Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Perler Beads: 3D Energy Tank from Megaman Tutorial

I posted a finished picture of this on the VGPerlers Facebook page a week or so ago, but I thought I'd give more in-progress shots on its construction. And by more, I mean one.

Behold, the 3D Energy Tank:

All the pieces

Top row (trays 1-3): the 4 strips that go around the top, the lid itself, and one side. Middle row (trays 4-6): the two black pieces go inside lining the lid and bottom for additional structural security, middle tray is the bottom, and rightmost tray is another side. Bottom row (trays 7-9): the 4 strips that go around the bottom, and the two remaining sides.

Finished product

To construct: carefully snap together the pieces on trays 3, 5, 6, 8, and 9 (the 4 sides and bottom of the cube). Slide one of the black squares on tray 4 into the resulting cube and nestle it snugly flush with the bottom. Then break out your hot glue gun. Carefully glue each of the 4 strips on tray 7 to the bottom 3 rows of beads on each of the 4 sides of the cube. The 4 strips should snap together, but the hot glue secures them to the cube itself.  (Both sets of strips are identical, by the way.)

Megaman Energy Tank 

To assemble the lid, first secure the second black square from tray 4 onto one side of the lid (tray 2) using hot glue. Make sure that the black square is fully centered. If you do this correctly, you should still be able to see a row of beads from the lid itself surrounding the black square, like so:

Underside of the lid, pictured after completion 

Last of all, carefully glue the 4 strips from tray 1 to the sides of the lid. Only put hot glue along the back of the top row of beads on each strip, and line that row up with the side of the lid. Again, each strip should snap at the corner to the next strip, and the hot glue will secure them all to the lid itself. If you don't get too much excess hot glue on the back of the strips, the lid should fit snugly onto the rest of the cube. Please wait until all the hot glue is done cooling before putting the lid on for good though - you don't want to accidentally glue it to the cube!

A quick shout out to BrYaN55 on the Pixelgasm forum for posting this tutorial, which I used as reference and modified to make my own Energy Tank. If you find any of my instructions unclear, you may find that secondary source helpful too. The main difference is I modified the sides, bottom, and strips to be interlocking to minimize the amount of glue needed for construction.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Perler Beads: Tutorial on a New Hobby Part V

Time for another installment of how to make perler bead sprites! So now you know what supplies you need, how to get them for cheap(er), what colors of beads to order, and where to get sprites. Next comes the fun part: making cool stuff!

The basic steps of making a perler bead sprite are thus: take a pegboard. Put beads on the pegs to form a specific pattern. When finished putting beads on the board, carefully put parchment paper on top and iron until the beads are melted together. Remove from pegboard. Repeat parchment paper and ironing steps on the other side. Pile heavy things on the ironed sprite until cool. Remove parchment paper and find somewhere cool to display the piece, or do whatever you will with it.

I will talk about ironing another time, but first I want to talk about shading. Choosing what colors of beads to use can be tricky, and ultimately, those choices can make or break the finished product. The biggest thing I have learned from experience is never base your color choice solely off of what shows on the computer screen. Look at the whole sprite - notice what color it is as a whole, what the shades of colors are accomplishing, etc. That might affect your choices of color. For example, if you look closely at sprites that have "blonde" hair, you'll notice that it is actually more tan/brown:

But depending on how you want the finished sprite to look, you might choose to use a yellow shade with light brown, or two yellow shades. There's no right answer - but whatever you choose, the hair still needs to look distinct from the skin. So keep that in mind as you plan which colors to use for each. 

Maria and Draco (with Ultros and the 4t weight) from the opera in FFVI. Here I use creme, tan, and light brown for the hair.
A closer shot of Maria.
You can see in the original sprite there are two skin tone colors. Normally my go-to skin shading pattern is sand, tan, light brown - but in this instance, I knew that wouldn't work because I was using tan for the hair. So instead I used sand and peach for the skin. 

By the way, a good general rule of thumb is that before you decide your shading/the piece looks terrible, take a step back and look at it from a distance - several feet back if possible. The closeup of Maria doesn't really look that great, but the shot that's further away gives some needed distance. As a result, you can better appreciate the overall effect without getting as caught up in the details.

