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Guide to Using Flatback Crystals

Complete Guide to Flatback Crystals

Published by: Crystal and Glass Beads – Author: Khaled Alwan

What are Flatback Crystals?
Flatback crystals which are often called rhinestones have a faceted face one side and a flatback on the opposite side usually with a foiled backing. They are available in a range of materials the cheapest being acrylic and the highest quality and most expensive Swarovski Crystal. They come in a range of shapes and sizes the most popular of which being the circular flatback you can see above which are used for crystallizing such things as nails, lips, clothing, footwear, statues, artwork, gadgets and much more…
Our range of Flatback crystals can be seen on our main site here

What Does Non Hotfix Mean?
Non Hotfix means that the crystals don’t have any hotfix adhesive on the crystal backing, Non Hotfix are available as foiled and un-foiled and are applied to a surface using a suitable adhesive.

What Does Hotfix Mean?
Hotfix means that the crystals have a glue backing that requires heat to melt, they can be applied using an iron (with the steam turned off) or a hotfix applicator tool and are suitable for applying to paper, card or fabrics. See guide on how to apply hotfix crystals

What Does Foil Backing Mean?
Most Flatback Crystals have a foil backing which acts like a mirror, the light passes through the crystal glass and is reflected from the foil backing to give the crystal a sparkly diamond like appearance. Without the foil backing the light just passes through the crystals and they look like a piece of crystal glass. The foil is also useful for providing a good bonding surface for the glue to stick to, without the foil backing the crystal will stick to a shiny glass surface so the bond isn’t as strong.

Why Use Un-Foiled Crystals?
Un-foiled Crystals are often used on netting or fabrics where you can see the foil backing through the material. Unfoiled crystals are only available in a select number of colours but for example if you are adding Jet crystals which are opaque (solid colour and the light doesn’t pass through them so their effect wont be diminished without a foil backing) to a black netting you will see the platinum foil backing, but if the crystals are un-foiled you wont have that problem, so this is a situation where un-foiled crystals would be more desirable. For a similar setup if you were to use clear or a coloured crystal on a white net backing the crystals would lose all their sparkle without the foil backing.

What Sizes Do Flat Back Crystals Come In?
This will very much depend on the style of crystal and the manufacturer. As regards Swarovski Flatback Crystals the most popular style is the 2058 which are round crystals with 14 facets and are used for everything from nail art to clothing. Their size is represented with an ss number which range in size from 1.8mm (ss5)  in diameter up to 11mm (ss48), it’s difficult to judge size on screen as all monitors have different resolutions and aspects so we have a printable PDF which will show a series of dots giving an accurate representation of the crystal sizes. Click here for: Printable PDF to show exact rhinestone sizes
If you don’t have a printer hopefully the image above will help to show you the scale of the crystal sizes in relation to a 5p coin.


Which Looks Better Using Fewer Larger Crystals or More Smaller Ones?
When it comes to covering a surface with crystals you need to be sure that the crystal size you choose in relation to the area you are covering will give you the desired effect. If you are covering a small area as in the images above which is a 50 x 50mm square using ss48 (11mm) crystals you will get a completely different effect than using ss20 (5mm) crystals. Larger crystals are more prominent and will stand out more individually but the effect of using a larger number of smaller crystals in the same space will create a lot more sparkle as there are many more facets to attract the light. You can also consider scattering the crystals so that they appear randomly instead of in a block to give a more subtle appearance.

How Many Flatback Crystals Will I Need For My Project?
The number of crystals required to cover an object will depend on the surface area of the object and the size of the crystals you intend to use it goes without saying the bigger the crystals used the less you will require.

As a general guide
ss3 – ss7 :- Crystals are used for nail art with ss5 and 7 being the more popular size.
ss8 – ss10 :- Generally used for filler crystals, tiny objects or creating intricate artwork with crystals in conjunction with other crystal sizes.
ss12 – ss20 :- The most popular sizes used for footwear, clothing or accessorising gadgets with.
ss30 – ss48 :- Used for clothing especially dance costumes to add some sparkle.

To work out how many crystals you need for a square or rectangle there is a simple formula which we will show you now, to work out more complex shapes you can use a surface area calculator which are available on a number of sites.

As I live in the UK most measurements are shown in terms or mm so we will use mm as the unit of measurement for working out the examples.

Example 1 How to work out How many Crystals I need for an iphone case.

