Creating an Invisible Outline with Royal Icing

Cookie decorating is more than a hobby, it’s an art.  With time and practice we develop a style and technique all our own.  After four years of practice some of my “techniques” are so ingrained that they’re habit.

One particular technique that seems to interest people is creating a invisible royal icing outline.  I’ve done it for so long that I didn’t even notice until a friend pointed it out. This is what gives my cookies that seamless “poofy” look.  It’s a little tricky at first, but with patience you can create an invisible icing border too.

Pink Butterfly Cookies_SweetsugarbelleBegin by outlining the cookie.  I usually prefer a #2 tip.

Invisible Outline with Royal Icing_1The most important elements of invisible royal icing outlines are icing consistency and an offset spatula.  The icing must be thin enough to flow but not so thin it runs over the edge of the outline.  There are variables such as climate and recipe that might affect consistency, but basically you’re looking for a something similar to honey or shampoo.  It may take a little time to figure out what’s “just right” so don’t give up.

Flood the cookie as pictured below, starting with the outline and moving toward the middle of the cookie.

Invisible Outline with Royal Icing_2You want just enough icing that the outline is full but not so much it overflows.  When the cookie is flooded, use an offset spatula to quickly spread the icing.  The trick  is to cover the outline without going over the edge.

Invisible Outline with Royal Icing_3See?  The outline is almost invisible from above.

Invisible Outline with Royal Icing_4This is one of those things that’s a little easier to understand by watching, so in case you missed it on Facebook here’s the video version.

Since I don’t have the knack for making pretty butterflies, I relied on Al-Bee’s Bake Shop for inspiration.  I’m almost afraid to share the original design as I may’ve butchered them a little, but this is what I was going for.

Pink Butterfly CookiesFor your viewing pleasure, here are more butterfly themed treats:

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  1. 21
    cakesauce says:

    Squeeze bottles have to be a GIFT from God! :)

  2. 22
    twin1chrissy says:

    I’m thrilled to have mastered the flooding technique, however, I’m getting tiny bumps. I outline with a slightly thicker icing, followed by flooding and use then a popsicle stick to spread icing, next I use a molding tool to pop any large air bubbles. I’m still getting teeny tiny bumps all over all the cookies- can’t figure out why:( any ideas???

  3. 23
    Leah says:

    YES! I was wondering how you mastered this! It certainly gives the cookie a beautiful, finished effect. Thanks for sharing ;)!

  4. 24
    Carl says:

    Of course I love the technique but my favorite part of the video was when you said, “quick….ly”. In our home, catching someone forgetting the “ly” ending is almost a competitive sport.

    • 24.1
      Sweet Sugar Belle says:

      LOL, I am from Texas, but my mom is a teacher, so I often speak Texan…then correct myself, ESPECIALLY in the presence of non-Texans. I still remember her telling me that there have been studies that show that people with a Southern accent are often assumed less intelligent, LOL. If I hadn’t corrected myself, mom would’ve texted =)

      • Carl says:

        Small world. Though I am now retired behind the “Pine Curtain” in East Texas, I grew up in West Texas with a mom who was a teacher. Dad worked on an oil crew, we moved yearly and lived in tiny little towns such as Monahans, Fort Stockton, Big Spring, Brownfield, etc. It was a wonderful place to grow up and I still miss the tumble weeds, devils claws, horny toads and other desert creatures. Thunderstorms rumbling across the plains are beautiful but I don’t miss the dust storms and flash floods and will happily go through life without stepping on another goat head! I’m enjoying your site, learning so much about decorating and will be thinking very kind thoughts about you while working on this year’s batch of Christmas cookies.

        • Sameer says:

          Great web site. A lot of helpful info here. I am snindeg it to some pals ans also sharing in delicious. And of course, thank you to your sweat!

  5. 25
    Holly B. says:

    Thank you for sharing your techniques an recipes. We love your no refrigeration sugar cookies. They are delicious! I love your butterflies! They are pretty & simple, just my style. Off to see if your site gives tips to rolling cookies out to a 1/4of an inch.

  6. 26
    Julia says:

    Thank you for posting this! I have been wanting to try to learn how to do this flooding technique forever. Now I get why it didn’t work for me! I was putting too much icing in and not spreading it around. LoL Duh. You inspired me to create a new board to pin things in on Pinterest. :) I hope I can do this because I’d love to make cookies for my daughter’s class. They are not big into store bought treats and everything has to be gluten free… so now maybe I can make some yummy AND cute cookies for them. I want to try to make your bunny print ones for Easter. :) Thanks!~ Julia

  7. 27
    Emilia says:

    I am having trouble with my icing, it does not dry glossy. If I use egg whites or meringue powder for my royal icing it is always dull when it dries. Do you have any advice?
    Thank you

  8. 28
    Emilia says:

    I am having trouble with my Royal Icing. It doesn’t matter if I use Egg Whites or Meringue Powder the icing always dries dull instead of glossy. Do you have any suggestions?


  9. 29
    Autumn says:

    What is the average dry time before adding the white outline on the butterflies?


  1. […] For that full poofy look, I prefer to flood the area around the teeth before moving to the outside border.  To learn how to create an invisible outline, click here. […]

  2. […] Part 2: Icing the cookies (I haven’t gone into a huge amount of detail about the ins and outs of cookie icing. If you want more info, have a look at this link) […]

  3. […] of mine, ever since we got a new Kitchenaid mixer. Someday I hope to master the art of “flooding“. We made about two dozen of these cookie hearts last night, then hunkered down and watched a […]