"The Beader’s Guide to Color," Margie Deeb

Pros: Comprehensive; insightful; stunning
Cons: None
Rating: 5 out of 5


I love color, and I love shiny beads (I’m a magpie at heart). While there are plenty of books on color theory for artists, and of course you can buy a color wheel at any craft store, I wanted something more specific to beading. Margie Deeb delivers that specificity in spades in The Beader’s Guide to Color.

Ms. Deeb does cover the basics of color theory and the color wheels (both the artist’s color wheel and the CMYK ink color wheel). She explains concepts such as value, tint, intensity, and so on so that you can better find, mix, and create the colors you want.

One of my favorite parts of this book is called ‘meet the colors’, and it deals not just with the primaries, secondaries, and tertiaries, but also with neutrals, earth tones, white, gray, black, and metallics. Each section discusses the characteristics and affinities of its color(s) as well as symbolism, emotional associations, and so on. A budding jewelry designer would find this a gold mine of ideas not just for mixing and matching bead colors, but also for creating dynamic and enticing product descriptions that are more than just a drab recounting of the item’s colors and traits.

Once the reader has gained something of an understanding of the colors themselves, Ms. Deeb discusses various ways of creating color schemes. She delves into both theory-based color schemes and more fluid designs based on seasons, emotions, and symbolism—such as a dynamic, luxurious, tropical, opulent, or friendly schemes. The theory-based schemes delve into everything from monochromatic work to analogous, complementary, split-complementary, analogous-complementary, triads (basic, complementary, & modified), tetrads, tints, pures, and low- and high-key. For readers with no previous background in color theory, she’s delightfully thorough about explaining the why and how of things—what effects your choices of color and material will have on your finished product.

Ms. Deeb includes a handful of things that make these discussions more than just theory, and more than just another lesson in artistic color theory. First of all, the book is filled—and I mean FILLED—with photographs of beaded artwork that make abundant use of color, and the author discusses the use of color in each one. Many of these pieces are done with bead-weaving, although not exclusively so; this means you’ll see some stunning sculptures and tapestries in addition to the jewelry most often associated with beading. I had no idea this kind of stuff was possible, and the photos are incredibly inspiring as well as instructional. The author includes photos of her own as well as other artists’ work; it’s clear that she knows what she’s talking about, judging by her work!

The author is also remarkably good at including beading-specific information, and not just as asides. For instance, she always takes into account the addition of different types of metal or colors of cord or thread when working with beads. She discusses which metals fit into which seasonal color schemes. She details the ways in which thread, cord, and beading wire coloration affect the appearance of bead colors. She takes into account whether beads are faceted, rough, or smooth, as well as their shapes, and in particular what sort of finish is used.

Most of all, her passion for beading and color shines through on the pages, giving them a vibrant energy reflective of her very subject. I can’t imagine someone coming away from this book without at least a dozen ideas spinning around in their heads. If you’d like to practice her techniques and see how they work first-hand, she also includes a handful of projects toward the back of the book that turn theory into practice.

While the book does include a few basic beading techniques to make sure you can try out some of the projects, note that it isn’t meant as an introductory beading or bead-weaving book.

Roses by ~ErrantDreams on deviantART

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2 comments on “"The Beader’s Guide to Color," Margie Deeb
  1. Tara says:

    Hmm. Interesting. I do a little beading but admit that I am really not artistic and don’t have ‘an eye’ for these things. I wonder if this book or another would help me, or be over my head. Thanks for the review.

  2. heather says:

    Hi Tara! It doesn’t assume any prior knowledge of art or color theory, so if you’re looking for artistic inspiration, definitely give it a try! It just doesn’t try to be an introductory beading book, since it’s concentrating on the color and art of jewelry-making rather than the mechanics.

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