How to Paint Cookies with Food Colors

The Fun Way to Decorate Cookies

When I was a child, my mother made sugar cookies for the holidays. We frosted them and sprinkled them with decorations in different colors. We looked forward to it every year, the bright cookies and that chance to be creative with different colors. It was a happy time.

  • So fun! Painting cookies is more fun than decorating cookies with frosting and sprinkles, and even adults get hooked. The kids are sure to have a blast.
  • Time to be artistic! Let your creative side go wild as you paint patterns, pictures, and even delicate scenes on your cookies.
  • So easy! Make your sugar cookies from your favorite mix or recipe, cut them as you wish, cover them in a layer of icing, and paint them with food color just like watercolors.

Painting Sugar Cookies

Step 1: Bake the Cookies

Make sugar cookies with your favorite recipe or one of our sugar cookie mixes. Cut them out as you would for other cookies to decorate.

Step 2: Frost the Cookies

After cooling, frost your cookies with either royal icing or fondant. Fondant creates a little different effect than royal icing.  While royal icing is slick and shiny, fondant is more of a matte finish. The top cookies are royal icing while the bottom are fondant.

Frosting Cookies with Icing

Royal icing is simply a powdered sugar icing with meringue powder or an egg white added.  With meringue powder or an egg white, it dries to a hard shell and creates a nice, glossy surface for painting.

Frosting Cookies with Fondant

It’s super easy to cover your cookies with rolled fondant.  Roll the fondant to about 1/8-inch thick and cut the fondant using the same cookie cutters that you used to make the cookies.  Lift the fondant off the counter, brush a little water on the back with your finger, and lay the fondant on the cookies of the corresponding shape.  The fondant will cover the cookies to about 1/8-inch of the edges and the moist back will hold the fondant in place.

Step 3: Paint the Cookies

Use food colors for paint. Use a watercolor brush and paint your cookies just as if you were using water colors.  For fine work, such as the eyes on a snowman or the star on a Christmas tree, use a toothpick to dab color on.

It’s fun to make pretty painted cookies and you can be as creative as you like.  If you are more of an artist than we are, you can create stunning works of art with cookies and a paint brush.

About the Food Color for Painting Cookies

Professional food color gels are best; they are so concentrated that they cover well and can be diluted with water.  We usually use a drop of food color to several drops of water. There are over 40 colors to choose from.

The food colors found in stores don’t work nearly as well. They are way more diluted and more pastel instead of the bright, vibrant colors of gels.  They cost more than the gels too.

(Updated from October 14, 2014)

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