Ten or 20 years ago, egg-dyeing kits consisted of a few dye tablets, a wire dipper and a cardboard box that doubled as a drying tray. Today, the variety of kits made by multiple companies takes up an entire aisle at the big-box stores.
Families can now make marbled, tie-dyed or gilded eggs. They can make them neon, “volcano explosion”-themed, animal printed or sports-themed. Heck, you can even make mustachioed eggs.
This year, five Roanoke Times staffers put six different kits to the test to determine the ease of the projects and their suitability for children. We discovered, in most cases, that one should never trust the image on the box cover as a reliable indicator of the end result (but then, we’ve all learned that as consumers over the years). We also found that many of these kits are more difficult than expected.
In the end, we still had fun calling this actual work. And here’s the real bottom line: Spending time doing a craft with friends or family is the truly rewarding part.
PAAS Marble egg-dyeing kit
What it is: A kit that (supposedly) creates eggs with marbled patterns.
Includes: nine dye tablets, two wire egg dippers, polishing cloth, egg stands
Materials you will have to supply: eggs, vinegar, water, cooking oil and cups
The process: The directions suggested dissolving purple tablets in a tablespoon of vinegar, pink tablets in a tablespoon of water. Why the distinction, I have no idea. Plus, what about reds and yellows? Water or vinegar? We just used vinegar for all colors, because it made for a more dramatic fizzle. One-half cup of water was poured into each dye cup (we had to add more to cover the eggs), then one tablespoon of cooking oil was swished in (this creates the “marbling” effect). The eggs were dunked with the metal dipper and turned rapidly (but gently) in the concoction for at least 30 seconds. After the eggs were removed and dried, we used the polishing cloth to buff up the shine.
Real-life result: A staff of two kids ages 8 and 9 dyed the eggs with adult supervision. One of the first eggs came out with a lovely, purplish, marbled pattern. Others, though, turned out as solid colors, despite our best efforts to follow the directions of swishing the eggs in the mixture of water, vinegar and cooking oil. When the eggs dried, some of the ones that came out solid looked a tiny bit more marbled.
Required skill level: Not difficult, but it does require a few more steps than standard egg dyeing.
Bottom line: Not every egg came out marbled, but the dyeing was easy and the extra steps gave the kids more things to do instead of just dunking eggs and waiting. It seems that any dye kit could be converted into a marble method simply by stirring in a tablespoon of cooking oil.
You should also know: Less time in the dye (about 30 seconds) actually seemed to result in better marbling.
PAAS Deluxe egg-dyeing kit
What it is: A kit that allows you to dye eggs solid colors, then embellish them with stickers or patterned shrink-wrap.
Includes: egg stands, dye tablets, a wax crayon, two wire egg dippers, EggArounds
Materials you will have to supply: eggs, vinegar, water, cups
The process: The EggArounds require boiling the eggs to heat them, pulling them out of the water, balancing them on a “heat-resistant” surface, slipping a plastic cuff around them and then heating the outside with a hair dryer. This is made harder by the fact that the plastic cuff starts its shrink-wrapping the instant it hits the heat, so your first try had better be perfect. The dye tablets work the standard way.
Real-life result: A few really nice-looking eggs, several splotchy odd-looking dye jobs, and a few eggshells that were strangely softened by the vinegar. The tiny little stickers were cute and would be perfect for young kids, if they are old enough not to eat them or stick them everywhere but the eggs. The eggs took a long time to dry and the stickers wouldn’t stick to any egg that wasn’t completely dry. The EggArounds are basically shrink-wrap for eggs. When they worked, they looked great.
Required skill level: The kit says it’s good for children older than 3, with parental supervision required for the EggArounds. I’ll say!
Bottom line: Buy some food coloring and some stickers. You’ll be happier.
You should also know: The “drying tray” got soggy and left rings around the eggs. I had better luck with a cookie cooling rack.
Easter Unlimited 24k Eggs coloring kit
What it is: A kit that allows you to paint your eggs to look like something Jack would steal from a giant. Can also be used to make gold-tinted colored eggs.
Includes: two paintbrushes, gold paint, three dye droppers, a paint tray, and blue, pink, and green liquid dyes
Materials you will have to supply: eggs, a better paintbrush because the one they give you is awful, a cup of water to rinse said paintbrush
The process: Evenly distribute the gold paint between cells in the tray. Add colored dye, if desired. I mixed pink and blue dye to make purple in one case. Next, use a paintbrush to paint the eggs. The box suggests doing one to two coats, but they didn’t give you enough liquid dye, and they certainly didn’t give you a tray with enough cells for all the colors that I wanted to do.
