An introduction to flatback rhinestones

There are three top brands of rhinestones which are known in the industry for their great quality cut glass and crystal components. You have probably heard of Swarovski, a giant in the crystal world, but at a high cost. Along with the likes of Swarovski, Preciosa and Zodiac are becoming more well known in the creative arts industry and even overtaking Swarovski in popularity in the DIY sector. Both Preciosa and Zodiac offer a huge range of flatback stones which can applied, with heat or glue, to almost any surface. Flatback non hotfix and hotfix gems are hugely popular in creative industries such as dance, bridal, jewellery design, dressmaking, fashion, costume design, nail art and textiles, but are also becoming increasingly popular among non-professionals, beginners and hobbyists. We’ve seen flatback rhinestones being used to embellish all sorts of weird and wonderful objects; marmite jars, mannequins, cars, garden gnomes, animal skulls, cricket balls and even burlesque pasties! Check out these beautiful creations by Charlotte Pacelli from Primp My Costume using Zodiac flatback rhinestones in Golden Honey AB, Light Pink AB and Light Sapphire AB.

A handy guide to rhinestone colours

Rhinestones come in an amazing array of colours, effects and coatings. Here we will guide you through each of these and how they can be used:

  • Clear Crystal – This is a colourless, diamond effect stone, with a mirrored foil backing to reflect the light. It is one of our most popular colours as it adds a luxury feel to whatever you’re crystallizing. Clear rhinestones are often used for nail art, card making, bridal design, jewellery making, fashion and many other crafts. Because of its colourless nature, clear crystals can be used on almost anything and will work with every other colour.
  • AB Crystal – AB (Aurora Borealis) gets its name from the natural phenomenon that occurs in certain skies at night known as the Northern Lights. It is a coated crystal that has a rainbow effect, much like a soap bubble, or sometimes described as an ‘oil on water’ effect. This is the most popular colour by far, especially in the performing arts world, the stunning AB coated crystal reflects light superbly and looks gorgeous under spotlights. The coating reflects the colours that surround it so use against pale colours for pinks, purples, pale blue and golds to shine through. Or use on a darker background to see greens, yellows and darker shades of blue. It is most commonly used in nail art, bridalwear, dance dresses, costume design and fashion. Like the Clear crystal, AB crystals work with any other colour so the possibilities are endless.
  • Special Effects/Coatings – Special effect crystals, also known as rhinestone coatings, are where a thin layer of material has been laid over the top of the crystal, coating it, to create an unusual effect. This could be metallic, iridescent or two-tone. These special effect crystals often give off more sparkle, looking amazing under the lights and are mainly used by nail technicians and Irish dance dressmakers.
  • Neon – Neon rhinestones are bright and bold as the name suggests and even glow in the dark! Neon crystals are perfect for creating eye catching designs within nail art, Irish dance and costume and jewellery making and are the current trend for summer ’22.
  • Standard Colour – Standard colours make up the majority of the colour options, these are crystals that are just one colour throughout and have no effect or coating over the top. If you’re looking for a simple block colour in a variety of shades, go for one of these. Examples of standard colours are Light Siam (red), Fuchsia (pink), Citrine (yellow), Sapphire (blue) and Peridot (green). These are great for adding a splash of colour to your project and are used predominantly in costume making, Irish dance dresses, card making and general craft projects. You can choose between bright bold shades, pastel vintage style shades or neutral tones – we really are spoilt for choice!

A guide to rhinestone sizes & when to use them

When it comes to flatback round rhinestones, there are many different sizes to choose from. The smallest sizes SS2 (1.1mm) - SS10 (3mm) are generally used by crafters, card makers and parchment craft designers. The smaller flatback rhinestones are also a very popular choice for beauticians, tooth technicians and nail artists for adding subtle sparkle to manicures, teeth, eyelashes and make-up.

SS10 (3mm) - SS16 (4mm) are usually used to embellish clothing, greetings cards, wedding veils, fashion accessories, mobile phone cases, footwear and decorative objects in general. For ball gowns, prom dresses, drag queen outfits, iceskating dresses, swimming costumes, freestyle dance dresses, theatre costumes, bikinis, burlesque costumes sizes SS16 (4mm) - SS20 (5mm) are usually used. And the larger sizes SS30 (6mm) - SS48 (11mm) are mostly used for crystallizing Irish dance dresses or larger objects such as furniture, cars, interior design pieces. Take a look at our handy size chart for more detailed information on all crystal sizes.

