How To Make Decorated Paint-Your-Own (PYO) Cookies

They go by many names -- Paint-Your-Own, PYO, Color-A-Cookies, Paint-A-Cookies...etc. But whatever you call them, there are tons of options for making them. Use this tutorial to learn all the different ways you can create paint-your-own designs on decorated sugar cookies!

Do you guys know Marlyn? She's the brilliance behind the very popular YouTube Channel - Montreal Confections. I LOVE HER BRAIN!!! You guys. Did you know that it's been just over two years since Marlyn introduced the world to her genius idea of PAINT-YOUR-OWN COOKIES??!

That's right. We all have Marlyn to thank for that truly amazing stroke of genius. If you don't already follow her at Montreal Confections - you should. She's always coming up with clever things!

PYO cookies are the perfect combination of dessert and activity. And if we're being completely honest -- sometimes I make them for my children so I can hide in my bedroom for JUST 15 MINUTES without someone screaming or crying or screaming AND crying because **someone** took the scrap of paper that they were using for a bookmark and won't give it back and no other scrap of paper in the entire universe will ever be able to serve the same purpose.

And with Thanksgiving looming on the horizon... I thought I'd give you a few more ways to make this edible craft even more accessible for all skill levels!


The key to a good PYO cookie is to start with a solid base. If you don't feel super confident in your royal icing skills -- that's okay! You can make an entire PYO cookie without a single ounce of royal icing. Or glaze icing even. Or any other kind of icing. Grab some fondant from the grocery store. Or craft store. can even make your own with marshmallows, water, and powdered sugar! (Grab the recipe for a small batch of fondant here.)

Here is my super cheater pants way to make these. Are you ready? (You're cool with cheating? Imma tell your mom.) (Seriously though...don't tell MY mom.) (She would NOT approve of cheating.) Roll the fondant out thin while the cookies are baking. Use the same cookie cutter to cut the fondant that you used for the cookies. When the cookies come out of the oven, give them about 30 seconds so you don't burn your ever loving hands off... and then gently place each piece of fondant on top of each cookie. And then -- stop touching them. The fondant will start to melt into the cookie. As they cool, they will be fused together!

Then grab some food color markers and get back in touch with the teenager in you that used to write everything in the world in that weird bubble language. Or let everyone draw their own pictures. Or make them write a thank you note! Or just pretend that that THING that your three year old drew really IS a picture of you and her riding a purple sparkly unicorn to her Aunt's house where she will get popcorn and a confetti cannon.


If you're feeling up to a little royal icing action, go ahead and give your cookies a base coat of white royal icing. Let it dry completely. Then grab some of those food color markers and get drawing and coloring and enjoying your sugary therapy.

A word of caution -- seriously let your cookies dry before trying to draw on them with a marker. If the icing isn't completely dry, the markers will push through the surface...and you will be sad. Hopefully not too sad because...I mean...sugar. But still - let that icing have some time to think about it's life and who it really is deep down. And hopefully by morning it will have decided that deep down -- it's actually just completely dry.


If you're feeling even more adventurous, you can PIPE your own designs into the wet flood icing! WHAT?! It's true. Totally possible. I recommend starting with shapes that are familiar to you. Leaves and pumpkins are a great option for Thanksgiving.

I can actually already hear you asking -- so I'm just going to preemptive answer.

How do I keep my black icing from bleeding into my white icing?! 

There are a few things you can do.

1. You could add just a little more meringue powder to your royal icing recipe.
2. Add white food coloring to your white icing.
3. Place the cookie in front of a fan immediately after piping the design.
4. ALWAYS USE FRESH ICING. Old icing is about eleventy million times more likely to have color bleed issues.
5. Don't live somewhere humid. 不不不不不不不

Seriously 5. If you live somewhere really humid, or just have massive color bleeding issues, you can always wait until the white base icing is completely dry and pipe the design on top of the cookie.


By far the most popular way of making PYO cookies now is to use a stencil. Outline and fill the cookie with white icing. Let it dry for at least 4-6 hours...or overnight. Place a stencil on top of the cookie and scrape black icing over the stencil. Easy peasy! And there are hundreds of great PYO stencil designs out there in this great big cookie world of ours!!

You can see in this photo and the one above, that I like to use royal icing transfers for my paint palettes. I pipe shapes (You can do circles...I chose hearts because I don't listen to things like "logic" and "reasoning" and "the need to actually sleep" when making design choices.) on parchment paper and let them dry. You can airbrush them different colors or just paint concentrated food coloring on to the dry icing shapes. When they are super dry (at least 24 hours), remove them from the parchment and drop them on to a recently flood palette-sized cookie.

You can also paint circles of food coloring directly on to the iced cookie. Some people like to use candies like M&Ms for the palette colors as well.


Check out Marlyn's entire PAINT-YOUR-OWN PLAYLIST for tons of great designs and palette ideas!!!

Check out your local cake or crafting stores for food color markers. They often have great sales and coupons. The SWEET SUGARBELLE BLACK TEMPLATE MARKERS are my favorite black markers. And this is actually the most amazing SET OF FOOD COLOR MARKERS I've tried yet!!

These shops have great PYO stencil options -- THE COOKIE COUNTESS (The DWC ones are my favorite!), BUTTERCUP LOVE DESIGNS, STENCIL EXPRESSIONS, and SWEET SOUTHERN STENCILS.


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