The Art (and Science) of Making Pysanky

Pysankarstvo is the art of making pysanka. It is a tradition that stretches back to the dawn of Ukrainian history, passed along from generation to generation by a long line of pysankarky. 

My web site contains lots of information about all aspects of pysankarstvo.  It is an ancient process, using very simple tools and techniques: eggs, beeswax, dyes, a candle, and a simple tool. Modern pysankarky have adapted it to modern technologies, and created modern versions of ancient tools.  This section is about the practical aspects of making pysanky.

I have been making pysanky for more than forty years, and have learned a bit about the art along the way.  I have met many knowledgeable people along the way who have kindly shared their knowledge with me. In this section I have tried to distill, organize and share that knowledge with you, dear reader (or peruser).  Because of my science training, I find that I often approach this topic in a scientific manner.

I have completely revamped and reorganized this section, and written a lot of new material.  There is still much, much more to be done. The new scheme of things is such:

Making Pysanky: The Basics

You can read about the basics here.  It is probably the best place for beginners to start.  What will you find?

            Basic Supplies (what you need to get started and then some)

            Basic instructions (which have gotten a bit too detailed) are now split into two pages

                        Page 1

                        Page 2

            Step-by-step photos of the making of a pysanka

            “Green” Pysanky, or how to decrease your impact on the environment


I used to have my downloads on one page, but there are just so many now that I’ve moved them to their own section, with a series of pages. There are handouts, pattern sheets and informational pamphlets.

            General information about pysanky

            Children’s hand-outs

            Ukrainian-language materials

            Pattern sheets

            Traditional Pysanka pattern sheets


            Screensavers 2


I was thinking of calling this the “Science of Pysankarstvo” section, but, looking over the material, realized that it really is mostly chemistry. That, and I was once a chemist (and have the diploma to prove it).  I am curious about why things do what they do, and like figuring out the science behind phenomena.  These pages are my attempts to do so.  This section is still a work in progress, only “Aniline Dyes” has been written and uploaded.

            Aniline Dyes






This section is still in progress, but a few page have been written.  I have an annotated list of basic supplies, as well a list of  “additional” supplies that are useful in the making of pysanky (aka “luxuries”).  I will add pages about those pysanka supplies and equipment that could use more elaboration, like styluses, dyes and eggs, and discuss the equipment needed for drop-pull pysanky.


                    Basic Supplies

                    Additional Supplies




                            Anatomy of a Stylus:  the parts of a stylus and their names and functions

                                    The Parts of a Stylus and their names

                                    The Reservoir and Tip (Non-electric)

                                    The Reservoir and Tip (Electric)

                                    The Connecting Wire

                                    The Handle

                            Traditional Styluses: traditional styled styluses

                                    Wooden: traditional styluses with a wooden handle

                                    Plastic: traditional styled (non-electric) styluses with plastic handles

                            Other Styluses: other non-electric tools for writing pysanky

                                    Drop-Pull Styluses: styluses used for drop-pull

                                    Calligraphic Pens: adaptive use of existing tools

                            Electric Styluses: modern electric styluses

                                    Wax Arts: the first commercial electric styluses

                                    Larry’s: a cork-handled variation               

                                    EggCessories: a Canadian variation

                                    Luba’s (UGS): a new hybrid


                            About Candles

                            Types of Candles



                                    Liquid Candles

                            Candle holders

                            Candle Safety              



                        Types of Dyes

                                Natural Dyes






                                        Crepe Paper Dyes

                                        Aniline (Acid) Dyes

                                                History and Chemistry

                                                Commercially Available Dyes

                                                        Surma Dyes

                                                        UGS Dyes

                                                        EggCessories Dyes

                                                        Pysanky Showcase Dyes

                                                        Dharma Silk Dyes

                                                        Ukrainian Wool Dyes

                       Mixing and Storing Dyes

                                Preparing Dyes

                                Storing Dyes

                                Containers for Dyes

                                Maintenance of Dyes

                                Dye Problems and Their Solutions

                        Creating New Dyes

                                Creating Pastel Dyes

                                Creating Custom Colors (Color Theory)


                                        Tym’s Spot Dye Recipes

                                        My Dye Recipes

                                        EP Dye Recipes

                                        Layering Recipes

                        Preparing Natural Dyes

                                General Principles






                                Onion Skins

                        Dye Color Ranges












Creating a Pysanka

This is a large section, and is basically “Advanced Pysankarstvo.”  I have taken the step-by step instructions from “The Basic Steps” and expanded them, expounding at length on the minutiae of the process.  I not only discuss the way that I make pysanky, but add information that has been passed on to me by other pysanka makers.   It is advanced not in the sense of being difficult, but more detailed.

