I have been asked many times in the last few weeks about how to make PYO cookies. When I wanted to make the first PYO cookies I did, I went searching for some online tutorials. I didn’t have any luck, so it was just trial and error on my part. Now that I am trying to write a tutorial for these cookies I can understand why there isn’t one. When writing everything out it seems like it’s going to be a daunting task, as there is no quick and easy way to tell you everything. But, be patient and bear with me. Once you read everything you will see how easy they are to make and will hopefully get the courage to try your own. I promise you that you will wonder what took you so long! Because I didn’t plan to make this post I don’t have good step by step photos.
You will need a few supplies to get you started. One of the most popular PYO cutters available is from Creative Cookier. It comes in two sizes. I bought the larger one, but I sometimes wish I had bought the smaller one.
You may use any cutter you like as long as it is big enough to hold your image. A search on Pinterest will bring up hundreds of ideas. The reason I like the one shown is because it has a ready place to put your paint dots and a place to lay the paint brush.
You will also need a stencil. I bought my first PYO stencils on Etsy, which has many options to choose from. I am now learning how to cut stencils with my Silhouette machine. The ones pictured below are the first ones that I cut myself. There is a Facebook page for a Silhouette Cookie group, and the very talented Kealalani Baumann made these files available to the members of the group.
That’s all you “need” for this project, but there are a couple of items that make the process so much easier so I have to mention them.
The Stencil Genie is an amazing tool for stenciling cookies. I did a blog post on my thoughts about this wonderful tool. You may read it here. There are some basic stenciling tips in the blog post that you might find helpful.
The last tool that isn’t a necessity, but one that I find really helpful are these scrapers. I used to use an offset spatula. The spatula works but not as easily as the scrapers. They are also from Creative Cookier
I have not received anything from Creative Cookier to recommend these products, I just really like them and think you might find them helpful, as well.
First you will need to cut, bake and flood your cookies with royal icing. Let them dry for 24 hours.
There are several ways to get your paint dots on the cookie. Some people paint a circle of the color they want directly on the cookie. I prefer to use royal icing transfers. I made a sheet full of circles awhile ago, and I store them in a covered container and then paint them when I need them. I do all of my transfers on acetate or transparency film (the kind used for overhead projectors). They seem to dry faster and pop off easier than on parchment paper or waxed paper but you can use that as well. If you choose to use acetate, lightly grease it with something like Crisco. I wipe it all over and then take a paper towel and wipe most of it off. I almost always use an image of what I am making under my acetate. I use small magnets to secure them to the back of a small cookie sheet so that I can easily move the transfers to a safe place to dry when I’m done. This is one of the free images available through Google that you can print to use as a pattern. This is a one inch circle but you can Google whatever size you want. Measure the space on your cookie that you will be putting the dots on to make sure you have enough room to put all the colors you want on each cookie. Print it out and put it under the paper you are going to pipe your transfer on. Stay inside the circle with your icing because it will spread a little. When getting ready to paint the dots it will be easier to paint them if you stick them to your paper with a dot of icing, otherwise they will slide around as you are trying to paint them. DO NOT add the dots to your cookie until after you have stenciled them, because your stencil will not lie flat on the cookie.
When I first started making PYO cookies I used gel color mixed with a little vodka for the “paint.” They took at least 5 days to dry. I did a little research and found that a lot of cookiers use airbrush colors instead of the gel colors because they dry so much faster. They were right. You don’t need to add any vodka to it. You will just paint the color straight on the transfer and let dry. One coat will usually be enough. They still take longer to dry than you think they will, so plan accordingly. Mine took a full day to dry.
Next, you will need to choose what your stencil medium will be. Most people use thick royal icing and I always did, too (the cookies at the top of this post were done with royal icing). My main complaint with that process was that when the outline got wet, the color ran a little. The kids didn’t care, but I didn’t like the way they looked. I experimented with using chocolate candy melts on my Halloween PYO cookies a couple of weeks ago, and it worked like a charm! I melted some candy melts and used that in place of royal icing for the stencil. My theory was that once the chocolate was dry, a little water wouldn’t melt it and the edges would stay nice and tidy. I was right, it worked wonderfully! It will be my stencil medium of choice from now on. The cookie below was done with black candy melts. I used a snow globe cutter because I wanted a smaller cookie this time.
