Complete Guide to Seed Beads – Different Sizes, Shapes and Finishes

When you start beading, the different seed bead sizes and shapes can be very confusing. This is why it is very important to know their differences and how this might affect your beadwork.

What are seed beads?

SEED BEADS are the type of beads of small dimensions, also called ROCAILLES, which is generally differentiated by sizes, colors, shapes and materials from which they are made. Beads are very commonly used in off-loom bead weaving, jewelry making, decoration of clothes and lately it has become very popular to use them for the embroidery of magnificent pictures. Let’s get to know them in more detail…


Glass is the most common material used to make seed beads, as they are the best for quality and finish, but apart from glass you could also find beads made from metal, ceramic, plastic or even bone.

You can find cheap seed beads made of plastic manufactured in China but they are not recommended to use as they can fade over time. It is definitely worth spending a little extra to buy the best quality beads which come from Japan and the Czech Republic.  

Japanese beads manufactured by Matsuno, Toho and Miyuki are widely known for their greater uniformity and consistency of sizes, perfectly round shapes and finishes, which results in higher prices for their beads.

However, donut shaped Czech beads manufactured by Preciosa are considered more valued in bead embroidery around the world as they have slightly larger holes than their Japanese competitors, which facilitates their use by making multiple thread passes easier. Preciosa seed beads have managed to stand out from the rest of the manufacturers thanks to the perfection of their finishes and also a greater range of bead shapes.


You can find beads in a range of shapes and forms such as flowers, leaves, round, rectangular, pyramidal, square, oval, tear-shaped, tube, spiral, etc. Virtually any kind of bead can be used for embroidery, as all their various sizes, colors and shapes help to create different effects. Faceted beads give a geometric look while tube beads fill in shapes or outline areas of the pattern. Smaller, round beads are often attached in groups of three or four and are used to create spirals, circles and other free-flowing designs. It ultimately is an artistic decision made by the beader as to what kinds and colors of beads to use.


Seed beads are classified with a number that relates to their size, the most common of which are the numbers 15/0 extra small (1.5mm), 11/0 normal (2mm), 8/0 large (3mm) and 6/0 extra large (4mm). Seed bead sizes are a little confusing because the higher the size, the smaller the bead! The sizes that are mostly used in crafts vary from 8/0 to 15/0, the most used for embroidery being 11/0 (normal size) and 15/0 (micro beads).


Among the appearances and finishes of the beads, there are transparent, opaque and matte shades with different effects such as:

1. Transparent Seed Beads are the main ones, on which the entire range of beads is based. They are made of transparent glass of different colors and look more lively or ”sparkly” than opaque beads. There are different finishes that can be applied over a transparent bead: Transparent Dyed, Transparent Matte, Transparent Luster and Transparent Rainbow.

2. Silver Lined Seed Beads. They are made with a transparent or opal glass and have a mirror-like reflective lining in their holes, however over time the silver colors may fade or wear off. Usually, but not always, the hole is square to enhance the bead’s reflectiveness. There are different finishes that can be applied over a silver-lined bead: Silver-Lined Dyed and Silver-Lined Rainbow.

3. Aurora Borealis Seed Beads or AB is a term for crystal stones that have a highly iridescent surface. The rainbow effect finish applied to the surface of these beads has been designed to reflect and sparkle. These beads may differ from each other in color.

4. Color Lined Seed Beads. Also known as Inside Colored, because the inside of the beads has a colored coating applied to it. The bead is usually transparent to help show off the inside color. The inside color may also have an effect applied, such as luster, rainbow or fancy lined. In embroidery work they can be a bit finicky: they don’t like to stay long in water, exposed to the sun, and the secondary color on the surface of the hole can rub off over time. But despite all these difficulties, they do look very nice in the finished product.

5. Opaque Seed Beads are the strongest and most durable of all bead types. Light cannot pass through an opaque bead because opaque beads transmit no light. There are different finishes that can be applied over an opaque bead: Opaque Dyed, Opaque Matte, Opaque Luster and Opaque Rainbow.

6. Galvanized Seed Beads, also known as metallic, have a metallic plating applied to the glass, giving a reflective and shiny finish. Metal tones of silver, steel, copper, gold and bronze are the most popular finishes. This finish can be potentially rubbed off over a long period of time.

7. Frosted Semi-transparent Seed Beads that have a matte finish, with the surface looking dull. This effect is achieved by mechanical or chemical means.

8. Striped Seed Beads are made with two or more glass colors that are considered being very durable.

9. “Chameleon” Seed Beads – the name speaks for itself, the little beads can change their color depending on the environment and lighting.

10. Marbled Seed Beads have an uneven colored surface, reminiscent of the color of natural stone. It is unlikely that you will find two beads of the same color.

So you already know that there is a wide variety of types of beads, their possible shapes, sizes, colors and materials from which they are made from. Among all these types of beads you can always find those that will work best to achieve the desired result. If you would like to know more about how to choose beads for your embroidery project, you can find more useful information in another article in our blog HERE, although with us you do not have to worry because all the embroidery kits in our store already have the beads selected according to each design.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *