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updated MAR 24 2014

Pysanka Hints and Tricks

This art requires the use of a candle flame. Please don't allow children to practice this art without adult supervision!!

Don't eat the insides of the egg once its been submersed in a dye! The dyes are inedible, and so is the egg.

Egg Related

Check for hairline cracks in the egg before you begin. A cracked egg is more likely to break during the egg-draining process (if you choose to), and more likely to burst if you leave it intact (see storage below for more info on bursting eggs).

Only use raw eggs. If you use boiled eggs, the design will spoil after only a few days.

Only use room temperature eggs (otherwise, the wax won't stick when the egg sweats as it warms up).

Let the eggs arrive at room temperature gradually: don't, for example, stick them in warm water to hurry the process. This will make the dyes appear streaky on the egg.

If you don't wish to waste the insides, you can empty the egg before you begin. However, you must then (1) put a blob of beeswax or white glue in the holes to prevent dye from getting inside, and (2) find a way to weigh down the egg in the dye so it doesn't float to the surface. Suggestions:
  • Put a spoon in the dye with the egg.
  • Cut small blocks of styrofoam (1.5 - 2 inches square) and hot glue them to the lids of your jars. They are just enough to gently push the egg into the dye and hold it there until it is ready. It works great! (Thanks to Erika)

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Pencil Layout

pysanka Keep the final design in mind when you draw the layout of the egg in pencil. Make sure there is room for everything.

Beginners can use a fabric measuring tape (like tailors use) to help plot out symetrical geometric designs. Make small quarter/half inch marks along the dividing lines in the pencil phase, to help make sure things line up properly (Thanks to Lauri)

Removing stubborn pencil marks:
  • Kate keeps a small dish of weak vinegar-water solution. If she makes a pencil mistake, she uses her little finger dipped in solution to lightly rub out the error. Blot the area dry, and try again.
  • Bohdan says you can gently rub out the pencil lines with a piece of bread!
  • Oksana recommends using a non-repro blue pencil, available at most art shops (and many business supply stores). It stays on well without smudging, and comes off easily in the final stages of cleaning off the wax.

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Wax Application

Try to use long, straight strokes when applying the design--its hard to do that at first sometimes, but it definitely gets better with practice! Using too short strokes can give a messy, jagged appearance to the egg.

If you don't varnish the egg before you empty it, you might find that the egg goo damages the design by fading it around the hole. Kevin D. suggests covering the ends of the egg with paraffin wax, right after dyeing it in the final color, but before emptying the egg or removing the beeswax. He keeps an old kistka around for that purpose--he fills it with candle wax, then dumps it upside-down on the egg. Then he empties the egg as normal. The paraffin protects the design, and also helps prevent the shell from cracking in the area around the holes.

L. Peters uses a tabletop oil lamp instead of a candle, and finds it cheaper in the long run than regular wax candles. Be extra careful with such lamps, not to knock them over!

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Dyes

Leave the egg in the dyes for no longer than 45 minutes. It creates a bubbly texture on the egg, and the colors look smudged in the final design.

Victor's Tip: The wire loops in childrens' Easter egg dyeing kits are perfect for dipping the egg into the dye - much less spillage of dye this way than with using spoons!! He has also created a larger version made out of wire coathanger for ostrich eggs, and found it works well, too.

Mark's Tip: Using less water than called for on the dye packets creates a stronger color. Experiment for yourself and see what you can do! Many people have complained about being unable to get a bright orange color, this might be one way to do it.

Another way that I have found to get a good orangey color is to dye the egg bright red, then dip it for a few seconds in yellow, and back and forth until you get an orange you like. This might make your yellow dye a bit darker and more orange, but you can always make two.

Jeff's Tip: Soak the egg in a cold water bath for about 10 minutes before putting it in the orange wash - this lightens the background color and preserves the intensity of the next color you put the egg in.

Bohdan's Tip: "Crepe paper in boiling water with vinegar is a great source of dyes especially if you are looking for a non regular color. 1/2 a roll in a pint of water with a tablespoon of vinegar and you'll have colors that others won't have."

