The art of rhinestone embellishment takes practice, patience and most importantly a creative mind, but it is also essential that you are using the correct tools for the job. No matter which creative sector you are working in, whether it’s prop making, costume design, beauty, fashion, jewellery making, bridal design, millinery, nail art, craft, textiles, performing arts etc, they all have something in common – there’s a certain skill required to achieve the best results. And a lot of this is down to using the correct and most appropriate rhinestone application methods and embellishment tools.
We’ve put together an informative guide on which crystal embellishing tools are available and how to use them.
Hotfix Applicator Wand
A hotfix applicator wand is a fantastic tool for picking up and applying hotfix rhinestones to fabric without the need for glue, as the glue is already incorporated into the stone and is activated by the heat.
The term ‘hotfix’ refers to the method of applying the crystal, you fix it onto the surface with heat. Heat fixing can be carried out with a household iron or hotfix applicator wand (see below instructions). Hotfix rhinestones are suitable for most surfaces, although we wouldn't recommend using them on glass or plastic due to the heat from the applicator. They are most commonly used on fabrics that need to be embellished in bulk, such as theatre costumes, dance dresses, drag/burlesque outfits or fashion wear.
The hotfix method is much quicker than using non hotfix crystals, and there is no mess as you are not having to use glue. Hotfix rhinestones, also referred to as iron on crystals, are also popular among costume designers and dress makers because there is less chance of glue leaking onto the fabric, and once you invest in a hotfix applicator wand it can be used for future projects.
How to apply hotfix rhinestones using an applicator wand
- When you know which crystal size you are working with, screw the corresponding metal tip into the applicator wand. It is important to do this before turning on the power.
- Turn on the wand, wait for it to heat to temperature and pick up the rhinestone, shiny side facing upwards. You will see the glue on the back of the stone start to bubble after a few seconds – this is how you know it’s hot enough to apply.
- As soon as the bubbling starts, firmly place the rhinestone onto the desired area, press down to ensure the glue has bonded, then pull the wand away – the rhinestone will stay attached to the fabric.
Stencils & Transfer Film
Transfers are a great way of crystallizing something quickly, neatly and in bulk. If you are part of a team and want to have the team name sparkling on your t-shirt, why not make it simple by using a transfer. With Hotfix Transfer Film and Preciosa hotfix rhinestones it is easy to design your own. You could use a stencil if you are not confident with where to place the rhinestones.
How to apply rhinestones using transfer film
- Simply peel and fold back the top layer of sticky plastic film, lay out your rhinestone design on the paper backing (shiny side facing upwards), then place the sticky plastic back over the top.
- Push down to ensure the rhinestones are stuck to the plastic film, then peel it off all together. You have just created your own transfer!
- Next, stick the transfer to the desired area and put a tea towel or some baking paper over the top of the transfer before ironing – this will protect it from the heat.
- Now iron over the top for a good few seconds, firmly pressing the iron down to ensure all the glue on the back of the crystals has melted. Peel away the plastic and you’re all done!
Pre-made transfers are also available to purchase if you are struggling to come up with your own design. Or we can do it for you - check out our Bespoke Transfer Service for more details. You can also use them for company/business names, logos, hen party outfits and many other occasions.
The Crystal Katana is the number one best-selling rhinestone pick up tool on the market; the most efficient tool for picking up and placing crystals or other small embellishments. It comes complete with a silky smooth comfortable sleek handle, is lightweight and very easy to use.
If you are a nail artist, crafter, costume maker, cake artist or in any other profession where you regularly need to apply rhinestones, then the Crystal Katana is the tool for you.
- One end is made from premium jewellers wax, leaving no sticky or greasy residue on the crystal, unlike other pick up tools.
- The other end boasts a metal precision tip which allows you to adjust the positioning of the crystal.
- No more tweezers! The Katana eliminates the need for tweezers which can be fiddly and frustrating to work with.
- It is durable and will last for years.
