How to Make Tan Royal Icing

Most icing colors are pretty easy to figure out, while others are a little more complicated.

Tan icing might seem simple, but if you’ve ever added warm brown to uncolored icing with the expectation of a pretty yellowish-brown, you know this isn’t the case.  The pinky, almost flesh-colored result isn’t even close.

Unfortunately, icing color is not an exact science.  Most of the time, my colors aren’t mixed from a pre-existing formula.  I start with tried and true combinations, then play with them until they’re right.

Rather than come up with the perfect tan, I thought I’d walk you through a day in life of an icing color.  Hopefully, with a few practical tips you’ll have the confidence to play with color and come up with palettes that are uniquely you.

The Sweet Adventures of SugarbelleHow to Make Tan Royal IcingMy version of tan icing is basically a mixture of yellow and purple.  Yes, I said purple.  Hard to believe at first, but bear with me and I’ll show you what I mean.

I start with yellow.  Except instead of straight yellow, I mixed a few colors to create a golden yellow shade, based on the palette I had in mind.

Tan Royal Icing 1The result was a very light shade of butter yellow, which was way too light, but good…because it’s a lot easier to add more color than take it away if you go overboard on the first squeeze.

Tan Royal Icing TwoI liked the way things were going so I added more of the same colors, in equal amounts.  Then I did it again…and again.

Tan Royal Icing 3When I reached a point where I felt the base was dark enough to move on, I broke out the regal purple, which in my opinion is the key to tan.

Tan Royal Icing 4Be careful with the purple.  Use a toothpick or a boo-boo stick to add it little by little, stirring in between each addition.

Tan Royal Icing 5With each bit of regal purple I got a little closer to the color I had in mind.  Then, I got impatient.  I knew a huge drop of color would likely ruin my icing, so instead I added a blob of purple icing that was leftover from Halloween.

At this point, I was close but it was still missing something.  I added a bit of dark brown for depth, and finally, I had it.

Tan Royal Icing sixThe perfect tan!  For this project at least…

Tan Royal IcingTo successfully color icing time after time, keep these tips in mind:

  • Start with tried and true color combinations {yellow+blue=green} and tweak them for completely custom shades
  • You ever heard that saying, “There’s more than one way to skin a rabbit?”  Well there is.  There are SEVERAL ways to make tan icing {red+yellow+green, blue+orange, ect.} but in the interest of keeping this reasonably short, I didn’t cram them all into one post.  If you prefer another combination, then definitely, DO YO THANG
  • Add color SLOWLY even if it takes forever.  It’s very hard to lighten a shade once you’ve gone overboard
  • Use leftover icing rather than gel color when mixing for a more subtle change.  This also means less waste
  • Tone down any color with black, ivory, or a contrasting color
  • Add a touch of each shade of icing to every color for a perfectly coordinated palette

Icing color gets easier with practice.  For more helpful tips, check out these links:

Join The Discussion



  1. 11

    You’re a color master! I also have color envy of your palettes. Slowly but surely I’m learning to just eyeball it and add different color until I achieve the shade I’m going for. Great post Callye!

  2. 12
    Kakee says:

    Wow! Purple, who knew?!? This is such a helpful post, thank you!!

  3. 13

    Such the cute design and seriously, you are the Color Master! Tan can be a bear, so thank you!!! Absolutely loving this scarecrow! So clever!

  4. 14

    I would never in a zillion years thought to add purple!! That’s why YOU’RE Sugarbelle, and I’m not!!! Thanks for all of the help, Callye <3

  5. 15
    Deanna says:

    I’ve noticed that you use the press and seal for the icing colors. Is this for storage in the fridge, or do you put it right into the piping bags? Is there a benefit to the press and seal over clear cling wrap?

  6. 16
    Tanya DaForno says:

    I am so excited to try cookie decorating. Made some royal icing last night and could not get it into the narrow opening of the bottles. How do you do it?

  7. 17
    Colleen says:

    Sometimes I wonder if you realize just how helpful you are to the rest of us!! You are simply amazing.

    I can never, ever seem to get the tan I want and in a million years purple would not have been a color I even thought of. Your scarecrows are simply darling and I just love that color. I can’t wait to try this. All of your color posts have taught me something. You’re truly one of the best of the best!! Thank you for always sharing and teaching the rest of us.

    I have one question, and it’s probably a dumb one. What is egg yolk yellow? I have egg yellow. Is that it? I’ve searched for egg yolk yellow but don’t see anything.

  8. 18
    Annette says:

    This is the information I needed to color icing for my cupcakes Thanks! I love that the labels on your color bottles look like mine! Sometimes the color name rubs off and I have to write it with a pen so I know next time. I wonder why AmeriColor doesn’t use better printer ink for the labels.

    Thanks again.

  9. 19
    Michele says:

    WHERE in the world would I be without you woman?!!!??
    I CAN TELL YOU!!!!
    at my stinking kitchen table still making pink monkeys and pink giraffes!!
    for baby BOY shower!!!! THATS where!!!!!
    thank you for all the time you took to make these tute’s.
    and thank you for sharing the secrets of purple.


  1. […] color for me to make and I really struggled with it until I came across a tutorial by Callye, of The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle, on this very […]

  2. […] Tan 20-second icing {for help with tan, click here} […]

  3. […] Tan piping and flood icing […]

  4. […] How to Make Tan Royal Icing […]

  5. […] Icing Color: The Process […]

  6. […] and a drop of egg yellow. It didn’t hit the mark so I sought advice from the always helpful Sugarbelle and added just a little bit of gold and then some regal […]

  7. […] How to Make Tan Royal Icing […]

  8. […] make peanut butter toast, follow the same steps as above but substitute tan flood icing for the purple. Holy cuteness, […]