Before we begin, let us give you the most useful advice anyone can give you about gelatin art.
This is very messy art! If you are not working close to your kitchen sink, keep a pitcher with warm water and paper towels handy at all times.
So, Let's get messy!
The first step to working with colors is making the color base. You can find the recipe for the color base in our 'Recipes" section.
Liquid Food Coloring
Liquid colors are the easiest to use. They either come with a drip dispensing tip or you can use a dripper to add them to the color base.
Make sure you mix liquid colors well as they tend to linger on the surface and, if you are not using transparent mixing containers, they might fool you into thinking that your color base is darker than it actually is.
Gel Food Coloring
When using gel colors, mix the color with a few drops of the color base until the mixture is uniform and there are no gel clumps left. When the mixture is smooth, add it to the rest of the color base.
Gel color clumps will be very visible on your light-colored work, so, unless that is the look you are going for, make sure you work the gel well into the base.
If you notice that there are still some dark spots left after you have mixed everything in, you can pour the color through a thick kitchen strainer and remove the excess color.
It is generally easier to add color when the base is warm and liquid. To draw shapes in gelatin though, you will want to wait for the color to cool down and thicken up a bit.
If the color is too thin, it will not remain in the gelatin but squirt out and remain on the top of the dessert. The petal will look thin and raggedy.
To fix this, wait until the color base has thickened up and fill the petal again using a blunt needle.
This is a good idea to do even if the petal doesn't look bad on the first pass. Adding more color on the second pass will make the petals more real and better defined.
Cooling / heating up colors
If the color base you are using is not of the right consistency you can warm it up or cool it down by placing them in a container with warm or cold water.
You will use this often as the color base tends to thicken up, even at room temperature, and needs to be warmed up occasionally.
You will also want to cool down the color base if you wish to use it right after it has been prepared.
Food colors can be mixed to produce different shades. You don't have to have every shade in your arsenal to make different color flowers, however, some colors mix better than others. In general, light colors tend to have better result. For e.g. mixing a bit of red into yellow can give you a very nice orange. Mixing a bit of red into blue will give you a shade that looks more like brown than violet.
Factory made shades tend to be more vivid and clear, but not all shades are available, so play around and experiment! Who knows what you will come up with?
The image below shows a factory-bought pink color (left) and a red and white mixture (right).
If you want to have multiple colors in one flower you can do it in several different ways:
1. You can fill different petals with different colors:
2. You can fill your syringe with two colors and have them flow into one another.
This syringe was filled by alternating between white and pink color containers.
3. Another way to create two shades in one petal is to inject the lighter color first, and then to squirt in a bit of the darker one
Using colors that are of similar lightness and shade will create a subtle flow of colors:
These techniques is also very interesting when used to create two shade green leaves.
Crossing the line
When creating shapes of different colors (such as a red flower and a green leaf) keep the different color shapes separate. Do not make a leaf that cuts through or touches a petal.
If the colors touch they are very likely to leak into each other.
This is especially visible when the first color didn't have time to set yet. If you make a pause between the colors the first color will thicken up and will be less likely to leak.
Touching the edge
When you are creating shapes in gelatin, try and stay away from the container edge wall. If your needle reaches the end of gelatin, the color might leak along the container wall and ruin your design.
You might be able to fix this when you take the gelatin out of the container for serving. The outer layer of the gelatin dessert melts when held in warm water a bit longer and sometimes it is even possible to "peal" the blob gently from the gelatin surface.
Air in the color
Air is a real troublemaker when it comes to gelatin creations. If you are not careful and you don't take the time to push all the air out of your syringe, you will see little empty bubbles all over your petals.
Getting the air out, once it has been squeezed into gelatin, is not easy.
Sometimes you can add more color and the air will naturally bubble out to the surface, sometimes you will be able to place your needle close to the bubble and suck the air out with your syringe and sometimes your only option will be to put another petal over the airy part and hide it.
So, to avoid all this trouble, after filling your syringe with color, turn it over (with the needle pointing up), let the air climb up to the top and squeeze it all out. It only takes a few seconds.
Make sure you use a piece of a paper napkin to prevent the color from squirting all over your kitchen.
Loose bits of gelatin
Sometimes, as you work, a small chunk of gelatin will become loose and float around in color. This will appear as a hole in the petal.
If the petal is big enough you may be able to fish the loose bit out or at least get it to move to a less visible place.
Sometimes, if the bit is really small, adding move color can cause it to become less visible or disappear from sight completely.
To minimize the creation of loose bits, try to go over each area only once with sharp tools like gurbias, knives and pointy needles. If you need more color added, add it with a blunt needle.
Color hueSome colors will dissolve and leak into gelatin creating a colored hue around the flower. This usually happens if you are using low quality food coloring or very dark colors. Lighter shades will not make a very visible hue but darker ones will be very obvious. The hue usually develops a few hours after it has been injected. If this is not the look you are going for, try changing the color brand, pick lighter colors or serve your dessert shortly after it has been made.
This also happens with some fruit juice and natural color bases.
Here is an example of a flower dyed with beet juice. After some time it had developed a fairytale-ish look.
If you wish to avoid using store bought colors, there are many natural sources that will allow you add some color to your color base. Some colors are readily available and others will be a bit harder to find.
Two easy ways to add natural color to the color base are saffron tea and beet juice.
Keep in mind that natural colors come with their own distinct flavor and might react with other ingredients in the gelatin base. Here is an example of a blackberry juice colored base changing color when injected into the acidic gelatin base.
You can also create colorful bases using cocoa or fruit juices instead of milk in color base recipes.
You can find alternate color base recipes in our "Recipes" section.
Excess color while working
While injecting color into gelatin, some of it will inevitably come out and accumulate on the top.
A little bit of it is not a problem, but as the excess mass grows larger, it will most likely block your view and make it hard for you to work.
If you have made an indentation in gelatin for excess color, you should be able to scoop the excess with a small measuring spoon. You will probably want to do that even if the hole is not overflowing as the color will thicken up quickly when in contact with the cold gelatin surface.
If your flower design doesn't require you to make the initial hole, the excess color will accumulate on the top of the gelatin.
You can use a wet paper napkin to absorb the excess liquid or, for quicker results, use compressed pill towels.
These towels are designed to absorb a large amount of liquid quickly and are perfect for removing excess color and other liquids within and around gelatin desserts.
They come in a compressed pill format. Pour some water over them and watch them transform into a towel right before your eyes.
They are also good for quickly wiping off sticky gelatin residue from your fingers and tools, and can be rinsed and reused several times.
Sealing the dessert with color
If left untreated, gelatin surface acts as a mirror and reflects the shape of the flowers created in it. This can enhance the look of the dessert or hinder it.
If you wish to prevent your dessert from reflecting on the bottom of the container, cover the entire gelatin surface with color base.
A seal can also add some color or contrast to the whole design.
Another annoying feature of clear gelatin is that it makes air pockets underneath the dessert very visible. This is especially visible when the dessert is placed on a creamy surface, such as a cake top.
This too can be avoided by sealing the dessert with color base.