Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Color, Color, Color: Three Books about Beads and Color

The Beader’s Guide to Color, by Margie Deeb (Watson-Guptill, 2004).
This book is a must-buy for any beader, but especially for beadweavers. The first section of the book covers color theory and design. Ms. Deeb’s explanation of color wheels is brief but very clear. The illustrations are excellent (as in the rest of the book). She then takes readers on a tour of colors, describing not only the physical properties of each color, but also the cultural aspects. Yellow, for example, “represents the sun and signifies enlightenment, wisdom, or divine power.”

The second part of the book is a discussion of theory-based color schemes. Now I finally know why cobalt blue and copper look so great together! She provides clear descriptions of monochromatic, analogous, complementary, split complimentary, analogous-complementary, basic triads, complementary and modified triads, tetrads, pure colors, tints, low-key, and high-key colors. And for each color scheme, there is a sample project with graph (if needed) and clear directions.

The third part of the book features “emotional and symbolic color schemes.” For example, there is a friendly Fire Dragon Purse. Finally, “Inspiration and Technique” provides a small gallery (more, please!) of beaded projects and instructions for stringing, off-loom, and on-loom weaving.

The photographs of sample designs are eye candy at its best, but don’t just look at the pictures. The text is fascinating. Best of all, Ms. Deeb provides sample palettes, AND she gives you the Delica numbers for them. This makes shopping a breeze. I just take my lists, and off I go.

As if Margie Deeb heard my plea for “more, please!” she has written a second book, The Beader’s Color Palette (Watson-Guptill, 2008). It’s another must-buy. I adored her first book, so I pre-ordered this one. I must say, she topped herself. The photos are wonderful, the projects gorgeous, the instructions clear (though the font for materials lists is a little small for middle-aged eyes), and the palettes amazing.

This book is divided into sections. The first, “The Elements,” draws inspiration from air, fire, water, and earth. The water-themed palettes are breath-taking to this Pisces woman. She provides little photos of the natural scene that inspired the palette along with a photo of the beaded piece. Without a good layout, the book’s design could have been crowded, but it is beautiful. Even the high quality paper the book is printed on is a wonderful touch (pun intended) for us tactilely oriented beaders.

The following sections of the book are devoted to “Artists’ Historical Palettes,” “Cultures of Our World,” “This Gorgeous Planet,” and Living Color.” Again there is an “Inspiration Gallery” at the end of the book and some information on techniques and beading basics. Wonderful features are Delica cross-reference and gemstone cross-reference indices. So where was that project with the red jasper? Page 131.

My favorite section of the book is the “Artists’ Historical Palettes.” An example of her approach here is to show a little sample of a William Morris wallpaper design and then build a beading palette on the colors in the design. Artists she has chosen range from Ancient Egypt to Medieval and Byzantine to Van Gogh, with lots of others featured. She probably could have produced a whole book on just color palettes from great art. I will do us all a favor and request that. More, please, Margie Deeb!

The third book of color is The Beader’s Color Mixing Directory by Sandra Wallace (Krause Publications, 2007). This book is another must-buy, but if your funds are limited, buy the Deeb books first. The first chapter does a great job of explaining color theory, and I like the way Ms. Wallace presents examples in little trays of beads with the color wheel beside the photo. One thing I miss is the Delica color codes provided in Ms. Deeb’s books.

You have to work a little harder to use this book if you want to duplicate projects exactly (but who does that?). For example, Project 5, a triadic spiral bracelet, gives five different color schemes for the project, but only the first option has the bead colors labeled A, B, C, D, E, and F. If you wanted to make the project according to the directions, “in the following order: one A, three B, one C,” etc. you would have to translate the colors into the alternate schemes yourself. It would not have been difficult to label them in the diagrams provided and would have been a nice touch because some of the colors are pretty close. Are the dark blue-green beads the triangle beads or seed beads?

But the book is still a very good book, and it will appeal to beadweavers. Most of the projects feature beadweaving. There are not detailed directions for most of the projects featured, but that is okay. Use the book to expand your own color schemes.

Reviews by Paula Ford of PFordCustomJewelry


  1. Sounds like a very interesting book

  2. Thanks for reviewing these books! I will check them out in person based on your review!

  3. I have Margie Deeb's 'The Beader's Guide to Color' and Sandra Wallace's 'The Beader's Color Mixing Directory' - both great inspirational books!

    Thanks for the review :0)

  4. These sound like great books to add to my library, especially the two by Deeb. Will be on the lookout for them.

  5. I previewed The Beader's Color Pallate on Amazon and it looks like an excellent book. Strongly considering adding it to my library. Thanks for the article.

  6. I have and LOVE both books by Margie Deeb (who is my beading hero, by the way). I also use general color theory and decorating books and some of my "old" quilting books for inspiration :) That's the wonderful thing about color theory: you can apply it to any medium!

    Great reviews, Paula! Thank you!

  7. I need to get those books. They sound great. Thanks for the review Paula!

  8. This artcile is great. Really helpful, thanks very much.

  9. I intend to get Margie Deeb's new book, I already have her first and Sandra Wallace's, I highly recommend them!!

  10. Thank you for the review, very interesting.


  11. Great reviews! Did you know that the July/August issure of Step by Step Beads has an article by Margie Deeb called "Turning Inspiration into a Palette"?

  12. Margie Deeb's 'The Beader's Guide to Color' was a huge treat that I ran across. I try to hunt out bead books at the used book store nearby, and when I brought this one home and actually dove in, I found it to be incredible.