Video, Template & Transcript
To The Purple Owl
Royal Icing Tutorial

A free sugarcraft tutorial: Learn how to make sugar art the iSugarfy way :-) with this royal icing transfer shown on an owl cookie.

Please, before you even start preparing your royal icing, do watch the video at least once and read (or at least scan) all the steps. It’s like reading a manual of an appliance before usage :-).

 Important to note:
 Due to speeding up the video (so I won't bore you to tears ;-) ) most consistencies used in the video appear to be thinner than they really are, i.e. their "healing" time is shortened by the time-lapse.

Text and video are complimentary: I probably missed to mention some things in the text, as you can see it done in the video. And other things will be mentioned/explained in the text that might not readily be noticeable in the video.

The items and utensils used in this tutorial are described on the main royal icing tutorials page.

Here you can download the Purple Owl template.

At the end of this page, you can send me your video-related questions (refer to a specific timestamp, if needed) and, if you wish, post an image of a problem you might be experiencing while piping your owl.

I hope you will enjoy watching the video, and then give it a go!

Transcript of the Video

To the Purple Owl
Royal Icing Tutorial

  1. 00:44 - Start by taping the template under a plastic sheet onto your work surface, very preferably on a very flat and sturdy glass, marble or wooden plate placed on a small turntable, unless your turntable already has a flat surface, of course.

  2. 00:50 - Pipe the pupils with bead consistency Black and about a #2 tip opening: Do not outline. It is easier to just push the royal icing with a small, slightly moist brush gently toward the outline, than to pipe a small circle. Plus you don’t want to see a line and won’t have to hide one if you don’t pipe it.

    Keep vibrating the brush ever so slightly to keep the icing moving, and re-moisten the brush as needed.

  3. 01:01 - You want the pupils to be nicely rounded, but not too thick to prevent cratering.

    With bead consistency icing, you have enough time to play around a bit before the surface starts to dry.

  4. 01:24 - Important to note:
    The pupils here are shown piped in realtime, but all future filling jobs in this video will be shown in a condensed time frame (don't want to bore you to tears ;-) ) and will thus appear to be thinner than they really are, i. e. their "healing" time is shortened by the time-lapse.

  5. 01:45 - Always use a slightly moist brush to smooth out the icing. To moisten the brush, dip it in water and then dab it on a towel at least a couple of times making sure there are no more droplets of water clinging to the metal sheath.

  6. 01:59 - Pipe the facial disc parts (as you did the pupils) with bead consistency Ivory. The perimeter will be covered with a golden ring, so you could outline these if you prefer.

    You see me pipe them onto the main owl. But if you want to transfer the line design later (i.e. not pipe the lines freehand), I recommend (for ease of transfer) that you pipe the facial disc parts on a separate workspace (onto one of the additional facial discs provided with the template).

    Pop any bubbles with your scribe tool, should you get some. Smooth out the surface afterward with a slightly moist brush.

    Let these dry in the food dehydrator until the surface is dry and then at least overnight, or keep them in the dehydrator for several hours.

  7. 2:30 - Make sure that they are totally dried and hard before you transfer the line design onto them, because you'll be using pressure to do so. Then attach them to the main owl template with a small dab of icing.

    Hint: If the air humidity is high the drying of a simple transfer as this can be sped up by turning it before it's dried all the way through (usually after a 2-3 hours in the dehydrator and the surface is dry enough to not get damaged by this), then peel off the plastic and let the underside dry. It's good to have a few spare transfers, to check the dryness and in case you damage one... only if you're in a hurry, of course...

  8. 02:39 - Gently lift off the pupils from the taped-down plastic sheet with a box cutter. A needle or knife would be too thick and might leave a mark. The blade of a larger, retractable box cutter, on the other hand, is almost razor-thin and will, with its long blade, lay flat on the surface, so is ideal for this job.

  9. 02:50 - Outline the irises with Dark royal icing and a #1 tip opening. Here is where a turntable comes in really handy: Pipe with one hand and turn with the other.

  10. 03:11 - Smooth out connections and lines with a slightly moist brush.

  11. 03:27 - Fill in the irises with bead consistency Blue or a color of your choice. Push the royal icing just against the outline so it still shows. As with the pupils, make them nicely rounded, but not too thick.

    We use bead consistency royal icing here because we can pipe it thicker without it sinking into itself or cratering, plus it dries faster.