When you are ready to stencil your image on the cookie, secure the stencil in place and scrape the icing or candy melts down the stencil in one smooth stroke. This video by the always fabulous Julia Usher is what I used to learn how to stencil. Truthfully, I learned most of what I know about decorating cookies from watching her videos.
If using candy melts, melt them by placing them in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for as long as it takes for them to be almost melted. That will depend on how many candy melts you are melting. I did a small custard cup with 1/3 cup of candy melts and it took about 40 seconds. Stir until fully melted. Let it cool and thicken and then proceed as you would with royal icing. Place a dollop of the chocolate at the top of the stencil and run your scraper or offset spatula down the cookie in one smooth stroke. Remove the stencil and set the cookie aside to dry. Another advantage of using candy melts is that the cookie dries in just a few minutes. I can usually do about 4-6 cookies before I need to wash the stencil. You will wash your stencil with warm, soapy water to remove the chocolate then pat dry with a paper towel. If you are doing a lot of cookies you might want to keep your bowl of melted chocolate in a larger bowl of warm water to keep the chocolate of spreading consistency. I only did 6 cookies, so I didn’t need to use a water bath. I could probably have done a dozen or more cookies with the chocolate that I melted. It takes much less than one would think.
You will also need paint brushes to give with each cookie. I found the best price at Walmart. I paid about $1.00 for 20 paint brushes. If you want a shorter handled paint brush you can break or cut off as much as you like. Then take a lighter and melt the end. It only takes a few seconds and it makes a nice rounded end on the brush. I bag the cookies and tie a ribbon around the top securing the paint brush in the ribbon. It makes a nice presentation.
I buy cellophane bags from Gifts International. I buy bags that can be tied at the top for PYO cookies. I like the self sealing bags for other cookies. Their prices are really good, but the shipping is a little high. I try to order about a 6 month supply of bags at once to minimize the shipping costs. I bag every cookie that I give away so I go through quite a few bags in a year.
I print some instructions to tape to the back of each bag. Feel free to copy and print it for your cookies.
Paint Your Own Cookie
- Dip the brush in water
- Wet the color you want to use
- Color the picture
- Rinse brush in clean water before using on a different color.
- Eat your creation!!
I hope these instructions are clear enough and will give you the boost you need to make your own PYO cookies. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. I will do my best to answer them. You may also find me on Facebook.
Have fun and good luck!
Thank you so much for sharing!
I hope you found it helpful!!
Terri Kunza says
Great tutorial!!! I’m ready to try PYO!!
Excellent! I hope you will share your finished cookies!!
Hi! Thanks so much for sharing this, I am going to be trying PYO cookies for the first time in the next week or so. I do not have an airbrush machine, so would I just paint on the color and vodka mixture once the dollop of icing is dry? Also, how did you then secure the “paint” on to the actual cookie…. I’m not sure if I missed that part or not. Thanks!!
Yes, paint the color on the icing dot once it is completely dry. To adhere it to the cookie, put a dot of royal icing on the back of the dot or on the cookie where you want to place the color dot.
THANK YOU!!! So much great info! I’m going to try this for the first time and feel confident because of all your detail!
That’s awesome! Thanks for your kind words!!
I might have missed something but where can we purchase the paint the kids use.
The “paint” is food coloring painted on the icing dots. Alternatively, you can paint the color dots directly on the cookie if you don’t want to make the royal icing dots.
Hi! Which consistency of icing should be used to do the dots? Thanks!
I usually use about 20 second icing and put them immediately in front of a fan to crust and dry.
Roxana Rosario says
Thank you so much for writing this up and sharing!! So helpful!
Thanks Rachelle! I’m glad you find it useful!
I just discovered paint your own cookies and love your tutorial! Do you know if a black food coloring marker would work instead of the candy melts to stencil the cookie?
I’m sorry to say they don’t work well. The black will smear. You can use royal icing instead of candy melts. That will hold up to the water better than markers will.
