Why Does Royal Icing Bleed?

I bet you have probably asked yourself, “Why does royal icing bleed?” I know I have asked that question many, many times. I’ve been making cookies for years now and have realized a few things about RI. The one thing I can say for sure is there is not just one reason that causes it to bleed. I wish I could say, “Don’t do _____ (fill in the blank)” and all your icing bleeding problems will be over, but it is not that easy. Don’t get stressed out because I do have some tips that might help.

Why does Royal Icing Bleed www.thebearfootbaker.com

I’m sure you recognize some of these cookies that I’ve been hoarding for months now testing my theories about why royal icing bleeds. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve learned a few things that I do to help prevent myself from asking the dreaded question, “Why does royal icing bleed every time I need my cookies to look good?”

These tips work for me, but they may not work for you. I hope this post will shed some light on your issues and inspire you to experiment with your icing so you can pinpoint what works and what makes your icing behave badly.

Why Does Royal Icing Bleed?

Where you live has a lot to do with the way your icing behaves. Humidity can cause royal icing to bleed. I live in a humid climate so I have to be careful. I have a friend that lives in a dry climate and she has never experienced bleeding problems. Isn’t she a lucky girl?


Why does Royal Icing Bleed www.thebearfootbaker.com

If you live in a humid climate, there are a few things you can do to help with the bleeding problems. You can dry your icing with a fan-like Sweet Sugar Belle suggests. It really helped my icing and it is very affordable.

Lila Loa suggests using a food dehydrator. I have not tried this method myself because the fan did the trick for me. If you are interested in a food dehydrator, click here.

I have also heard you can use a dehumidifier. I have a friend that uses one and she swears by it, but dehumidifiers are expensive.

Don’t Rush the Drying Time!

Why Does Royal Icing Bleed by thebearfootbaker.com

When I look at Goldilocks I know exactly what I did to cause the dress to bleed onto the legs, arms, and hair. I was in a hurry or just plain old impatient. If I would have waited 20 minutes before I added the dress she would have looked fine. After I saw the blue color on her legs I found myself starring at her asking, “Why does royal icing bleed?” DUH! I know why. I was impatient.

Don’t get in a hurry. Let the sections dry before you move onto the next color.

Use a Good Royal Icing Recipe


Half Batch of Royal Icing Recipe www.thebearfootbaker.com

I once used a royal icing recipe that drove me crazy. Everything I did was a giant mess. I started using this recipe and  Ta-Dah, instant improvement and no more bleeding. Experiment with different recipes until you find one you like that likes your climate.

Use Less Food Gel to Color the Icing


Why Does Royal icing bleed by The Bearfoot Baker

When I began decorating, I would add a ton of gel colors when I mixed my icing. I really don’t know why, but I thought the more color I added the better things would be. Boy was I wrong. The more gel I added the more I asked myself, “Why does royal icing bleed?”  Once the gel is added to the icing, the colors begin to darken. It continues to darken even after you pipe it onto your cookies. So it makes sense to use less gel and therefore you will have less bleeding.

I know a lot of decorators mix their icing colors the night before they use them, but to be honest I don’t always have time. However, mix my colors and wait an hour or so before I use them which means I can let them darken without using a ton of gel colors.

 Airbrushing and Painting are a Great Way to Stop Your Icing From Bleeding


Why Does Royal Icing Bleed by thebearfootbaker.com

I have never had a cookie that I have painted or airbrushed bleed. Never! This is all the reason in the world I need to airbrush and paint more. It puts my mind at ease to know that the colors will not bleed so my cookies are safe. I have never asked myself, “Why does royal icing bleed?” when I use these techniques.

I love airbrushing and painting on cookies and if you have not tried it yet, I want to encourage you to do so. Here is a video on how to paint on a cookie if you want to give it a try.

I made these cookies a long time ago and you can see the red didn’t bleed on the white of the cotton candy cone or, the red didn’t bleed on the pink of the bunny. If I would have pipped red icing onto the white cone, I know in my gut that it would have bled.

I am sorry, but it bears repeating, “Consistency!”


Why Does Royal Icing Bleed by thebearfootbaker.com

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I have had these cookies for a long time. Remember when I made this Royal Icing Consistency Video? The bear cookies are from that post. The date was March 18th and the cookies were made a week or so before that. I would have thought for sure the dark brown icing would have bled onto the paws, nose, and mama bear’s pearls, but to my surprise, they didn’t. The red bunny nose didn’t bleed onto the white rabbit either. And the tan on the monkey face didn’t absorb the brown. 

If your icing is thin, it has a tendency to bleed more than thicker icing. I like to use 15-second icing to flood these days. It really has helped and I can build up my icing more as I did in the video.

I think there are 4 reasons these cookies didn’t bleed.

  1. The paws, pearls, flowers, eyes, and noses were RI Transfers. Transfers are a great way to help stop icing from bleeding. You can let the transfer dry for a week or so before you use it so it doesn’t absorb the base color.
  2. I used a fan to dry them. Thank you so much, Sweet Sugar Belle.
  3. I was patient and let the sections dry a bit before I added the next section.
  4. CONSISTENCY! I used a thicker icing consistency to flood. The 15-second icing works great in my area.

These are the things I do that work for me and I hope it will help you answer the question, “Why does royal icing bleed?” I don’t claim to be an expert or have all the answers and I’m just trying to help give tips on things that I’ve noticed through the years.

I am also a firm believer that two heads are better than one and if we all put our heads together, we might be able to help prevent others from being frustrated when they decorate. What do you do to stop your royal icing from bleeding? Do you have a tip, trick, or technique that you are willing to share with us? If so, we would love for you to leave a comment.

Bear hugs,