Another tip I'd recommend is making tester strips:

Top row: dark blue, light blue, pastel blue, toothpaste
Middle row: Glow in the dark blue, pearl light blue, turquoise, blueberry creme, periwinkle
Bottom row: hot coral, blush, pearl hot coral

These can be done for each individual project, or you can make general ones for reference. The idea is that they serve as a reference point for you to look at to see which colors look good together after being ironed. In the above picture, it shows two of my blue tester strips and one of my pink tester strips. Some people make these for individual projects, lining up the progression of shading so they can capture the general effect before spending hours placing all the beads. This is especially nice for larger projects. 

I've already mentioned my common shading pattern for skin tones, but I thought I'd give a few other common shading patterns I use as well, listed from dark to light:

Pink: (shading from purple: use plum; dark pink: use Magenta) - pink - bubble gum - glow in the dark pink - light pink - peach
Pink (orangy pink): Hot coral - pearl hot coral - blush
Red: Cranapple - red- hot coral
Orange: Gold metallic (for dark orange) or rust (for reddish brown) - butterscotch - cheddar 
Yellow: Glitter yellow - yellow - pastel yellow - creme - white
Green: Dark green - green - kiwi lime - prickly pear; 
Green (with more blue in it): Parrot green - light green
Blue: Dark blue - light blue - pastel blue - toothpaste
Blue-purple: Periwinkle - blueberry creme
Purple: Glitter purple - purple - lavender
Gray: Black, dark gray, pearl silver, light gray, white

My current color palette tester strips

I feel that I have gotten much better at judging color choices with experience, but even now I still find myself redoing parts of sprites every now and then to see if a different color combination will look better. Get second opinions if you aren't sure, and don't be afraid to undo some work if you aren't satisfied. It's worth it in the end to have it just right.

As far as the actual beading goes, find a system that works for you. Some people do one board at a time, or one color at a time, or one row at a time. For me, it depends a lot on how big the sprite is. For small ones, I'll do one color at a time, starting with the black outline, then moving on to the colors I am most sure about. For large sprites, I'll try to do all the black first, and then work on sections. Medium sprites get some weird hybrid. For example, when I did Brachosaur (pictured below, I did all the black, then the purple/white underbelly parts one color at a time, then worked on the body in sections (neck, feet, tail, etc.). Do what works for you.

Hope that helps, and happy beading! 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Perler Beads: Tutorial on a New Hobby Part IV

Moving on to part four of this tutorial... We've covered the basics of buying beads, other supplies you really need, and how to choose which colors of beads are useful. Now we're going to discuss what resources I use and how to find sprites.

For those of you familiar with reddit, you may not be surprised to know that there is a subreddit for people who make bead sprites (called... you guessed it, /r/beadsprites). You can visit it here. This is a great resource to go to if you have random questions, need help, or want to show off your work. The community is small but generally very polite, and they have quite a few useful links on their sidebar to help people get started (including one I linked to last time about what bead colors to order). Check it out when you have a few minutes to spare. There is every level of "spriter" in the community - people just getting started all the way up to people who have been doing it for several years.

Another resource you will need is somewhere to find sprites. My favorite repository for sprites is Spriters Resource - they have tons of sprite sheets from various game systems, and I usually can find what I'm looking for there. It's very well organized, too. Sometimes I go browse to get inspiration for what to make next, and sometimes I visit with a very specific thing in mind. Either way, it is an invaluable resource. I also use VideoGameSprites for a lot of my Final Fantasy stuff that I do, since they have individual sprites instead of whole sheets with multiple sprites on one picture.

If you cannot, for some reason, find a particular sprite on Spriters Resource, try doing a simple Google image search for it (example: "Wario's Woods sprite sheet" or "Wario's Woods pixel" or "Wario's Woods perler").

Once you have an image, if it is a pixelated sprite, simply zoom in and recreate it - every pixel equals one bead. If it's not pixelated (or simply enormous), try resizing it in Photoshop or Paint. I normally don't go this route, because I use pixelated images, so I'm not really an expert on that, but someone on /r/beadsprites recently posted this tutorial to explain how to do it in Photoshop. Alternately, try a Google search to see if anyone else has already done it, or post on the subreddit linked above asking for help.