1. To work out the surface area of the phone face you need to multiply the length x width: 129mm x 66mm = 8514 mm²

2. Next we need to decide on the crystal size we intend to use, for this example lets use ss12. So if we consult the chart below we will see that the surface area in mm² for an ss12 is 10.24 mm²

3. We divide the phone case surface area by the crystal area: 8514 mm² / 10.24 mm² = 831.45 ss12 Crystals required to Cover the case top face.

3b. Just so you are 100% clear we will do the same calculation but for covering the case with ss9 crystals: 8514 mm² / 6.76 mm² = 1259.47 ss9 Crystals required to Cover the case top face.


Crystal ss Size Crystal Area mm²
ss5 3.24 mm²
ss6 4 mm²
ss7 4.84 mm²
ss8 5.76 mm²
ss9 6.76 mm²
ss10 9 mm²
ss12 10.24 mm²
ss14 12.25 mm²
ss16 16 mm²
ss20 25 mm²
ss30 42.25 mm²
ss34 49 mm²
ss40 72.25 mm²
ss48 121 mm²


Example 2 How to work out How many Crystals I need for a 20 x 50mm rectangle.

1. To work out the surface area of the rectangle you need to multiply the length x width: 50mm x 20mm = 1000 mm²

2. Next we need to decide on the crystal size we intend to use, for this example lets use ss20 (5mm). So if we consult the chart above we will see that the surface area in mm² for an ss20 is 25 mm²

3. We divide the rectangle surface area by the crystal area: 1000 mm² / 25 mm² = 40 ss20 Crystals required to Cover the rectange.

3b. Now lets look at a crystal size that doesn’t fit so perfectly lets say ss12 (3.2mm) crystals: 1000 mm² / 10.24 mm² = 97.66 ss12 Crystals required to Cover the rectangle.

3c. If we look at the rectangle above we can see that the ss20 fits perfectly and if you count the number of crystals they correspond to the calculation. If we count the crystals on the ss12 covered rectangle we will find that there are 6 rows of 15 (6 x 15 = 90) crystals and some tiny parts of crystals, so why does the calculation say we need 97.66 then? The answer is that the space taken up by all the little bits of crystal on the edges all ads up to the same space that 7.66 crystals would cover.

For this reason you can see that any time you have a decimal place in the calculation i.e. 97.66 then the crystals wont fit exactly so you will need some smaller crystals to fill in the gaps.

This is also easy to work out if the length of the rectangle is 50mm and you are covering it with 3.2mm crystals then if you divide 50 / 3.2 = 15.62 crystals.

So a row of 15 crystals each 3.2mm in diameter would be 15 x 3.2mm =48mm so there is a gap of 2mm (Rectangle is 50mm, 15 x 3.2mm crystals = 48mm therefore 50-48 leaves a gap of 2mm) at the end of each line you can therefore use a line of 2mm crystals to fill the gap one size and do the same calculation for the opposite width gap. This being said many people will have tiny gaps here and there between crystals so often when you come to the end of the row although there should be a gap there (from what you calculated on paper), there isn’t!

Method 2 For Working Out How Many Crystals You Need
If you are having difficulty with the maths then the simplest way to calculate how many crystals you need providing you are using just one size of crystals is to use one of our print sheets below. To use them you simply Print out the sheet corresponding to the crystal size you intend to use (if you intend to use ss12 crystals then print out the ss12 sheet ; ) ) preferably using borderless printing so that you get the full sheet of crystals. Do not set the printer to “Fit to print margins” or “Reduce to print margins as this will scale the document and thus change the crystals sizes printed rendering the sheet useless. Once the sheet is printed place your object over the crystals aligning the edge up to correspond with the first row of crystals and draw around your object. You can then count the number of crystals you need to crystallize the face you have outlines.

Printable Size Sheets:
ss3 Flatback Printable Sheet   …… ss4 Flatback Printable Sheet   …… ss5 Flatback Printable Sheet
ss6 Flatback Printable Sheet   …… ss7 Flatback Printable Sheet   …… ss8 Flatback Printable Sheet
ss9 Flatback Printable Sheet   …… ss10 Flatback Printable Sheet …… ss12 Flatback Printable Sheet
ss14 Flatback Printable Sheet …… ss16 Flatback Printable Sheet …… ss20 Flatback Printable Sheet
ss30 Flatback Printable Sheet …… ss34 Flatback Printable Sheet …… ss40 Flatback Printable Sheet
ss48 Flatback Printable Sheet


What is Crystal AB?
Crystal AB is coating that gives an iridescent rainbow effect to the faceted faces of the crystal, the AB stands for Aurore Boreale. Crystal AB is a clear crystal with the iridescent coating that gives of tones of pink, purple, silver and yellow. A small range of coloured crystals are also available with an AB coating which can completely change the colour of the crystal so that it looks nothing like its base colour.
View our colour chart for more AB effect colours.


