BeadTool 4 for Windows and Mac is a beading programme for both hobbyists and professional beaders. It allows the user to create all sorts of amazing beading patterns, all with just a few clicks of the mouse.
As you’ll know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, beading is one of my favourite crafts! I’ve been using the BeadTool 4 software for a couple of years now and this is my review below. I originally wrote most of this review in August 2015 and have recently updated it (September 2017) based on my experience of using it over this period of time.
See my updates in italic text throughout the article below.
This is the main screen that loads when the BeadTool 4 application is launched. The grid area is where you can create your beading pattern. Over on the right hand side, under the “Pattern” tab, you can select which stitch you want to use for your beadwork, such as peyote, brick stitch or right angle weave and you can select how many rows and columns you want your pattern to be.
Under the “Palette” tab, you can select which type of beads you’d like to use e.g. Miyuki Delicas size 11/0 or size 15/0. The choice for bead types includes Miyuki, Toho and Pony beads and within each bead type, you’ll find all the available bead colours in that particular range.
The bead colours are labelled by the manufacturer reference number, meaning that in theory you can easily order what you need for your beading pattern.
Update: I’ve found that sometimes the colour codes of the beads on the software don’t match the beads I can buy. I’m not sure why this is – I just know that some of the Miyuki Delicas I’ve used don’t seem to appear in the list that BeadTool generates!
BeadTool 4 – creating a freeform beading pattern and shapes
If you’ve ever used an application like “Paint” for Windows, you’ll find BeadTool 4 incredibly easy to use for creating freeform beading patterns. All you need to do is click on the “Pencil” icon at the top left, select the colour of the beads that you’d like and use your mouse to click and draw a freeform pattern over the grid.
For ease, there are some shape template icons on the left hand side that you can use to speed up the creation of a pattern. You can use these by clicking on one of the blue shape icons and then clicking and dragging across the grid until the shape is the required size. The shape function creates an outline of the chosen shape in the colour bead that you’ve selected. To fill in the shape, you’ll need to click onto the “Floodfill” icon and then click the grid inside the shape area.
BeadTool 4 – using images to create a beading pattern
The “Picture” function is my favourite part of the BeadTool 4 software.Using a picture that you have saved on your computer, you can upload it to BeadTool using the “Picture” icon. You’ll see it appear next to the grid and you can then make the image smaller or bigger by clicking and dragging the corners.
When you’re happy with the image size, you can drag it underneath the grid to where you want it for your pattern. Then click the “Transfer” icon, select the size of the beads that you’d like along with the sampling size area (this is already set to a standard setting in case you’re not sure about this) and the image is transformed into a beading pattern.
BeadTool 4 conveniently identifies the colours used in the image and generates a colour palette on the right hand side. If you don’t like your pattern or want to try another image, you can click on “Undo” and “Hide” (which deletes the image), so that you can start over.
Images work better on larger areas, particularly if there’s a lot of detail in the image you want to use. The screenshot above shows 40 columns being used in peyote stitch.
BeadTool 4 – file library
There is a file library associated with BeadTool 4. You can open, close, save and print files providing you have a full license to the software and not just the free trial. Within the file library, there are a selection of pre-made layouts, palettes and stamps that you can incorporate into your beadwork pattern.
Other functions of BeadTool 4
At the top of the BeadTool 4 Window in the grey task bar, you’ll find “Picture” and “Pattern” tabs amongst others. These allow you to alter images and patterns by flipping them, creating a mirror image or rotating them. You can even add text to a pattern and specify the type of font and size too. It’s also possible to repeat part of a pattern elsewhere on the grid.
There is a pipette icon called “Color Picker” on the left hand side of the screen. This allows you to select any colour within the beading pattern and replicate the same colour elsewhere by clicking on different areas.
In addition, the “Selection” icon allows you to select any area of the pattern and move it around the grid and there is a cut, copy and paste function. You can erase parts of a pattern (even bead by bead) using the handy “Eraser” tool.
When you’ve finished making your pattern, you can save or print it and the finished result is very detailed, with a bead legend, bead chart and word chart outlining the pattern step by step. To check out more functions and how they work, take a look at these instructional video tutorials.
How much does BeadTool 4 cost?
There is a free download version available where you can try most of the functions out. If you’re interested in beading, I’d recommend doing this and having a play around with it to see if you like it!
The free version doesn’t allow you to save or print beading patterns, so if you want to do this or to sell your patterns via Etsy for example, you’ll need to buy the full BeadTool 4 version for $49.95. The added benefit of buying the full license is that you’ll be able to get free updates for the software.
Update: I haven’t seen any updates yet for this software!
Is BeadTool 4 worth the money?
Update: If you love beading and if you want to create your own patterns, I think this software is worth the fee. The system is easy to use and it is possible to make money from selling patterns that you create on BeadTool (this is what I do currently), so you could make your money back if you want to.
With that said, I am looking to find a more advanced beading software that’s better suited to my needs nowadays – I’d like to be able to mix and match different stitches in one pattern which is something this system currently doesn’t do as far as I’m aware.
Lastly, something to be aware of is that over the last year or so, I’ve received quite a few comments from people saying that they’re struggling to get appropriate responses from BeadTool’s customer service (see the comments below). I’m not sure what’s going on there, but to be on the safe side, make sure you get any questions answered by customer service before buying the full version.
Have you used BeadTool 4 before? What do you think of it?
*Image © Craftaholique – logo from BeadTool 4
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