Sugar Cookie Painting: Eric Carle Style - Reiko Handcrafted
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Sugar cookie painting tutorial for The Very Hungry Caterpillar watercolor style

Cookie Painting: Eric Carle Style

Cookie painting is a really fun technique for decorating sugar cookies that looks much harder than it is. Though there is definitely a time and place for a more traditional decorated look with colored icings piped into different designs and layers, I really prefer the painting method. It is easier, cleaner, allows more flexibility with mixing and blending colors, plus it is a lot less strain on your hands! The final result will look like a miniature watercolor painting.

You can use paints to play with the shape of your cookie, leaving some white frosting “blank” to enhance the final design. No two cookies will be exactly the same! Each one will be a unique piece of edible art.

To get started painting, you will need your favorite cut sugar cookie recipe covered with a thin base layer of icing, gel or liquid food colors, brushes and some small dishes. Perhaps you have also bought (or borrowed!) a few condiment containers over the years. I have a set of inexpensive brushes I purchased for, and use only in the kitchen. I recommend checking the bristles before you begin – just grab and pull gently to make sure your brushes aren’t shedding. It helps to have a different brush for each color you will be using, since cleaning your brush in water will gradually dilute the colors.

Apply several drops of liquid color or a few toothpick’s worth of gel color to each dish, along with several drops of water. For some reason I had this perfectly small squeeze bottle which helped control the amount of water. Mix up with one of the brushes and test each color as you go. You may find you need to add a bit more color to strengthen certain shades.

For my Eric Carle style caterpillars, apples and strawberries I mixed up 6 colors: green, turquoise, ivory, red, black and yellow. The yellow and black were liquid and the remaining colors were gel. After the colors are mixed they will all have the same liquid consistency. Both types of food colors work well for cookie painting and can be easily combined to create colors you don’t have. I used a variety of small sized brushes with the larger, flatter shapes for my main colors (red and green) and the smallest detail brush for black.

I only mixed a small amount of each color because a little goes a long way. With the exception of my main color red, this was enough color to cover 3 dozen medium cookies.


How to paint Eric Carle “very hungry caterpillar” and fruit cookies:

My caterpillar cookie cutter wasn’t the right shape of the iconic hungry caterpillar, but I tried to capture the essence of this children’s favorite as best as I could. If I were to make these again I would try painting the caterpillar onto some plain rectangle or circle cookies.

The hungry caterpillar cookie

Colors used: red, green, turquoise, yellow and black.

Start by painting a red face and base of bright green. Then add some turquoise and black detail throughout the body.

After adding a little yellow to fill in the gaps, I used the green brush with a small amount of color to blend all the detail colors. After the red face is mostly dry (for me this was after about an hour or less), use the black to add some eyes.

Strawberry painted cookie

Colors used: red, green, yellow, ivory, black.

Start with a red base, leaving space on top. Add the green leaves.

Add some black detail on one side and yellow and ivory on the other to create depth. Then blend everything with your red brush.

Apple painted cookie

Colors used: red, yellow, ivory, black.

After the caterpillars and strawberries the apples are pretty simple – just a red base, yellow and black detail plus a black stem. Blend the colors to your liking.

Allow cookies to dry fully before stacking and storing. This will probably be around 2 hours.

Once you get the technique down there are so many possibilities for decorating your sugar cookies. Whether you are making Eric Carlisle inspired designs or something more mature, have fun with this! Cherish each piece of your cookie art and enjoy sharing with others.




  • Mary Gina Carr

    March 8, 2017 at 5:19 pm Reply

    These are so amazing, I am planning on making some for my Kindergarten students to go along with our author study of Eric Carle. Also his name is Eric Carle, not Carlisle! Thanks for the how-to!

    • Amie


      March 19, 2017 at 12:12 am Reply

      Awesome! Oops! Thanks for the spelling tip 🙂

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