There are many different kinds of finishes that are suitable for pysanky. They range from inexpensive everyday varnishes to high end specialty varnishes. In choosing one for your pysanky, you should consider the type of finish you would like (satin versus glossy), how many eggs you will need to varnish, and how much you have to spend.

For most amateur pysankary, a simple polyurethane varnish will work well.  These are easy to find (sold at any hardware store) and simple to apply.  The fumes are minimal–no special equipment is needed.  Polyurethane varnishes do have a tendency to yellow over time; this is especially noticeable if the varnish is applied thickly.

Most importantly, make sure that any varnish you use is OIL-BASED, not water-based. Many companies sell both water and oil based varnishes under the same brand name.  Make sure to read the fine print on the can, and ask at the store if you are not certain. Using a water-based varnish will wash the dyes off of the shell of the egg, ruining your pysanka.

When purchasing varnish, buy the smallest can available.  A little varnish goes a long way, and the frequent opening and closing of the lid will eventually damage it and keep it from sealing as tightly as necessary.  The varnish will then thicken and begin to dry out, often long before you’ve even come close to using it up.  Buying large jars is false economy.

The insides of a pysanka dry up over time, and the gases that build up inside pass through the permeable egg shell. If a full egg is varnished, the gases may build up and cause cracking, leaking and explosions (and quite smelly ones at that).

If you plan to varnish your pysanky, you should empty them at some point in the process: before beginning the waxing and dyeing process (i.e. work on emptied eggs), or either just before or shortly after varnishing.

Besides polyurethane, there are many specialty finishes available to the pysankar. You can read all about specific types of varnishes in the “Varnishes” section of this site.

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About Varnishes