Like with most creative projects, rhinestone crafting is all about the detail. Neat and precise crystal placement is the key to a successful finish, and is what makes embellishing such a skilled job. Although attaching rhinestones to materials can be simple once you’ve learnt the method and practised the technique, it does require a certain amount of patience and, most of all, precision.

To achieve accurate rhinestone placement, it is essential that you use the correct tools for the job. We’ve seen many crafters use makeshift rhinestone pick up tools, such as blue tac on the end of a pencil or a damp cocktail stick. While these DIY solutions are cheaper and may work in the short term, they are not ideal for larger scale projects, and certainly don’t come with the benefits of the professional tools that are specifically designed for the job. In this article we’ll be looking at the range of rhinestone pickers available, how to effectively work with precision tools, and the pros and cons of using tweezers for rhinestone craft.

The Art of Precision Crafting

In the world of rhinestone crafting, precision matters. The whole idea of adorning something with rhinestones is to create a stir, turn something boring into something magical. Or to bring a costume to life, elevate your craft and show off your skill. So why wouldn’t you want to make it perfect? There’s no point going to the effort of embellishing something if you don’t use to correct tools and application methods to get it just right.

Admittedly, some rhinestone crafts require less precise crystal application than others, for example, cardmaking. Most of the card manufacturers who work with rhinestones simply add a few stones to the design, which is easy enough. Or crafters who like to scrapbook can have fun placing the rhinestones wherever they want – no precision required. On the other hand, there are examples of intricate designs that do demand meticulous rhinestone placement, such as fashion wear, jewellery, bridal wear, nail art among others.

Nail art in particular benefits hugely from crystal placement using a precision tool, as the rhinestones most often used are very small in size and the designs tend to be intricate and very detailed.

 Essential Precision Tools

There are some great options out there when it comes to precision tools, also known as rhinestone pick up tools or crystal pickers, from high quality professional tools that will last for years, to more budget friendly options:

  • Crystal Katana pick up tool – this is the Rolls Royce of precision application tools. It is ergonomically designed to fit in your hand like a pen, so it feels comfortable and natural to use. The smooth sleek tool has two ends; a wax tip for picking up and placing the rhinestone, and a metal fine point tip which is used to position the rhinestone and push it flush to the surface. The wax tip is made from premium jewellers wax, so unlike cheaper wax pickers, it does not leave any residue on the stone. The high quality wax also means the Katana will last for years, so although it is the most expensive tool on the market, it is likely you will never have to replace it. The Crystal Katana is used by all sorts of crafters, from nail artists and jewellery makers, to costumiers and fashion designers. It is famous for being able to pick up many different types of small embellishment such as rhinestones, pearls, gems, sequins, beads, cake decorations and even model making pieces.
  • Tanto pick up tool – this is a smaller version of the Katana, made by the same company. The Tanto features a small synthetic wax tip ideal for picking up small embellishments. The tip can be sharpened like a pencil to keep it clean and fresh. It is less expensive than the Katana, but doesn’t include the premium jewellers wax or precision metal tips
  • Jewel Setter – This is an ideal tool for crafters who use rhinestones infrequently. It is a low costing tool that comes in a pack of two, made from a plastic handle with a sticky wax tip that can be manipulated into a point. The jewel setter is a handy tool for picking up and placing rhinestones for small scale projects – however it is not as durable, or comfortable to use as the Katana or Tanto.
  • Wax Pencil – This is a cheap and cheerful crafters companion, that essentially does the same job as the other pick up tools, but requires constant sharpening so will need regular replacement. The wax pencil is an ideal choice for a one off rhinestone project, but would not be suitable for larger scale crystallisation work.

Choosing the right tool

When deciding on which rhinestone pick up tool to go for, you need to consider a few things: How big is your project? How long will you be using the tool for? What is your budget?

Here are some pros and cons for each tool on the market:

Here are some pros and cons for each tool on the market:





Crystal Katana

Comfortable to use

Picks up all small embellishments

Doesn’t leave sticky residue

Features precision tip

Long lasting, no need to replace

Very fast way of applying rhinestones

Costly if using for one off project



Comfortable to hold

Comes with free sharpener

No precision tip

Will require replacing after a while


Jewel Setter

Wax can be moulded into a sharp point

Low cost

No precision tip

Will require replacing after a while

Can leave sticky residue


Wax Pencil

Low cost

Ideal for one off projects

Can be sharpened to fine point

No precision tip

Will require replacing after a while



Why we don’t recommend tweezers for picking up flatback rhinestones

While tweezers are great for picking up larger embellishments, such as fancy stones for jewellery making, beads and pearls for threading, or pointy back chatons for setting into metal casings, we would always advise against using them to pick up flatback rhinestones, crystal shapes, caviar beads and flatback pearls. These smaller embellishments are much too delicate for tweezers and you’ll find them pinging out of your grip before you know it. Specific rhinestone pickers, like the ones mentioned above, are far better suited to these types of embellishments.