There are many subsections with  lots of pages.  Many of the pages are just stubs or placeholders. I will  eventually have lots of text on all of them, but, for now, I write when I can, and post when I am able.


                    Gather Supplies

                    Prepare a Work Space

                    Work Surface              

                    Selecting and Preparing Eggs

                    Handling Eggs

                    Selecting a Design

                    Fire Safety                 

            Applying the Design in Pencil

                    Choosing and Using Pencils

                    Choosing and Using Erasers

                    Finding the Top and Bottom of an Egg

                    Drawing Simple Divisions

                    Using a Craft Lathe

                    Using Templates

                    Using a Measuring Tape

                    Removing Pencil Lines

            Applying the Design in Wax

                    Before Applying the Wax

                    Selecting a Stylus

                    Using a Traditional Stylus

                    Using an Electric Stylus

                    Clearing a Clogged Tip

                    Tips and Techniques of Wax Application

                    Drop-Pull Pysanky


                    Brown Egg Pysanky

            Dyeing Pysanky

                    The Dyeing Table

                    The Vinegar Rinse

                    Dyeing a Pysanka

                    Natural Dyes

                    Dyeing Brown Eggs

                    Dye and Color Sequences

                    The Rules of Dyeing

                    Pastel Dyes

                    Dye Removal

                    The Water Rinse

                    Bleached Pysanky

                    The Orange Rinse

           Wax Removal

                    Heat Removal


                            Oil Lamp


                            Microwave Oven

                            Toaster Oven

                            Heat Gun

                            Hair Dryer

                            Hot Oil


                    Chemical Dissolution



                    Residual Wax

           Finishing Up a Pysanka

              Touching Up

                        Touching Up


                        “Natural” Finishes

                        About varnishes

                        Varnishing your pysanka

                        Drying Racks for your pysanka


                        Emptying out your pysanka

                        Making your own “turbo” Blas-Fix

                        Rinsing out your pysanka

                        Draining your pysanka


                        Preservation methods  

            Troubleshooting and Repairs

                    Common Problems                   

                    Repairing a Cracked Egg

                    Touching Up

            Storing and Displaying Pysanky

                    How to Store  Pysanky

                    How to Display Pysanky


Designing and Writing Pysanky

This is a newer section about how to design pysanky, i.e. how to actually create the divisions and motifs found on traditional and diasporan pysanky.  It is divided into two main areas: standard divisions (and how to draw them) and motifs (and how to draw them). 

The divisions section is growing rapidly, thanks to newly acquired Adobe Illustrator skills, and can help you figure out how to create those tricky patterns you see (sorokoklyn, 12 diamonds). I’ve actually done all the drawings for all but one of the divisions, and now just have to get them onto the pages.

Motifs has a very detailed analysis of stars, but not much else yet.  The rest will have to wait.


            Traditional Pysanka Divisions

                    The Standard Divisions

                    An Atlas of Pysanka Divisions

                            Lateral Division

                            Meridian Division

                            Equatorial Division

                            Barrel Division

                            Globe Division

                            Lattice Division

                            Cross Division

                            Eight Division

                            Star Division

                            Triangle Division

                            Sorokoklyn Division

                            Sorokoklyn Plus Division

                            Diagonal Division

                            12 Diamond Division

                            Saddlebags Division                  


            Traditional Pysanka Motifs

                    How to Draw a Star

                            “Square” Stars

                            “Circle” Stars

Teaching Pysankarstvo: How to teach pysanka making, whether to a few friends or to a large class.  What sort of supplies you’ll need, how to organize them, how to set up your work space, and tips on teaching the craft to various age groups.

This section is under construction, but there is some useful information there.






                Work space

                Dye table


        The Class:




                Pattern sheets

                Pencil lines

                Wax lines


                Wax removal




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