This is the third year that I have attempted to make my own egg dyes from natural substances. (You can see year one and two here) This year I really wanted to focus on making bold colors and in the process I have learned a lot about ancient dying techniques. I spent some time researching plants that were historically used to dye fabric and cross checking them to make sure they were not poisons (many are!) what I learned is that dye is largely effected by the PH of the dye bath and the mineral content of the water. How well an egg shell takes dye can also be effected by how it was handled and washed – according to the USDA website egg shells are washed and sanitized at a processing plant before they ever reach the store shelf. I don’t know what exactly they use to wash and sanitize the eggs but I would venture to guess that whatever detergent is used that it raises the PH of the eggshell. All this to say that some of the dye substances (pomegranate, cabbage, beet ) which contain naturally occurring anthocyanins, are very PH sensitive (I blogged about this at Christmas when we decorated cookies with natural dyes) You can thus control the color outcome of the dye solution by raising or lowering the PH using vinegar and baking soda. You will notice the beet without vinegar is brown but the beet with vinegar is pink.
Enough about the science, here are the photos. This year I tested 34 different dye substances. For the most part I use a strong tea method for dying eggs. Meaning I boil the dye substance in water then add the eggs to tea and allow them to sit in the dye water (in the refrigerator) overnight. The exception would be the fresh green plants (grass, kale, spinach), which I just combined with water in our vitamix blender until I had a liquid, I thought that boiling them would turn them brown. However, as you will see I was unsuccessful with coming up with a bold green dye so next year I plan to trying the boiling method.
So here are they dye substances:
And here are the resulting colored eggs:
and then I tried some of what I consider the more successful dyes on brown eggs just to see what color variation I would get with them…
In the first images in this blog post I strengthened the cabbage dye by boiling it down further and making it more concentrated. Concentrating the dye like that works well for most of the colors but letting them sit overnight is imperative for getting bold colors.
I tried every substance that I could get my hands on and that was mentioned as a possible dye (that was not poisonous). Overall I was pretty happy with the egg colors my only disappointment is that I was not able to achieve a bold green color. I have some more ideas for this which I will implement next year. I don’t think that transferring chlorophyll to an egg shell will be successful on the spinach left a faint green tint on the egg but I will try those dye substances again but also adding vinegar and or salt to see if that helps them stick to the egg better. Nettles were really the only green dye that I considered successful as it made a faint green. I did also try taking some eggs dyed in saffron (bright yellow) and then dipping them in cabbage (bright blue) if you remove the egg from the blue dye after a few minuets you get a pale green but if you leave it too long the blue just over powers the yellow. My other idea for green is to REALLY lower the PH on the cabbage dye bath. If you get the cabbage water PH low enough it does turn green so that might work for dying an egg green – worth a try anyway. I will say that I am rather suspicious of some of the articles and blog post that I have read on coloring eggs naturally many of them show images of brightly colored eggs but then do little to explain how they got to the intense color or when I try their method I only get a pale color or a different shade entirely. So there you have it! If you have any other ideas on dye substances or methods for achieving green please do leave a comment. As always you are more than welcome to link to this blog post but please do not take my images without my permission (I like to share, all you have to do is ask!). Happy Easter!Portfolio | Contact Me | Book a Session
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