Judy's Tip: If you've made a mistake, dyeing your egg the wrong color, you can fix it. Hold the egg over the sink, and spray it with "Fantastik" or "409". If you try this, be sure to rinse the egg thoroughly (until it is no longer slippery) and allow it to dry completely before re-dyeing it (just as if you had bleached it--about 30 minutes). This process usually returns the egg to white. Simply continue to dye the egg where you left off. You'll find more tips like this under Bleaching, below.

Yvonne's Tip: Small uneven areas of the dye can sometimes be corrected with permanent markers. That the level of success can depend on the color in question, so experiment a little before doing it on your prize egg. Black markers are most useful (if your egg ends in black) for running around the white edge of the hole left behind after emptying the egg.

Yvonne's Tip: She accidentally created a cool effect! She had trouble getting an egg the color she wanted it, so she immersed it in a strong vinegar solution for a few minutes to lighten the background color. When the egg was finished she discovered that the vinegar had "etched" the egg where it wasn't covered with wax, creating an embossed effect!

Penny's Teacher's Tip: Wear a cotton glove on the hand which holds the egg, to avoid leaving oil on the egg, which blocks the egg's pores (also keeps your hand clean of dye).

Wayne Schmidt's Page: Check out Wayne's awesome site that features tons of comparison pictures of what different colors look like on eggs (after 5, 10, 15, and 30 minutes), results of different ways to get a great orange color, and tons more! Well worth checking out!

Sherry's Tip: To get the powder off of your hands when mixing your dyes, use Bon Ami polishing cleanser! It was safer for her sensitive skin (and the environment) than using bleach.

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Bleaching

After bleaching, remember to rinse the egg under cool water until it is no longer slippery.

Let the egg sit for at least 1/2 hour after bleaching it.

Judy's Tip: If you want to dye the egg again after bleaching, use something like "Fantastik" or "409" instead of bleach - the dyes tend to adhere better that way. As with bleach, rinse the egg thoroughly afterwards, until it is no longer slippery, and allow it to dry about 30 minutes.

Tanya's Tip: Another tip if you want to dye the egg again after bleaching: Bleach and rinse the egg thoroughly, then dip the egg in a container of straight vinegar, let it soak for one minute, then rinse again with water. Continue dyeing the egg as normal from there, and the dye will take better than if just bleached and rinsed alone.

Often, when removing wax on bleached eggs, the wax will smear and stay on the shell. Check out the hints below for remedies like using Goo Gone (citrus oil) or lighter fluid. I've tried lighter fluid and found it works quite well for bleached eggs.

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Wax Removal

If you've made a mistake in waxing (like the blobs that even the most practiced of egg artists make occasionally), can be partially corrected for. Scrape the blob of wax off, and carefully swab the area with wax remover (made for furniture). It may not be perfect but it is usually an improvement. (Thanks to Yvonne W.) Or you can try a dot of lighter fluid on the tip of a q-tip to remove a wax line or small blob mistake. (Thanks to Christine M.)

Pysanka Darlisa's tip: cheap (store brand) tissues work better for wax removal than softer, more expensive tissue. Softer tissue tends to shred easier and leaves little bits of tissue embedded in the remaining wax. Cheap tissue is rougher - it tends to last longer, not shred as much, and removes the wax easier and faster.

Janice's Tip: When melting the wax off in the toaster oven, beer caps make the very best holders. They catch the wax. They are also good for displaying the egg and varnishing. Neat idea!
Don't drink beer? Ami suggests using the metal holder of a tealight - once the candle is used up, pop out the metal wick holder at the bottom, and it's ready to use! (Can be used for displaying, too!)

