Oct 08


How to Prevent Your Icing from Bleeding – 7 Tips

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As decorators, we know how frustrating bleeding icing can be… I remember it being one of my biggest pet peeves when I first began.  It turns out that learning some tips and tricks on piping is only one step to having an enjoyable cookie decorating experience.  If you don’t know the following 7 tips already, I hope they help you eliminate bleeding icing on your cookies.

 red and white decorated mushroom cookie

First, what exactly is bleeding when it comes to decorating cookies?

Basically, it’s when one icing runs or spreads into another.  Take a look at these flood work butterflies as an example here; you can see the brown starting to diffuse into the light yellow.

Whenever an intense color such as red or black is beside a light one, such as white or yellow, bleeding seems to happen more.   The red and white mushroom cookie above has none happening though.  Here’s how you can do it too:

 fall theme decorated cookies

How to stop your colors from bleeding into each other:

1.     The consistency of your icing is key – If it’s too runny, your colors will tend to seep more.  Especially if you’re layering a dark color onto a light one.  A good rule of thumb is to follow the ‘10 second rule’.  See #2 of Top 10 Decorating Tips or detailed info. at the cookie tutorial here.   To be safest, your icing should gloss over closer to 10 seconds than to 5.


2.     The icing recipe is also important.  I use Antonia 74 or Peggy Porshen’s recipe.  They seem to have good ‘body’.  Some royal icings which are more like a glacé or glaze don’t work as well because they tend to be thinner.


3.     Americolor soft gel pastes seem to have better results than other brands of paste colorings, specifically with intense colors such as black, brown and red.


4.     Tint your icing at least a few hours in advance as the colors usually deepen with time.  That way you’re not necessarily adding as much food paste coloring as you can adjust your color later.


5.     Let your outline or first layer of icing dry for 12-24 hours; again especially if your two colors are a stark contrast between light and dark.  You can try less time depending on the humidity… Maybe 4-5 hours for a first layer, and 15 minutes to an hour for an outline, however, it is riskier.

I have to say; I usually err on the safe side.  Preferably 24 hours for me!

If you have a few extra cookies, you can test if it’s dry by touching the surface (does it make a dent?), or even by biting into a test cookie.

Putting your cookies in an oven with the light on can help dry them faster, according to Colette Peter’s in her book, Colette’s Birthday Cakes (p. 170).  I have also heard that some people actually put the oven on extremely low and leave their cookies in for a few minutes, or some use a heat lamp and others a fan on low air.  I still need to experiment with that, so I can’t really comment at this point.  Another future post!

 decorated acorn cookie

6.     Never store your decorated cookies in the fridge or freezer as they can absorb moisture there.  Some people say they have luck with it – If you have I’d love to hear from you in an email or a comment at the bottom of this post.  Maybe the cookies are exceptionally well sealed?


7.     If it’s really humid outside, use a dehumidifier in the room you’re decorating in. A climate controlled or air-conditioned room works too! Too much humidity can make the colors bleed, no matter how hard you’ve tried to do everything else right. Here’s a post with a little more information on it.


These have worked for me so far but I’m always happy to learn more; if you have any tips which you’d like to share you’re welcome to leave a comment below.


Happy cookie decorating!



p.s. Here are the rest of the fall cookies I made along with ones above.  They’re sugar cookies decorated with royal icing and edged with copper-colored disco dust.

red orange yellow decorated maple leaf cookie

fall decorated cookies

 yellow decorated leaf cookie picnik

p.s.s. Since I’ve posted this I’ve had a few emails about the leaf and acorn cookie cutters.  They’re from a Wilton Leaves and Acorn Cookie Cutter set.

autum leaf cookies

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  1. malinda
    February 6, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Hi. I’m rather new to royal icing decorating and I’m having an issue. Thought I’d ask an expert. I’m having trouble with piped on details falling off and not adhering to my flooded cookies. Could you shed light on what I’m doing wrong?