When I make sprites, I normally just open the picture in Windows PhotoViewer or Paint and zoom in until I can see individual pixels. I choose colors by eye and don't bother with any other programs. However, there are several programs available to help those of you who wish to use them. Bead It! is an app available on iOS and Android; you can upload pictures and it will turn them into pixel art. Given the kinds of projects I do, I didn't find it very useful (I only ended up using it a few times, in fact); however, for people who want to pixelate photos and such, it is a good option. /r/beadsprites also has several free programs available to download, including Bead Surge, Perler, and My Pixel Pal. I haven't really used any of these, and so cannot vouch for them completely, but the people on the subreddit seem to like them. If you are interested, they are all linked in the sidebar on the subreddit. One of the benefits of these programs is it will suggest colors of beads to use; however, I personally enjoy figuring that out myself, which is why I don't bother learning how to use the programs. To each their own, I suppose.

As always, let me know if you have any questions or want anything clarified.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Perler Beads: Tutorial on a New Hobby Part III

Time for part THREE of this awesome blog series: how to decide which colors to buy!

You may or may not have noticed this already, but there are a lot of bead colors available. 

Many, many colors, and this isn't even counting the ones that aren't available individually.

So how do you decide which ones to buy?

Well, as I said in part I, the following colors are available in a bucket:

Black, blush, brown, butterscotch, cheddar, clear, dark blue, dark green, grey, hot coral, kiwi lime, light blue, light brown, neon green, neon orange, neon pink, neon yellow, parrot green, pastel green, pastel lavender, pink, plum, purple, raspberry, red, tan, toothpaste, turquoise, white, yellow.

So if you bought a bucket, you already have those. If you didn't, never fear, they are all available in the 1000 count bags except the neon colors, which I don't use a whole lot anyway.

Let me take a minute to give a brief disclaimer before I continue with my recommendations. As you have probably noticed, I make video game sprites primarily. So the colors I'm going to suggest are good if you plan on making a lot of video game sprites, particularly from the SNES era of games.

Also, for the purposes of this list, I will be working in the order of bead colors pictured above and also listed here because I'm assuming you will be ordering off the Perler website anyway.

Don't bother with any of the striped beads right now; I haven't found a whole lot of use for them as of yet, though they are fun.

You will need black. LOTS of black. The vast majority of video game sprites use black, most often as an outline. When we started out, I bought a 22k bucket and sorted all the beads. The empty bucket then got commandeered for black beads. I usually have it at least half full of black beads at any given time, and if it drops below that I start getting an itch to place another order soon. Now, how much black you need will depend on how much you plan on beading, but I'd recommend getting at least 5-10 bags of black to start with.

White is also a very useful color that is present in the majority of video game sprites. You probably won't need quite as much of it as you will of black, but I'd say it would be good to get at least 2-3 bags of it initially.

Every other color, you will probably only need one bag initially, or can get by with what's in the bucket (if it's in the bucket, that is).

 Light Pink and Bubblegum are both colors I use occasionally when I make pink sprites. Pink and Raspberry I use less and Magenta I hardly use ever. Whether or not you need these colors depends mostly on what you want to make. If you have a bucket, you already have Pink and Raspberry, as well as Neon Pink, so you might only want to get a bag of Light Pink and call it good. If you didn't get a bucket, I'd suggest Light Pink, Bubblegum, and Raspberry as useful options.

Cranapple is a great dark red color that I use often. Red and Rust are also very useful. Blush and Hot Coral I use less frequently and can probably be skipped initially, though if you decide to make something with three shades of red, I really like shading cranapple to red to hot coral. (That reminds me, I'll have to do a post about colors that shade well together sometime.) Blush, Hot Coral, and Red are all in the bucket. For ordering purposes, I'd suggest Cranapple and Rust, as well as Red if you don't have the bucket.

Moving on, Peach is a good skin tone color, though I usually use Sand instead, so I don't go through it very fast. Pearl Light Pink and Pearl Coral are also not used very much in my experience. You can probably pass on all these safely.

Butterscotch and Orange are both useful to have; however, Butterscotch is in the bucket already. Orange is not, but Neon Orange makes an acceptable substitute if you really need it. I use Butterscotch a lot more often than Orange anyway, for what it's worth.

I use Creme sometimes, but not very often. Pastel Yellow and Yellow are both quite useful though. Pearl Yellow is not. Cheddar is awesome and I use it quite a lot, especially shading from Butterscotch. From this group of colors, Cheddar and Yellow are in the bucket; I'd recommend ordering Pastel Yellow on top of that and calling it good.

