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What Are Hand-Painted Eggs?

Coloring Easter eggs is a favorite tradition of children everywhere.
Eggs before being painting.
Eggs are painted during Easter.
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  • Written By: Drue Tibbits
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2014
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People have been making hand-painted eggs for centuries. Today, the craft ranges from children’s simplistic painting of hard-boiled eggs to artists creating meticulously detailed paintings and designs on egg-shaped forms. These forms can be genuine bird’s eggs or wood carved into egg shapes. Throughout the world, collectors buy and trade these hand-painted egg works of art.

Many crafters of hand-painted eggs start out with chicken eggs as they are inexpensive and readily available. Artists, especially those who carve the eggs as well as paint them, prefer to work with eggs that are slightly larger and have thicker shells. Any type of egg can be painted, but the more commonly used come from geese, emus, and ostriches. Some painters prefer to work with wood rather than delicate eggshells. Wooden eggs are often carved from maple because it has a smooth finish that is particularly receptive to paint.

Birds' eggs must be properly prepared before they are ready to be painted. A tiny hole is drilled or carved into each end of an uncooked egg’s shell. A needle is inserted into one of the holes to prick the yolk. The painter then blows air into the hole on one end of the egg, pushing the raw egg out of the opposite hole. The inside of the egg is rinsed with a small amount of water, and the egg is set aside to dry.

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Eggs carved from maple rarely need any preparatory treatment before painting. Some birds' eggs have slick surfaces that make it difficult for the paint to adhere. A primer coat is applied, if needed, to birds' eggs to help the paint stick. Painters use specialized egg stands that are able to hold a hollowed egg in position while it is painted.

A store that specializes in supplies for hand-painting eggs is called an “eggery.” Both acrylic and oil paints can be used for hand-painted eggs. The paint must carry enough pigment that it colors the egg without leaving noticeable brush strokes. Some hand-painted egg artists engrave or carve the egg’s shell in addition to painting it. Eggs with thicker shells, such as emu and ostrich eggs, are preferred for carving.

Finished, hand-painted eggs are usually sealed with a clear lacquer and placed on a display stand. The egg is sometimes glued to the display stand to prevent accidental breakage of the delicate shell. The International Egg Art Guild is an organization for artists who use eggs as canvases for their art.

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Discuss this Article

strawCake
Post 7

I actually saw a hand-painted ostrich egg at a craft show awhile ago. It was impressive, and even more impressive because of it's size. It was way, way bigger than a chicken egg.

Anyway, the hand-painted egg was on sale for a pretty steep price. It was cool, but it wasn't that cool so I decided not to purchase it!

Monika
Post 6

@SZapper - I remember that foul smelling egg dye from childhood too. It was still fun though.

Anyway, I've always wondered how they got the egg out before decorating the shell. Obviously a hardboiled egg that is hand-painted can only stick around for so long, so if you want a long term project the best thing to do would be to get the egg out of the shell somehow.

I think rinsing is probably an important step in this process. Rotten egg is one of the worst smells ever, and no one would want to smell that smell coming from a work of art!

SZapper
Post 5

I've never actually painted an egg before. However, when I was younger we used to always dye Easter eggs. It was lots of fun mixing the colors, although from what I remember, the dye didn't smell that great.

I definitely think hand-painting an egg is an activity that's more appropriate for adults. I can see a child dropping the egg and cracking the shell, or simply being unable to paint that precisely.

That being said, now that I'm an adult I may try hand-painting an egg or two for Easter this year.

bagley79
Post 4

A few years ago I was introduced to the art of making Ukrainian pysanky eggs. There is an art to decorating these eggs, but once you start learning the process, it becomes very addicting.

Years ago these were just decorated at Easter time, but now people will decorate eggs like this all year long.

I use a stylus dipped in beeswax to apply the different designs and patterns. I also buy my paints and dye from a special shop. I have followed some online tutorials, but the best thing to do is just keep practicing.

For me this is a great stress reliever and I enjoy making different patterns and designs. I have given many of them as gifts, and also have them displayed all around my home.

John57
Post 3

One year our state fair had several hand-painted, decorative eggs scattered throughout the fair grounds.

These were large wooden eggs that were painted by different local artists. There was a scavenger hunt game for people to play when they were inside the fairgrounds to locate all of the eggs.

At the end of the fair, they were auctioned off and the money went to a local charity. Each artist could paint whatever they wanted on their egg as long as it went along with the current state fair theme.

Once in awhile you will see one of these hand-painted eggs around town that a local business bought. This was a creative way to raise some money for a local charity.

golf07
Post 2

I had no idea there are specific stores that sell supplies just for painting eggs. Now if I ever hear someone talk about an "eggery", I will know exactly what they mean. The only hand painted eggs I am familiar with are those we paint at Easter.

We usually take the easy way out and just use stickers to decorate the eggs we get. One of my friends is an artist, and both of her daughters are very creative.

They have made some of the most ornate hand painted Easter eggs I have ever seen. This is something they will spend hours on every year since they love the creative aspect of hand painting the eggs.

They even have a small collection of some of the more elegant eggs they have painted over the years.

sunshined
Post 1

Our family always looks forward to painting Easter eggs. This a tradition that has been passed down for many years. My sisters and I have fond memories of doing this together, and now our kids do the same thing.

We have painted both hard boiled eggs and also the eggs where the raw egg is blown out through a small hole. I always found this kind of fun to do, but my daughter would rather paint the eggs that are hard boiled.

Either way, they like to be creative with paints and stickers and decorate as many eggs as they can. Most of the egg decorating kits today come with everything you need.

I remember using vinegar and different colored paints that came in the form of small tablets. It's a good thing the hard boiled decorated eggs last awhile in the refrigerator. We got kind of tired of them after awhile, but always have a lot of great memories when it comes to painting eggs.

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