Easter Eggs Printed with Botanicals

Everything that is white at my house runs the risk of being dyed… so this time it’s the eggs! Perfect, since Easter is around the corner. Easter eggs printed with Botanicals are shockingly beautiful and actually super easy to make! ‘And you know I am obsessed with Eco Printing!

To Make The Magic Dye:

I keep a mesh veggie bag under my counter where I collect dry yellow onion skins (they don’t smell). I have also even been known to ‘clean out’ the bottom of the onion bin at the grocery store. Those skins produce the most rich warm hues of yellow to dark red. I’ve used them when dyeing wool (protein fibre) and it amazed me there as well. Use a medium sized pot so that the depth will accommodate the eggs without too much water.

Historically this art form called Eco printing or Botanical printing was discovered by India Flint when some impressions were found on an egg…

The key to having the most amazing richness of colour from the onion skins is how much you use. I ‘cram’ in as much skins (cut smaller if needed) as possible into a pot with enough water and add more as they cook, a little bit of white vinegar (tablespoon of vinegar) will help the shells absorb the colour. As the onion skins cook they will soften and shrink and emit the wonderful colours from their tannins. Let it simmer on low heat.

The Botanicals:

It seems that this year Canada has forgotten that it’s time to warm up for spring so getting fresh botanical leaves was impossible. Sooooo, the grocery store is the next best thing as certain house plants are poisonous.

I look for nice leaf texture and small size; parsley, baby arugula, and carrot tops are easy to find but any leaves will work. This method is somewhat like Eco Printing but uses the ‘resist’ method to create the leaf shapes and images

The Trick to wrapping:

Go find some old pantyhose (nylon) or socks (transparent is best) and stretch it over a small glass/mug. Carefully place the leaves over the hose. The leaves will come in contact with the sides of the eggs.

Let the egg sink into the cup and the leaves will wrap around the egg. I use white eggs for better contrasts than brown eggs would have.

Push the egg down and keep hold of the outsides of the hose. Add leaves on top if desired. You can be fussy or just ‘wing it’ for interesting results. The key is having good contact on the wrapped egg.

Grab the edges and pull tight together and twist closed with twist ties. How easy was that?! The hose gives good even pressure and full dye colour will permeate.

The Dyeing:

Sink the egg into the liquid, possibly moving some skins aside to have it submerge.

Let it simmer (low boil) while you prepare more. The longer the simmer the beautiful colors of the dye liquid will become richer! Pull it out (with a ladle or wooden spoon ) when desired and brush off any skins.

The Beautiful Reveal:

Notice my lovely stained fingers? Eco printing, especially with iron does make for some ‘colourful’ fingers! But no problem; lemon juice will nicely clean them up afterward.

I am utterly amazed at the intricate details that the botanicals print on the eggs. ‘Maybe the fact that they are not floating in a huge amount of liquid does helps make the dye quite strong.

You are not limited to only using leaves, you can use grasses, string, rice, lace, whatever has nice details. Always think outside the box! (oh darn, a bunch of new ideas just popped into my head…)

Modify the range of colours from light yellow to rich indian red with iron and acidity. You can experiment with other natural dyes like turmeric (yellow) or red onions.

Being an illustrator this amount of detail baffles my mind. Drawing or painting was not needed to make this magic… Well, ok, Mother Nature provided the ‘art’!

You will never look at carrot tops the same again after dyeing these. Rub on some oil (mineral, coconut or olive) to give them a nice sheen and you are done. These are for decorative purposes only as some may not be completely cooked. I leave them full and they will eventually dry out inside but you may also use blown eggs. (submerge them in the skins to cover)

How ‘Egg-squisite’ are these? Check out my next post to see how these were taken to the next level with another trick.

Happy making & Happy Easter!

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  1. Barb, how did you get the deep brown color? Those are the most attractive to me. Would adding some egg shells to the onion skins help? Thanks for answering everyone’s questions, you are so patient and kind.

  2. I am such a fan of your blog. Right after I first read this post I found the produce man at our market slipping the peels off onions. We had a nice chat while he finished and then he helped me bag up the onion skins. I love the eggs I dyed, even though I used the only stockings I had, which were black and made the results even more of a surprise! Thank you, as always, for sharing ideas and inspiration.

    1. You just know what a change in one part may hold! I like experimenting and I credit that for most of my ‘cool’ things! Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Love your blog! Have you ever tried using eco dye on your concrete projects? I just love the colors you get from botanicals and wondered if could work on concrete and sealed some how. Thanks again for your wonderful art👩‍🎨

    1. It has crossed my mind when I see the prints left on the sidewalks but then I also notice they don’t stay. Generally I find that finishes on concrete don’t last completely since it likes to breathe. Also the alkalinity probably plays a factor in the printing where eco printing uses the tannic acids. So much science! I am going to embark on leather though…
      Happy Making!

  4. Hi Barb! I’m trying to make this into a group project for some senior living residents. Each person would need their own bowl of dye because of COVID restrictions. I was wondering if room-temperature dye still works the same or if it needs to remain hot?

    1. I have not tried it but often if there is less heat the time factor has to go up quite a bit. What if you let them bundle and add an ID, then did the cooking all at same time. I’d hate to see spilt dye water. Then they can unbundle for the fun factor. Maybe lunch in between 🤷🏻‍♀️

  5. These are beautiful! Do you think this method would work on wood eggs?
    Any advice would be helpful. Thank you for sharing this amazing craft 🙂

    1. Well, I think it may because they do print on cellulose fabric (cotton etc). The problem could be splitting or cracking though from the moisture. Hmmmm, maybe steamed would work better? Funny, I just came upon some wooden eggs when I cleaned my studio…