Mastering Precision Techniques

The best way to achieve a neat and precise rhinestone placement is by mastering the technique of using a pick up tool. As well as using the tool to its full potential, and knowing when you’ve made a mistake. Here is a handy step-by-step guide on how to effectively work with a rhinestone picker, in this example we’ll be discussing a double ended tool such as the Katana:

  • First make sure the tool, particularly the wax end, is clean and free of any dust or dirt.
  • Have your rhinestones close by, facing shiny side up.
  • Apply your preferred craft glue using the non hotfix embellishment method and allow a few seconds for it to go tacky.
  • Holding the tool like a pen, use the wax tip to gently pick up the rhinestone. It’s important that you don’t press too hard on the rhinestone as this will misshapen the tip. The wax is tacky enough to pick up the rhinestone with just a light touch.
  • Place the rhinestone onto the glue, again not pressing too firmly as this will force the glue to seep.
  • Use the metal precision tip on the other end of the tool to move the crystal around, and position it correctly. Also make sure it is sitting flush to the surface to ensure proper adhesion.

Tips for aligning and spacing rhinestones accurately

When glueing rhinestones, whether that’s onto fabric, glass, plastic, wood or any other material, always make sure you are happy with the positioning of the rhinestone before the glue dries. This is where the precision metal tip comes in handy – you can use it to manoeuvre the stones and ensure they are sitting neatly next to each other with no gaps.

There are many different application styles to choose from, such as basic rows, honeycomb pattern, scatter effect and rainfall effect. Which style you choose depends on the item you are crystallising, which crystal sizes you are working with and how confident you feel. Here are some useful tips on how to achieve a neat finish when crystallising:

  • Make sure the rhinestones are sitting flush to the surface and not overlapping each other. If they do overlap, it is likely they will fall off.
  • When placing crystals in basic rows, be sure to apply them next to each other so they are touching, with no gap left in between. This creates a much neater finish (see diagram below).
  • For a scatter effect, use a ruler to measure out equal distances between each crystal, mark lightly in pencil or chalk so you know where to apply the glue. You don’t need to do this if you’re happy with a random scatter pattern (see diagram below).
  • When doing a rainfall effect, spend some time marking our where you want the rhinestones to be placed first, and consider using decreasing sizes to achieve the right look. The smaller the crystals get, the further away they should be placed (see diagram below).
  • The most popular application style is the honeycomb effect, this is where the rhinestones sit neatly in between the two above it. This method eliminates gaps for a fully encrusted look (see diagram below). Use your pick up tool to make sure the rhinestones are in the correct position.

Case Studies

When looking closely at embellishment work, you’ll see the difference between rhinestones that have been accurately placed using a precision tool, and those that have been placed using a makeshift tool or even a damp finger, (yes this does happen!) Not only this, but using a professional tool makes your work so much easier and faster.

Here’s an example of where a precision tool has been used for creating patterns. This pair of shoes, embellished by Crystalled By Jane, was made for the performance of SIX: The Musical in London:

Another example of how vital a precision tool is for rhinestone placement, is this image of a set of competition nails by nail artist Scarlett Senter, who only uses the Crystal Katana for crystal placement. Look at how she has been able to accurately apply tiny crystals and caviar beads to create these stunning animal designs. This couldn’t have been done without the Katana tool.

Troubleshooting Common Precision Challenges

If you’re a beginner at embellishment or haven’t worked with a precision tool before, it is wise to practice your crystallising skills before you start a project. Here are some common problems faced when embellishing with a tool for the first time, and how to solve them:

  • Glue seeping out from underneath the rhinestone – if you find this is happening a lot, you may be using too much glue. You only need a tiny dot of glue to hold a rhinestone in place.
  • Uneven spacing or gaps between rhinestones – when using a tool, make sure you are positioning the rhinestones next to each other so they touch.
  • Sticky residue left behind – this may be because you are pressing down too hard on the stone. You only need to apply gentle pressure when picking up.
  • Wax tip drying out – if you are regularly using your tool, you may find the wax end dries out. To prevent this, keep it in a storage container when you’re not using it.
  • Wax tip not picking up – if your wax end suddenly stops picking up the rhinestones, it is likely that it has some fluff, dust or dirt on it. Use a nail file or sharp tool to remove this and you’ll end up with a fresh wax tip.
  • Rhinestones overlapping/sticking out – use the tool wiggle the rhinestone into place, making sure it is sitting flat to the surface. You should be able to feel if it is sitting on top of another stone.
  • Wax tip becoming blunt – this may be due to over use. Every so often use your fingers to mould the tip back to a sharp point.

Maintenance and Care for Precision Tools

Keeping your tools in good condition is vital for extending their lifespan and effectiveness. To ensure your pick up tool lasts as long as possible, keep it in an airtight container when you’re not using it, this will prevent the wax tip from drying out. Keep the tool clean and grease free to avoid any problems with picking up rhinestones – if there is any fluff or dust stuck to the wax tip, this will get transferred to your work. The most important thing to remember is, look after your tool and it will look after you!

Where to Find Quality Precision Tools

All of the precision tools mentioned in this article are available to purchase from Crystal Parade, although you can find alternatives on the market. On our website, both the Katana and Tanto tools come with free crystals.

As always, we encourage you to get creative a have fun with your rhinestone projects, and if you need any advice on this or any other topic, feel free to contact us - we’re happy to help!