When you're first learning bead weaving, you may find the large volume of bead terminology daunting. Every bead type and shape has its own name and characterstics, and bead manufacturers sometimes supplement or change names to distinguish their lines.
To help you sort things out, I've put together the following list of common bead styles. Each links to a separate article with more details about that style, such as its most common uses and availability of sizes. This list is a work in progress; if you come across a bead style that you'd like to see added, hop into the Beadwork forum and let me know.
1. Seed Beads
"Seed bead" is one of the most common terms used to describe the tiny glass beads used in beadwork. Informally, it can apply to any small glass bead. This is why you may sometimes encounter other styles of beads appended with the term "seed beads." If you're unfamiliar with how seed beads are sized, take a moment now to review their sizing terminology.
Cylinder beads are the best beads to use to achieve smooth, even beadwork. Their broad range of colors, combined with their precision shape, make them the beads of choice for very detailed, flat designs, including photo realism designs.
3. Cut Beads
Cut beads each have one or more flat sides. These facets add extra sparkle and interesting texture to your beadwork. Many vintage beaded accessories, such as purses, are adorned with cut beads.
4. Drop Beads
Drop beads, as their name implies, are shaped like drops of liquid. You can use them in fringe or to add texture to flat or tubular beadwork.
Magatama beads also have a liquid-like shape, but they are slightly different than drop beads. Magatamas produce a subtly unique texture in beadwork, and you can also use them to accent beaded fringe.
Farfalle beads look like two-ended drops. They create lots of interesting and creative beadweaving opportunities.
7. Cube Beads
Cubes beads, not surprisingly, are shaped like cubes. But not all cube beads are the same; various brands and styles differ in the shapes and sizes of their holes, the sharpness of their corners, and their method of production.
8. Bugle Beads
Bugle beads look like tiny tubes of glass. They're most popular for use in fringe, but you can also weave them into flat or tubular beadwork.