I know coloring royal icing and frosting can be one of the most frustrating aspects of cookie decorating. But you really can achieve just about any color imaginable. As a cookie decorator, I’ve often had to mix my own colors to match invitations or swatches. I’ve mixed as many as 5 or 6 colors to get the right shade. And beyond shades, the biggest complaint about frosting color is the bitter, metallic taste.
Here are some tips that might help:
1. Taste. Much as I adore Wilton’s products, I do not use concentrated pastes. Concentrated pastes do come in many great colors and are widely available in craft stores, but they taste bitter. The last thing you want to bite into when eating a cookie is something bitter. I highly recommend soft gel pastes, specifically, Americolor Soft Gel Pastes. You can purchase these in specialty cake decorating stores or online (see link for more information).
2. White. Yes, you DO have to tint plain icing with white food coloring. Extracts, butter, and other frosting ingredients make bare frosting off-white, so to achieve a pure white, add White color. A LOT of it. A lot of color may thin your frosting a bit, so either start with a thicker frosting or add confectioner’s sugar to thicken.
3. Dark colors and Red. Dark colors and red, like white, take a LOT of color, so just keep adding drops. More than you’d think. You may want to get bigger bottles of darker color or purchase more than one if you have a lot of icing or frosting to make. Also keep in mind that a lot of food coloring may thin your icing, so add additional confectioner’s sugar if necessary.
4. Skin tones. Caucasian flesh is always a tough one to get right. I usually make it with ONE drop of Americolor “Peach.” Just one drop. Mayyyybe two. You can also add a touch of Egg Yellow. For African American and Hispanic and/or Latino skin tones I use a different number of drops of Americolor Chocolate Brown. For Asian skin tones, I use a mix of Chocolate Brown and Egg Yellow. Just be sure to start with ONE drop of each and add more as needed.
5. Brown. Even using Chocolate Brown, it takes a lot of drops. Tan is a tough color to get, as a few drops of Chocolate Brown tend to look pink-ish. I add a drop of Egg Yellow to achieve a better tan.
6. Pastels. I add a bit of White coloring to Sky Blue, Electric Pink (I use Electric Pink for all shades of pink rather than Soft Pink as I feel it’s more vibrant), Egg Yellow, Regal Purple or Leaf Green to get my pastels.
7. Mixing. Here are some common combinations I use: Egg Yellow and Leaf Green make lime (or use “Electric Green”), Regal Purple and Royal Blue make cornflower blue.
8. Amount. I tint about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of frosting at a time, and use anywhere from one to ten drops (maybe even more for very dark colors).
9. Colors to buy. Soft gel pastes come in alllll kinds of colors, so I encourage experimenting, and you will of course lean towards certain colors for certain projects, but the colors I use MOST are: Super Black, Bright White, Burgundy, Red Red, Electric Pink, Orange, Egg Yellow, Leaf Green, Electric Green, Royal Blue, Sky Blue, Regal Purple, Peach, Chocolate Brown. I make various shades from pastel to dark using different amounts of each of these. Find more information on where to buy food coloring HERE.
Hope this helps! Good luck.