I never really found a solution to:
1) The parchment paper crinkles up on top of the project I am ironing. The creases of the paper are then molded into the project itself. I suspect this may be caused by either the iron temperature being too hot, or from over ironing the beads. I like the holes in the beads to be completely closed when I iron my projects, but that doesn't make for a good final product. I get more creases the longer I melt the beads.
2) When I make larger projects (example 58x58 or larger) the final product tends to bend and warp, even when I keep it under weights for 24 hours +. Even projects that do come out flat, will sometimes warp and bend over time.
The problems I come across could very well be flaws in my technique. For ironing I'm pretty much self-taught and maybe I'm just going about it wrong.
When I began using fuse beads as an adult, Perlers was what I would work with. I transitioned over to mini beads though, and my preferred brand is mini Artkal beads.