Can I ask how long the cookies would last, wrapped, after you had made them? Thank you x
If they are wrapped well they will stay fresh tasting for several weeks. You can also freeze them, wrapped. Just make sure you put them in a covered container and do not open the container until the cookies are totally room temperature to avoid condensation on the cookies.
Meagan G. says
What a great idea to use candy melts for the outline! I just started looking for a tutorial on PYO cookies and I am soooo glad I found your first! I believe my first round of cookie will be great thanks to these wonderful tips you were kind enough to share!
I’m so glad you found me too!! Good luck and if you think of it could you let me know how it works out and maybe a picture of your creation.
Great tutorial! Do the candy melts tend to melt in heat.
Going to try this at our craft fair outside in October- I’m in Georgia , it won’t be super hot but just curious if the melts tend to get soft
Thank you!! I don’t think they will melt as long as it’s not super hot. I always put them in the refrigerator to “set” the chocolate. After that they seem to be fine at room temperature.
I am om. sSIand thought I would try selling them at farmers market. I’m in Florida ,was wondering if the candy melts will smudge on the cello bags.iwas thinking they would be fun for ladies in my community .maybe a flower or something nice.i teach art class every six weeks. I. Wondering if there’s a palette cookie cutter to put my dots on won’t that be cute. Thanks for your great tutorial
Thank you! The chocolate might get too soft in the heat. I would go with royal icing instead. There is a palette cookie cutter. I have seen several on Etsy. Sweet Sugarbelle also has a tutorial on cutting it yourself. http://www.sweetsugarbelle.com/2013/05/paint-palette-cookies/ A friend of mine brought them to a senior citizens home and they loved painting the cookies. I think it’s a great idea!! Let me know how it works out!
You are amazing! Thank you for sharing your talent and a great tutorial! With easy to understand and read directions! with links 🙂 PERFECT!!! Thank you!
Thanks and I’m glad you can use the info!!
Michele Ackerman says
So thankful I found you! I know it will make some great treats for my children classes as well as my daycare.
Thank you so much for being so willing to answer questions and share your knowledge.
I’m so glad you found it helpful!! Thanks for your note!!
I love that you shared your information,I’m sorry if this is a silly question or a,ready asked .do I use regular gel colors straight from bottle to cookie or do I have to mix with something or do you have to use airbrush colors and also did you ever try fondant instead of royal to cover the cookie? I’m so excited to try this out . Thanks again for sharing
There is no such thing as a silly question!! How will we all learn if we don’t ask questions! You use the colors straight from the bottle. You can use gel colors or airbrush colors. If you are using the gel colors do a thin coat and plan ahead because they take a long time to dry. If they are a little tacky when you are ready to package them you can brush them with a little cornstarch. Airbrush colors dry faster but gel colors work fine. I have used fondant on cookies but never on a PYO cookie. I don’t see why it wouldn’t work except it might get a little soggy from the “paint”. Good luck and have fun!!
Thank you for all the great info! All the tips and links helped me to prepare. I’m going to attempt a PYO Cookie party with my grand daughters for the oldest’s birthday celebration. I bought them little aprons that their Mom decorated with their initials to keep the party clothes from getting destroyed 🙂 Wish me luck! Should be so much fun.
That should be so much fun! They will love them!
Laura Colwell says
Thank you for spending the time to add so much detail in your tutorial! Can’t wait to surprise the kids with these.
Thank you! I’m sure they will love them!
Hi there I am going to try for first time. I don’t have a airbrush. But can I paint the “paint with just normal food colour gel?
I’m sorry for the delay in answering you. Yes, you can paint with normal gel colors. They will take longer to dry so plan accordingly.
Nancy lopez says
Hello, thank you for your tutorial. I want to try and make PYO cookies for my daughter’s birthday party this month. I do not have an airbrush machine. So how would I mix the gel food coloring with vodka? Do I add the food coloring to the royal icing then add the vodka into it?
You don’t need to mix the gel color with vodka. All you need to do is paint a thin coat of gel color on white royal icing dots. But, several companies have just introduced ready made paint palettes like these https://www.thecookiecountess.com/collections/paint-your-own-pyo-cookie-supplies. Another thing I have noticed recently is that people are just painting gel color onto cardstock and using them instead of making royal icing dots. I haven’t tried either yet but I will soon. Good luck!!
