How to Mix Colors for Airbrushing Cakes

Written by fred decker
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How to Mix Colors for Airbrushing Cakes
Even professionals aren't skilled in every technique. (RAYES/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

There are many tools and techniques used in the field of cake decorating, and even among professional decorators, few are skilled in all the major techniques. More often, skill with one technique will be used to offset its lack in another area. For example, a decorator who's unusually deft with a pastry bag is likely to make good use of piped buttercream, while another might use buttercream sparingly but show great skill in sugar work. Airbrushing is a useful skill that requires little traditional technique, and can allow a gifted amateur to easily create professional-looking cakes.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Decorator's colour-mixing chart
  • Cake decorating airbrush and compressor
  • Decorator's colours
  • Parchment paper
  • Bottle of water
  • White bowl
  • Prepared cake

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    Pre-Mixing Method

  1. 1

    Look up the blended colour you want to create. The manufacturer of your brand of colourings should have a chart giving specific ratios for mixing its product, or your can use a generic blending chart from the Internet as a starting point.

  2. 2

    Fill the airbrush cup with colours in the recommended proportions, and swirl to mix them in the cup. Spray a test of your mixed colour on a sheet of parchment paper, and wait for a few moments as it dries. If the colour is correct, go ahead and use it on your cake. If not, continue to the next step.

  3. 3

    Rinse out your airbrush by pouring clean water into the cup and spraying into a white bowl. When the spray becomes clear, you are ready to try again. If your mixed colour had too much blue, for example, try again but use a smaller proportion of blue or a lighter shade of the same hue. Record your changes so you can replicate them.

  4. 4

    Test the colour as previously described. Repeat until you have the shade you're trying to achieve. Rewrite your notes in neat form to preserve a permanent record of your colour mixture. Be sure to note the brand of colouring, the name or number of the specific tints and the successful quantities of each colour.

    Direct Spray Method

  1. 1

    Look up your desired colour on a colour chart as before, or simply "wing it" as you work. Airbrush colours are translucent and will blend as they are sprayed, much as watercolours do in a painting.

  2. 2

    Start by spraying the lightest colour of your mixture onto the cake. If necessary, mark out the edges of your design on the icing so you understand clearly where to spray.

  3. 3

    Clean out your airbrush with fresh water, and add the second colour. Spray this cautiously over the first colour, until the two colours have the balance you're looking for.

  4. 4

    Repeat for any additional colours, until the correct blend has been achieved. This technique can achieve stunningly nuanced and realistic effects in skilled hands, but it can also result in muddied, unattractive colours. Practice is required.

Tips and warnings

  • Practice colour blending and general airbrush technique by spraying onto sheets of parchment paper, which will show colours properly and is easily cleaned up. It's also much cheaper than practicing on cakes.
  • Before using an airbrush, protect the entire work surface with newspapers, butcher paper, a disposable plastic tablecloth or similar covering.

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