    • Cecilia Gonzalez
      February 16, 2016 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

      I’m just figuring out. Probably your detail icing is too dry or over mixed, leaving not enough surface to adehere to the previous one

    • marian
      August 12, 2016 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      Hi Malinda,

      It sounds like your icing is too dry, or thick. Hope that helps!

  2. Marely Vega
    May 2, 2016 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    Hii. My I finished my ninja turtles sugar cookies very good. The colors perfect. But I put them on their bags one night before the part and in the morning I noticed the bleeding. :/
    The black color war over the green. Why ? They were fine before putting them inside the bags.

  3. Emily Bodenbender
    May 15, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    We are starting a bakery in small town Northwest Ohio customizing in hand decorated sugar cookies. We are having the WORST trouble with our black detailing bleeding :( . We’ve tried everything. We’ve kept them in air tight containers, kept the temperature constant and even ordered the AmeriColor food coloring that was recommended. We’re getting very discouraged because the beautiful cookies we create are ruined by bleeding the not day. Any advice you could give us we’d reslly, really appreciate.

Show Pingbacks & Trackbacks

  1. [...] If you love decorating with icing, here is a tutorial on how to keep it from bleeding. Click here. [...]

  2. By How to Color Royal Icing Black | Sweetopia on May 16, 2011 at 5:36 am

    [...] Which means that the taste of black icing (along with other deep colors such as red and deep brown), can be a bit bitter.  Wilton makes a no taste red, however, I like using Americolor food gel colors because I seem to have less issues with icing bleeding. (For a post on bleeding click here). [...]

  3. By How to Avoid Spots on Icing | Sweetopia on July 30, 2011 at 7:41 am

    [...] like using Americolor because they have easy to dispense squeeze bottles, and I find the colours bleed less. Pamela has since emailed me and mentioned she found the spots happened less with the Wilton [...]

  4. [...] Bleeding – Whenever using intense color such as red or black, bleeding seems to happen more.  The best way to prevent bleeding is to minimize the amount of humidity the cookies are exposed to (de-humidifier, air conditioning, air-tight storage once they`re dry).  More on preventing bleeding here. [...]

  5. By Secrets of a Cookie Decorator | Sweetopia on March 5, 2012 at 5:54 am

    [...] But, that can be fixed…. Here’s what to do about humidity , bleeding, and a schedule to help you [...]

  6. [...] I don’t know what it is about mushroom cutters, I just love making them! (Other examples here and here). [...]

  7. By 101 Essential Cookie Decorating Resources on September 1, 2012 at 10:15 am

    [...] How To Prevent Your Icing From Bleeding by [...]

  8. [...] Autum Leaf & Mushroom Cookies [...]

  9. [...] Help! My icing colors keep bleeding into each other! How do I stop that from happening again? Find information on preventing your icing from bleeding here. [...]

  10. By Decorative Monogram Cookies {A Tutorial} | on September 7, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    [...] proper dry time. If you want to learn more about royal icing bleeding and how to prevent it, check this [...]

  11. By How to Color Icing Red | Sweetopia on November 9, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    [...] Coloring icing red is easy to do, but what often isn’t known, is that a lot of coloring is needed. It’s the reason I usually buy a large bottle of Americolor gel paste and it also means that the taste of red icing (along with other deep colors such as black and deep brown), can be slightly bitter.  Wilton makes a no taste red, however, I like using Americolor food gel colors because I seem to have less issues with icing bleeding. (For a post on bleeding click here). [...]

  12. [...] of food gel coloring in your darker colors such as red or black, but these tips should help! (See this post on avoiding bleeding and this one on avoiding spots on icing). Here are a few examples of cookies I [...]

  13. [...] can find more information on drying cookies here, a post on preventing cookies from bleeding here, and spotting [...]

  14. By By the Sea Decorated Cookies | Sweetopia on July 30, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    [...] can find more information on drying cookies here, a post on preventing cookies from bleeding here, and [...]

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How to Color Royal Icing Black

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100 Comments | Posted May 2nd 2011

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