The effect of a small molecule (e.g., sodium fluorescein, SF) on the swelling properties of and diffusion from calcium polysaccharide (alginate or pectin) gel beads was investigated. The gel beads were prepared by ionotropic gelation, soaked in different concentrations of SF solution, and then dried. The swelling behavior and release of SF from the dried beads were investigated. After soaking in SF, the beads swelled to sizes that depended on the initial concentration of SF. However, the size of the dried beads was independent of the SF concentration. The swelling of the beads occurred quite rapidly and reached a maximum within 2 hours. Although most beads swelled to a size which was less than their original size of wet beads, some of them swelled much more than their original wet size. Higher concentration of SF and lower concentration of sodium alginate provided a greater increased in weight. The release profile of SF from dried gel beads in water consists of a burst or a very rapid release phase during the first 60 minutes followed by a much slower release phase. The similarity of the relative weight increase and release profiles of SF, suggests that swelling might contribute to release of SF, particularly during the burst phase.