When craft and hobby stores start displaying holiday decorations three months out of season (grrrr), it becomes particularly satisfying to ignore them and make one’s own festive decor using stuff already on hand around the house. Especially if you’re using craft supplies from other holidays. I’ll definitely be stocking up on cheap plastic Easter eggs this spring, as I have been continually discovering great crafting uses for them.
I actually have to credit Martha Stewart for this idea, sort of. While perusing the internet a few weeks ago, I came across this. Super cute, aren’t they? The instructions in step 2 say, “Paint both halves of an egg-shaped pressed-paper box with white acrylic paint using a foam brush.” Catch that bit about an egg-shaped pressed-paper box? Yeah, I also don’t know where you find such a thing, especially in October. In the Martha Stewart way, she probably made her own, but her only hint on the topic was a link to this page, possibly the most vague and thoroughly unhelpful list of how-to hints ever. (The main reason I dislike the Martha Stewart site: if you can’t figure it out for yourself from the photo you’re SOL, since the so-called “instructions” offer very little assistance. As tutorials go, hers are weak sauce.)
In any case, when I looked at those skull boxes I immediately thought of Easter eggs. Use little plastic eggs and you have pre-made container, all you have to do is paint it. Brilliant! (Not that you can get plastic Easter eggs in the store this time of year either, but I feel one is not unlikely to have some of those lying around from the previous spring, or to have a friend who does.) Here’s how to do it.
- coloured plastic Easter eggs
- white or off-white acrylic paint (you can get this stuff for $2-$4 a bottle at Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, Joanne’s and at many fabric stores and dollar stores)
- black acrylic paint OR a black paint pen or sharpie
- varnish/sealant (A generally useful thing to have around, and you can mini cans of it at pretty much any hardware store – go for the water based stuff. You could probably also use a spray-on sealant from an art supply store, like the stuff you spray onto charcoal or graphite artwork to keep it from smearing)
- scrap paper or old newspaper
- large paintbrush
- very small, fine tipped paintbrush (unless you are using a black paint pen or sharpie)
Putting it all together:
1) Snap your Easter egg or eggs in half and set the halves flat on a piece of scrap paper or newspaper (to catch any stray paint smears).
2) Use your acrylic paint to cover the outside of each Easter egg half. For the bottom half of the eggs, you can hold it by that little inner ledge that snaps the two halves together, and which does not need to be painted. For the top half of the eggs, I get my fingers in there and spread them apart, pushing firmly on opposite sides of the egg to keep it from flying off my fingers while I paint all sides of it.
To do a large number of eggs at once, you could also simply spray paint them. Just put all the egg halves in a cardboard box with reasonably deep sides (to protect everything else from the paint), and spray liberally (probably best to do this outside). Do several coats, letting them dry between, as with the acrylic. Be sure to move the eggs between coats, to make sure that the paint at the bottom of the eggs doesn’t stick them to the cardboard. Then proceed with the rest of the tutorial.
You’ll need to do 3 – 5 coats on each egg, but one nice thing about acrylic is it dries pretty quickly. Be sure to let the paint dry between coats.
3) Once enough coats of paint have been applied (none of the egg’s original colour should be visible through the paint) and the paint is completely dry, use a pencil to lightly sketch a face onto the egg. Eyes on one half, nose and mouth on the other half. I find it works best to put the eyes on the bottom, shorter half of the egg, and the nose and mouth on the longer, top half. That said, you can do it either way – I tried eggs in both directions, and they both worked.
4) Use a tiny paintbrush and black paint OR a black sharpie or paint pen to put features on your egg. Paint and paintbrush are slower and take more careful precision and a very steady hand. Sharpie is easier, but I found that the paint slowly messed up the sharpie a bit, even when dry, and when putting a protective coat of varnish over the egg later, the varnish smeared the sharpie a little. I think a black paint pen would be the happy medium here, colouring overtop of the white paint more easily, but still giving you lots of precision.
5) When the black paint or ink is entirely dry, put one or two coats of varnish on each half of the egg. This goes quite a way to help keep the paint from chipping off, as paint on plastic is not the most lasting combination.
5) Display for extra spooky cuteness at your Halloween party, and/or fill with candy or small toys.