Having trouble removing the wax with a candle?
  • Patti's Tip: Use a blow dryer! Put your egg on your drying rack, to prevent the egg from rolling away. Hold the the head of the dryer close to the egg. The wax melts off, and you can simply wipe it away by using a tissue, as usual.
  • Ruth's Tip: Use a toaster oven. Works great, but you have to be very careful, and watch the eggs like a hawk, or else the wax will burn. She uses the lowest "bake" setting, and puts the egg on a piece of cardboard to catch the drips, and places that on the little tray (not the wires). Paper can be used instead of cardboard, but you must put folds in it, so the egg won't roll around). This is a method that is not safe for children to use.
  • Debbie's (and many others') Tip: Use a regular oven @ 250 deg F. Watch for the wax to soften, then remove carefully and wipe off with a soft cloth or paper towel.
  • Eggman's Tip: use the microwave. "Fold a paper towel in quarters. Place in microwave. Blow the egg out, being sure that both holes are clear of membrane. Then put the egg in for 14 seconds, take out with paper towels (it will be very hot) and wipe the wax off. Works beautifully".
  • Mary Ann's Tip: Warm up some vegetable oil on the stove, dip part of a paper towel into it, then use it to gently wipe off the wax. It doesn't affect the adherence of the finish at all! Sounds like a great idea (but never leave oil heating on the stove unattended!).
  • Luba's Tip: Goo Gone (citrus oil) removes the last bit of remaining wax quickly and easily. Non-flammable, so it's safe for families. Remove most of the wax with a candle, then put a bit of Goo Gone in the palm of your hand, roll the egg in it, then gently dry the egg with a tissue. Not only removes wax, but also soot and most pencil marks.
  • Mary's Tip: use an embossing gun (used with rubber stamping). One caveat is that you have to keep the fingers holding the egg protected with a soft paper towel.
  • Dianne's Tip: Invert a pie pan over a hot stove, and heat a clean cloth on it. (Don't burn the cloth!) Then rub the cloth carefully (gently) on the egg to remove the wax. You may have to adjust the heat, and be careful not to knock the pie plate off the stove.
  • Richard's Tip: We melt a couple pounds of lard in a pot on the stove and dip the eggs in it when we are done. It slowly melts the wax off and leaves a super shine on them.
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Varnish

Test the varnish on a small area of the egg first, in case it causes the colors to run. You want an oil based product to prevent this. I use Flecto Varathane Classic Clear Diamond Wood Finish Gloss Interior (oil based) (although I understand Flecto got bought out by Rust-Oleum, so the name might be slightly different now).

How do you apply varnish properly, to get a really nice shine? Using several thin layers is the key (as thin as you can get, while still completely covering the egg--make sure there are no blank spots, it sometimes happens if you use too little). The degree of shine goes up exponentially by the number of layers you put on. If you put on 2 or 3 thin coats, the eggs end up being super-glossy! Be sure to let the varnish dry completely between coats. I also use my bare hands (fingers, really) to apply the varnish, I haven't gotten the knack of applying the varnish while wearing plastic gloves (although many others have, and say it works really well).

Kate's tip: use Krylon art spray, with ultraviolet protection, instead of varnish. She uses a tripod (you can use the drying rack described on my Supplies page, or a makeshift one consisting of 3 tacks pushed through a sheet of cardboard) inside a "spray booth" (which is a carboard box turned on its side). Spray the egg lightly, rotating as needed, to ensure the entire egg is covered. It dries in about 20 minutes, and then is ready for emptying! Eggs rarely need another coat, and the colors are protected from fading. Plus, your hands don't get dirty! It may not protect the egg from damage from dropping, as well as the varnish can, but which is more important really depends on where you'll be displaying your eggs.

Melissa's Tip: To remove leftover varnish on your hands, use a teaspoon of salad oil. Rub it on your hands like hand lotion. Wash with soapy warm water, and even oil based varnish will come right off! Another egger suggests using a teaspoon of margarine in the same way!

Cheryl Ann B. says: "I place a thin wooden skewer in the large hole (so it looks like you have an egg lolipop) and spray the egg with varnish, turning the skewer as I do so. To dry, I either stick the other end of the skewer into a pot of sand or gently release the egg from the skewer onto a drying rack made of nails pounded up through a board." Similarly, JCripps says: When using spray varnish I put the egg on a bamboo kebab and press it into a block of foam or into a cardboard box; the egg dries in air with no blobs from resting on a hard surface.