Find the perfect shape

The most common shape for a rhinestone is round, but of course there are many more interesting and fun flatback shapes you could use. If you’re a fan of the Art Deco period, geometric shapes such as Octagon, Triangle, Square, Diamond are great for creating simple but bold designs. Geometrics are particularly popular for funky nail art and greetings card designs. For an Art Nouveau style or more feminine feel, we would recommend using shapes which have a curve to it for example Paisley, Oval, Navette or Heart. There are seasonal shapes that are perfect for Christmas/Winter inspired projects such as Star, Snowflake, Raindrop, and nature themed shapes for example Leaf, Flower, Flame, Butterfly for adding a natural or floral note to the design. Crystal Shapes are most commonly used in the Clear and AB colour, but there are some gorgeous colours available – don’t forget to contact us for advice on which shapes/colours to use, we’re here to help.

What is the difference between Hotfix and Non Hotfix?

Hotfix rhinestones have the glue already incorporated in to the back of the stone and requires heat to melt the glue, allowing it to be adhered to the material. The main advantage of using hotfix crystals is that you don’t need to purchase glue as it is already the on the stone. The heat fixing method is also very easy when using the correct tools – we suggest a Kandi Kane Hotfix Applicator Wand. Using this application method is speedy, there is no worry of glue spilling accidently and make a mess so the final results are quick, very neat and clean, no more accidental sticky glue patches! Hotfix rhinestones are suitable for most porous surfaces as the glue will adhere very well. You will achieve excellent durable application on most stretch fabrics too. We wouldn't recommend using hotfix crystals on glass or plastic due to the heat from the applicator and as the surface is nonporous adhesion will not be strong and you risk the crystals coming away from the nonporous surface.

Non Hotfix rhinestones can be applied to almost any surface with Gem Tac or E6000 glue, making this the most popular application method. If your project is small or just a one off, for example adding crystals to a greetings card or pair of shoes, then non hotfix is the way to go. It is more cost effective, as non hotfix rhinestones are cheaper to buy, plus you don't have to invest in a hotfix applicator tool. Non hotfix, also known as glue on rhinestones, are commonly used for nail art, papercraft, small scale costume embellishment, interior design and many other craft projects. If you are wanting to crystallize a nonporous surface we would recommend that you use the non hotfix crystals. To apply non hotfix crystals we recommend that you place 3 – 4 beads of glue smaller than the size of the crystal you are using, then using a pick up tool gently touch the top of the shiny crystal and place gently on to the bead of glue. We do not recommend that you place the glue on the back of the crystal and then place on your surface this is very messy and time consuming! When it comes to crystal placement we always recommend the Crystal Katana pick up tool, which is a top quality, durable applicator that has never failed to impress, it should last you a very very long time, its has been know to very durable and pick up 75,000 crystals before a replacement tip is required. There are other methods of picking up your crystals too, the pick up pencil or even a cocktail stick with a bead of bluetac. Using tweezers to pick up your flatback crystals as it does get messy and crystals can end up pinging here there and everywhere!

Working with rhinestones: The basics

  • We recommend that you practice applying your rhinestones to a spare piece of paper/fabric before you start your project, this will help you get an idea of how much glue to use and how much pressure to apply.
  • Use specifically designed tools to help the process such as a Crystal Katana pick up tool rather than fiddly tweezers, storage potsfor keeping the rhinestones neat and orderly, Gem Tac glue – our #1 bestselling adhesive and Application Syringe with Precision Tip for applying glue neatly.
  • If possible, work in the natural daylight as artificial lighting makes it harder to see especially when using smaller rhinestones.
  • Make sure your hands are clean when working with rhinestones - grease marks will show up and dull the sparkle.
  • Spend a little more money to purchase a good quality rhinestone. The last thing you want is peeling stones, dis-colouration, a dull sparkle or scratches.
  • Once you've applied the rhinestones and the glue is dry, use a damp cloth to give them a polish - it will make a huge difference.
  • If you need more help on which type of rhinestones to use, advice on colours, sizes or application method, please contact your crystal supplier.

Check out our blog for more expert guides, How To’s and inspirational tips and tricks.

Rhinestone applicationSwarovski preciosa & zodiac

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