Why are my colors blending together on my royal icing?

Why Are My Royal Icing Colors Blending Together And Fading?

This is called Color Bleed!


When I created these bee sugar cookies, I noticed the next day my colored royal icing blended together and looked faded. For the life of me, I could not figure out what caused my royal icing colors to blend into each other. After lots of research, I learned that this is called "color bleed." 


Color bleed happens when your icing pulls the moisture (and color) of the icing next to it. In the picture above, the black icing bled onto the yellow, and the white icing on the wings bled into the yellow body, making the colors appear faded and blurry. 


How do you fix this? Honestly, it's a little bit of trial and error because every recipe is different. Even your location (humidity, elevation, and temperature) can affect your baking!  With that being said, here are some things to try that have helped me prevent color bleed in my royal icing.


  • Add white food coloring to your base icing. Then add your other colors as normal. Americolor, Chefmaster, and The Sugar Art are all really amazing food coloring brands I've used and recommend. 


  • Don't oversaturate your icing by adding too much food coloring. A small amount of food coloring goes a long ways, and your icing color will darken after you first mix it. If you want to see how dark your icing will be when dried, swipe some wet icing onto a paper towel and lay it in front of a fan to dry. The icing will usually dry darker than your wet icing.


  • Add cream of tartar to your recipe. Cream of tartar is an egg stabalizer and it helps prevent the crystalization of sugar when it's cooked. Some meringue powders have cream of tartar in the powder already, so check your label! 1 tsp cream of tartar for every 2 lbs of powdered sugar is a good rule of thumb.


  • Let your icing dry completely before adding colors next to it. I recenly did a test with red and white royal icing on some sugar cookies. On one cookie, I did white icing for a base, let it crust, and then did red details. On the other cookie, I did a white base, let it dry completely, and then did the red details. I noticed the cookie that I let the white dry completely did not bleed and the other cookie did. This might be a fun experiment for you to try on your own with your recipe! (If you want to try a new recipe, you can see mine here: https://coastlinecookiesco.com/blogs/articles/what-is-royal-icing-how-do-i-make-royal-icing )


  • Dry your cookies in front of a fan. Having air flow like a fan on your cookies helps speed up your drying time, which helps the colors dry faster preventing color bleed. Drying cookies in front of a small table fan makes a huge difference and is definitely a time saver.


(Fun fact - in this same picture, you might notice how the wings crater in and looks kind of like a valley with a rim on the outside of the wings. This happened because my icing was a little too thin. Adding more powdered sugar to my icing to thicken it would have prevented that and would have given a flat, filled in wing.)


These are all the tips I have for you! Again, it might take some trial and error to figure out what works for you and your recipe. Color bleed does not affect the taste of cookies. Don't worry- you're doing great! 


Coastline Cookies Co

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