Prickly Pear is one of those colors I thought I'd use a lot, but I really don't. Kiwi Lime, Green, and Dark Green are my main go-to's for the green family. I hardly ever use Pearl Green or Pearl Light Blue. Pastel Green is good as a shade lighter than Kiwi Lime, but I honestly don't need it often. Light Green and Parrot Green are good for a more blue-green color and shade well into each other. Of this set, Dark Green, Kiwi Lime, Parrot Green, Pastel Green are in the bucket (as well as Neon Green). If you have the bucket, you probably only need Green to round it all out. Otherwise, I'd get Green and Dark Green at minimum, and either Kiwi Lime or Pastel Green as a third shade.

Moving on to the blues... Toothpaste, Pastel Blue, Light Blue, and Dark Blue are my main favorites. Turquoise is not as useful. I really like Blueberry Creme and Periwinkle, but honestly I don't use them as much as the first four. The bucket will provide Toothpaste, Light Blue, Dark Blue, and Turquoise. That will probably be enough initially, but if you want you can order Pastel Blue for another option. Otherwise, get Toothpaste, Light Blue, and Dark Blue, with Pastel Blue if you can.

Pastel Lavender and Purple are both must-haves. They both come in the bucket. Plum is not as useful, but it's also in the bucket anyway.

Sand, Tan, Light Brown, and Brown are all excellent and used quite frequently by me. Gold Metallic is less useful and not necessary initially. The bucket will provide Tan, Light Brown, and Brown, but you will definitely want to get some Sand on top of those three - it's my default lightest skin tone.

Clear is handy to have to connect loner beads to the rest of the sprite (say, if one bead is only connected to the sprite diagonally), or to add to the edges of particularly delicate areas to protect against them breaking off accidentally. I use Pearl Silver, Grey, and Dark Grey quite a bit as well. I highly recommend getting all four. Clear and Grey are both in the bucket.

Glow in the Dark Green is cool for specialty projects, but unless you have something specific in mind, you can probably pass. You can pass on the mixes too, for the most part; they are not really needed. I do get the Glitter Mix on occasion, because that's the easiest way to get Glitter beads (for extra color options when shading), but to be fair the only ones I really use much are Glitter Purple and Glitter Yellow (because there aren't a lot of color options in the purples or yellows).

Now, if you want someone else's opinion, look here. The recommendations above are only based off of my experience, and quite honestly, there are very few colors I hardly ever use - most of the pearl colors, most of the neon colors, half of the glitter colors, and all of the striped colors stay on my shelf and never get re-ordered, but I do use the remainder of my collection. I've tried to highlight the ones I use the most to make your initial ordering easier, but keep in mind that most people I know who start this hobby end up getting most of the available colors eventually.

As far as quantity, I personally try to keep 2-3 bags of each color on hand at any given time - more if it's a color I use a lot, like the entire brown family and gray family (including white and black). Also keep in mind what colors your local craft store stocks; if they never carry dark gray, you might want to order more of that one online so you don't get stuck mid-project if you run out and have to wait a week to get more shipped. But for starting out, you will probably be all right with 1 bag of each color (aside from white or black) initially, and as you do more projects you will get a feel for what colors you need more of and how often.

Please let me know if you have any questions so far - I'm more than happy to help!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Perler Beads: Tutorial on a New Hobby Part II

Time for part II of this blog series on becoming a bead sprite hobbyist... today we'll be covering peg boards, ironing paper/parchment paper, and irons, as well as storage options. With any luck, it won't be quite so long as the last post...


Even if you have 100,000 beads, they will do very little good without trays, aka peg boards. Beads are placed on peg boards to keep them in place as you make your sprite. Perler offers a variety of sizes and shapes of peg boards, most of which are useless. Really all you need are the large square pegboards that are interlocking, thus allowing you the freedom to make sprites of any size. We have about 24 of them, all clear plastic, but you can probably start with 4 and be content for a while. Each one is 29x29 pegs and 5.7 inches square. My favorite way to buy these is to hunt them down at Joann or Michael's and (you guessed it) use a 40% off coupon, dropping the price from $9.99 to $6. Much better than paying full price.

Trays come in 2 packs and 4 packs. 2 packs have blue & green packaging while 4 packs have yellow & green packaging.

It is worth noting that Perler also offers small round peg boards that occasionally come in handy (say, if you want to make something that is circular), as well as hexagonal ones (good for making things that are triangles, like, say, a Triforce). While I don't use these very often, it is nice to have them available. For example, I used the round one when I made my Companion Cube. These pegboards can be found on Perler's official site as well as in craft stores. Perler also offers an extra large peg board, which I have not purchased. It's apparently good for mid-size projects but it does not interlock with other pegboards.