What’s The Best Way To Pick Up Non-Hotfix Flat Back Crystals?
There are a range of tools available to make picking up crystals a much simpler process the best way to pick up crystals will depend on your budget and the crystal sizes you are working with.

Magic Pick Mini…  is perfect for working with tiny crystals it comes in a pack of 3 plastic wands with foam tips that are sticky to the touch as you use the wands the stickiness gradually wears away once this happens you roll the tip over one of the sticky labels that comes in the pack and the tackiness is restored. Suitable for use with ss3 to ss16

CrystalKatana…  is a tool suitable for using with the full range of crystal sizes it has a wooden sheath and an interchangeable insert that has a wax tip one end and a chrome effect positioner on the other end. It’s the perfect tool for all crystal sizes but for a one off use it’s a little costly. Suitable for use with ss3 to ss34

Jewel Setter…  is a bigger version of a magic pick with a wax tip instead of foam so that it never looses it’s stickiness it’s very easy to use and most importantly it’s cheap in cost so if its just once the tool is going to be used it won’t break the bank. Suitable for use with ss9 to ss48

For a more in-depth look at the tools including a video of the tools in use alongside other options see our Guide to choosing the right flatback crystal applicator tools


What’s The Best Adhesive To Use With Non-Hotfix Flatback Crystals?
The two most popular adhesives for using with flatbacks are e6000 and gemtac there are other adhesives available but none that I have found to give half the strength or ease of use as these two glues. e6000 is an industrial strength glue that is extremely strong, dries clear, is suitable for use with plastic, metal, glass, some rubbers and fabric, it dries quickly, is thick in consistency and offers a good impact resistance once set as it dries like rubber. The downside is the strong nasty fumes when using the adhesive so you need to take care to use in a well ventilated area away from children, if you are using regularly it’s recommended to get a Respiratory Protection Mask to protect yourself. If you don’t like the idea of e6000 them gemtac is the best choice its a craft glue that has a good strong bond, its similar in consistency with UHU glue but its a lot stronger and can be used with metal, glass, plastic, some rubbers and fabric. It has no harmful or unpleasant fumes it’s white but dries clear and is thin in consistency which means that if you are using it on a curved or vertical surface you will need to apply a small amount and let it thicken for a minute before adding crystals. If you don’t the crystals will run, if you are using it on a flat surface its perfect but you may find that because the glue is thin that the crystals sink into the glue, so apply quite thinly and as the adhesive dries it shrinks so that it self levels which is a bonus.

For a more in-depth look at adhesive tests on various fabrics see The Ultimate Adhesive Guide for Swarovski Flat Backs and Fabric or if you are looking to crystallize a different material you may find the following useful A Guide to choosing the right glue for right surface.


What is Swarovski Crystal Made From?
Swarovski Crystal is only manufactured in Austria at a factory in Wattens using a formula perfected by Daniel Swarovski and his three sons in the earlier part of last century. In the past Crystal was made by firing a combination of natural minerals, quartz sand and lead oxide to produce Crystal Lead Glass. Once cooled the crystal is then precision cut and polished to perfection using Swarovski’s highly advanced crystal-cutting and polishing technology to create a flawless finish.

As of 2012 to comply with changing global environmental and health policies Swarovski developed a new “Advanced Crystal Standard” which they now use for all their crystal components. This advanced Crystal offers the same level of perfection but with a formula containing 0.009 % lead or less which is regarded as lead free. You will still find some older stock which does contain lead especially in the less used colours or shapes but this is being phased out as new stock replaces old.

Do Flat Back Crystals Contain Lead?
As of 2012 Swarovski’s crystal composition changed to a new innovative lead-free composition to comply with European Laws and Regulations Governing the use of lead if products. Their products now contain 0.009% lead or less.

Can Flat Back Crystals Be Washed?
The best way to keep them clean if they get dirty is to wipe them over gently using a soft cloth or soft brush if there is dirt between the crystals with some warm soapy water. They can be machine washed but care should be taken to prevent them banging against the washing machine drum if it’s a t-shirt that’s crystallized turn it inside out, if its footwear place it in a pillow case in between towels or something to cushion the impact against the drum wall. Wash on a low heat setting, using a non bleach detergent (bleach deteriorates adhesive).

