Tools Needed
To create pysanky is not difficult, but it does take a lot of practice and some special tools.

The kistka, or pysaltse, comes in a few different styles, but all work the same way. The kistka is a hollow metal cone that is attached to a stick. The metal cone is heated either by the traditional use of a candle or by electricity to melt beeswax so it can flow through the pinhole of the cone to apply the fine lines and other aspects of the design onto the egg. The kistka, Ukrainian for “little bone,” or pysaltse “writing implement,” has progressed from a crude copper cone strapped to a wooden stick with wire, to tin funnels (home-made ones constructed from cocoa can spouts), to brass or stainless steel on plastic or resin handles, some candle-heated and some electrical. It is helpful to have a thin piece of piano wire to clean out the kistka when it becomes clogged.

Bees Wax needs to be pure and clarified of all foreign materials. You can get it in its natural almost colorless state, or colored for ease in seeing it on the egg. I recommend you purchase the wax through a pysanka supplier, as their wax will be “pysanka quality” as opposed to wax from a craft-supplier for candle-making. The wax comes in a variety of shapes; a block, a sheet, beads or spaghetti strings, all melt the same in the kistka, it’s just a difference of how you get it in to the tool.

The dyes used on the eggs are now commercially produced and create very vibrant colors on the eggs. Natural or vegetable dyes were used previously, some artists still use them, but they do not create vibrant, true or consistent colors. The commercial dyes are water-based aniline dyes which most use vinegar as a catalyst, and are not edible, so eggs to be eaten should not be dyed using pysanka dyes. Dyes can be purchased through a few different pysanka suppliers.

Varnish or glossy coatings give the pysanka a finished looked. The coatings protect the egg from light, dust and moisture, and also help to harden the shell. Originally the pysanky were rubbed with animal fat or grease, which needs to be cleaned and reapplied periodically. There are numerous different finishes that can be used on the pysanka, but the most important fact to know is to use an oil-based finish, because a water-based finish will smear and smudge the water-based dyes. A few different varnishes used include: Varathane’s Polyurethane varnish, One-Shot clear coat, Enviro-Tex 2-part resin.

Eggs. Any size egg can be used, although chicken (hen) eggs are the most common and usually the easiest to work with. Chicken eggs come in a variety of colors from white, green, pink, beige or brown, all of which add their own unique qualities to the designs. Shell quality is the most important aspect to look for when choosing eggs to work on. Smaller chicken eggs have thicker shells and are less likely to break while working with them. Look for smooth eggs that are uniformly shaped and have no dark spots which are weak areas, or obvious cracks. You can hold the egg up to a bright light to check for weak areas or cracks on the shell. When washing the egg, use only water, as chemical cleaners will disrupt the surface and affect the way the dyes take on the egg. If there are very dirty areas that will not clean with just plain water, Ivory liquid dishwashing soap (a very mild detergent) may be used with a light scrubbing sponge to buff the entire surface of the egg. Store-bought eggs need to be cleaned with soap or a touch of vinegar to wash off the oils that are sprayed on the eggs to keep them fresh.

Full vs blown eggs: This is up to your own preference. For classes or workshops, I use blown eggs so that the students do not have to worry about trying to empty their first pysanky. Also, when I buy other size eggs (finch, quail, duck, goose, rhea, ostrich) they come already blown. When working on blown eggs, the hole(s) need to be covered with wax prior to dyeing, so the dye does not seep inside the shell. The empty eggs will float in the dye, so they need to be weighed down. I have devised Egg Dippers for just this reason. When working with empty eggs, they have a tendency to “fly” out of the hands since they are so light, so hold on to them with a gentle touch. Wax removal is very quick, and varnishing dry-time is also quick. Full eggs have weight to them, so they stay put while designing, and sink in the dye bath. Wax removal takes just a few seconds longer than on empty eggs, but the varnish takes much longer to dry.

Drying racks are used mainly to hold the pysanka during the dry-time of the varnish. Some artists use the drying racks to aid in wax removal and emptying. The type of rack depends on the egg: full or blown and size. Full-egg racks are basically a wooden board with nails spaced so an egg sits on 3-points. Empty-egg racks have a base made of wood, cardboard or Styrofoam and have either wires or wooden skewers or dowels that suspend the eggs by being inserted in the hole.

Egg Blowers come in a variety of different styles to suit your needs and preference. Shown here is the Blas-Fix with the accordion bellows, and also a Flavor Injector purchased from the grocery store. Both of these means are for emptying eggs using just one hole. There are a few other methods available through pysanka suppliers, but I have not tried them personally. A turkey baster can be used to empty an egg with 2 holes (a small pinhole on the pointy end and a larger hole on the larger end). Check out the How-To section for details on emptying eggs.

Egg Markers or lathes are used by some to help with placing the pencil lines symmetrically and straight on the egg. I do not use these, and teach how to divide the egg without the need of these devises.

Templates help with making circles or squares within the designs on the eggs.

Compass, rubberbands and ribbon assist in measuring the width of the belts and ribbon lines that encircle the egg.

The Paper Towel I use is Kleenex brand Viva or Job Squad, since it has a cloth-like quality.

Candles used for heating the kistka can be any type of candle from a tealight, votive, pillar, or tapered, but for wax removal a tapered candle works the best. For melting the wax off the egg, you want to be able to touch the egg to the flame.

Pencils are used by most to make guide lines on the eggs, to ensure symmetrical divisions and straight lines before drawing with wax. Be sure to draw very lightly with the pencil so the lines will “wash” off with the succession of dye baths. DO NOT use an eraser to remove unwanted pencil lines.