This post was originally shared in April 2011.
I’m trying to make a move away from synthetic food dyes and wanted to use natural, homemade dyes this year. Not only are these colors absolutely healthy for human consumption, but the process of making them is a wonderful lesson in creating art materials from scratch and can help children think critically about how to achieve various colors colors.
As I was cutting the onions and beets I asked my daughter what colors she thought they’d make. I also asked questions like, “If I wanted to make blue dye, what might I make it with?”
She had fun making guesses based on what we had in our kitchen and garden, and also came up with her own wild suggestions such as, “let’s take the skins off the bananas to make yellow dye!”
- Hard boiled eggs
- Skin from one onion, two beets, large handful of spinach, half head of red cabbage
- Ice cream scooper
- Rubber Bands
- Parsley Sprigs
Make the dye
I set up four pots of dye:
Pot #1: Onion Skins
Pot #2: Beets
Pot #3: Spinach
Pot #4: Chopped Red Cabbage
Add about 3 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of vinegar to each pot. The vinegar helps the dye set onto the egg.
Cook the dyes for about 30 minutes and then strained the colored water into some bowls.
Three Decorating Techniques
While the dye cooks and cools, this could be a good time to get your eggs ready for dipping.
1. Wrap the Eggs with Rubberbands
We wrapped some eggs with rubber bands. Fine motor skill training for my almost 3-year old!
2. Cover Eggs with Stickers
We covered eggs with spring stickers and office stickers.
3. Color the Eggs with Crayons
And we drew on eggs with crayons. Nothing too crazy. The crayon will resist the dye. White crayon would make for more drama in the end, but my 2-year old had her heart set on blue.
How to Dye Easter Eggs
Some people like to use tongs or whisks to grab their eggs, but our ice cream scooper made for a good egg scooper.
Do you see that barely green water up there? That’s what transpired from cooking our spinach…for thirty minutes! Pale green water. As you can imagine, it didn’t do much to our eggs. Next time I think we’ll try using more spinach…or use green food coloring.
Pale Yellow from Onions
We unwrapped the eggs to reveal the hidden images! This pale yellow color was made by the onion skins. We’ve also made yellow dye from ground turmeric (cooked the same as above), which it works really well.
Grey from Beets
It looks brown here, but the beets made a grey-ish color. Dye seeped into the openings of the bunny sticker, revealing a blotchy silhouette that’s still quite nice. A bunch of these all over an egg would be kind of cool, or a simpler sticker would look nice (scroll down for an example).
I’ve had success making a pale pink from beets, and I’m not quite sure what happened here.
Blue from Red Cabbage
But small stickers like this little butterfly left a clear impression. Lovely.
Brilliant blue came from the red cabbage! To make this egg, we wrapped cheesecloth around parsley sprigs and then dipped it in the cabbage dye. If you have pantyhose, that could work even better.
Hole Reinforcement Stickers on Easter Eggs
I found a new life for a stack of hole-punch reinforcement stickers! Don’t you love this? The grey color came from the beets (sad, because I was hoping for pink, but still beautiful), the egg in the back is a brown egg dipped in red cabbage dye, and the yellow egg is colored by onion skin.
Before tossing the cabbage leaves out, I wrapped them around an egg and popped it in the fridge overnight. Tie-dye egg!
More Egg Dying, Decorating, and Science Ideas
Have you colored eggs with natural dye?
If you have, please share a tip, link, or photo!!