Real-life result: They look nothing like the eggs on the kit. The gold paint is mixed with the colored dye, but the gold doesn’t shine through the color as much as I expected.
Required skill level: Harder than expected. I got a lot of dye on me. Also, the preparation time required to mix the dyes with the gold paint was ridiculous. Best for older children with parental help.
Bottom line: Don’t waste your money.
You should also know: Gold eggs aren’t worth the trouble, even if you don’t have to climb a beanstalk to get them.
Dudley’s Glitter Tie Dye egg-decorating kit
What is it: This kit promises multicolored — or “tie-dyed” — designs, along with a glittery finish.
Includes: three dye pouches (yellow, pink and blue), 12 coloring pouches, eight egg stands and one glitter shaker.
Materials you have to supply: eggs, newspaper or a disposable tablecloth for the mess.
Real-life result: The only thing tie-dyed about this kit is the bunny’s shirt on the box. I don’t consider my eggs tie-dyed, as I was expecting a rainbow of colors on one egg. Instead, my colors blended together into one dominate hue. You won’t get distinct yellow and blue colors on your egg, for example. You’ll get a mostly green egg. Why does this happen? Because of the way the kit works ...
The process: Add an egg, along with drops of dye, into a clear, plastic bag. Massage the bag to rub dye onto the surface of the egg. Finally, sprinkle glitter over the eggs before the dye dries.
Required skill level: Adult supervision highly recommended. Controlling the flow of the liquid dye, which comes in pouches similar to ketchup packets, is a challenge. Heck, I’m an adult and I had trouble getting the desired number of drops into the coloring bags — and keeping the dye off my hands (but I was amazed how quickly the dye washed off). I assumed the glittering part would be messiest, but the glitter shaker kept it mostly on the eggs and the drying tray. No matter the age, I suggest you do this craft project outdoors or on a newspaper-covered kitchen table.
Bottom line: As a kid, I remember growing impatient with the amount of time it took vinegar dyes to color my eggs. I didn’t want pastels — I wanted deep, bright colors. The best part of this kit is how quickly you can get those bright eggs. It’s almost too fast, so be prepared for a short decorating party.
You should also know: Skip the glitter if you don’t want it all over your house, your clothes or in your egg salad, as it sticks to everything but the eggs when dried.
Dudley’s Majestic egg-decorating kit
What it is: A kit that results in colorful eggs with a pearlescent finish.
Includes: five packets of different-colored egg paints, six plastic pouches
Materials you have to supply: eggs, scissors, and newspaper or plastic to protect the work surface
The process: An egg is placed in a plastic pouch, a few drops of paint are dribbled on the egg, then the pouch is massaged in order to spread the paint over the entire surface of the egg. The egg is then placed on a tray to dry.
Real-life result: The packaging depicted eggs with a perfectly even finish. This would be nearly impossible to replicate, but the swirly, pearly result was still pretty.
Required skill level: Little kids are going to make an epic mess with the paint if not supervised — it is thin and flows rapidly from the plastic packets. Older kids will still need to be careful, so I recommend covering the work space.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for an interesting alternative to plain old dyed eggs, this isn’t a bad selection. The glittery paint is attractive and dries quickly. But it’ll take 10 times longer to boil and cool the eggs than it will to make them “majestic,” so don’t expect an entire afternoon of fun.
You should also know: If you get carried away and squirt too much paint on an egg, it will pool in the drying tray and create an unattractive ring around the bottom of the egg. The paint dries quickly, so it may be worth holding each egg gingerly until it is tacky before placing in the tray. You can also use a paintbrush to spread the paint around, but do it quickly before it dries!
PAAS Decoupage egg-decorating kit
What is it: This kit includes the usual dye tablets, but also supplies sheets of decorative paper that can be cut out and glued to the surface of the egg for a collage effect.
Includes: six dye tablets, 10 squares of decorative paper, cardboard egg stands, a tube of glue, a paintbrush and a wire egg dipper
Materials you have to supply: eggs, cups, water, vinegar, a better paintbrush than the silly one provided, and quite possibly more glue
The process: Dye the eggs using the traditional method, then let them dry. Dampen the backside of the paper and coat it with glue. Apply paper to egg, then brush glue over the top.
Real-life result: The packaging shows an egg whose entire surface is smoothly and perfectly coated in decorative paper. This is a cruel joke. The best way to use this kit is to cut out little pieces, such as individual flowers, stripes and the like.