Make Your Own Sanding Sugar

Now that I’ve confessed my love of sanding sugar, I guess it’s okay to tell you how deep the obsession really runs.  After seeing my collection, you’d think I have enough, right?

But I’m not one for stopping at enough.  I’m an above and beyond kind of girl.

If for some reason I don’t have sanding sugar in the color I need, I make my own.

And just so I’ll have others to point fingers at when my husband starts accusing me of being crazy, you should too!  It’s SOOOOOOOOOOOO easy!

Here’s what you need:

  • clear sparkling sugar, which can be found HERE
  • gel food coloring like Wilton or Americolor
  • cornstarch
  • heavy duty zip top bag
  • cookie sheet lined with waxed paper

To begin, pour 1/2 a cup of sugar into the zip to bag and add a bit of color.  Start with a drop or two at the most.  A little goes a long way!

Use your hands to knead the color into the sugar.  Be easy enough that you don’t crush the sugar crystals.  It will start out looking like this,

and like this the longer you knead.

I decided mine wasn’t dark enough after a couple minutes of mixing, so I added a bit more color.

After a few more minutes the sugar finally reached the color I had in mind.  The only trouble is the gel color makes it a little sticky.

To remedy this I add a bit of cornstarch.  I start with 1/4 of a teaspoon trying to add the smallest amount possible until the sugar “flows” like dry sugar.

Mix them in the same way you did the color. Lay the bag on a flat surface and spread the sugar out looking for dark clumps and gently break them up with your fingers.

After the ingredients are well mixed pour the sugar onto a wax paper lined baking sheet and let it dry for a bit to get rid of any moisture that might remain.

Store the sugar in airtight containers or decorative jars.  Mine are jars from other sprinkles that I’d washed and saved.

Because of the cornstarch, my DIY sugar isn’t quite AS sparkly as Americolor sugar, but it still has a nice sheen and looks great on cookies.  Navy, turquoise, and lime green are the shades I’ve used most, along with warm brown, electric purple, and salmon pink.

A few tips for those who want to try this project…

  • If you need a very soft shade, use Wilton gel colors and a toothpick
  • Sometimes the grocery store carries “sparkling” sugar. In my experience, it’s usually only available around major holidays, but it’s worth a looksie
  • regular sugar does not work as well for this because the grains are too small, in my humble opinion
  • when making custom colored sugar you CAN mix gel colors
  • keep the color intense by using as little cornstarch as possible
  • Use heavy duty bags because sugar granules can break through thinner ones
  • Even though it’s a cool trick, never tell your husband about this or he will bring it up any time another bag of sanding sugar arrives at your door
  • If you’re not sure how to apply sanding sugar to a cookie, click HERE

DIY sanding sugar is also great for  people on a budget or with limited storage space.  Try this.  You’ll be hooked!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

I am linking up to several fun linky parties this week you should check them out.  I find the darnedest things there!

i heart naptime’s Sunday scoop

EDITED  I am adding this as an afterthought because I wrote it in the comment section and I am not sure everyone will see it.  If you’re worried about shine, they make a product called confectioners glaze that I THINK might make the sugar sparkle more, but mine sparkles enough that I didn’t want to invest in anything I wasn’t sure of.  In my experience the sparklier the clear sugar, the more sparkly the final product.  I’ve never played with confectioners glaze so I was a little hesitant to buy a bottle but if you try this and it works, let me know!

Join The Discussion



  1. 91
    Jetta says:

    I hope it is OK that I linked your awesome tutorial to my blog. I have a recipe that I made needing sugar to decorate a bread. I had purchased the sugar, but in case some one wanted to make their own… your tutorial is great!

  2. 92
    SusieQ Martin says:

    Where did you get the Jar’s at?

  3. 93
    Lisa Wilcox says:

    Hi! Love your blog! After searching the internet for hours looking for specific colored sanding sugars, I finally found you! Whew, what a relief! My question is this: How would I go about mixing the gel coloring to get the shades of sanding sugar I need? Do I add one color to the sugar, mix it all up & then add the other color and work it in? Or should I try to mix the colors beforehand & add combined colors to sugar? I don’t have much experience with any of this, so any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  4. 94
    val says:

    Just came across this post and thought I’d mention that to avoid using cornstarch altogether, if you spread the colored sugar on parchment on a cookie sheet and put in the oven on the lowest temp (you don’t want caramel) or heat your oven a bit then turn it off and leave the door open. Depending on how much sugar you have, will take from 15 mins to 30 mins. Might clump up a bit but squishing it in a bag after, breaks it up again. I just made black sanding sugar with gel paste and it came out great!

  5. 95
    val says:

    PS! Also made gold using Americolor gold liquid color – not bad at all!!!

  6. 96

    So cute, I love how you can make little art pieces out of it too!


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