Color Sequences


There are an almost innumerable number of dye sequences that can be created, as there are some many different colors of dye today.

Most traditional pysankarky worked with a limited palette, as they used natural dyes and didn’t have as much to choose from as we do today. Most traditional pysanky had only a few colors: white, yellow, red and black, or white, yellow, red, and green.  These were fairly simple to remember and to perform in the right order.

With modern dyes, there are many more possibilities, and many more tricks to remember,  Below is a somewhat simplified color scheme; once you have mastered the basics, you can experiment further on your own..

(1) White is the first color in most eggs.  If brown eggs are used, this (brown) will be the first color, and it will affect all of the following colors.  Brown eggs can give interesting effect, but white eggs should be used when first learning the craft.

(2) Light Blue, if needed in very small amounts, is added next.  It is dabbed on with a Q-tip of small brush, a toothpick, or small drops can be placed with a syringe and blunt needle.  The yellow will remove the light blue.

(3) Yellow is used in almost all eggs.  It is the base color; if the yellow does not take well, none of the other dyes will, either.  Leave it on a bit longer than the other colors – three minutes at least.

Gold, if you are going to use it, usually follows or, more often, replaces yellow.  Gold dye often gets nasty and turbid looking, but still works as it should.  Light blue usually looks better over Yellow, but only slightly.  A fresh jar of gold will give a very deep color quite quickly, with strong orange tones, and both light blue and light green may look odd over this shade, so keep that in mind when dyeing.

At this point you need to decide if you will be using any blues or greens.  If yes, this is the time to apply them.  If not, skip ahead to orange or red.

(4/5) Light green, if needed,  is applied next, either with a Q-tip (below) or, if larger amounts of green color are called for, by full immersion.

(4/5) Light blue, if needed in larger quantities (more than a few dots) is applied now.  Light blue will cover the light green completely. NOTE: the order of light blue and light green can be reversed if necessary, depending upon your subsequent dye scheme. Light green will also cover light blue completely.

What follows next depends on your color scheme.  If you wish to have red and oranges, you will need to do an orange rinse.  If not, you can proceed to darker blues or greens.

(6) Orange Rinse follows; it is a “rinse” color, meaning it will remove darker colors and thus can be used as a rinse.  I keep two jars of orange around; the first to rinse the eggs (it will get dirty and muddy), and the second to apply the orange color.

(Note: this “rinse” effect applies to orange dye made and sold by the Ukrainian Gift Shop.  Other brands of orange, i.e. those requiring vinegar, DO NOT have this effect, should not be used for rinsing.) 

Orange, from a a different, “clean” jar, is applied next, if you wish to have orange on your pysanka.  If not, skip ahead to scarlet.

Pumpkin, a newer color, gives a bright, reddish-orange color. Unlike orange, it is a vinegar based dye, and is worth trying in those cases where the orange dye takes poorly (or to make jack-o-lantern pysanky).  Do note, though, that it CANNOT be used as a rinse, as it contains vinegar. Use it after yellow or after an orange rinse.

(7) A red is usually next.  UGS has Scarlet and Red; the first has orange tones, the second can be quite dark.  A particularly nice red which I prefer can be obtained by mixing together a packet each of UGS scarlet and red.

Alternatively, you can dye the egg Pink or

Magenta at this point. The colors are very similar, although sold by different companies.  Magenta is a tiny bit bluer. The pinks should usually precede the reds if you plan to use both colors on your pysanka.

Note:  Pink can also be applied right after yellow; light green will cover it well.  This is a common color scheme in some regions of Poland.

  1. (8) Final Colors: Black, brown, dark red, violet, dark/royal  blue, dark green, or brick can be used as final colors.  Note that not all final colors work with all color schemes.  Royal blue, for instance, if used with anything but blues, yellow or greens, will usually result in a muddy purple.



(10) Black: If all else fails, dye the egg black. For some reason, even the worst eggshells seems to do well in black.  Blotchy brown or purple or dark red eggs will almost always turn a nice even black.

Make sure that you keep the egg in the final color a bit longer, until the shell is evenly and darkly covered.  Don’t leave it in too long, or forget about it for hours, as the dyes will eventually start to seep under the wax, and the vinegar in the dye can weaken and erode the eggshell.

Summary: this color scheme can be represented (with a few added colors) diagrammatically like this:

White –> Yellow –> Gold –> Light Green –> Light Blue –> Turquoise –> Orange Rinse –> Orange –> Brown (if you want it lighter) –> Brick (if you want it lighter) –> Pink –> Scarlet (Bright Red) –> Red  –> Brown (if you want it darker) –> Brick (if you want it darker) –> Dark Red –> Black

It’s a bit complex, but can serve you as a basic guide.  As you gain experience, you will know these interactions (and will discover others) and will be able to figure the order out yourself easily.

If you are teaching, or are just starting out, you might want to use this simplified scheme for beginners instead:

White –> Yellow –> Light Green –> Light Blue –> Orange –> Scarlet/Bright Red –> Final Color (Black)

Or its blue variant instead:

White –> Yellow –> Light Green –> Light Blue –> Royal Blue

(Note: not all the colors in any of these schemes need to be used.  You can leave them out, but need to go more or less in this order.)


Remember, color sequence is usually from light to dark (with orange rinse being used to switch from blues to reds).   Buy a pattern book or two, and get an idea of color combinations that work, and how to sequence the colors.  If someone’s done it before, you can do it as well.

Traditional patterns are the best to start with–they are time tested, and usually have fairly simple color schemes.  The UGS pattern books give step-by-step instructions, and will guide you through the nuances of more complex color schemes.

And, finally, experiment: you may have a few disasters, but you will also end up with some beautiful and original eggs!

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Dyes and Color Sequences