How do you use food coloring pens?
Those of you who have been here before may already know this, but I have a thing for drawing on food with edible writers, also known as food coloring pens. Particularly marshmallows. See? HERE are a billion ideas for drawing on food. I came up with this idea for marshmallow art in 2009 in the midst of a housing search when our belongings were in storage, we were living in temporary housing, and then we went through a kitchen renovation. Marshmallow art is so quick, easy, kid-friendly, versatile and oven-free, so it was perfect for our transient life at the time.
Edible markers, gourmet writers, food writers, food coloring pens… the many different terms are just as confusing as the many different brands. This post is all about food coloring pens: what brands to buy, where to buy them and what you can do with them. Food writers are markers that have edible ink, NOT to be confused with “candy writers” that you find in the craft store. Those come in tubes. I don’t use those. So they are essentially markers for food.
brands of food coloring pens in order of my preference
Americolor Gourmet Writers, set of ten. These are my favorite writers. They have good flow and are easy to use. You can get finer detail by using the tips and cover thicker areas by using the sides more. If you only buy one set of writers, buy these. You can buy Americolor Gourmet Writers on amazon.com and many other online sites.
FooDoodler. My next most-used writers are the FooDoodler Fine Line set of ten. The fine line is even finer than the Americolor Gourmet Writers and I use this a lot for very fine detail. FooDoodler also carry thicker food markers, which are good, but I rarely use those, only because I draw such small things. If you don’t need a super-fine line, then they work well. The perfect combination of markers–if you buy two sets–are the Americolor Gourmet Writers with the FooDoodler fine line set. Learn more about FooDoodlers on their site.
FoodWriters. Wilton, the masters of food craft, of course sell food writers. They are good writers and have a good flow, but the tips are a bit thick for the detail I like to draw. However, the pros: they are widely available in most major craft stores, they come in a variety including lime green (yay), and they are great for kids. When my 3-year old decorates marshmallows, I give her the FoodWriters. You can buy them on the Wilton site, in craft stores. Amazon has some FoodWriters here or this set if FoodWriters with the lime green missing from Americolor and Foodoodler. The sets are smaller, so you end up needing to buy a couple different sets. I’m partial to the “neon” colors.
KopyKake pens. The set of KopyKake pens are also OK. They have two ends, one thick and one fine, which is great. The fine end gives the same detail as the fine line FooDoodlers. The other big bonus? The set has two greens, including a lime green. I use lime green a lot, and I miss this with the other sets above. The down side to these? I feel like the flow is a little dry and they run out of ink more quickly. Much more quickly.Find KopyKake pens at amazon.
how to draw on food with food coloring pens
- fondant (roll out and cover cookies, cupcakes or cakes with fondant, or, if you make dimensional designs, use writers for the details)
- royal icing that has been flooded and left to dry overnight
These sweets are LESS or NOT compatible with edible writers:
- candy melts (You can use edible writers with stuff that’s been dipped in candy melts and hardened, but the writers do react with the fats in the melts and don’t work quite as well. If you’ve tried to make cake pops, you may have experienced this. I suggest markers with a good flow, like the Americolor’s, use the tips and use them sparingly for small details, like dots for eyes.)
- buttercream frosting. Frosting won’t fully harden, and the bumps and grooves make this a bad surface for writers.
TIPS on using food coloring pens:
- Let your surface dry well before using the writers. Marshmallows and fondant will stiffen if left out for an hour or so. And flooded royal icing MUST dry overnight.
- Don’t try and layer colors, unless it’s for effect (like the spring flower marshmallows above). The bottom color will show through. Only black witll cover other colors, so I often outline with black last.
- When switching colors, let the first color set about ten minutes so you don’t accidentally pick up another color with your marker and to prevent bleeding.
Tammy Cox says
Beautiful work! I used edible makers also, mostly Wilton, on royal icing cookies. I have HUGE problem with black breaking down IF the cookie is bagged. Open iar is fine, but bagged cookies bleed 100% if the time. Any ideas, suggestions short of ‘don’t bag!’?
