Use Color to Your Advantage When Working with Glass Beads: Advice from Guest Blogger Jill MacKay

Jul 5, 2013

Have you ever wondered what methods a professional artist uses to buy glass beads and create color palettes for new beading projects? Bead artist Jill MacKay has created jewelry for television shows like The Guiding Light and Star Trek: The Next Generation, and today, she talks a little bit about how she uses color creatively when buying glass beads and designing jewelry with them!

Glass beads, oh how we love them! When I was invited me to write a guest post on this topic, I accepted immediately. Beads are such a big part of my life, I feel as though I could have written poetry about beads for this blog, but you'd likely rather I did not! Presently I'm having a love affair with Picasso Czech glass beads -- the color combinations and mixtures of these glass beads are just delicious.

Lately, I've been purchasing my glass beads in a new way. Using a specific color palette, I buy my glass beads in various shapes and sizes within this palette. This season, I've been working in very high key, bright summery colors, and the finished jewelry is selling like crazy! The colors in these palettes are not always colors I would choose to wear myself, so it's important to keep in mind when designing we all have to work outside of our own tastes or you might miss out on a large percentage of customers. You may have developed your own design style, but changing your choices of color allows you to really modify your look and keep it fresh. Many of us like to make the same patterns in more than one colorway, and I enjoy doing this because I always find it surprising that the same pattern or design can look so very different with just a simple change in colors.

Above: a photo taken in the Colorado wilderness. Below: the color palette Jill created from the photograph using myPantone on her smartphone.
A great color tool that I have been working with to make color choices when buying my glass beads is the myPantone color app on my smartphone. It lets me make palettes from favorite photographs, mix and match colors, and save color palettes to use later. For anyone who loves to use color, it's a worthy investment.

Here in Colorado, we are blessed with beauty on the grandest of scale. I see no need to try and top the color palettes that have been created by nature, so while out on my hikes, I just get out my smartphone when I see brilliant colors along the way. I open the myPantone app and take a photo, and like magic, the app translates it into a Pantone color palette! It is really very cool. You can pull up harmonizing colors, leave voice memos about the palette, and email it to yourself. I find all of these things to be incredibly useful when I'm designing and creating beaded jewelry using glass beads -- the next time I am at a show purchasing glass beads, I just pull out my phone and look through my saved color palettes, created from my pictures of the Colorado wilderness. Translating the colors of Colorado into glass beads and then finished work is a wonderful way to create in living color.


If you're looking for a few good beading projects to play with some new colors and maybe use up some of those great glass beads you've been hoarding in your stash, you're in luck -- for a limited time, all eProjects are on sale in the Beading Daily Shop! Stock up on some fun new beading projects and carve out a little beading time for yourself this weekend.

What do you think of Jill's advice about shopping for beads based on a color palette? Will you try it the next time you attend a bead show or make a trip to your local bead shop?

Bead Happy,


Jill MacKay is a well established accomplished designer, author and consultant. Her genuine enthusiasm, combined with over twenty five years creative work experience makes Jill one of the most skilled, diversified and sought after designers working in the creative industries today. Jill is best known for having been the jewelry designer for the daytime drama: The Guiding Light, and for her past work on Paramount Studio's, Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Jill MacKay brand continues to evolve and charm the jewelry makers and buyers of the industry. MacKay's jewelry currently sells in over 2000 stores internationally, on television, and online. See more of Jill's work, read her blog, and learn more about her on her website,

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LisaLTD wrote
on Jul 5, 2013 9:02 AM


I tend to guess and, as a result, overbuy (because having too many beads is SUCH a hardship - lol) when faced with choosing colour palettes and schemes. Bead shows prove especially challenging. And I had no idea there were smartphone apps that would not only allow you to snap a photo and give you what you need... but that would give you hex /RGB numbers as well. Amazing.

Thanks again :-)

Njak wrote
on Jul 5, 2013 9:20 AM

FYI, myPantone is $9.99. Another app that is FREE Adobe Kuler and does the same thing. I don' think it gives you the Pantone colors, but you can take it to your LBS and match beads to your color scheme.

on Jul 5, 2013 9:59 AM

I have bought beads in same color palette and know the value and have seen the value in doing this! I always take a snapshot and store it away much like the books about Cam Jansen my kids read when they were little- he has total recall of what he sees-maybe my phone would b a better way of filing all those images currently running around in my head! Thank for all the suggestions and tips!

marianneh wrote
on Jul 5, 2013 11:09 AM

I use this method for any kind of color project; choosing yarns for color work, fabrics for quilting, dyes for my spinning fiber, painting my rooms, etc.  It's a tried and true method!

bayberry42 wrote
on Jul 5, 2013 12:24 PM

I have the hardest time picking colors. I think some thing will be beautiful and then am so disappointed after all that work. I will try this and see if it helps

Me make better choices when purchasing. Susan from Michigan

Katie@107 wrote
on Jul 5, 2013 2:36 PM

What a great way to save all those ideas. It IS hard to work outside your style and comfort zone sometimes and I think this would help tremendously!!

Thank you!!

HeidiFirefly wrote
on Jul 5, 2013 6:20 PM

I'd love to find an app that I can use to take photos of my gemstone bead stash to determine what 'colour' they are for easy reference when using colour pallets such as these

on Jul 5, 2013 7:42 PM

I put the Ribbon bracelet in my cart and the price was 2.80, I continued to shop and I added a ring when I added the ring the price of bracelet had changed to 4.00. I thought all the projects was 30% off, What happened?

on Jul 6, 2013 2:36 AM

I have been using the Pantone Color Chart for some time now. I don't have a fancy cell phone, in fact I don't have one at all. But I do get my Pantone Color Charts FREE. I use Bing search and just type in Pantone Color Chart, and their are several free charts to chose from and ways to print out your own color charts. You can get them by year, or by season of that year. There is also a few companies that will sent you fabric color swatches to take with you when you shop for your beads. They are very reasonable in price, usually around $5.00 or so. Hope I was helpfull.  :-)


MargeM@7 wrote
on Jul 6, 2013 6:39 AM

Great article such excellent info

on Jul 6, 2013 7:04 PM

I love the color palette idea and will look for that app for my phone!