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

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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