Paige's craft issues started young, when nonstop begging earned her first supplies, which were as protected -unused- as a dragon's hoard.
How to Make Your Own Dragon Eggs
Making a Dragon Egg is Much Easier Then You Think
You can have your very own Dragon Eggs for about $5 and an hour of your time. With only 3 components you can create endless combinations and amaze everyone with your creativity.
- Thumbtacks with flat heads
- Something to color them with- standard (non gel) nail polish is the easiest to work with
- An egg shape. Styrofoam are the simplest and come in a variety of sizes, but tightly packed and shaped tin foil will work as well.
I mean...when you consider all those stories where the hero has to go on major journeys across the cosmos to get themselves a dragon, we've got it pretty easy, no?
How Many Thumbtacks Will You Need?
Likely more than you think. If you've ever participated in those "how many jellybeans are in this jar" contests you'll know that number is always surprisingly high. Same idea here, because there's so much overlap.
The numbers below are what I counted after counting several sizes of eggs- your numbers will vary, depending on the size of the tacks you use and the amount of overlap, but this calculation should provide a good starting point.
I pulled several eggs apart and was able to create the rough estimate above.
2in x 3in egg took 123 tacks:
- (2inx3in)x 20= 120
- (50.8mm x 76.2mm)/32-121
3.5 x 2.5 egg took 171 tacks:
- (2.5inx3.5in) x 20= 175
- (63.5 mm x 89mm )/32= 177
The biggest egg was 3.8 in x 5.6 in and although I didn't actually count this one it took the better part of a container, and per the calculations it would have been 426 tacks, so that seems about right, too.
Mr. Pen Thumbtacks
Getting the Components Ready
Once you've estimated about how many tacks you'll need, find a piece of cardboard and punch them in to stabilize them for painting. This is by far the fastest, easiest way to cover a lot of tacks in a short amount of time with the least amount of mess.
Consistent rows will enable you to easily count how many you've prepped.
Nail polish is the fastest, most easily available and inexpensive option for color. The reds below were just from various bottles I had or picked up for a dollar or two but there are endless varieties out there- plus at the end of the page you'll find some other color contenders I tried with varying results.
Tacks in Semi-Organized Rows
Building From the Bottom Up
Popping all the tacks out before starting to build the egg speeds production, and the easiest way is to push the surrounding cardboard down on a sturdy table or surface that won't easily be marked up or scratched. The tacks will pop right off as you push the cardboard away from it- go slowly or they'll hop around and roll away like popcorn kernels in a hot pan!
Starting from the bottom, work your way up, overlapping each previous row of tacks to build up the effect of depth as you go. If you leave a small area without tacks at the bottom, it provides an area for the egg to balance and stand upright with some stability.
It's important to not be too stingy with the number of tacks you use- Styrofoam is tricky stuff, and glue will dissolve it, creating toxic fumes. By overlapping the tacks, row after row, they lock themselves in, keeping the egg together as a unit. Try to move and reposition the tacks as little as possible, because once a divot is punched in its surface, it's easy for it to get expanded and not hold the tacks tightly.
Likewise, as the very top of the egg, insert the tack at the very top in before doing the ones in the row beneath, so it's held in place or it will continually fall out on you.
I realized I hadn't taken photos of the actual construction process and used some left over tacks to put the below egg together, leaving the Styrofoam white so the tacks would show up more starkly- but as mentioned in the pro-tips below, painting it black will help in the overall look.
Taking Them to the Next Level
If that's where you want to stop, you're all done, and that's fine. If you're using the eggs as a costume component or some temporary project, no one will be the wiser.
If you want to display them long term, or give them as gifts, you may want to incorporate these things I've learned along the way to create a more polished and long lasting presentation:
- Pre-coat the egg in black acrylic paint. No matter how careful you are, bits of the white Styrofoam are going to show through, especially if the egg rolls onto its side. It bears repeating that Styrofoam is very tricky stuff, and many paints and glues will actually dissolve and eat into its surface. Simple craft store black acrylic paint will help any gaps disappear into the background and just look like shadows beneath the scales.
- Prime the thumbtacks with spray paint. Tacks are stainless steel, which means they won't easily rust or fall apart, but the metal also means that that what you coat it with will have a tendency to pull back away from the edges as it dries. Covering it with a paint meant for metal and plastic, like Rust-Oleum or Krylon is a quick (once they're on the cardboard it's literally the work of seconds) and inexpensive way to get a more even look, but be aware that it can change the appearance of the topcoat if the colors are too dissimilar. See the below pics for some examples of this effect.
- Seal the finished project. Depending on how much the eggs are going to be handled, the finish can be easily marred. Spray sealants are available in a variety of finishes, depending on whether you want a matte or gloss final appearance. Thin coats of clear drying glue will do the same, but in either case, try to get as little on the actual foam as possible. Initially I used clear nail polish sealant but that's much more time consuming and expensive then the other options.
The Difference Priming Makes
Both eggs above use the exact same nail polishes, but the one on the left was one of my first attempts. You can see how the color has pulled away from the edges, in come cases worse than others, and on the upper right, you can see the white of the egg underneath.
On the other hand, the egg on the left holds much more even coverage- but is also significantly darker. Using a white or red spray paint base would've alleviated some of that effect.
But remember, if this is something you're not going to keep or look at for a long time, people will probably not even notice.
Now That You Have the Basics, Get Creative!
I'm not much of a manicure connoisseur and honestly had no idea the varieties of nail polish out there! There are infinite numbers of other paints and possibilities and so I played around with some things that caught my eye. Some worked, some didn't, but here are some of the results, with my favorite at the end.
Color Shifting Nail Polish
Mood Ring Paint- My Favorite!
This one nearly caused a riot at my local craft store. I went in with my first attempt to try to find a good sealant for the paint and asked an associate I've worked with before. She called over a coworker, and the manager and a few customers came to see what the commotion was...to say it was a hit was an understatement!
I started out using the regular paint applied with a brush to the thumbtacks, and it's an interesting effect. The paint is best applied to a black surface, and I tried the speckle egg next. It's also really interesting, but I don't think there was quite enough paint buildup to create the full impact.
Then I tried the airbrush version, and was amazed! I've never airbrushed before, so I don't have previous experience to compare it to, but it took a dozen thin coats to slowly build up the effect shown here, and it's hard to see in the videos but it is incredibly vibrant and each tack picks up the warmth a little differently, and since the color is determined by the temperature, whether in your hand or on a shelf, it's never the same egg twice.
Solar Color Dust
- Liquid Crystal® (12 Color) - Pure Form
I am not affiliated with these folks in any way, but I saw their product on a youTube video and had to have it. It's not cheap- but if you wanted to go for a splurge that makes a splash, I love the stuff.
Another Mood Ring Paint Project
Nan Hewitt from Albany, Western Australia on April 04, 2021:
This is pretty cool. Something my grandkids would enjoy I'm sure.