All About Pysanky Dyes

Pysanka Power Podcast

Pysanka Power Podcast by Joan Brander of
Saving the world one pysanka at a time . . . . ™

Listen to Pysanka Power Podcast on BabasBeeswax.comListen to Episode 3 released March 23, 2019 – All About Pysanky Dyes

Pysanka Power Podcast by Joan Brander of BabasBeeswax.comTranscript of Episode 3

Hi, I'm Joan Brander and you're listening to my Pysanka Power Podcast. I love Ukrainian egg decorating! I've been doing it for several decades since I was a child. I've amassed so much knowledge and experience over those years, I thought that podcasting would be a great way to share my passion with you. I'll be telling you about their history, legends, and symbols. On the practical side, there's tools and techniques used in making them, hints, tips and do it yourself projects to talk about. Did you know that the fate of the world depends on pysanky? There's an ancient Ukrainian legend that says as long as pysanky are being made, evil will not prevail over good in the world". They're one of the greatest traditions of all time. So I hope that my Podcast will inspire you.

This is Episode 3 where I'll give you an overview of one of the essential tools for writing pysanky. It's all about dyes. I'll also give you some hints and money-saving tips. Pardon the pun, but "I'm dying" to tell you all about these. Here's a list of what you'll learn: deciding which colours to choose, how to prepare your dyes, how to store them, how long they'll last, tips for using colour in your designs, troubleshooting problems and solutions, and finally, where to purchase pysanky dyes. That's a lot to cover. So let's get into it.

I mentioned in Episode 2 that when we refer to making pysanky, we say we write them. Designs are written with beeswax. But colours are put on with dyes.

Please don't use ordinary food colouring for this! They'll just give you pale results that you might not like. Only dyes manufactured for eggs will give you the bright, vibrant colours that pysanky are known for. Of course you can use natural dyes that I touched on in Episode 1, but I'll expand on that topic in another instalment. I also mentioned that when I first made pysanky with Baba, my grandmother, we soaked crepe paper in water to make our dyes. Boy, dyeing pysanky sure has come a long way since then.

Before deciding which colours to use, let's chat a bit about the dyes we use today. They're called aniline dyes which are basically acid-based. They're non-toxic, so you don't have to worry about using them, even with children. However, keep in mind that these dyes are specifically for pysanky. And pysanky are not to be eaten. There are other Ukrainian Easter eggs that are meant to be eaten and I'll tell you more about those in future Episodes.

So now we can talk about which colours to choose. You might be overwhelmed by the variety that's available out there! There's so many to choose from! But don't worry. I'll break it down for you and give you a few pointers.

Actually, you don't need a large number of colours to get some stunning results. But you do need some guidelines to help you decide which colours to choose. That's what I'm here for. Keep in mind that I use the words "colours" and "dyes" interchangeably. But we're basically talking about the same thing.

Try to think of all the available colours divided into five groups. The colours are grouped by similarity. For the best results, you would choose one colour from each group. So here's the groups:

The first one contains the lightest colour such as yellow. Use this colour first.

In the second group are what I call "Accent Colours". These are dyes such as blue or green. You'll notice in traditional designs that these colours are used in only very small areas.

The third group is quite interesting. It contains only one colour: Orange. You can use it on its own by just covering with melted beeswax the areas on the egg you want to stay orange. Or, and here's the interesting part, you can use it as another technique called "Orange Wash". This is a little-known and often forgotten way to wash out the Accent Colours. This is how it works: If you put a blue or green egg into a red or pink dye, the egg is likely to come out a muddy, dirty-looking brown colour. Nobody likes that! But, if you put a blue or green egg into an "Orange Wash", the darker colours will wash away, and your egg won't look muddy or dirty. It'll be ready to put into the next group of dyes, and come out bright and vibrant! Pardon the pun, but "orange" you glad I told you about this neat little trick?

The fourth group of dyes are the bright and vibrant colours like red, scarlet and pink. They give the distinctive punch of colour that pysanky are known for.

Finally, you'll use a colour from the fifth group. These are the darkest colours and they make up the background of your design. The final colour gives a dramatic contrast to the Light Colours, Accent Colours and Bright Colours used in the previous groups. Popular background colours are black, dark red, purple, and royal blue.

There's other colours that fall into each of these five groups as well. You'll probably want to add a few more to your supplies as time goes by, and you learn more about dyes. But if you want to start with even fewer than the suggested five colours, you can do that, too. Three colours that work well together are yellow, red and black. Take your time and do a little experimenting. Have some fun with colour!

