Touching Up


Everyone makes mistakes.  Some are small and barely noticeable, others are larger and irritating. And sometimes the dye just doesn’t take as well as it should. In the latter two instances, you may wish to touch up the egg before finishing it.  The safest way to do so is to use water-based markers.

Touch ups should be minimal, and should be unobtrusive. When do I touch up?  When I can do so subtly.  If there is a spot or two that didn’t take black dye well, or where a stray bit of wax may have marred a black background, I will happily touch up such a spot.  When I accidentally waxed in an area that was to have been brown with red instead, I covered it with brown marker later. 



Permanent markers, like Sharpies, vary in their stability when varnished.  Some colors resist the varnish, others run, and it’s difficult to predict what will happen in any given instance.  It’s best to avoid them unless you’ve tested them out.

Alternatively, Sharpies can be quite successfully used over the varnish to add details (e.g. the gold and silver ones) or to color around the drain hole (in the case of black background pysanky). In the latter case, be careful, as Sharpies can have a metallic sheen which will not blend well with the background. This can be unsightly and distracting. I generally avoid using them for touching up for this reason.


Water-based markers behave like aniline dyes on the egg’s surface. Some pysankary use them for spot-dyeing (e.g. adding green or blue spots to yellow or white eggs), as they are often quite compatible with modern aniline dyes. They can also be used to try and fix mistakes and imperfections.

If you are going to do touch ups with markers, you should get a) fine point markers of b) decent quality and c) in a nice range of colors. 

Most touch ups will be fairly minute or require you to stay within lines or shapes.  Thus you want markers with fine point tips, which will allow you to do delicate drawing.  You want these markers to be of decent quality so that the colors won’t fade quickly, the tips won’t get misshapen right away, and so the markers themselves do not dry out too quickly.  Avoid the cheap Chinese no brand markers sold at Big Lots and discount stores.  Crayola fine points, while limited in color range, are of good quality. (I have only used the classic non-washable markers, and can’t speak to the washable variety, which comes in a much larger color range.)

Why is a large color range important?  Because you want to try and find markers that match your dye colors as closely as possible.  If you are using just a basic dye set, a set of classic markers may be all you need. But if you play around with colors, or use an extended range of dyes, the classic markers may not be enough.  Good quality markers with a large range of colors can be found at most art/craft stores; they are a bit more expensive, but may be worth buying if you find yourself touching up a lot.


Pigma archival ink pens are marketed to scrapbookers, but are used by artists, writers and illustrators as well.  They have a high tech ink that is very stable (thus archival) and is pigment rather than dye based. These are not inexpensive pens, but are well liked by people who use them.

I haven’t tried these pens, but they are a favorite of Helen Badulak’s. The pens come in 15 colors and a range of tip widths (6 different sizes from 0.20 to 0.5. mm) and tip varieties (pen and brush tips).

  Overview        Natural Finishes

Back to Main Finishing page

Back to Main Pysankarstvo page

Search my site with Google


Fixing little mistakes

“The Touch Up” by Jane Hammond