Ironing paper is the paper you put on top of your assembled sprite when you are ready to iron it. It prevents the iron from sticking to the beads as you melt them with the iron. After you finish ironing your sprite, the ironing paper easily comes off of the sprite and can be reused until it begins to look burnt, or until you spill something gross and sticky on it or tear a hole in it. (Yes, all of these things have happened to me.)

Perler sells packs of ironing paper. While you are welcome to buy it if you want, I wouldn't bother. Instead, I encourage you to buy a large roll of parchment paper (normally used for baking) and use that instead. I go for this one on Amazon, which is Costco's 205 square foot roll. It's available seasonally at Costco (I believe during the winter holidays) but I've always been able to find it on Amazon if it's not at Costco. If you find a better deal on parchment paper please let me know, but this is as cheap as I have found it so far. The benefit of using parchment paper over Perler's ironing paper is 1) you can cut the pieces to as large as you need (rather than using lots of precut small squares) and 2) you can also use it for other things, like lining the cookie sheet when you are baking cookies.


Basically, any iron that heats pretty evenly can be used to iron bead sprites. I got a T Fal Ultraglide EasyCord iron (similar to the one pictured above) for my wedding that I use, but really, brand doesn't matter. It doesn't need any fancy features, it just has to heat up pretty evenly and you're good to go. I set mine high - in the cotton zone just below linen - though there's some debate over what temperature is ideal for ironing. That's what works well for me with my iron. You may have to do some experimenting to see what works best for you.


Oh man. Storage. This is where things get crazy... er, crazier.

So here's the thing. If you get lots of colors of beads, you will need to figure out how to store them without them getting mixed up (unless you like hunting for the right color every time you make a sprite). Personally, I use pint size mason jars (and some half pint size ones). That is definitely not the cheapest option for most people, but I happened to have some lying around that weren't being used, so it ended up not costing me too much initially. Of course, I didn't anticipate having 70+ colors when I went with this method...

There are tons of ideas for storage options out there. I've seen people use empty water bottles, small plastic jars, Ziploc bags, cleaned out sour cream containers, food storage containers, and fishing tackle boxes, any number of compartmentalized plastic cases from craft stores, and storage boxes like these (which I understand can be found at hardware stores or on Amazon). The sky is the limit. I used Ziploc bags initially, until I accidentally melted holes in a few while I was ironing sprites and they were too close. The storage boxes seem to be very popular among the beadspriting community, but I've also seen several pictures of the chaos that ensues if they get knocked over... If I were doing it over again, I would probably go for food storage containers like these (except I would try to find them for a lot less than that; maybe something similar from the dollar store). Glass jars have not given me any trouble so far, but I shudder to think of the mess if any of them broke.

And thus concludes part II of this blog series. Next time we'll talk about choosing colors for reals!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Perler Beads: More Final Fantasy Dragons

Sorry, this isn't a tutorial... but don't worry, there are more coming! Instead, this is the latest batch of my Final Fantasy VI perler projects.

Whelk (not a dragon)
Skull Dragon

Ice Dragon

Storm Dragon 
Blue Dragon
Full albums including in progress pictures here and here.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Perler Beads: A Tutorial on a New Hobby

I've had some friends as of late express interest in getting into the art of perler beads, and I have also had people ask for more blog posts, so I figured I'd be extra efficient today.

First, let me give you a very quick background on beads.

There are three big brands of beads available that can be used to make the sorts of pieces I have been posting on my blog for the last (nearly) two years: Perler, Hama, and Nabbi. Perler is almost exclusively available in the U.S., while Nabbi and Hama are more widely distributed in Europe. To date, I have only purchased Perler beads, valiantly resisting the temptation of expanding my color palate. Therefore, I am really only an expert (of sorts) on Perler beads, not Hama or Nabbi. However, I have linked all three official stores below in case anyone is interested in looking at other brands.


That being said, let's jump in.

Main supplies you need for making awesome bead art:
- beads
- trays
- iron
- parchment paper (NOT wax paper)
- storage containers of some kind

Perler beads are sold three main types of packaging: in mixed buckets, each holding up to 22,000 beads, in trays with 250 beads of each color in little compartments, or in pre-sorted bags of 1000 beads each.