Of course, before you use your dyes, you'll have to prepare them. So let's talk about that. It's easy enough. Just follow the directions printed on the package. The dyes come in a powder. You simply add boiling water, and sometimes vinegar. You can make and store your dyes in glass or plastic jars. Mason jars work just great, as do jars recycled from peanut butter or jam. You'll want to use jars that have a wide mouth. A size that holds between 1-1/2 to 2 cups of liquid is just the right size to hold the contents of one package of dye and one egg. You don't want a jar so tall that you have to drop your egg into and it breaks. And you don't want one so wide that the dye won't cover your egg completely. Here's a hint: if you're using a plastic jar, test it in your sink first to make sure it can withstand the temperature of boiling water. Otherwise, it could collapse! And here's a tip when purchasing dyes. Remember that for every colour you choose, you'll need a separate jar. People often don't think of that when they're shopping!

So here's a question I get asked quite often. "Can I only use the dyes once?" The answer is "no" which always gets a surprising look. Dyes can be used over and over again for about 10 dozen eggs with just one package! It's true. If you do the math, that's 120 eggs which is why making pysanky is so affordable.

That's the good news. And there's some not-so-good news as well. I'll troubleshoot some problems and help you find solutions. One thing: your dyes could evaporate if you leave them uncovered. That means you'll have to replace them. The solution is a no-brainer. Just keep the lid on the jar when you're not using them. I confess that I'm guilty of this! I'm just so excited and anxious to get to the next step when I write pysanky. I'm often too lazy to cover the jars. Another thing that could happen is that your dye could get moldy. When this happens it looks cloudy or has sediment on the surface. You can still use it, though. However, if you just can't stand the way it looks, just strain it through a piece of cheesecloth. Bring it to a boil, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar, cool to room temperature, and voila, your dye will be good as new. Do you decorate eggs seasonally or for just part of the year? If so, keep your jars in a cool, dark place until you need them.

Now, as promised, here are some tips for using colour in designing your pysanka. What you want to see in a beautiful pysanka is colour contrast. And what I mean by this is light ones next to dark ones. What you don't want to see is one or more of the colours in any of the five groups I mentioned to be next to each other. For example, two or more of the background colours seen close in proximity will not have enough contrast. The colours will look too similar to be distinct. After the time-consuming job of putting beeswax on your egg, you don't want to be disappointed with your final results. If you're like me, you'll probably copy designs from books and pictures. Especially if you're a beginner. That way you won't have to overthink which colours to use. Over time you'll learn how to use colours that work well together. Before long you'll be well on your way creating your own combinations.
Are you ready to purchase some dyes? If so, I can help you choose them. If you're buying a kit, for example, you may want to kick it up a notch by adding a few more colours. You can purchase all your supplies from my store, Baba's Beeswax. Just go to where you can place an order or just browse around.

Combined with everything we discussed about dyes in Episode 1, you should now have everything you need to know. I hope you found the information useful. In a future Episode, I'll tell you all about the symbolism of colour.

But now let's go to "Books 'n' Bits": In this commentary I share my favourite books and resources on pysanky tools to help you make the perfect pysanka, even if it's your first time. I feature them here and on my website A great resource is the Laminated Pysanky Color Sequence Chart published by Baba's Beeswax. I created it as a guide to answer questions people were always asking me. As a reference and reminder it covers the five categories of the colours and explains what Orange Wash is all about.

This Color Sequence Chart is a one of-a-kind publication available only from Baba's Beeswax. You can order it through my website

Before you know it, I'll be broadcasting the next Episode of Pysanka Power Podcast. I'll be discussing symbols and the meanings behind them. You'll learn how to look behind the beauty of the decorated egg to see magical designs and secret messages.

Before I go, allow me to tell you about Baba's Beeswax and how you can get in touch with me. Back in 1991, sitting around the dining room table with my family, it got me thinking, that, well, maybe I should do more with my egg decorating hobby. We came up with the whimsical name, Baba's Beeswax.

Since then, Baba's Beeswax has been doing a lot of buzzing. We have a website at Our studio comes alive with workshops and demonstrations. We write books, pamphlets, teaching aids, and videos. We have a library for all the publications we produce and collect. Not only that, we have a gallery of all the pysanky we've made and collected. Please drop by for a visit. We're located in Richmond, British Columbia. If you like shopping in person, it's very easy to get to. We're not far from the Vancouver International Airport. And, for our American friends, we're just a few hours drive north of Seattle. For shopping on the internet you can visit our online store at We've had it since 1997. Pardon the pun, but we've been buzzing around for a long time. We're doing our best to keep up with technology. So we're connecting with you on YouTube, Facebook and other platforms. Now, we're podcasting and we're very excited to be doing that. You, too, can follow the buzz… by giving us your comments or a thumbs up.

We're here to help you choose kits and supplies like the beeswax, kistka and dyes you'll need. You can get everything you need all year round, not only at Easter. In case you missed anything, you can listen to my Podcast again. We've put the audio file on our website Or you might like reading along, so we've put the Transcript there too.

That's it for me, Joan Brander of Baba's Beeswax. Thanks for listening-and have a great day!

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