Beginner’s Guide to Ukrainian Egg Decorating


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Ever wondered how to turn ordinary eggs into vibrant works of art that tell stories of tradition and culture? Ukrainian egg decorating, also known as Pysanky, is not just a craft; it’s a journey into Ukrainian heritage.

Ukrainian egg decorating uses symbolism and unique designs to make some of the most beautiful Easter eggs you’ll ever make.

woman holding ukrainian decorated egg in her palm

What is Ukrainian Egg Decorating

I grew up in Germany and making Easter trees is a big deal over there. The Germans I know decorate fabulous eggs and hang them on beautiful branches long before Easter. I have been nostalgic for their eggs for a long time as I am UNDERWHELMED every year by the cheap box egg decorating kits we get here.

A friend of mine introduced me to Ukrainian egg decorating which turns ordinary Easter eggs into masterpieces. Eggs have long been used, including in pre Christian times, to symbolize fertility, life, and renewal.

With the Christianization of Ukraine, the symbols on the eggs began to have religious meaning such as the Holy Trinity.

Artisans use a tool called a kistka to apply melted beeswax onto the shell in intricate patters. Once the wax is cooled, the egg gets dipped into different dyes.

After the wax and dyes have been layered, the wax is actually melted off. This reveals all the gorgeous patterns and beauty underneath. Ukrainian eggs blend art, tradition, and perhaps a bit of magic.

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woman holding kistka and blue egg applying wax in the ukrainian egg decorating style

Materials and Tools for Ukrainian Eggs

Creating Pysanky eggs at home is relatively simple and a fun family activity for Easter. Make sure your workspace is well-lit and you have all the materials in one place.

Adult supervision is required due to the use of hot wax and candles. My daughter’s hair caught on fire the first time we did this. Be careful with those candles! 🙂

Make sure your kids understand this process is about creativity and expression – not perfection. It is hard to get your vision to come to reality the first time you try it. Remind them (and yourself) that true Ukrainian artisans spend years honing this craft.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Eggs: Start with fresh, clean chicken eggs. Raw or blown out eggs will both work. Yes, raw! Once the eggs are dyed and decorated, they will eventually dry out. Blown out eggs will last much longer.
  • Wax: Beeswax is commonly used for its low melting point and smooth application. I buy it in a block.
  • Kistka: This is a small funnel-tipped tool used to apply melted wax onto the eggshell. It comes in various sizes for different line thicknesses. You may want to have multiple kistkas for various design elements.
wooden spoons holding ingredients to make natural dyes with dyed eggs in the background
  • Dyes: Use specialized egg dyes or food coloring for bright and varied colors. Make your own dye from natural foods if you prefer. Traditional Pysanky use red, yellow, black, and white.
  • Candles: Use a small candle to melt the wax. Use a stable and safe surface for the candle.
  • Pencil: Plan your design by lightly sketching your design on the eggshell before applying the wax.
  • Tissue or Soft Cloth: Wipe away excess wax and dye during the process with a soft tissue or cloth. Store brand, cheap tissues actually work better than the soft ones in this situation.
  • Drying Rack or Egg Carton: Place your decorated eggs into a rack or carton to prevent smudging.
several brightly colored and patterned ukrainian pysanky eggs

How to Decorate Ukrainian Easter Eggs

The first step to decorating Ukrainian eggs is to prepare your workspace. Get all the materials you will need and place them on a table. Make sure the eggs are clean and dry before you begin.

Lightly sketch your design onto the eggshell. Be creative! Sketching it out helps you keep everything symmetrical and also ensures you have space for your entire design.

Once you have the design sketched out, use the candle to melt wax and apply the melted beeswax to the parts of the egg you want to stay WHITE. The wax acts as a barrier so the dye will not get to the shell wherever the wax is present.

Dip the egg into your lightest dye. Allow it to set and dry according to instructions. (Generally, use the lightest colors of dye first to prevent a layered effect).

Use the candle flame to heat more wax and apply it to the area of the egg you want to stay the FIRST color. Dip again into the next color.

Repeat this process of waxing and dyeing until you have used all the colors you wanted. Your artistic design determines how many times you’ll need to alternate these layers. The colored patterns will show up at the very last step.

Apply the last dye. Usually this is your darkest color.

Finally, melt away all the wax by holding your egg near a gentle heat source such as the candle. Place your finished egg in a drying rack or egg carton.

How to Store Decorated Ukrainian Eggs

If you used raw eggs, it’s important to store them where they can breathe. Use paper egg cartons over Styrofoam for example. Leave them out in the air instead of closed up tightly in a cabinet.

It’s also important to keep them out of direct sunlight to protect the vibrant colors.

Raw eggs will eventually dry out. Discourage people from shaking the eggs or touching them too much to avoid breaking them or disturbing the design.

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About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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  1. There's a link to one in the Amazon bar INSIDE my post – it's at Hearth Song. There's another one at Magic Cabin. I haven't actually bought one yet. I think both catalogs above sell the exact same kit. I have shopped both places and am always pleased with my purchases.

  2. My daughter just asked the other day when it was time to decorate eggs. I've never heard of ukrainian egg decorating. I have always bought the paws boxes. I'll have to to look into this.

    Thanks, Kristia