This is a great art project to do with your kids and very rewarding, esp the blown out eggs that you get to keep or give as gifts. There are some great eco-colouring kits but we prefer homemade dyes using herbs and vegetables (though sometimes we use both). Have some patience, some of these dyes are not like the toxic dyes that colour immediately – but some will also colour quickly. Kids love the experimenting and seeing what colours come from what herbs/food. They can colour other eggs with crayons or add any tools from the get creative list down below while they wait. Also, some eggs can be in boiling water and vegetables or herbs on the stove to colour. For more intense patterns or colours, eggs can be left in the dyes overnight and the kids look forward to the excitement of seeing the results the next day.
I make notes after holidays on how to make the next holiday easier (I do). I’m all about ease and convenience otherwise it’s all just too much… So, this was my easter note:
- cook hardboil eggs prior (2 doz)
- blow out eggs prior (at least 2 doz)
- do herbs/vegetables/fruits not just colouring kits (as the years we skipped this and only did the kits we missed it)
Blow out the eggs days prior – I ordered this Blas-Fix egg blower kit online (see photo). It makes the job so easy – no light-headed “I’m going to faint” feelings required or sore cheeks (think blowing up balloons); nor hungover, sunburned Uncles trying to help but feeling like they could vomit blowing out one more egg required. You can also get kids involved here, they love to do this job. But, be prepared for the odd egg cracking. You can save it for a fun easter craft project (see photo). (If you can’t get the blower just poke a pin through both ends of the egg and blow.) Also cook hard boiled eggs days prior. Safest way to boil eggs to avoid cracking is to set eggs in pot of water covering 2” above eggs. Bring to boil and then turn off water. Be sure they are in water for 20 minutes.
TIP: Save the blown out egg white and yolks for a dinner frittata or scrambled eggs the next morning.
I usually give my kids at least 6 blown out eggs and 6-12 hard boiled eggs.
creating your all natural dyes
These are your ratios for the below listed herbs and food for making the dyes:
- 1 cup food : 1-2 cups water
- 4 tbsp ground spice : 1.5 cups water
Boil (then bring to simmer) the above ingredients for 15-20 min. I cover the pots with a lid so that the water doesn’t evaporate. You could plop an egg into one of them for 10 min to hard boil and colour, but in general this recipe is to create the dyes. (I read you can add food or spices after the water has boiled and let it come to room temperature then strain (food) so I did a test with blueberries as well as turmeric to test both. Wrong. Boiling is better – see photo). Strain food from water and pour into mugs/cups/jar. I like to make enough for more then one mug (you can add oil to one if you want).
After you’ve finished boiling, add:
- 1 tbsp vinegar and 1 tbsp salt (the acid in the vinegar makes the dye darker by roughening/etching the shell, allowing it to absorb more; salt is a mordant, which helps the dye bind to the surface; using vinegar alone works, too.)
creating your colours
I’ve had some variations in colour over the years but this is general guideline. Also, feel free to experiment with other food not mentioned on the list. The longer you soak, the deeper the colour, and often the colour changes (from pink to red, from blue to purple, yellow to gold etc…).
TURMERIC* = gold (this is one of our favs) (try a glass and add part purple cabbage for red…I repeated this the following year but had more purple cabbage then turmeric and it was a beautiful light green! So experiment.)
CINNAMON* = brown (great to leave the cinnamon goop on the egg as it dries and leaves streaks and sparkles – the goop forms after you boil the spice). Sometimes I’ve put eggs in the pot as I boil the cinnamon for 15 min with the vinegar; or, you can get goop on the egg too when you use dye on table after boiling. When you lift it out don’t rinse and you can spoon extra goop over the top to create pattern you like. (VINEGAR AND/OR SALT BREAKS UP GOO SO LEAVE OUT.) Best to leave in for hours or over night.