Shannon V says
I want to buy stencil designs and then cut them myself, do you know what is the best stencil film to do this? Loved your tutorial!
I use Oracal 651 5 mil to cut my stencils. I have a Silhouette machine and it doesn’t like the 7 mil but most Cricut users can cut the 7 mil with no problem. A lot of the people who sell stencil cut them from the 5 mil and I haven’t had any problems with it being too thin.
Kaitlyn Crenshaw says
I’ve looked everywhere for oracal 5 mil and I can’t find anything!! Do you have a link to where you order from?
Oracel is used for silk screen stencils. You need DurLar for traditional mylar stencils. https://amzn.to/2T92ccO
Do you think if you colored the royal icing then made them into dots it would work?
Sadly it does not work. You need the gel color to act as paint.
Miss A says
My sugar cookie recipe does not make the most flat cookies. Do you have a recipe to share for the cookie? Also, my cookies are soft. Do they need to be firmer?
I’ve been asked about making some for a kindergarten class for Christmas.
Here you go!! http://sugarcoatednanagrams.com/2015/05/10/sugar-cookies/
Miss A says
My email address had a mistake in it in my previous message. Sorry!!
Can you recommend a cookie recipe. I make tons of sugar cookies decorated with royal icing but the tops aren’t as flat as what I have seen for PYO cookies.
One thing you can do is to lay a cookie sheet on top of your cookies as soon as you take them out of the oven. Run your hand around to flatten the cookies.
rachel hiller says
Thank you so much! Great tutorial! My icing is coming out messy. Do you think i can you fondant and is it freezable? Also, can fhe icing dots be frozen? Thanks!
You are very welcome! I’m not sure if you can use fondant (yes it’s freezable). I think the fondant would get funny when they started painting them and the fondant get wet. The icing dots can be frozen but they don’t need to be. I keep them in a glass jar or a plastic container. They will last for years. Have you tried my royal icing recipe? There are a few tips that you might find helpful even if you use your recipe. http://sugarcoatednanagrams.com/2015/05/09/royal-icing/
Amazing paint your own cookie. I think I will try this with my kids. I’m sure they will enjoy doing their own cookie and enjoy eating them afterwards, Thanks for sharing!
Thank you!! My grandkids love doing them! Have fun!!
Hi there I’m keen to try this. Fantastic information thank you. A few questions do you think you could ice and stencil the cookies then freeze them before painting? Looking to do them in preparation for Christmas
Thanks you!! You absolutely can do them ahead of time and freeze them. Just make sure that you thaw them in the container so they don’t get condensation.
Thank you so much for your reply. I love your detailed instructions. One other question. If i was doing it for a group activity. Could i put small amounts of paint in a bowl and they dip brushes straight into colour and onto the cookie rather than make the royal icing paint dots?
I’m sorry for the delay in answering you!!! I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. It takes just a dot of gel color to paint a whole cookie so it might be more wasteful than painting the dots but it would work. If you try it, please let me know how it works.
can’t find 20 paint brushes for a dollar
do you have a link for me?
I’m sorry but I don’t. I wrote that over 3 years ago so I’m not sure Walmart sells them anymore. Some people buy small makeup brushes on Amazon. They are pretty reasonable.
I’ve been looking for a while on how to do this! So awesome! I have a question..the dots were made of what? you said use the template to pipe dots but I’m not sure what the dots were made of.. I’m thinking royal icing and let it dry? i understand that i need to mix gel and lemon juice and paint it over the white dot right? Thank you!
I’m sorry for the delay in answering you. My computer died and it took awhile to get a new one up and running. I do make the white dots with royal icing. You don’t need to add anything to the gel color to paint on the dots. I hope this helps!
Do you know the name of the fb group for those that cookie and silhouette?
I’m sorry for the delay in answering you!! My computer died and it took awhile to get a new one up and running. I don’t know of a FB group for cookiers who also use a Silhouette.
I’m glad you enjoyed the tutorial. Everyone (even adults) find these cookies a lot of fun.