How To…Dye Easter eggs

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 5, 2004

Editor’s note: Today the Suffolk News-Herald begins a new feature, &uot;How To…,&uot; in which we will give you information on a wide variety of topics ranging from filing extensions on taxes to writing wills. Today, Jason Norman outlines the steps to create beautiful Easter eggs. The &uot;How To…&uot; feature will appear every Tuesday. If you have an idea, please contact Stephen H. Cowles, managing editor, at 934-9613 or via e-mail:

By Jason Norman

Suffolk News-Herald


Email newsletter signup

In ancient Egypt and Persia, people exchanged decorated eggs at the spring equinox , the beginning of the new year. The eggs were seen as a symbol of fertility for them because the coming forth of a live creature from an egg was so surprising to people of ancient times.

Christians adopted this tradition, and the Easter egg became a religious symbol. It represented the tomb from which Jesus broke forth. In medieval times eggs were traditionally given at Easter to all servants, and to the children, along with other gifts. It seems that the custom of hiding the eggs is a universal one.

This Easter, why not color your eggs using nature’s very own dyes? It’s possible to come up with a great number of colors using natural ingredients that can easily be found in almost any kitchen.

nPale Red: Fresh beets or cranberries, frozen raspberries

nOrange: Yellow onion skins

nLight yellow: Orange or lemon peels, carrot tops, celery seed or ground cumin

nYellow: Ground turmeric

nPale green: Spinach leaves

nGreen-gold: Yellow Delicious apple peels

nBlue: Canned blueberries or red cabbage leaves

nBeige to brown: Strong brewed coffee

To dye the perfect Easter eggs the natural way, here’s what to do:

nPut eggs in a single layer in a pan. Pour water in pan until the eggs are covered.

nAdd about a teaspoon of vinegar.

nAdd the natural dye appropriate to the color you want your eggs to be. (The more eggs you are dying at a time, the more dye you will need to use.)

nBring water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

nRemove the substance you used to color the eggs. Put eggs in a bowl. If you want your eggs to be a darker shade, cover them with the dye and let them stand overnight in the refrigerator.

Food coloring eggs


hot water

white vinegar

small bowls or cups

slotted spoon

cooking oil

soft cloth

For each color measure 1/4 tsp. food coloring in small bowl. Add 3/4 cup hot water and 1 tbsp. white vinegar to each color. Add eggs and allow to sit until they are the desired color. Remove with slotted spoon. Polish dry eggs with small amount of cooking oil and soft cloth.


Cover your work area with old newspapers. Have your cooled dyes in jars on the work area. Set your room-temperature eggs on a soft layer of tissues (fold a couple of tissues over in the middle to make a soft &uot;pillow&uot;).

Clean your egg with a mixture of diluted vinegar – dab the egg with a tissue dipped in the vinegar solution, or dip the egg in a shallow bowl half-filled with the vinegar solution. Dab the egg dry – never rub.

Applying the design

(1) Proceed to draw the basic design on the egg lightly with the pencil. In the beginning, you may wish to use the elastic band around the egg to aid in drawing the lines straight. If you make a mistake with the pencil, do not use the eraser on it. Remember, the pencil lines (if drawn on lightly) will not show up in the final design, so mistakes are OK.

(2) Pysanky (Ukrainian for Easter Egg) uses a wax-resist process. This means that as you put the egg in successive dye baths, wherever there is wax the dye will not go. Putting a new wherever you apply wax, the shell will be protected. When you put the egg in the dye bath, Making pysanky goes like this: you apply wax to the egg while it’s white, for example, with the kistka (writing tool), then you dip it in a dye (for example, yellow). Wherever you’ve applied the wax, the dye won’t go. So now you have a yellow egg with lines on it that are white, but protected under the wax. Now you draw on all the lines you want to be yellow (you don’t have to re-cover the lines that are protecting the white). Once you’ve drawn on your ‘yellow’ lines, you dip it in the next color. Use the suggested kistka to apply wax to the egg, everywhere that there are lines in that step of the design. Remember to apply the wax on both sides of the egg. The dye will not go anywhere you apply wax. You’ll be using the fine kistka for fine lines, and the heavy kistka for filling in large sections. Keep in mind that the pencil lines are just guides, and you won’t be covering all of them with wax. After applying the wax for a color, double check your egg to make sure you didn’t miss any lines. Dip the egg in the next dye stated. Leave the eggs in about 15 minutes, or until it is the desired brightness. Remove the eggs with the spoon, and dab dry with tissues. For regular eggs, the dye sequence is from light to dark. For bleached eggs, the sequence can go either way, because the egg’s final color is white. You don’t need to re-apply wax every time you dip it in a dye; just apply the new lines for the color. Keep going in this way until you have reached the end of the design.

Finishing up

When you have finished applying wax to the design, dip the egg in the final color. Wait 15-20 minutes, then remove the egg from the dye, dab it dry, and let it sit a few minutes. If you are doing a bleached egg, you must follow these steps! Otherwise, you can move ahead to the &uot;fun part&uot; in part 3. Put the egg in the bleach solution (1 cup of water to 2 tablespoons bleach). Once the eggshell has turned white, gently rinse the egg under cool running water. Stop when the egg no longer feels slippery. Dab dry. Let it sit at least 1/2-hour. Now comes the really fun part. Take the egg, and hold it near the side of the flame. Do not hold the egg over the flame, because carbon will collect on the shell, and darken the design. Wait until the wax looks wet (only a few seconds, usually) and wipe the wax off with a clean tissue. Try to always use a fresh side of the tissue (or a new tissue) for each wipe, or else you’ll just be rubbing wax all over the egg, and it will take a lot longer to finish your egg.

Information on pysanky technique comes from Luba Perchyshn.

For bleached eggs, you may find that the wax doesn’t come off as easily as for a regular egg. In this case, you may wish to use a little lighter fluid – pour a small amount onto a tissue, and rub the shell very gently. Be sure to dispose of the tissues properly! And don’t let kids use the lighter fluid!

You may wish to apply a glossy finish to the egg once completed. You may use clear gloss varnish, varathane, or shellac. Apply a very thin layer of varnish with your fingers and set on the drying rack to dry. However, you may wish to test the gloss on a small surface of the egg first, to see if it makes the colors run (some do).

Much of this information came from either personal experience, or research on the World Wide Web.