How to Protect Your Paper Beads

Sealants Image

I’ve seen a lot of questions from paper crafters wondering which sealant they should seal their paper beads with before making them into jewelry. So, I decided to get out some of my favorite sealants I’ve used on my own beads and test them against each other.

Paper Beads Sealants:

  • Krylon Low-Odor Clear Finish Spray
  • Mod Podge, Gloss Finish
  • Minwax Satin Polycrylic Protective Finish
  • Triple Thick Gloss Glaze
  • Beeswax (I’d never actually tried this as a sealant before.)
  • Unsealed Beads (Gool ol’ naked beads!)

 

How I Tested the Paper Bead Sealants:

  • All the beads made  from scrapbook paper and then rolled with Mod Podge as the glue.
  • All beads were coated with a sealant and then dried for 4  hours.
  • Sandpaper: A small portion of each dry bead was sanded with very fine grain sandpaper.
  • Dunking in Water + Scraping: The beads were dunked for 10 seconds, toweled off,  and then a small section was scraped with my fingernail.

 

Here are the paper beads that I tested

And the Gold Medal Goes to…

Shiniest Paper Bead: Without a doubt, the shiniest bead was sealed with Triple Thick. It also felt very smooth.

Fastest Drying Paper Bead Sealer: The beeswax cooled and solidified in just a few moments.  Krylon spray was dry to the touch in about 15 minutes.  However, all (except beeswax) should be left to dry for a few hours.

Best for Seeing and Feeling the Paper Bead’s Natural Texture: Unsealed Paper.  However, the Krylon Finish came in a close 2nd with a lot of the paper’s texture preserved to the touch.

Most Durable bead when completely dry: Polycrylic Finish and Triple Thick Glaze did not lose any color on their beads when they were sanded. Mod Podge held up well too. Ten seconds of fine sandpaper went right through the outer layers of the unsealed bead, beeswax coated bead, and Krylon coated bead.

Most durable bead after dunking in water: Polycrylic. It survived the dunking and the fingernail scraping.

Most Earth Friendly paper bead sealer: Unsealed paper and beeswax were the most natural beads.  However, these provided almost no protection for the bead against wear and tear.

 

The unsealed bead (C) and beads sealed with Beeswax (B) and Krylon (K) did not hold up well to sandpaper.

Breakdown of Paper Bead Sealers :

1.  Mod Podge (Gloss)

Positives:  Shiny finish. Dries fairly quickly and held up to sandpaper. Non-toxic and easy to clean up.

Negative: Slightly unpleasant odor to those sensitive to it. After dunking in water, I could leave marks in the sealant.

Best Use: This is a good all around sealant.  However, since it softened a little with water, moisture in the air could make the sealant a little soft.  I’ve seen these beads stick slightly to other mod podge sealed beads. These would be best for designs that don’t have paper beads touching each other.

Buy Mod Podge

 

2.  Triple Thick Glaze

Positives: Very shiny, high gloss finish. Had the thickest coat of all the paper bead sealants. Easy to clean up. Non-toxic. Very durable when kept dry.

Negative: After dunking the bead in water, I was able to leave marks in the gloss with my fingernail.

Best Use: Like Mod Podge, the softening with water could mean that in a more humid environment, these beads could stick slightly to each other.  These would be best for jewelry designs that don’t have the paper beads touching each other.

Buy Triple Thick Glaze

3.  Polycrylic Finish

Positives: Dries hard and durable even after dunking in water.  Soap and water clean up.  This is my favorite sealant because it isn’t so thick that you lose the texture of the paper but it is durable enough to protect the bead.

Negatives: Needs to be used in a well ventilated room. Not non-toxic. Not good for working with small children.

Best Use: Beads sealed with polycrylic can be pretty much be used in any type of jewelry. They are better for projects for adults.  I used the satin finish, but for more shine, consider using the gloss finish.

Buy Polycrylic

4.  Krylon Low Odor Clear Finish

Positives: Dries fairly quickly. Great for a light sealant on paper beads when you want to preserve the paper’s unique texture.