I’m shaking my fist at black food coloring! I haven’t had the problem you’re talking about with markers, even black on white (though I mostly use Americolors or the Foodoodlers, wonder if that makes a difference?) but I know black food coloring can be a bugger.And I’ve had black icing bleed more on white backgrounds. But I also do NOT thing my flooding icing too much. I add as little water as I possibly can to still have the flooded look. I also let the backgrounds dry super duper well, overnight at least, you can even let them dry two nights, before writing on them. And let the black marker dry fully before bagging. Is it humid where you are? I am also wondering if heat is somehow trapped in the bags.
Hi Meaghan 🙂
Will the markers work on a simple powder sugar & Milk GLAZE (as opposed to making a royal icing)? I would make the glaze so it hardens of course. I am trying to avoid having to make royal icing as it’s not my family’s favorite.
Thanks for the post!
Theoretically, it would (as in, milk or powdered sugar wouldn’t cause the markers to resist), but it would have to dry quite hard. So I would err on the side of more sugar and less milk. The points of the markers could indent the surface of the glaze if it isn’t fully hardened. But if it sets overnight, I think it would!
PS. I would just use new markers (as in full of coloring) and a light touch! Some of my more used markers, I have to press more firmly.
Mary Lee says
I am wondering if you have used the pens to write on apples? We saw a picture of an apple with name and date written on it on a Pinterest site however cannot find the original site and details of how this is done. Any insight you can give me would be wonderful. Thank you so much.
Hi Mary Lee, I have used the pens to write on apples (and if you saw a picture of it, unless it wasn’t edible, I bet that’s how it was done.) The only down side is that the ink sort of slides a bit on the smooth surface. I would make sure the apple is totally dry and then don’t touch the apple for awhile after writing to let it fully dry!
May I know for jelly, which food pen is suitable for water-based type so that it wont smudged?
I tried using redman water colors n it smudged badly e next day after i took out fr fridge.
Hi Mic, I’m confused what you’re trying to draw on. “Jelly” an JellO or a gelatin product? I don’t know any food pens that would work on anything like that I’m afraid :(.
I was wondering if the markers would wrote well on jelly rancher lollipops? And, I hope to bag them, but the posts above make me think it that if I can write on them, the ink will bleed. What do you think?
I don’t know that drawing on hard candy would work… maybe if it was a very light candy and you weren’t doing much, like a smiley face… But if I had to guess, I’d say you’d have trouble :(.
I was wondering it there is such thing as white food coloring marker/pen? If so which one do you use?
Hi Cindy, Nope, not that I know of. I wish! But I don’t know that it would be strong enough to write on any color without showing through.
I’ve never used these before and am about to embark on a big project. My question is, if I am writing on a colored fondant or modeling chocolate, will a light color marker show up on a darker colored product? Like a yellow marker for example, could I write on dark fondant with it? TIA
Paula A Stemberger says
I just purchased a couple of Paper Mate Flair markers at a cake supply store.
They seem to think that they can be used on food items…..I’m not so sure.
Does anyone know for sure? I’ve googled the question to no avail.
I haven’t heard of them, but if they were at a cake supply store… I’m going to do some research too :).
You’re right, nothing on google about food stuff! Just says it’s water-based, so maybe it’s not toxic, but it has to be ink in there, not food coloring.
Kathy Maffia says
How do these pens work on white chocolate? We are having a day of the dead wedding and I want to make some cake balls dipped in white chocolate and make day of the dead faces on them. Please let me know. They sound wonderful.
Hi Kathy, Unfortunately… not well. The fats in the chocolate resist the food pens. Food pens work best on royal icing that has dried super well, fondant and marshmallows. However, one alternative is to use candy colors. They are special food colorings that work well on chocolate. You can buy a lot of different colors, but I find it’s more economical to just buy this medium and mix it into my existing gel paste food coloring:
And then you use very fine paint brushes to paint any design you like. Here’s an example of where I did that:
Hope this helps!!
Patricia Kirk says
I found this to be the most difficult order form to complete. I hated to cancel my order, but could not make sense of the procedures.
Hi Patricia, I’m not sure I understand what you’re trying to do? Perhaps you have the wrong web site?
