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Color Theory and Cookie Decorating

Understanding the theory of color can be extremely helpful when it comes to cookie decorating. By having a basic understanding of how colors work together, how they complement each other, and how you can pair them, you can create beautiful and harmonious designs that are pleasing to the eye. Here are some key concepts you should know and keep in mind when decorating cookies.

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The Color Wheel

The color wheel is a visual tool that shows the relationship between different colors. It is made up of the primary colors (red, blue, and yellow), secondary colors (green, orange, and purple), and tertiary colors (yellow-green, yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, and blue-green). By understanding the relationships between these colors, you can create color schemes that are harmonious and visually appealing.

color wheel
primary colors

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. For example, red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and purple are all complementary colors. When used together, complementary colors can create a high-contrast, eye-catching effect, but they can also clash if not used carefully.
complimentary colors

Analogous Colors

Analogous colors are colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. For example, red, orange, and yellow are analogous colors, as are blue, green, and yellow-green. When used together, analogous colors tend to create a cohesive and harmonious effect.
analogous colors

Color Temperature

Color temperature refers to the perceived warmth or coolness of a color. Warm colors (such as red, orange, and yellow) are associated with energy and excitement, while cool colors (such as blue, green, and purple) are associated with calmness and relaxation. Temperature can be also associated with whatever emotion you are trying to express with your particular cookie design.

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When it comes to cookie decorating, you can use color theory to create stunning designs. For example, you might choose a complementary color scheme (such as red and green) for a holiday-themed cookie, or an analogous color scheme (such as blue and purple) for a more calming design. You can also experiment with different shades and tones of the same color to create depth and interest in your designs.

When mixing royal icing colors, it is best to start with a white base and a small amount of icing. The best food colors to use are gel and paste food colors, since they tend to be more concentrated than liquid food colors and won’t affect the consistency of the icing as much. Remember that color will develop with time once added the icing. It may take a couple of minutes for the color to fully be absorbed, so don’t immediately add more color, or you could risk changing the consistency and taste of your icing.

When you really understand how the color wheel works, you'll find it much easier to mix colors that may have been intimidating in the past. Here's how to make a few new colors by mixing what you already have:

  • Coral: Mix equal parts of Preppy Pink and Outrageously Orange gel food color to make a beautiful Coral shade. You’ll be applying the principle of mixing warm colors for a harmonious color scheme.
  • Mint: Mix small equal parts of True Blue and Gourmet Green gel food color to make a soft shade of mint. Mix more or less of these analogous colors to create darker or lighter shades.
  • Dusty Pink: Mix a small amount of Countess Pink and a larger amount of white royal icing with a drop of Totally Brown gel food coloring to create a dusty rose shade. This color combination utilizes the principle of mixing warm and cool colors to create a muted, vintage-inspired color scheme.

There’s an infinite amount of color combinations that can be possible when you know how to use the color wheel. Adjusting the number of drops of color added can make lighter or darker shades of the same colors, giving your creations even more depth. Experiment with different color combinations to create your own unique royal icing colors, and don't be afraid to try something new!

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Tanya Kollar - May 22, 2023

Thank you for your color help here. Was very helpful. Sincerely Tanya

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