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What can you use to paint on cookies?

There are a variety of options when it comes to decorating cookies. The most common decorating tools include:


Icing, also known as frosting, is the most popular option for decorating cookies. There are a few main types of icing that can be used:

  • Royal icing – A hard, glossy icing made from egg whites and powdered sugar. Dries hard and holds its shape well for decorating.
  • Buttercream – A creamy, soft icing made from butter, powdered sugar, and sometimes eggs and flavorings. Great for decorating but doesn’t hold its shape as well.
  • Fondant – A dough-like icing that can be rolled out and draped over cookies. Doesn’t harden like royal icing but holds its shape well.
  • Gel icing – A thick glossy icing that comes in tubes. Doesn’t harden completely but dries with a smooth, shiny finish.

Icing can be colored easily using liquid food coloring. It can then be used to outline cookies or flood them completely. Icing is very versatile for different decorating techniques.


Melted chocolate or chocolate that has been thinned with shortening or oil can be used to decorate cookies. It will harden once it cools. Dark, milk, and white chocolate can all be used. Cocoa powder can also be used to make a chocolate paint.

Candy Melts

Candy melts, also called confectionery coating, are used like chocolate but set up harder. They melt easily and come in a wide variety of colors and flavors. Popular for drizzling and decorating.

Sugar Glue

A sticky sugar syrup that dries clear and hard. Can be used to “glue” edible decorations like sprinkles, candies, or sanding sugar onto cookies before icing.

Luster dust

A super-fine powder made of edible glitter. Used to dust cookies for a shimmery finish. Comes in many colors. Needs a small brush to apply.

Food Coloring Markers/Pens

Similar to paint markers, but filled with food coloring gel instead of paint. Allows you to draw directly onto iced cookies for fine details and outlining.

Food Color Sprays

Aerosol sprays made with food coloring to airbrush color directly onto cookies. Gives a smooth, even coat of color. Stencils can be used with sprays for designs.

Sprinkles, Nonpareils and Jimmies

These small candy decorations can be placed on wet icing to add color, texture, and sparkle. Endless variety of sizes, shapes and colors.

Sanding Sugar

A large crystal sugar that adds crunch and shine when sprinkled on iced cookies. Comes in many colors.

Edible Glitter

Tiny candies made of sugar, corn starch, and color. Adds a rainbow sparkle effect. Can also buy glitter gels and dusts made for food.

Coconut, Nuts or Candy Pieces

Adding colored coconut flakes, chopped nuts or small candy pieces can decorate cookies. Press them into icing before it dries.

Common Decorating Techniques

There are many ways to use icing and other edible decorations to decorate cookies:

  • Piping – Using a piping bag or squeeze bottle to pipe icing on in intricate patterns, outlines, writing, etc.
  • Flooding – Spreading a smooth layer of thin icing over the entire cookie.
  • Drizzling – Drizzling stripes or zigzags of contrasting icing over the cookies.
  • Dotting – Adding small dots of icing in patterns using the corner of a piping bag.
  • Stenciling – Using stencils and airbrush colors to create designs.
  • Painting – Using food coloring markers or paint brushes and food coloring/chocolate to hand-paint.
  • Dipping – Dipping half the cookie into melted chocolate or candy coating.
  • Sugaring – Using sugar glue to attach decorations before icing.

Combining techniques like piping, flooding, and drizzling can create cookies that look hand-painted. The possibilities are endless!

Choosing Icing Consistency

The consistency of your icing determines which decorating techniques will work best:

  • Thin icing – For flooding/covering cookies completely. Usually thinned with milk or water.
  • Thick icing – For piping and detail work. Usually confectioner’s sugar is added to thicken.
  • Stiff icing – For piping fine details and strings. More confectioner’s sugar added to make very stiff.
  • Soft-peak icing – For dots and shapes that don’t run. Soft mounds, not stiff peaks.

Test the thickness of the icing on a spatula to determine if it’s right for the decorating technique. Adjust as needed by adding more liquid or powdered sugar a little at a time.

Choosing Decorating Colors

Picking the right cookie decorating colors is an important part of planning your design:

  • Use icing colors to match the flavors like red and green for peppermint.
  • Limit colors to 2-3 for a clean, coherent look.
  • Choose complementary colors like orange and blue for visual interest.
  • Monochrome cookies in shades of one color are trendy.
  • Metallic luster dusts and food color sprays add special effects.

It’s best to use gel food coloring instead of liquid food coloring. Gel has more concentrated color so you won’t have to use as much. Keep decorations simple and repeat colors for the best look.

Cookie Decorating Ideas

Here are some fun and easy ideas for decorated cut-out sugar cookies:

Cookie Design Decorating Techniques
Snowflakes Piped white icing outlines, flooded with thinned white icing, silver luster dust
Trees Green piped icing outlines, green and brown flooding, candies for ornaments
Winter mittens Flooded with pink icing, piped white icing cuff, chocolate drizzle trim, M&Ms for buttons
Reindeer Piped brown icing outline, flooded tan icing, piped black icing details, red candy nose

The icing techniques you use will depend on your skill level and the time you have. Even just piping outlines and decorating with sprinkles can make cute cookie designs. Get creative with flavors, shapes and decorations!


Decorating cookies is a fun creative outlet and edible art. With standard icing and food colors, you can pipe, paint and flood cookies into professional-looking treats. Explore different icing consistencies, color palettes, and decorating techniques for stunning results. The edible art supplies available today make cookie decorating easy for beginners and endless for experts. Unleash your inner artist on a batch of fresh baked cookies!