Thursday, December 18, 2014


Austin Bickel, Syracuse, adds another layer of decoration to his Ukrainian Easter Egg during a workshop at the Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church hall in Goshen. (J. Tyler Klassen)
Pro Tips: How to naturally dye Easter eggs

Posted on April 18, 2014 at 9:06 a.m.

Angie Bell, Wellfield Botanic Gardens' education coordinator, shared these tips for naturally dying Easter eggs. If you have any questions for her, leave them in the comments below the story.

Coloring Easter eggs is a fun experience for children and adults. The activity brings out the creativity in all of us. While there are very convenient methods of dying with store bought kits, nature has the most beautiful coloring effects and it is never a bad thing to use natural ingredients with your food, even if it is just for looking. The ingredients are compostable, chemical-free and are a wonderful teaching experience for your children!

Ingredients

  • White vinegar
  • 3 tbsp turmeric 
  • 1 medium beet
  • 1/4 head of red cabbage
  • 2 cups of chopped spinach
  • Strong coffee
  • 2 cups of yellow onion skins
  • Fresh or frozen berries

 

The dyes

Create the primary colors (red, yellow and blue) with these strong dyes. Mix combinations of the primary dyes (in separate cups) to make secondary colors: red and yellow for orange, yellow and blue for green, and blue and red for violet. The proportion of one color to the other determines the shade.

Red

  • 2 cups beets, grated
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • Substitute: Strong Red Zinger tea, or chopped fresh or frozen cranberries

Yellow and gold

  • 3 tablespoons turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 3 cups water

Blue

  • 1/4 head of red cabbage, grated
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 4 cups water

Brown

  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup of strong coffee

Green

  • 2 cups of chopped spinach simmered in 2 cups of water for 15 minutes
  • Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar

Orange

  • 2 cups of yellow onion skins simmered in 2 cups of water for 15 minutes
  • Add 3 tablespoons of white vinegar

 

Two ways to dye the eggs

Method 1:

  1. Place the eggs in a single layer in a pan. Add water until the eggs are covered.
  2. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar. It acts as a fixative. Without it, the dyes won't stick to the eggs.
  3. Add the natural dye. Use more dye material for more eggs or for a more intense color.
  4. Bring the water to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. If you are pleased with the color, remove the eggs from the liquid.

Method 2:

  1. Bring water to a boil, and add the dye ingredients. Let them simmer for 15-30 minutes until the dye is the desired color. 
  2. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of white vinegar as a fixative.
  3. Let the dyes cool and strain.
  4. When dyes are cool, add completely cooled hard-boiled eggs and let them soak until you have the desired color.

 

Tips and tricks

Making colors vibrant

The dyes should be a shade darker than you want the egg color. Test the color by using a medicine dropper to place a little of the dye on a white surface (a plate, bowl or paper towel will work). The longer the eggs remain in the dye, the more intense their colors will be. Soak them overnight in the refrigerator for the brightest hues. Remember that the eggs must be completely covered in the dye for a uniform color.

Try painting them

Use fresh and frozen berries as "paints" too. Simply crush the berries against try boiled eggs. Blueberries make a blue-gray color, cranberries make a red color and strawberries and raspberries make pinks and reds. Fresh or frozen berries work best – the colors from canned berries are not as vibrant.

Some fun effects

Get creative with your egg decorating. For uniform color, strain each dye mixture through cheesecloth, a coffee filter or a fine strainer. For a speckled or tie-dyed look, leave all the ingredients in the dyes. Put stickers or rubber bands on the eggs before you dye them to create images and lines. Use white crayons to draw on the eggs and make designs. The crayoned part will not take up any of the dye. And remember – the longer the eggs remain in their dye, the deeper the color.

Shine them up

Naturally-colored eggs do not have a naturally glossy sheen. However, you can give them that shine by rubbing a little vegetable oil on them after they are completely dry. Start with a little and then add to get the desired shine.

Experiment with other ingredients

Nature has unlimited colors. Have your kids brainstorm other foods or plants that have bright colors. Collect those items and experiment creating dyes from them. Items like dill, grass, paprika, apple skins, banana peels and flowers could make pretty pastels, natural greens and rusty oranges.