Basic Steps 1:


The Basic Steps: How to Write a Pysanka

Part 1

What you will need:

(1) Clean, raw eggs at room temperature.

(2) Prepared dyes, also at room temperature.

(3) Spoons. 

(4) Vinegar.

(5) Beeswax.

(6) Stylus(es).

(7) Candle and holder.

(8) Matches or a lighter.

(9) Pencil. 

(10) Paper products.

(*) Q-tips. 

(*) Cleaning solution(s).  

(*) Urethane varnish.

(*) Drying rack. 

For a detailed description and explanations, go to Supplies.

Prepare your work area:

(1) Cover your work area with old newspapers. Have your cooled, room temperature dyes in jars on the work area. Put several sheets of paper towel over your work space.

(2) Make sure there is adequate light.  Sunlight is best, but, if it’s not readily available, a good lamp will suffice.

(3) Have everything you need at hand: candle, matches, pencil, styluses, wax, design sheets, paper towels.

Prepare your eggs:

Wash your eggs with warm water (room temperature) using Ivory dish soap.  Scrub off any dirt with a Scotch-Brite or similar sponge.  Pat the eggs dry gently, and let them dry off.

Carefully inspect your eggs, discarding those with cracks, weak spots, irregular shapes, or too many bumps on the surface.

Keep your room temperature eggs in a paper egg carton or resting on paper tissues while you work.

Select a design:

Plan ahead.  Choose a design from a book, or from pattern sheets.  If creating your own pattern, sketch out a rough version on paper.  Know in advance what sort of division you will need of the egg’s surface, and what colors you will be using.

Draw the design on in pencil:

Proceed to draw the basic design on a clean, dry egg at room temperature.  Draw on the egg lightly with the pencil.  Use the pencil to draw basic divisions and lines; do not draw on every single little detail!!!

If you make a mistake with the pencil, DO NOT use the eraser on it. Remember, the pencil lines (if drawn on lightly) will not show up in the final design. They will usually be removed with the wax, so mistakes are OK.

Handling the egg:

(1)  Make sure your hands are clean and warm when working with pysanky.  Anything that is on your skin can rub off onto the egg, and may cause discoloration (if you’ve gotten dye all over your hands) or may cause the dyes to take poorly (food, natural skin oils, hand lotions or other oily/greasy substances).  Wash your hands well before working on eggs; if there is any reason you can’t get your hands clean, you may
want to consider wearing a pair of white cotton gloves.

The gloves are inexpensive, washable and easily available.  I will wear them when my hands become stained with pysanka dyes; although bleach will easily remove the dyes from my hands, it dries my skin horribly.  Soap and water will remove most dye from my hands after a few washings. ( I normally wear only one glove, on my left hand, as that is the hand I hold my egg with.)   

(2)  Eggs are fairly delicate, and can break quite easily.  This is particularly frustrating if the egg breaks after a lot of work has been put into it.  To avoid dropping and breaking the egg, rest it on your work area while working with it.  Do not hold it in mid-air – it is a recipe for disaster (or scrambled eggs)!

Yes! Egg stabilized on work surface                                      No! Egg held up in the air

Apply the design in wax:

(1) Heat the entire head of the stylus in the flame of the candle initially for about 10 seconds.


Heat the entire head of a Delrin stylus prior to scooping wax

If you are using a traditional stylus with a wooden handle, heat only the opening of the funnel, or the handle may catch on fire. I count slowly to eight while heating to make sure I heat for long enough.  It is best to heat in the blue, or hottest part of the flame.

Traditional wooden-handled stylus

Modern plastic-handled Delrin stylus

  1. (2)Scoop a small amount of beeswax into the opening of the reservoir (or into the funnel of the stylus).


If the stylus does not scoop up the wax easily (like cutting through butter), the stylus may not be hot enough.  Heat it a bit longer and try again, rather than trying to force it.

(3) Reheat the stylus, placing the tip into the flame until the wax is melted. (If using a wooden stylus, heat only the writing tip to avoid conflagration.) If you leave the stylus in the flame too long, the wax will get too warm and “blob” when you try to write.  Counting slowly to three will usually give you enough reheating time.

                                         Heating the tip prior to writing – the flame is hottest where it is bluest

Test the wax flow from the stylus on the newspaper or your fingernail before writing any wax lines on the egg. Occasionally, from over-filling or over-heating, the stylus will let out a large blob of wax. If this should happen on the egg, there is nothing you can do. The wax bonds instantly to the eggshell; even if you try to scrape the wax off, the blob will still appear in your final design.

Don't feel badly if this happens –– even the most experienced egg artists have the occasional blobs in their designs. If at all possible, try to incorporate it into the design. If you can't, remember: any art made by humans is going to have mistakes in it –– that's what makes each egg truly unique. (And also remember that there are two sides to an egg, and you get to decide which side to display!)

(5) Apply wax to the egg. Study your pattern. Everywhere that there are white lines in the pattern, apply the wax. Remember that the pencil lines are just meant to be guides, and that you won't be covering all of them with wax. Write your design on both sides of the egg.

The proper way to hold a stylus

Use a fine stylus for fine, delicate lines, a heavy stylus for filling in large sections of color and for dots, and a medium stylus for everything else.

Using a medium stylus to write on a pysanka

Repeat this process with each subsequent dye color.  Once you’ve reached your final color, quit applying wax.

Remember: The dyes will not penetrate under the wax (unless, of course, you forget an egg in the dye, and leave it in there for several hours).  Once an area is sealed, it will remain that color.  You don't need to re-apply wax every time you dip an egg into a dye; just apply the new lines for that color.


You can download a previous .pdf version of parts 1 and 2  here.  Please feel free to print it out and share it (e.g. classes).  If you wish to reproduce this content in a publication, or on another web site, please ask.

Updated 3-11-2008

Note:  All photos, illustrations and text © Luba Petrusha 2007. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction prohibited without expressed consent.  May contact via e-mail (link below).

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