Can I Dry Clean Clothing Accessorize With Glued on Non-Hotfix Flatback Crystals?
For attaching crystals to fabric Gemtac is one of the more popular adhesives used, if you do accidentally spill some adhesive on your clothing and it dries it can still be removed by dry cleaning. Cured E6000 adhesive also break down when it comes into contact with dry cleaning solvents. So in answer to this question NO glued on crystals can’t be dry cleaned.

How Do I Look After Flatback Crystals?
Swarovski Crystallized items should be kept in a clean, dry place away from any heat sources and out of the direct sunlight (UV light will gradually deteriorate adhesive). Don’t allow anything to knock the crystallized area or rub against it as bumps or scrapes can ship or dislodge the crystal/adhesive bonding.

How Do I Replace Missing Crystals?
From time to time crystals may come loose or fall off especially if they are on footwear, clothing or items that are subject to knocks or wear and tear. To replace one or more crystals you will first need to identify the missing crystal sizes and colours the easiest way to do this is to speak to the person or company who crystallized the item who should be able to advise on: A.. the Crystal Brand and Model, B.. The Crystal Colour/s and C.. The Crystal Size/s.

If this isn’t possible to will need to identify them yourself below are a few of the more popular flatback crystal models.

i. Once you have identified and purchased the correct colour/s and size/s you will need to clean the area with the missing crystals, to do this wet a cotton bud and squeeze out the excess water then use the bud tip to clean any dirt from the gap.
ii. Place the crystals in the gap to ensure that they are the correct size and colour and that they fit the gap correctly. Once you are happy remove the crystals placing them in the same order/pattern as you remove them.
iii. Using a cocktail stick (or something with a fine point) apply a tiny dab of adhesive into the gap and then place the crystal onto the adhesive and press it down so that it’s secure.

I’ve Got Adhesive On The Crystals And Now They Look Dull What Can I Do?
If its just a few crystals you have adhesive on then you can dip a cotton bud into some nail varnish removed and ring out the excess, then proceed to gently rub over the faces on the crystals with adhesive on, ensuring that NO liquid runs onto the adhesive. You can then gently buff the crystals with a dry cotton cloth once the nail varnish has evaporated and they will have their sparkle back. If you are crystallizing a Converse toe for instance its your first time and you are not happy with the result, if you have used gemtac or e6000 you can remove the entire lot of crystals and glue with nail varnish removed, pick the glue off the crystals once you have given them a good soak with nail varnish remover and let them dry. They will then be as good as new and you can start again with nothing lost apart from your time and the bit of adhesive that you have used.

The Foil On The Back Of The Crystals Has Melted And The Crystals Have Gone Foggy?
It would appear that you are using Acrylic crystals with an adhesive like e6000 or something with similar chemicals in. Acrylic crystals have a plastic foil backing that some adhesives like e6000 will eat away and then discolour the actual crystal itself making it cloudy. To prevent this from happening you have 2 options either use an adhesive like gemtac which wont harm the crystals or opt for a better quality cut glass or crystal flatback which won’t suffer from the same problem as they have a metallic foil backing.

What Is The Temperature Resistance Of Swarovski Flatback Crystals?
Cut Crystal Glass
Crystals without Foiling, surface- or translucent effects are resistant to a temperature of 350°C.

Crystals with Platinum Foiling
Crystals with Platinum Foiling (F) are resistant to a temperature of 160°C for short-term. If exposed for a
longer period, the protection lacquer will get brittle and their function as protection of the silver mirror
coating cannot be guaranteed any longer.

Crystals with Aluminum Foiling
Crystals with Aluminum Foiling (M) are resistant to a temperature of 170°C.

Crystals with Surface or Translucent Effects
For Crystals with surface and translucent effects it is not possible to specify a certain temperature
because the value differs strongly.

Melting Point
The melting point of Swarovski crystal is approximately 1200°C, whereas the glass becomes viscous.

What Are Factory Or Wholesale Packs?
Factory Packs are SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS in their own sealed original packaging, the quantity of crystals in each pack varies depending on the crystal size, as the crystal size gets bigger the pack size gets smaller. The smaller pack sizes we sell are just factory packs split into smaller quantities.

Swarovski Elements Pack Sizes
ss3 to ss20 – Pack size 1440 pcs = (10/00/00 gross)
ss30 – Pack size 360 pcs = (2/06/00 gross)
ss34 – Pack size 144 pcs = (1/00/00 gross)
ss40 – Pack size 144 pcs = (1/00/00 gross)
ss48 – Pack size 72 pcs = (00/06/00 gross)

Thank you for taking the time to read or article if you have any questions or comments please use the form below and if you found the post useful a Like would be much appreciated. You can view our full range of Crystals here.

