How To Thin Gel Food Coloring

You’re making a cake for a birthday party, and the decorating would look best with gel food coloring. The only problem is that your food coloring is way too thick. How do you thin the consistency of the gel? For your convenience, we have brought you the answer.

You can thin gel food coloring with the following ingredients:

  • Rum
  • Gin
  • Vodka
  • Clear vanilla extract
  • Lemon juice

This guide to thinning gel food coloring for decorating desserts will talk more about why the above ingredients are best. We’ll also share pointers for decorating with diluted gel food coloring, so keep reading!

Man mixing orange food coloring in a glass mixing bowl, How To Thin Gel Food Coloring

Here’s What to Use to Thin Gel Food Coloring and How to Thin It

Gel food coloring is also known as liquid gel dye. It’s made of corn syrup, glycerine, and water.

You can use gel food coloring for all sorts of baking and cooking purposes, including colorful icing, red velvet cake, and candy.

You love the color of gel food coloring since it’s more concentrated compared to liquid food coloring, but you don’t love its consistency. Here’s what we recommend you use to dilute the food coloring.


Pouring rum into a glass with ice

Do you have some rum stocked in your home bar? It’s time to put it to good use, as it’s one ingredient you can use to dilute gel food coloring and make it more liquid like.

Rum usually has an amber or dark brown color. If you can, we recommend buying clear rum for thinning gel food coloring.

The reason? The amber hue will affect the clarity of your food coloring. That’s not such a big deal if you’re painting with reds, yellows, or oranges, but greens, blues, and purples will not look as vibrant.


A glass with ice, gin and lime

Gin is a clear spirit by default, so it’s a safer bet than rum if all the rum in your home is dark colored. The citrusy aroma of gin will put some pep in your step so you’ll be eager and excited to decorate your cake with gel food coloring. Plus, the consistency will be thinner!


A glass filled with vodka and lime

Of all the spirits you can use to thin gel food coloring, vodka might be the most popular. Once you combine these ingredients, you should find that you struggle a lot less to paint on gum paste or fondant. Like gin, vodka usually has no color.

Read more: How to Store a Fondant Cake [5 Easy Solutions]

Clear Vanilla Extract

As a baker, we’re sure you have vanilla extract. Try using some to thin gel food coloring!

We must stress that it’s important that the vanilla extract be colorless. You already know how dark rum will affect the depth of color of your gel food coloring. That’s true as well of non-clear vanilla extract.

The hue of vanilla extract is usually darker than rum, so your colors will look darker and muted as a result!

Lemon Juice

A mason jar filled with lemon juice a mason jar filled with lemon juice

The last option you can use is lemon juice to reduce the thickness of your gel food coloring.

You can find lemon juice in the produce section at nearly any grocery store. You could always squeeze your own lemon juice too.

If that’s the route you go, make sure you filter out all the seeds and pulp. Neither will help when thinning gel food coloring!

Now comes the question – how much liquid do you need to thin gel food coloring? For every drop or two of gel food coloring, you should only use an ounce of clear vanilla extract or vodka.

Can You Mix Gel Food Coloring with Water?

You checked your pantry, and you don’t have any clear vanilla extract, only the dark stuff. Your home is also bereft of rum, vodka, or gin.

Maybe you’re under a tight deadline and don't have time to run to the store. You have plenty of water, so can’t you just dilute the gel food coloring with that instead?

Technically, yes, but you’re only making more work for yourself. The above ingredients are renowned for thinning gel food coloring because they dry quickly.

Water, when combined with gel food coloring, does not dry nearly as fast. You’ll have to sit around and wait for the gel to be less watery so you can begin painting with it.

With the time you spent waiting, you could have run out and picked up clear vanilla extract or another alternative.

Does Using Alcohol in Gel Food Coloring Make the Dessert Not Safe for Kids?

Woman mixing green food coloring

If this is a child’s birthday cake, you might have some reservations about dumping in ingredients such as rum, vodka, or gin.

It won’t affect the taste! The alcohol evaporates very quickly when you stir it into the gel food coloring. It’s just like when you cook or bake with alcohol. It’s usually to bolster the ingredients or improve the consistency, not to impart an alcohol flavor.

By the time you’re done diluting the gel food coloring with alcohol, you can rest assured that no traces of the alcohol remain. You’ll just have a gel food coloring at the desired consistency for painting.

If you’re concerned, you can always personally sample a bit of the buttercream or fondant with the gel food coloring on it. You should only taste sugary sweetness, nothing else.

Read more: What Cake Goes with Buttercream Frosting?

Should you prefer to be ultra-cautious, then you can always use clear vanilla extract or lemon juice to thin the gel food coloring instead of alcohol. Just try not to use water unless you absolutely must!

Can Gel Food Coloring Be Mixed?

You’ve diluted your gel food coloring until it’s at the perfect consistency, but now you want some color options. Can you mix gel food coloring? Yes, you can!

Wilton is one brand of many that produces food coloring, but it’s one of the most popular. Thus, we’ll use their food coloring chart to show you how to achieve dazzling colors with gel food coloring.

Keep in mind that the following food coloring quantities are for Wilton food colorings only.

Teal Blue

A sunny, cheery color, teal blue would look right at home on most cakes. To achieve the beautiful hue, you need one drop of yellow gel food coloring and eight drops of blue coloring. Stir them together until you get the desired color.


Pink liquid food coloring on a white background

Sure, you could always use pink food coloring on its own, but since you’re painting with it, you want the color to have depth and dimension, right?

Elevate the average pink gel food coloring by mixing six drops of pink with 10 drops of red coloring.


Blue liquid food coloring on a white background

A great complement to teal blue is standard blue. This color is not too dark and not too light either. It’s truly perfect!

As was the case with pink, you’re augmenting the blue by introducing another color of gel food coloring. This time, you want five drops of pink food coloring and 50 drops of blue.

Yes, we said pink gel food coloring. Once you stir the colors together, you’ll appreciate how blue your food coloring looks.


For a bright, fiery orange, Wilton recommends using three drops of red gel food coloring, 16 drops of yellow, and 16 drops of orange. When you paint on a cake, you’ll feel like you’re harnessing all the colors of a sunset. Your dessert will be like a masterpiece!


You can add dimension to your average purple gel food coloring. Take 65 drops of purple and combine them with only five drops of blue. You’ll get that much-coveted dark purple color.

Bright Green

For painting grass or a spring pastiche, a bright green is a must. You don’t need any green gel food coloring at all, says Wilton. Rather, take 21 drops of yellow food coloring and eight drops of blue coloring. The bright green will come together!


You used some yellow gel food coloring to make a brilliant orange, so it only seems fair that you add some orange to create a lustrous golden yellow. You should use 10 drops of yellow gel food coloring and only two drops of orange.

Can You Airbrush with Food Coloring?

To save time and create a professionally-painted finish, you’d love to airbrush your cake using thinned gel food coloring. However, you can't do this.

You usually need airbrush-friendly food coloring. That said, you can always whip out a few paintbrushes to decorate your cake with gel food coloring. This will take longer, but you can paint on finer details.

You can use regular paintbrushes for decorating the cake. That said, the brushes should have never been used before. Even if you painted with the brushes once and washed them, paint residue could still be trapped within the bristles.

In Closing

Man mixing orange food coloring in a glass mixing bowl

Thinning gel food coloring requires vodka, rum, gin, clear vanilla extract, or lemon juice. These liquids will dilute the food coloring fast and don’t overstay their welcome, the same of which cannot be said about using water.

Now that you know how to thin gel food coloring, your culinary creations will look better than ever! Good luck!

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