  12. 03:38 - Place the pupils onto the irises with the box cutter (fingers, tweezers, whatever you prefer) right after you have one filled. Keep a drawing of the owl next to you as a reference where to place the pupils. Try to place them as accurately as possible, unless you want to give the owl a lazy eye ;-).

    Adjust with a scribe or similar if needed. If you placed a pupil too far off, you can go under it with the scribe and lift it to move, as I did with an iris at 4:24. Heal any marks left by the maneuvre with a slightly moist brush.

    Let the irises dry (almost) completely as you don't want them to bleed into the white of the eyeballs.

  13. 03:58 - Lift off the irises and pipe the eyeballs with bead consistency White (do add white food coloring to your royal icing) - again nicely rounded but not too thick.

  14. 04:21 - Place the irises onto the eyeballs. Adjust as needed with a scribe or similar. Let dry.

  15. 04:52 - Use one of the separate facial disc parts provided with the template to trace the lines onto a piece of parchment paper. Put some pressure on it so you get strong lines.

  16. 05:01 - Put the paper upside down onto the facial disc, one part at a time. Watch out for the mirror effect: The paper used to trace the lines of the left part will be placed upside down onto the right part, and vise-versa. I like to use a dull pencil for this to have more coverage.

  17. 05:09 - Remove the facial disc parts and attach them to your main work surface if you've piped them on a separate workspace. Attach the eyes.

  18. 05:17 - Pipe the facial disc lines with outline consistency Light and a #0 tip opening. Once the royal icing lines are dried, you can easily remove any pencil lines showing with a small brush slightly moistened with alcohol.

  19. 05:47 - Outline the crown with Dark and a #1 tip opening.

  20. 06:02 -Fill the crown with flood consistency Dark. The crown should appear a bit lower/further back than the ear tufts (it's the bottom layer). Using flood consistency royal icing helps to keep this area flatter than the rest. Brush the icing onto the outline to hide it. Don't overfill, but make sure it's filled enough so you don't get valleys.

  21. 06:14 - Outline the tail feathers with Medium.

  22. 06:25 - Fill the tail feathers with flood consistency Medium, brushing the royal icing on top of the outline to hide it. This area should appear lower/further back than the wings (it's the bottom layer), which will be filled with bead consistency icing to make them thicker. Let the crown and tail feathers dry for about 30 minutes in the food dehydrator.

  23. 06:43 - Outline the heart with Gold and a #1 tip opening.

  24. 06:53 - Fill the heart with flood consistency Gold. This will just act as a "place holder", as you will overpipe it later. No need to dry this part as we will add another layer on top of it, so it doesn't have to look pretty.

  25. 07:02 - Outline the inner and outer wing parts with Dark and a #1 tip opening.

  26. 07:16 - Stop piping just before you get to the heart and the facial disc. Use your brush to gently push the icing toward the edge of those areas.

  27. 07:33 -Pipe the outer outlines slightly on top of the tail feathers.

  28. 07:48 - Fill in the inner part of the wings with flood consistency Dark and a #1 tip opening. Carefully push the royal icing toward the edges of facial disc and heart.

  29. 08:03 - Use the scribe tool to push it into the narrow places. We use flood consistency royal icing for the inner part of the wings, because we want the heart to sit above this area. Always add icing as needed to any filling job.

  30. 08:28 - With bead consistency Dark and a #1 tip opening, pipe the dots around the eyeballs, but leave 7 spaces on top empty as shown. You will pipe the eyelashes there. This will help you to pipe them in the same area on both eyes without having to count while you pipe.

  31. 08:50 - Then cut a bigger hole (ca. #2) into your piping bag and with the same icing fill the outer part of the wings. Do the filling in steps as shown in the video, pushing the royal icing gently toward the facial disc so it will be lower than that edge. Brush icing away from it as needed.

    Increase the height/depth as you move toward the tail feathers, so they are much thicker where they meet that area and try to get it lower again where it meets the heart.

    Add icing as needed. While you fill the outer part brush the icing over the outer outline to hide it. We will add a line where inner and outer wing parts meet to hide that connection.

  32. 09:52 - Outline the ear tufts with Medium, first squeezing a bit of icing into the narrow area of the facial disc.

  33. 10:07 - Fill the ear tufts with bead to outline consistency Medium. Try to keep the icing close to the facial disc shallow, increasing the thickness toward the tips and making sure it's a fair amount higher where it meats the crown.

    Whenever the royal icing doesn’t seem to smooth out, moisten your brush again.

    Hint: The thicker a royal icing consistency is the better control you have on how to style it, but the faster you must work, of course. We use a bit stiffer icing here than for the outer wings, because we have a very narrow area between facial disc and crown that should appear higher than the crown, but lower than the facial disc.