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Egg Emptying

Ann's Hint (not this site's Ann, another one!): She uses a jeweler's file to make a hole in the egg. They are several inches long and have a tapering point, which you use to make an initial small hole. Then you twist it back and forth gently, gradually opening the hole to a larger, more even size.

Tip from JCripps: Use a Dremel tool with a small cone sanding tip to make the holes in the egg ends (after making a pilot hole with a pin).

Angie and many other readers use this great tip for emptying: "I use a syringe! After I varnish the egg, I use the needle on the syringe to poke the hole into the egg and the gently blow pressure into the egg (after breaking up the yolk of course) and pull out the syringe and then the egg will pour out! Works fantastic!"

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Ostrich Eggs

If you buy an empty ostrich egg shell, cover the holes over with beeswax BEFORE dyeing the egg. If you don't, the dye will super-saturate the egg, and totally ruin the design (just as it would with an ordinary egg - see above)

Pysanka One of the hardest things about doing an ostrich egg is finding the right way to dye it. Conventional bottles are too small; so what are you left with? Fortunately, some people out there have thought up some solutions to this problem...
- Fill the egg with enough sand to sink it, then cover the holes over with beeswax.
- Joe & Carol's Tip: Put the dye in a container with a snap-on lid (which might pop off occasionally, so be careful) or a screw-on lid, and thus submerge the egg.
- Carolyn's Tip: Test a high quality 1-gallon Ziplock bag for leaks (she pours a cup of water in it while holding the bag over the sink). If the bag doesn't leak, she empties out the water, and pours in about 1 1/2 cups of the dye. Adds the egg, remove as much air as possible from the bag, and zip up the seal (double check that you've sealed it all the way). Move the bag around occasionally to insure equal coverage of the dye on all parts of the egg. Then remove it when the desired shade has been reached! (Don't use those new Ziplocks specially designed for storing vegetables, with air holes included!)
- Brenda's Tip: Put the egg in an ordinary amount of dye, in a large Rubbermaid plastic container. and "baste" it with a clean turkey baster. A little extra vinegar in the dye also helps (to those dyes who say you can add vinegar to them). Brenda has used this method several times, and has found it to work well, and she avoids having to make extra dye.
- Tanya says that Ukrainian Gift Shop sells large plastic containers that take about four packets of dye each, and hold a regular-sized ostrich egg.

Ostrich eggs have very large pores, which can sometimes be difficult to decorate. Some people recommend sanding down the egg to get rid of the pores, but I've never found that was necessary. If you're careful, you can ensure you fill in the pits as you go. Keep it in mind, or else you end up with a sort of speckled egg!

You might find decorating an ostrich egg awkward in the beginning - it's diffcult to know how to rest your arms on the table comfortably (which can help steady your hands). So be prepared to find a slightly new way to hold the kistka, and your arms.

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Egg Storage

For Intact Eggs:
  • Store them in a WELL-VENTILATED area (i.e., NOT in a china cabinet). If you don't, there is an excellent chance the egg will burst (due to the build-up of gases from the egg hardening). Trust me, this doesn't smell or look pretty. If you store them in a well-ventilated area, however, there should be no problems. They can last a very long time (many decades or more) when cared for properly.
  • Mark's Tip: Rotate the egg every 3-6 months (turn upside down). This helps to ensure the egg doesn't build up gases in one spot (lessening the chance for it bursting), and also helps the egg retain its shape.
  • Another Mark Tip: Store them in recycled paper cartons, not styrofoam ones. Styrofoam cartons don't allow the egg to breathe and dry out normally, which greatly increases their chances of bursting.
  • Yvonne's Reminder: Do not allow admirers to SHAKE eggs. People seem to be inclined to do this, as if they don't really believe there is an egg in there, and of course it breaks (possibly weakened because of the gas buildup caused by the decaying egg inside).
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