Other Rhinestone Pickers
If you are looking for a cheaper alternative to the Crystal Katana, there are a number of options: Tanto pick up tool, jewel setter or the wax pencil. All of these carry out the same job but are not as durable or reliable. However they are a good, cost-effective option for a one off embellishing project.
Hot Melt Glue Gun
Glue guns are a popular tool for gluing on larger embellishments such as chunky jewellery making crystals, sew on stones or larger rhinestone shapes for dance costumes. Our mini hot glue gun with a handy stand feature, operates at high temperatures from a mains electricity supply, ensuring you will be able to achieve a strong glue adhesion.
How to use a hot melt glue gun
Just load the mini glue gun with a 7mm glue stick, plug into an electric socket and turn the power on to begin heating your glue gun. Allow to heat up for approximately five minutes before using your glue gun. We recommend that you check the tool is hot enough by gently squeezing the trigger on the hot melt glue gun to see if the hot glue starts to flow easily from the nozzle, if it doesn’t, allow it to heat up for another minute or two and also check you have inserted your glue stick correctly.
- Compact size with glue sticks included, so ideal to take on the road to carry out costume repair etc.
- Eliminates the need for separate glue and syringe applicator.
- Comes with handy safety stand.
- Crystal clear glue.
Rivets are a great way to apply rhinestones to fabric if you have the correct tools – you would need a fly press or manual rivet press. So, this method is mainly used in the fashion and costume industry as they produce clothing in bulk. The rivets can be used on most fabrics but is particularly common on leather belts, handbags and shoes etc.
How to apply rhinestones using a rivet machine
Here is a simple step-by-step guide to using a manual rivet machine. For more detailed information on how to safely use rivets in your project, see the Preciosa Application Manual.
Applicator Syringe & Tip
This handy glue applicator syringe is a fantastic, inexpensive tool which enables you to apply glue in tiny amounts. Applying glue in this way allows you to be neat, accurate and avoids wastage – the beauty of the syringe is that you can squeeze any residual glue back into the bottle, or keep it in there for the following day.
How to use a syringe applicator & tip
- First remove the plunger part, and pour about 2cm worth of glue into the syringe.
- Then insert the plunger and squeeze out any air bubbles that may be trapped inside.
- Next, screw on the tip that is included, you can choose the tip size depending on how big the rhinestones are that you’re using.
- Gently squeeze out tiny dots of glue onto the surface. It may be helpful to have a practice on a spare bit of paper or fabric first. This will give you an idea of how much pressure to apply.
Leave the glue dots to get tacky for a few seconds before adding the rhinestones.
This is another cheap and cheerful accessory that should be in every crafters’ tool kit. The flipper tray does exactly what it says on the tin – flips the rhinestones onto their back so the shiny side is facing upwards, making is quicker and easier to pick them up. Simply fill it with crystals and give it a shake, you will see them flip!
If you regularly work with embellishments, you’ll know how tricky it can be to keep them all separate, neat and in any kind of order. This set of storage pots is brilliant at doing just that.
What can I keep in my storage pots?
These small, see through pots with a screw tight lid are ideal for storing your rhinestones, pearls, beads, studs, buttons, caviar beads, nail art embellishments, cake embellishments or any other small pieces. If you have clients who choose their own embellishments for their nails, dance dress, wedding cake, custom stationery etc, then these pots are perfect for displaying all available options.
The Dolly Board is an innovative design, created by one of our customers, for using as a surface for embellishing fabric. Dot is a costume designer who came up with this brilliant idea for keeping the fabric she was working on flat and wrinkle free, which as any blinger knows, can be a nightmare when trying to embellish fabric.
We have received lots of positive feedback from our customers, and having also used the boards ourselves, we can see what a difference it makes to the embellishment process. By keeping the fabric flat, the board not only offers a neat, clean surface to work on, it also allows you to accurately mark out where you will be applying your flatback crystals. The Dolly Board range has been so successful that it has expanded to include different body shapes and sizes. Individual arm and leg boards are now available and the most recent addition is a ‘Queenz’ board – the perfect fit for a drag artist.