Techniques I - Egg Decorating
April starts today and the 3T Art Blog's theme for the month is going to be Techniques. I’ll have info for you about acrylic, oil and watercolour painting, as well as a really informative post at the end of the month about block printing. But first, for those of you who celebrate, this is Easter weekend, and what better way to start off than with techniques artists use for egg decorating!
The art of decorating eggs has been around for a really long time. Engraved ostrich eggs have been found dating back 60,000 years. In ancient Egypt, eggs symbolized life and death. Eggs were painted gold and silver and placed in graves as early as 5,000 years ago. In Jewish tradition, a white egg is part of the Passover Seder plate. It’s thought that early Christians took the egg symbolism from Judaism and painted eggs red to symbolize Christ’s bloodshed on the cross. Today, eggs are one of the foods that receive blessings at Easter. They are a large part of many people’s celebrations, religious or not.
Decorating Your Eggs
Decorating eggs was what I most looked forward to at Easter. Dying hard boiled eggs and decorating them was a big part of the celebration. Our family would get together at my grandparent’s house and we’d decorate eggs for hours. Some turned out beautiful with lovely spring colours, while others looked like they belonged to the Adamm’s Family, but we had a lot of fun every year.
There are so many different ways to decorate eggs. Dyes can be used on hard boiled eggs that are quickly eaten after the celebrations. Hollowed out eggs, or blown eggs, are best used for techniques such as the traditional beeswax-resist method, acrylic painting or permanent marker and can be kept long after the celebrations are over. We’re going to have a look at some traditional ways and one not so traditional way of decorating eggs.
The easiest way to dye eggs today is by putting a few drops of food colour into a bowl with vinegar and boiled water. But way back when the tradition of dying eggs first began, they didn’t have ready-to-use food colours. People had to make their own. They relied on things like beets, different colours of onion skins, red cabbage, flowers, bugs and vibrant spices like turmeric. These ingredients had to be cooked to release their colours before they could be used to dye eggs.
Credit: Leela Cyd
White eggs dye up different than brown eggs, which is great. If you use some of each, you’ll end up with an even wider range of coloured eggs.
You can vary the results of your colours from pastel to dark. The darker the colour you’d like your egg to be, the more dips it’ll need.
Natural colours vary from yellows to red to even dark purples depending on the ingredients you’re using. You will need to be a bit patient with this method, it does take a lot longer than using off-the-shelf food colour, but it’s worth the extra work. I’ve tried using natural ingredients to dye eggs and the results were really great. The best part about using natural ingredients is that you’ll have a variety of original coloured eggs nobody else has in their basket. And you’ll know the egg inside is safe to eat.
I do strongly suggest you make sure the ingredient you’re thinking of using as a natural food colour is safe for consumption! Make sure you can eat it. If you can’t, don’t make food colour from it.
Here’s a handy chart I found online that I wanted to share with you. It’s all about making your own food colours.
If you’re interested in more, check out the link: https://www.foodandwine.com/news/diy-food-coloring. Lots of good info about food dyes and why we should think about going natural with our egg dying.
The best thing you can use to paint clean and dried hollowed out eggs are acrylics. They cover and adhere well to the porous surface of an egg, dry quickly, and are available in so many colours. You can even mix your own custom colours too.
You can paint anything you like on an egg. It doesn’t have to be traditional. Instead, it can represent you. Think of the egg as another surface for your art. Not a flat canvas or a wood panel, but a 3D object that’s just waiting for your awesome artwork to be on it. You don’t have to paint lines around it or zigzags, though those can look really good too, but rather add some of what you do to each of these little paintings.
Painting on an egg is very similar to painting on any other surface. I’d suggest doing a little prep work first. A light sanding with a very fine sand paper to remove any little imperfections and bumps is a good start. Use a 2H pencil to lightly draw your planned design onto the egg. This way you’ll see how it’ll look on the 3D oval surface and save yourself time repainting. Just like with any other project, set up your workstation with the brushes, paint colours and the other things you’ll need before you start painting.
Once you’re done, let your work dry well, I’d give it a couple of days, then apply a few coats of varnish to the egg to protect your work. I use Golden Polymer Varnishes for all my acrylic work. Satin or Gloss (you can mix to two for a semi), it’s your choice.
