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12 Cookie Decorating Tips That Everyone Needs to Know

Use our simple cookie decorating tips to make homemade treats look almost like a pro baker's best.

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Use a guide for even thickness

For cutout cookies, try using a thickness guide on your rolling pin to create uniform size. (You can use rings that slide onto your pin or ruler-type guides.) This will not only make your cookies look more professional, but they’ll taste better if they all cook through at the same rate.

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cookie decorating tips Round Cut Of Cookie's Doughanamejia18/Getty Images

Cut custom shapes

Use the top of a drinking glass or champagne flute to cut circular shapes of various sizes. For squares or rectangles, use a pizza cutter to slice right through rolled-out dough.

If you’re starting a cookie-cutter collection, try these multi-cookie cutters to save rolling time and get right to decorating.

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Confetti Cake Batter CookiesTaste of Home

Bake in sprinkles for color

The easiest—and fastest—possible way to add pizzazz to your cookies? Bake the sprinkles right in. Try it with any cutout or drop sugar cookie recipe.

Funfetti lovers, get your serious sprinkle fix with these easy cake mix cookies.

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cookie decorating tips Homemade Cookies With A Dark Chocolate DrizzleJulyProkopiv/Getty Images

Paint with chocolate

If “abstract” is more your decorating style, embrace it! There’s no fussing with a melted chocolate drizzle. It’s common on biscotti, but you can’t go wrong with a splash of chocolate over simple peanut butter cookies, shortbread or even chocolate chip.

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cookie decorating tips Showing How To Make Your Own Piping, Or Icing, Bag Using A Plastic BagMacGregor, Stuart/Getty Images

Make your own piping bag

MacGyver your way to decorating glory. Cut a small hole in the corner of a zip-top bag to make a homemade piping bag. Use as-is or insert piping tips, if you have them.

For your next baking project, here’s a collection of our favorite decorating supplies to help make it simple.

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cookie decorating tips Shortbread Christmas Tree Cookies On White Plate With Glass Of MilkKris Timken/Getty Images

Use the “dip & dot” technique

Dress up simple sugar cookies or drop cookies with melted baking chips (in any color!) plus some sprinkles, candies or nuts. Simply dip one edge of the cookie in the melted chips, then dip in toppings. These unicorn manes use a super-easy five-ingredient batter to make treats kids love.

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Orange Sugar CookiesTaste of Home

Perfect your royal icing recipe

Top even the most basic recipes with pretty royal icing to make eye-catching cookies without a lot of prep work. Bake any type of everyday cutouts and decorate. Even a simple, one-color coating will do.

Read more about royal icing and how to use it before you get decorating.

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cookie decorating tips Woman And Child Decorating Cookies TogetherCarlina Teteris/Getty Images

Use the right icing for your project

Not all icings are equal. Some, such as royal icing, are great for details, while others make for soft, fluffy toppings. If you’re baking with kids, try a super simple icing made of confectioners’ sugar and water. For more advanced projects, make a big batch of royal icing and divide it into small bowls for making different colors.

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cookie decorating tips Woman Bringing A Fresh Tray Of Cookies To Her Kids IcingCarlina Teteris/Getty Images

Use gel food coloring

There’s no shortage of types of food coloring for your cookies. For vibrant hues, try using a gel food coloring or even more concentrated gel paste. The liquid drops are handy for making light or pastel colors, but loud, saturated or neon colors are easiest to make with gel.

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cookie decorating tips Unicorn Shaped CookiesKryssia Campos/Getty Images

Allow cookies to cool completely

Plan. Ahead. First, your cookies should be completely cooled before any icing is added. If you’ll be adding details to a base layer of icing, give your first color a few hours to dry before adding on. Then, let your final product dry overnight or up to 24 hours to let them set up before stacking or wrapping.

Here’s what to shop for when you’re ready to level up your decorations.

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cookie decorating tips Chocolate Pudding In Wooden Spoon On The CookerBurak Karademir/Getty Images

Temper your chocolate

For dipping cookies (or fruit or anything else, for that matter), tempering chocolate is the best way to melt it. It results in a shiny finish and a snappy texture. To temper, bring a pot of water to boiling and remove from heat. Place a heat-safe bowl on top of the pot and add chocolate. Stir until the chocolate melts and reaches 88°F. Remove immediately and use.

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cookie decorating tips Christmas cinnamon cookies icing decorating process with a pastry bagKuvona/Getty Images

Smooth edges with a microplane

Get rid of rough, bumpy or too-brown edges with a microplane. Pick up a completely cooled cookie, and gently “sand” the edges to make clean, smooth lines. Brush extra cookie crumbs off before adding your decorations.

Elizabeth Harris
Liz is an unapologetic homebody who loves bowling and beers almost as much as food and fitness. The highlight of her week is making cheesy popcorn for her family on movie night. She's been hooked on Taste of Home since interning for the magazine in 2010.