Hey! Ready for round two in my bead-sprite special?
Ok, today I will take a look at the materials you will need to get started. First of all you have to make a decision:
Take the blue pill, and stay in wonderland. Take the.... Ahh! This one never gets old! :) So, back to business:
Either, you go with HAMA, or you take Perler/Photopearls. This is quite important, cause you want to stick with one branch and don't start mixing. But this point I will address later..
HAMA is more “available” in Europe (and more importantly for me: Germany). Every good toy-store should have a dark, dusty corner with creative-crafting materials. When you are lucky, you will find some HAMA 1000er SINGLE color beads under all these cog-webs. Now this is important: DON'T buy multi-color buckets!!!!! You will regret it. Hell, you will! First it sounds like a great deal. A lot of different colors, all in one bundle for a reasonable price. Believe me, you will go nuts finding the right color over and over again... until you realize you are out of black, but still have TONS of...lets say green... no one likes green... In the end you will pay double, so just stick with single color packs and stay sane while peg'ing.
HAMA beads come in three different sizes: mini, medium and big. Forget about the big ones, they really can be considered as child's play. The most common sizes for bead-sprites is medium. They have roughly the same size as the beads from the other manufacturers, so mixing is a possibility. Mini's are useful for crafting jewelry-sized sprites, for example earrings, necklaces and rings. If you want to make a rather complex sprite in a reasonable sizes, minis is the way to go! All sizes require special pegboards and except for mediums have quite a limited color range (well, recently HAMA has nearly all medium colors available for minis too!)
Perler/Photopearls are a bit more “illusive”. The best way to find some is Ebay.com. “Callahan13” is a very reliable supplier with lots of rare colors in stock and fair prices. But brace yourself for some serious shipping costs.... Unfortunately Perler isn't shipping to Europe, so you have to rely on re-sellers and auctions. There are some online stores out there who ship to Europe as well... “blue'n dash” crosses my mind...
Earlier I said mixing isn't such a bright idea, and I meant it! Hama beads are tiny bit thinner and smaller then Perler beads. This results in a noticeable gap between the beads on your board. I don't say it is impossible to fuse them (I do it myself from time to time...) but you have to apply a bit more pressure and heat while ironing. This can easily lead to disaster for your sprite. The worst case is, your sprite looks like s**t if you fuse them too long. The other scenario isn't any better. The mentioned gap will hinder the fusion and the result is a partly fused sprite with holes in it (some un-fused beads will remain on the board). So I say, for a thing that took 3-4h making... Safety first!!! Don't mix. Unless you are a pro...or really confident....like me ;)
Remember when you were a kid and the first time you walked into a candy-shop? At first, your head will feel it will explode, confronted with all the choices. But, stick to the plan! Only take what you need, close your eyes, and walk straight out of it! Otherwise you will spend your entire college fond on
little plastic thing'ys.... believe me, I know what I'm talking of...
Undoubtly, Perler has the biggest variety. They have tons of different colors and their subsequent shades. Any color used in 8 or 16-Bit Sprites can be found within the Perler-range. Beware! Some colors are more common then others... (I'm looking at you prickly pearl....)
HAMA is more “konservativ” in their spectrum, but still have a descent amount of colors to realize any kind of sprite from the old arcade-machines. Sometimes you will have to make compromises and do some minor color variations, but It won't effect the overall look of the sprite.
They come in different sizes and shapes. But you want the basic rectangular ones. They can be attached to each other to form a more reasonable space to work with. It all depends on the size of your project. SNES sprites for example, are in 16 bit. That means you will need a least 4 of them connected to make a ...lets say... SNES sprite.
Bigger sprites need bigger boards. Just take a look at the picture:
Planning ahead for your sprite is of the essence! You don't wanna start and realize in the middle that you are running out of boards to finish it...
Again, sticking with one brand is necessary. Hama and Perler boards can't be connected with each other. You can use f.e. Hama boards with Perler beads and vice versa... but you will run in the same problems I explained earlier. For my part, I like the clear Perler boards.... they are durable as hell and won't deform even under great temperatures.
Now comes the tricky part! You spend ours translating your sprite to the board and It all comes down to this! Cover your sprite with ironing paper or oven-paper and start ironing it. Put it on medium heat and NEVER EVER use steam....just don't! Try not to apply a lot of pressure or you will start shifting beads out of their places. Stay in motion and start with the outlines. Make sure you cover the whole sprite and didn't miss any corners. After around 3-5 min (~ 1 min when working with minis) you are done. Let it cool down and remove the foil. Turn your sprite around and iron it again from the other side, but this time only 2 min. Double-ironing has two advantages: first, your sprite is more durable and less likely to break. Second, your sprite will always curve to the opposite side. Double-sided ironing is a good way to even-out the curving. Especially with very large sprites, the curving can become really annoying.. So, if you want some great pieces of pixel-art on your wall, double-sided ironing is a must!
Huu, that's it for now. Oh! Before I forget:
Of course there is a great community behind all this. For inspiration and other useful tips&tricks you should give www.pixelgasm.com a try. In my opinion the best place for pixel-art on the net.
So long, happy peg'in!