As you might guess, it is much more cost effective to purchase the mixed buckets than the individual colors based solely on cost per bead, but if you decide to start with mixed buckets, be warned that you will, at some point, need to sort them (or spend quite a bit of time digging for that one color you really need right now). Some people really enjoy sorting. If that's you, hooray! Buy a bucket. If you aren't sure, buy a small bucket. They come in 11k or 22k sizes and are often available at Joann Fabrics or Michael's. For the love, use a 40% off coupon if you can find the buckets at either store. Joann and Michael's always have 40% off coupons (or sometimes 50% off). You can get a 22k bucket at Joan Fabrics for $14.99 ($24.99 retail minus 40%). Otherwise, if your local stores don't have the buckets, you can get them at the links off Amazon above (not quite as good of a deal though). These mixed buckets are a great way of getting a good array of colors without dropping a fortune. The buckets come with the following colors:

Black, blush, brown, butterscotch, cheddar, clear, dark blue, dark green, grey, hot coral, kiwi lime, light blue, light brown, neon green, neon orange, neon pink, neon yellow, parrot green, pastel green, pastel lavender, pink, plum, purple, raspberry, red, tan, toothpaste, turquoise, white, yellow.

You probably don't care about that list now, but you might later.

Keep in mind that if you buy buckets, eventually you will still want to augment your color selection by buying the individual 1000 count bags, because only about half the colors are in the bucket.

The buckets come with a piece of ironing paper, which can be reused many times. Eventually though it will start to get kind of brown and crispy, at which point it probably should be thrown away.


Presorted trays are also available at Joann Fabrics or Michael's if you are lucky. Again, use a 40% off coupon if you go this route. You won't get as many colors, and you do pay more per bead than the mixed buckets, but they are pre-sorted. Each tray has 12 colors (250 of each) for a total of 4000 beads. (There are a few trays with 6 colors/250 of each as well, though these are harder to find.) To see all the options for bead trays, browse here on Perler's official site. These trays normally retail for $12.99 at craft stores. No ironing paper is included, but if you have parchment paper in your kitchen, that will do the trick. More on that later.

It is worth noting that Perler also offers smaller activity buckets with ~5,000 beads and a few small trays. These are usually around $10 and come with maybe 6-10 colors of beads (it's been a while since I bought one so I don't remember exactly). They are typically themed. I bought one or two but for the most part I didn't think they were a very good deal.


Individual bags are by far my favorite way to buy beads. If you go this route, the most cost effective way to do so is to buy them directly from Perler's website. Each bag retails for $2.99 in craft stores, but they only cost $1.99 per bag if you purchase more than 6 at that link. Normally shipping is only free on orders over $60, but if you put in the code BEADS25 at checkout, you can get 25% off AND free shipping at $45. Not too shabby. That drops the price to $1.49 per bag, which is the cheapest I've been able to find anywhere. If you buy bags in craft stores for $2.99 with a 40% off coupon, it's not too much more, but you can only buy one bag per coupon. I will do that if it's an emergency and I need a certain color the same day, otherwise I get all my beads off that website. 

As a side note, you will need to get 23 bags of beads to hit $45 and get free shipping with BEADS25. If you order 23 bags, your total will be $34.27 pre-tax. That gets you 23,000 beads - and you can see it is more expensive than the mixed buckets, but you don't have to do ANY sorting when they arrive. Plus the individual bags are the only way to get certain colors.

If you do decide to branch out into other brands of beads, I hear there is an ebay seller who imports beads from Europe as well as a fourth brand from China called Artkal (rumor has it Artkal is the overseas manufacturer for Perler beads sold in the US, but I don't know how true that is.). Here's her shop. If I ever decide to expand to Nabbi, Hama, or Artkal, I'll probably order through her.

One more piece of advice. I have, on occasion, found a (possibly knock-off) brand of Perler beads called Fun Fusion. I'm not entirely sure what the difference is, but do NOT buy the 1000 count bags of beads labeled Fun Fusion if you see them. They melt differently than Perler beads and look, in my opinion, kind of ugly melted. The big tip-off that you found Fun Fusion beads, besides the name, is that the back is in Chinese. Pictures below for your convenience.

The most annoying thing about these beads is they are ALMOST the same color as the perler bead equivalent, but just far enough off that you can tell if you look closely at a finished sprite that uses both. The beads pictured above are both supposedly periwinkle, but the ones on the right are clearly darker.

And that I think about covers it for buying beads. Also, I think this post is getting too long, so tune in next time for more info on trays, irons, parchment paper, and online resources! (And if you're lucky, a discourse on what colors of beads I think are worth buying!)