Here are some really great examples of what artists have been doing with acrylic paint on eggs:
Gorgeous work on this site: https://colorful-crafts.com/painted-easter-eggs/
Credit: art club blog
That last pic is my fave!
Before you start painting on the hollowed out eggs, I’d suggest you put a wood skewer right through each of them. This will give you an easy way to hold the egg while you paint it.
This is the traditional technique that most of us probably think of when it comes to decorated eggs. It’s been used, some think, as far back as pre-Christian times in Slavic cultures. The tradition continues today throughout Eastern European countries, each having it’s unique designs and colours that symbolize things such as health, love, nature and birth.
Pisanki - Polish Decorated Eggs.
By Silar - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Traditionally, eggs were decorated raw using this method, but raw eggs need a lot of care afterward. As the egg hardens, there is a good chance it could burst. Eggs need to be rotated every 3 to 6 months to make sure they keeps their shape and to keep gasses from building up inside the egg. A well ventilated spot in your house is a must to keep the drying process on track. You wouldn’t want that beautiful egg you so lovingly placed in your china cabinet to explode, would you? That would make quite the smelly mess!
If you plan on trying this, it would be best practice to hollow out the egg first. Clean it inside and out with dish soap before decorating, let it dry well, then plug the holes at both ends of the egg with beeswax before dropping it in the dye.
The wax-resist method requires some specific things before you begin. You’ll need some kind of wax, beeswax is a good choice, and a special stylus. Styluses come in many styles. You can think of them as a type of fountain pen for wax.
Credit: - www.pysanky.info
Manual styluses require the artist to heat up the head over a flame and load up the funnel end with hard wax, then heat the head again over a flame causing the wax in the funnel to melt. Once it’s all liquid, you can start drawing on the egg. Electric styluses are continuously heated so you don’t have to deal with heating them over a candle, instead you get a steady stream of wax to work with.
The hot beeswax is applied in a pattern with the stylus onto the egg. The egg is then dipped into a colour of dye. When the egg dries, a second pattern is applied using more hot wax on different areas of the egg. The egg is then dipped into a different colour of dye. This process is repeated numerous times and is what creates the amazing intricate patterns we see on these types of eggs.
Artist Susan Blubaugh, Credit: Tom Bauges
Once the egg is done, the wax can be removed. This can be done in a few different ways:
Hold the egg over a candle and wipe it as the wax melts off
Put it into a warm oven until the wax is soft, then wipe it off
Warm up vegetable oil on the stove and carefully apply it to the egg with a paper towel and wipe until the wax has all been removed. (don't leave the oil on the stove when you're done!)
All of these ways to remove wax will take a bit of time. For stubborn wax, you can always use a mild wax striper made for furniture or GooGone.
Pysanky - Ukranian Decorated Eggs.
By Lubap Creator: Luba Petrusha - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
The last step to preserve these little beauties and give them a shine is to add a coat of gloss varnish to them. A good wood varnish will work or a spray vanish. Make sure you do a little test area first. You may need an oil-based varnish to keep the dye from running.
This is a technique I wouldn’t necessarily think of when it comes to eggs. Something about having a power tool like a drill or a Dremel even near an egg seems absurd. It’s always amazed me. I can’t image the patience these artists have who create this type of work. It definitely is a different form of sculpting and though it’s not a traditional egg decorating technique, it needed to be touched on. They’re so beautiful!
When finished, a perforated egg is so very delicate. It takes years of practice to master this technique. It’s not for me, but I wanted to share it with you just in case it was something you’d be interested in or may never have seen before.
If you want to see some really spectacular hollow carved eggs, check out this link:
You won’t be disappointed!
There are so many other decorating techniques that could be used on eggs. Don’t limit yourself. You can easily do a marbling or pouring technique on an egg. Maybe try watercolours or water colour pencils. And it doesn’t have to be just about painting. Scratching is a technique in which the artist scratches a design into the actual eggshell. Don’t forget about glitter, stencils and stamping. You can draw on your eggs too using pencil crayon, charcoal (with a fixative afterward) or ink. Maybe even try an interesting collage on them. Who knows, you may end up with an egg that will be passed down for generations!
Thanks for stopping by the 3T Art Blog. I hope you enjoyed our look at egg decorating techniques. I think I’m going to do a little natural egg dying this year then enjoy them for breakfast on Sunday morning! Yum.
See you again next week when I’ll be delving into acrylic paints and techniques.
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