Ukrainian Gift Shop


UGS is the standard against which all other pysanka dyes are measured.  The Ukrainian Gift Shop has been packaging and selling dyes since at least the 1960s; I began ordering from them by mail in the 1970s, when I found their address in the back of their first book, “Eggs Beautiful.”  I found the quality to be great, and have been using these as my primary dyes ever since.  Their color range has changed a bit over time (Wine has disappeared), but has stayed at 17 dyes.

Pysankary around the world agree with me, and UGS does a huge mail order service with foreign countries.  When I visit friends who write pysanky in Ukraine, I usually bring them a gift of a set of dyes (particularly the reds).  All the professional pysankary I know in Ukraine use these dyes, as they are dependable and produce good color; they order them in bulk quantities from Minneapolis.

Iryna Bilous, in her Ukrainian language book about pysanka techniques, included several pages on UGS dyes with detailed analyses of their qualities, pro and con.  I’ve listed their dyes below, and include my analyses of them.


   Yellow: a lemon yellow.  It looks nice on fresh, unprocessed chicken eggs, but can look washed out on commercial eggs.  It does provide a good base coat upon which other dyes look richer.

    Golda beautiful golden yellow color that resembles the yellows seen on traditional pysanky.  It also provides a good base color for all but the blue/purple tones.  Gold does not last long. When first mixed up, it takes in seconds to dye; dyeing time gets longer and longer and, after a few weeks, it precipitates out of solution and barely dyes.  Consider this a disposable dye, and wait until you have many eggs that need dyeing before mixing it up. (I am told the new packages now state NOT to add vinegar; I have never used it without adding vinegar.)


    Light Blue: a nice blue, it is a sky blue color, and gets deeper with longer soaking.  Dyes well over yellow; does not dye well over gold.

    Light Green: a very bright green, does not mimic traditional greens well at all.  It can be muted a bit with a quick dip into orange and back to light green, or by adding a small amount of scarlet dye to the jar.  It dues well over yellow and gold, although the gold gives a deeper, richer green.

    Turquoisea non-traditional color that I rarely use.  It dyes well, lasts a long time, and seems nice enough.


    Orange: a nice color, but cannot tolerate vinegar (turns to gelatin).  This is a negative in that the dye does not take as readily, especially with commercial eggs.  It is a positive in that the orange can be used as a rinse to remove blues and greens.

    PumpkinThis is an orange that needs vinegar and takes quite well.  It is the color of a rosy ripe pumpkin, and is great for making non-traditional jack-o-lantern style eggs at Halloween.  It’s too red an orange for traditional work.

    Pinkthis is a very bright pink when it takes well.  It can be useful in some traditional pysanky which call for small amounts of pink (e.g. those from Chornyi Potik), and in traditional Polish pisanki, where a yellow-green-pink-black color scheme is often seen.  UGS pink will cover green nicely.

    Scarlet: an orangey red color, it mimics the sorts of reds that were found on traditional pysanky.  It does not provide a rich red color, unless mixed one-to-one with UGS Red..

    Red:  This is a deep red, and can get quite dark if you leave it in too long.  I do not use it straight; I mix together one package each of Scarlet and Red to get a truly gorgeous full, rich red color.  It lasts long and is stable.


    Black: a good solid black with a red base.  It will dye well even when other colors won’t take.  It does not last long, however, getting weak after a few months or less. Do not make double batches, as the dye does not last any longer that way (unless you plan to dye several hundred eggs in a short space of time).  A jar of old dye should be saved and used, over orange or red, to produce a nice deep brown (walnut) color.

    Dark Redone of my favorite final colors.  Although it is called red, it is actually more of a mahogany brown color, when used over orange or red. An indispensable color. 

   Dark Green: I have seen pysanky which used dark green as a final color.  They were beautiful.  But I’ve had little luck with it--it doesn’t take well for me, as it is one of those colors which is very particular, and may not cover evenly (the opposite of black).

    Purple:  a bluish purple which often gives a mostly blue result in the end. It is not a color used often in traditional pysankarstvo, so I rarely use it.  When I want a vibrant violet color, I use Surma’s violet dye instead.  Probably best used over red for a purple result.

    Royal Bluea gorgeous peacock blue.  It should be used only over yellow, light blue or light green.  Using it over colors from the red color family with result in a muddy purple color. A favorite of my students both here and in India.

    Bricka lovely terra cotta color.  Brick is used when writing Trypillian-style pysanky, or when you need a light, warm brown color.  It is redder than the sample at left.

    BrownI have not been able to get the brown to work for me in the past 10-15 years.  I don’t know if the formula has changed, or if it’s because aniline dyes are now produced in India and China, but I’ve mixed up many jars and can’t get a decent color out of this dye any more.  I have a few brown pysanky I wrote back in my youth that had a nice brown background, but now I use brown surrogates:  Dark Red, spent Black, or Brick, depending on the type of brown I want (mahogany, walnut or terra cotta, respectively).

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