Negative: Needs to be used outdoors or in a well ventilated room.  Not non-toxic.  Needs to have multiple coats.

Best Use: These dry pretty quickly.  I had thought that these was the strongest, and was surprised that even after 2 coats, the coating wore off.  Beads sealed with this should not be used in projects that will get a lot of wear and tear. It would probably work best for beads used in earrings.

Buy Krylon Low Odor Finish

5.  Beeswax

Positive: Natural alternative to other sealants.  Adds some degree of water resistance. I have to admit, using the beeswax was pretty cool.  I wish I could figure out a way to make this more durable.  I may have to look into adding some damar resin like they use in encaustic painting in order to make this more durable.

Negative: Have to use melted beeswax which is very hot.  Not a durable sealant in its natural form – I wouldn’t recommend it for jewelry, though it might be really exciting to use with other types of paper projects.

Best Use: By itself, beeswax coated beads are not great for jewelry or anything that will be worn.  However, they could make a really nice addition to other sorts of art projects for items that will not be touched a lot such as wall art.

Buy Beeswax

6. Unsealed beads

Positives: Not sealing the paper bead is a wonderful way to see and feel the paper’s natural texture.

Negatives: Unsealed beads get dirty very quickly and can’t be wiped off very well. Sandpaper sanded the color off of the paper. Dunking and then scraping with a fingernail tore the paper.

Best Use: These types of beads are best for projects that you don’t expect to use for a long time.  There is no sealant, so the beads are ready as soon as they dry after rolling.  This would be great for fast projects that you do with kids.



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10 Responses to How to Protect Your Paper Beads

  1. Leah
    Twitter:
    August 20, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    Thanks for this comparison – very useful for lots of paper craft applications – I usually use mod podge to seal paper, and I actually had never heard of the polycrylic before.
    Leah recently posted..Die-cutting Metal with a Big ShotMy Profile

  2. richa August 27, 2012 at 2:49 am #

    Thanks for this great and detailed info. I was totally unaware of some of these.

  3. Dipa August 31, 2012 at 3:52 am #

    Hi,
    I am not much of a craft person, but surely going to forward this to mu mum. She is going to love the information you have presented here. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Kristine September 3, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

    Thanks for these suggestions, I’ve tried making paper beads as well to decorate my daughter’s craft project but as expected they didn’t last very long.

  5. Joy September 3, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    The one with the polycrylic finish seems to be my best bet, I need this urgently for a project I’m trying to put together. Thanks for the share!
    Joy recently posted..Cash for Gold Scams OnlineMy Profile

  6. dani September 12, 2013 at 6:38 am #

    what is your method of application when you are doing large batches? for the non spray sealants, do you pour the sealant into another bottle like a nail polish bottle? or do you work with a brush directly from the container?

    • Dara September 16, 2013 at 7:55 am #

      Good question! I usually a pour a small amount of sealant into a small plastic disposable bottle like a clean empty margarine container or other discarded container.

      I put the beads on a drying rack. (See How to Make a Bead drying rack.) Usually, after I string the beads on to the rack, I use a sponge paint brush dripped in a sealant to apply it to the beads.

      Sometimes I just pour the sealant into a container, dump the beads into it, and then quickly pick the beads and slide them on the drying rack. (When you do that, the insides of the beads will be wet, so you need to make sure that you string them onto something very nonstick like waxed dental floss. You also need to make sure you gently wipe off the excess. Also, occasionally slide the beads up and down the floss to keep them from sticking to it as they dry.)

    • Dara May 17, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

      I usually pour the sealant into something like an old plastic container and work from there. It keeps me from getting anything icky in the original container.

  7. Joey September 16, 2013 at 1:20 am #

    Wow! thanks for this info. I was looking for a way to make felt paper more durable for my wargames terrain. :)

  8. Rain December 10, 2013 at 6:51 am #

    Thanks! This is very comprehensive. If you like the natural paper look with a sealed bead, I found that Mod Podge Matte works well and is less sticky than the gloss version. It will behave like the Mod Podge Gloss in the above tests.