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  1. Can you give an example of how you would work out the crystals for the sides of the iphone case?

    • Hi Amy
      There are 2 options either use ss12 the same as I have used for the main face of the case the width of the case is 13.3mm so 4 rows of ss12 (3.2mm x 4) will give a width of 12.8mm I can space the crystals out with a tiny gap between the rows or use 3 rows of ss12 and 1 row of ss14 which will bring the total width of the crystals up to 13.1 (3.2 + 3.2 + 3.2 + 3.5mm). When it comes to a small width I would always work out the best size in crystals to use because I have the complete range of crystals to play with but someone who doesn’t will probably find it useful to work out the sizes they need on paper before purchasing any which is who the tutorial will hopefully benefit. Hope that helps.

  2. Thankyou for this information you guys are always so very helpful.. I will be a loyal customer for many years to come.. Cxx

  3. I love your articles on using flat-back crystals, they are extremely informative and presented in a clear concise manner. This article and the one with the comprehensive list of adhesives for fabrics are perfect; exactly the answers I needed formatted in exactly the way I like to read research like this. I am doing a pair of custom cowboy boots with crystal embellishment for my wedding next year and have had quite a hard time finding good solid information about which adhesive to use and how I can expect it to perform, so Thank You!!

    • Hi Sarah

      Im glad you found them useful there will be a few more adhesives tests going up soon once I have finished them. For leather there isn’t an adhesive that gives a 100% satisfactory bond the best 2 I have found are Gemtac and E6000 both of which can vary greatly depending on the leather. One thing to consider is to rough up the surface lightly before crystallizing if you are covering the whole area as it will give a much stronger bond as the glue then bonds to the roughed fibres and not just the surface.

  4. I’m crystallizing a silicone smartphone case for my daughter. Which adhesive do you recommend? I already have a design but do you by any chance have any patterns on your blog? Thank you.

    • Hi Karin
      E6000, Gemtac or any of the other adhesives I have tested aren’t really suitable for silicon, you can however get some clear adhesives that are specifically for for bonding to silicon, I would recommend finding one of these to try to ensure after all your hard work that the crystals don’t come free. If you mean one of the flexible rubber cases then e6000 works well just give the surface a very light rub down and clean away and dust or grease before starting with alcohol if you have if not water. As regards patterns what kind are you looking for?

      • Hey Khaled,

        Thank you for the reply. I will try the E6000 as I’ll be working on the flexible kind of silicone case. I now have a design so that’s taken care of. It’s a simple one but I’m relying on my choice of stones to maximize the decorative effect. I’ve bookmarked your site and shop, too. Thank you again for all your advice.


  5. I have a simplicity hot fix tool and have been using it and now the crystals wont fit on it.

    • Hi Lisa
      If the tool worked previously with the crystals and the tips no longer fit as long as you are still using a compatible brand of crystals it’s usually just a simple matter of slightly opening or closing the ends of the tool. There is a slot down the centre of the tips end the jaws might have opened up a little too much in which case very gently close them up or if the crystals won’t fit in the tip open them up a little. Be careful when doing this as the metal is soft and can snap or bend too much if too much force is applied, also be aware that the gap will change as the tip heats up so test the tip once heated before making any adjustments. Also make sure that you have cleaned out any melted glue from the tip before considering adjusting the tip as an excess build up of burnt glue will prevent crystals from sitting correctly in the tip. Hope this helps.

  6. Hi,

    Can you please confirm both of the following questions in relation to applying gems to single lines of embroidery on an irish dancing:
    1. What would sparkle more – ss20 AB or SS30
    2. Do coloured AB crystals sparkle as much as clear AB crystals?

    Many thanks for your help.

    • Hi Angel Yes Colour AB crystals sparkle as much as clear AB the only difference is they will have a different base tone to the crystal. As regards to which size sparkles the most generally I find that using more smaller crystals sizes gives a sparklier effect than less larger ones.

  7. Hi can you hotfix to mirror or glass

  8. Very informative! I’m actually looking for “low profile” swarovski crystals – 2mm round with only .5mm of profile. Ever heard of /seen anything like this?

    • The ss4 2000 Rose Cut flatbacks have the shallowest profile but they are only 1.6mm diameter, when you go up the ss6 – 2mm 2058 cut, the profile is a lot more prominent. Im not sure you will find what your looking for with those exact dimensions within the Swarovski range, but you can always look at alternative brands. Bear in mind the facets need some depth/protrusion to give the sparkle effect without this the crystal will just look like a tiny flat mirror.

  9. I am using self adhesive crystals on glass but they are not sticking. What can I do?


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