Connee Burton says
Hi, I just made cookies and decorated them with icing and used the food markers on them. They are to be distributed singly. But I don’t think that I should put them in baggies. Any suggestions. Do you know if they still make the waxed paper sandwich bags and word that work?
Hi Connee, I usually do put the cookies with food markers in little baggies, although the waxed paper sandwich bags would be a good idea too. You could possibly even make your own with squares of wax paper and a piece of washi tape. Although I let them dry well, maybe even overnight if you have the time. (Assuming you also let the background dry overnight before using the markers.) You can test it by running your finger over a little bit of a cookie and seeing if it smudges, but I’ve had great luck packaging them. The markers should dry very well.
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Great post btw. Have you or anyone used any of these edible pens to write on soft cream, as in regular whipped cream, or even steamed milk? I’m not looking at just ‘adding color’ to cream or lighter. Could I draw on this lighter texture or does it need to be harder surface?
Thx for your advice!
Hi Rosa, It definitely has to be a harder surface. They are very much like regular markers. So it wouldn’t work on milk or whipped cream. You might be able to use a paint brush and food coloring for whipped cream though!
I must say i have been doing research on edible markers for writing on royal icing and this thread of comments has been most helpful.
Im having one issue however, I flooded my cookies with no problem and allowed them to dry completely overnight, i then proceeded to draw on the cookies, the pens worked beautifully no bleeding at all. I allowed ample time for the writing to dry and tested it by simply running my fingers across the top – no smudge.
However after putting them into sealed cello bags it didn’t take long until the pens smudged.
I don’t know what to do. Id like toe distribute cookies individually in bags but don’t want to run the risk of an imperfect finished product. Any tips?
Hi Sarah, Hmm…. I’ve never seen that happen and I’m at a bit of a loss, especially since you’re allowing them to dry completely overnight. Is your climate humid? I wonder if that can be a culprit (in which case, maybe running a fan on the cookies?). Or, sometimes moisture from the cookies can get into the icing, so I often bake my cookies for a few extra minutes. I also usually err on the side of thicker frosting when flooding, rather than thinner. So you can still flood, but it’s not super-runny, because the only real culprit I can imagine is the water from the frosting making the smudge. I’ve packaged Americolor, FooDoodler, and Wilton brands with no problems. What brand are you using? Maybe I’m not familiar with it?
Hi. Can I store the drawing pens outside at room temperature or refrigerate?
Hello! I store them at room temperature, definitely. In a dark place (my cabinet).
Have you ever used the markers to ink up a stamp and then stamp onto total icing??
Hi Katie, yes! I have! (I use the method in my book.) I find that the markers with the heaviest liquid work best, so I’d recommend the Americolor Gourmet pens. The thicker Wilton markers from the craft store are also a good choice. The Foodoodler fine line set is just too narrow.
Thank you so much for making this post. I’m working on an order that requires a lot of precision and I think I’m going to use your suggested markers as a guide for my royal icing. I’m hoping they will write well on a naked cookie. I suspect I could have some issues if it is an especially fatty cookie, but hopefully overbaking them to a crisp cookie instead of a soft one will provide a more acceptable surface. I’m still deciding on which type of edible writer to purchase, but your guide has definitely helped me look in the write* direction.
*Hah. puns 🙂 Thanks again!
You’re exactly right Emilia, about the moisture and fat in a cookie and going for a crispier surface. I think it will work on the bare cookie, it might just not be super sharp. I’d probably go for the Americolor Gourmet Writers! I always get those and the Foodoodler fine line set, and that is all I need. Thank you so much!
Christy M says
Do edible food pens go bad? I think their awesome but I got some last year for cookie decorating
I actually asked someone once at Americolor if food coloring goes bad, and they essentially said, unless they’ve been in the sun, they last for years! I’ve used my food pens from years past.
How long do you let the edible market dry? Sometimes it’s fully dry but when I put it into little bags they start to bleed and seem to get wet again. Do you have any advice?
What surface are you drawing on? If you’re drawing on royal icing or fondant, you may want to let it sit overnight. (Cookies can take it, but marshmallows would get pretty stale.)