MATCHA TEA* = green (same as cinnamon, you can spoon gunk over egg); works best when left over night
BLUEBERRIES*, frozen = blue-lavender, longer is purple (colours quickly; no long soak required) (blueberry for few minutes followed by turmeric for less time makes light green)
PURPLE CABBAGE*, diced = lilac after a few minutes to midnight blue after hours (more blue then blueberry) (Turmeric, followed by purple cabbage will produce a deep green)
BEETS* = from pink to brownish red (chop up raw beets and boil…even run beets through juicer and add or use alone, or use as paint); couple minutes in beet juice = pink
RED WINE* = burgundy-blue-grey (creates tiny dark lines, gives a vintage egg look); strongest results if left for hours or overnight
RASPBERRIES* = purple/red, one time tan (left over night it gave me lavendy-pink)
PAPRIKA = light orange
COFFEE grinds = brown
YELLOW ONION SKINS = orange (use approx 6 onion skins)
RED ONION SKINS = green
CARROT TOPS = yellow (only tried once, too light; maybe try more then 1c or add to another colour)
CRANBERRY JUICE* = purple/wine/green/grey/black or earthy splotches depending on length of time (use straight up no boiling, just add vinegar; overnight in onion skin left black and green! Can leave an almost bubbly film which has a really pretty effect)
GRAPE JUICE = lavendar
GREEN CHLOROPHYLL = green (I didn’t have matcha tea one year; pricey, yes, but whenever I have a bottle we have it forever so I don’t giving up a cup of it.)
*our favourites (as well as wrapping in onion skin and cheese cloth)
colouring your eggs
Place opened newspaper sections on table, with dye cups on top, as well as any tools like elastics, wax, crayons, paper egg drying rings, etc, spread around. Use spoon to lower egg into glass/jar/mug. For the blown out eggs you might need to place a weight on top to hold it at bottom of glass – use slotted spoon, small glass (shot glass), or egg cups.
Once you’ve coloured your egg place it on a 1-2” high paper towel tube ring (which you remembered to cut prior – see photo) over newspaper to dry. We usually leave the dyes and set up out overnight either with eggs soaking all night, or to keep going the next morning.
- float the blown out eggs so one half dyes then flip it over and do the other side in another colour
- rubber bands (to create stripes, criss cross or wavy patterns)
- white crayon or wax candle prior to dying
- coloured crayons (try when warm so melts a little – use folded paper towel in hand to craddle warm egg for little hands)
- masking tape or duct tape decals (initials, smiley faces, dots, etc – remove after dying)
- tape over egg top and bottom leaves cracks where dye seeps into and leaves beautiful pattern
- egg cup (fill with some dye, leave egg in to colour. can flip and do other end in another colour)
- add oil to a colour before dying (in the beet juice is nice) DON’T RINSE OIL OFF
- even ones without oil, try not rinsing (beet juice, turmeric, cinnamon)
- egg wrapped in onion skin and then cheese cloth; place skins on cheese cloth first, tie at one end with string (the onion skin leaves a fantastic pattern) LET DRY OVERNIGHT. Kids love to unwrap them the next day. HIGHLY RECOMMEND PUTTING THE EFFORT IN AND TRYING THIS ONE AS WELL AS WITH A BLOWN OUT EGG AS YOU WON’T WANT TO THROW IT OUT OR EAT IT! (SEE PHOTO.) (great in blueberries, purple cabbage, beet)
- leaves/herbs (parsley) painted on eggs with thin egg white with water (acts as a glue). My daughter was successful using a glue stick one year, which is easier. Then wrap in cheese cloth. (Tight panty hose can work so you don’t have to paint them on.)
- rubber cement (dye, peel and dye again if want)
- small stickers (remove after egg is coloured)
- paint or colour with dye or crayons dots/lines
- crayon stripes then paint solids in between some of the stripes
- keep some eggs in glass over night
- put droplets of dye on egg and blow and rotate egg to create pattern
- scrunch up a piece of tin foil, open, put paint blobs in tin foil and then press lightly around blown out egg
- try mixing – i.e., first in turmeric then quickly in blueberries = blotch green/blue-purple; 1st cabbage then turmeric = green blue
Some ideas may seem like a lot of work, but think of it more as art. You really want the eggs prepared before the day you start the colouring process. If that’s of no interest then just do the straight forward colouring from the kits. I do like to have a few of the eco-kits set up as they work for faster dying, which is nice to help keep the kids engaged as it’s fun to see immediate results too.
storing & displaying eggs
The hard boiled eggs will last 1-2 weeks in fridge for eating or 1 month on display (with no cracks) until they start to smell. You’ll notice if one is smelling. It ain’t pretty. But ah, so much fun! Good luck and enjoy creating amazing memories your kids will not forget.