  34. 10:42 - Just keep adding icing bit by bit where needed. If it looks a bit bumpy don't worry too much. You will be covering it with details.

  35. 11:18 - Outline the heart again with about a #2 tip opening. This will give us an area where we can pipe the perimeter details onto.

  36. 11:28 - Fill the heart with outline consistency icing to give it bulging dimensions. Vibrate and move your brush a bit more than usual to get it to heal over quickly, while re-moistening the brush as needed. Add royal icing as needed.

  37. 11:58 - Pipe the crown details as shown in the video with bead to outline consistency Light and a #1 opening. - I should have started the 3rd row from the left. Sometimes it can feel as half the decorating job is correcting and/or hiding our mistakes... YES! We all make them :-D!

    You could pipe the crown details with a #0 (as I did on the original birthday owls I made for my mom), but you would pipe much smaller arcs that way, which needs some practice to pipe them at least somewhat equally. That’s why I’m showing it with a #1.

  38. 12:43 - Pipe the bead border of the heart with bead consistency Gold and a #0 tip opening as shown in the video: push the icing to a little ball then slowly ease off pressure while pulling away. Go a bit back again, push the next ball, and repeat.

    Make the first bead where the indentation of the heart is so you come together from both sides into a thin tip. If you'd like to add more details - such as a name or initials - to the heart interior, this would be a good time to do this, if you would want them gilded as well.

  39. 13:30 - Pipe the details on the ear tufts with bead consistency White.

  40. 13:51 - The opening I cut for fine detail work here in general is about the equivalent of a PME tip #0.

  41. 14:18 - In the video, I use bead consistency for the lines as well, because I was a bit under time pressure there, but it would be better to use an outline, or even medium stiff consistency to get them better defined and straighter.

  42. 14:41 - On the wings, pipe the outer "feather" details with bead consistency White.

  43. 15:04 - Outline the facial disc with Gold and about a #3 tip opening.

  44. 15:24 -Here you can see the importance of planning the piping sequence. It would have been diffiult to do the ear tuft details with the facial disc rings in place already. Now this thick line is hiding the irregular start of those white lines quite nicely.

  45. 15:48 - Paint the heart with gold dust mixed with a bit of alcohol. I applied another layer later to hide the streaks...

  46. 16:12 - Paint the sides of the facial disc rings with gold dust. It doesn't matter if you get some on top of them. You'll be overpiping them. It's just easier to paint the sides now.

  47. 16:25 - Pipe the beak with bead consistency Medium and a #1. First, squeeze a bit of royal icing into the narrow spaces, then build it up to form a beak, using your brush and by adding icing bit by bit. You could have it reach a bit more into the heart if you like...

  48. 17:26 - Pipe the eyelashes with bead consistency Medium.

  49. 17:39 - For the first two lines use a #2 opening. Pipe the first line between the top two dark dots along the eyeballs, then a second "hugging" the rounding of the eyeballs, and the third with a #1 opening as shown. Form the tips at the end with your brush.

  50. 17:59 - With bead consistency White, pipe the remaining dots on the facial disc.

  51. 18:49 - With bead consistency Light, pipe the remaining details on the wings as shown. The line should go where outer and inner wing parts meet.

  52. 19:34 - If it gets too narrow/tight to pipe a tip, just drag/push the royal icing with your scribe...

  53. 19:41 - Lightly mark the center of the tail feathers with your scribe or similar.

  54. 19:45 - With bead consistency Light and White, pipe the details on the tail feathers as shown.

  55. 20:23 - With bead consistency Light, pipe a center line on the beak (missed to tape it) and with bead consistency Dark and a #1 opening, pipe lines on the bottom part of the beak as shown.

  56. 20:35 - With bead consistency Dark, pipe a branch in close proximity to the wings however you like it to look.

  57. 20:48 -With bead consistency royal icing and about a #1.5-2 opening, pipe the details on the facial disc rings as shown.

    These beads are similar to the ones you piped on the heart, except that now you drag the icing slightly down the inside of the ring, and return to the top of the ring to pipe a new bead. When you made the round and come to the first beads go slower and just guide the tips of the end beads down with your brush.

  58. 22:09 -With bead consistency Light, pipe the feet.

  59. 22:19 - Paint the dried facial disc ring details with gold dust.

  60. 22:57 - And now, that the iris and pupils surely are dry enough to not bleed into our very white reflection dots, mix some royal icing with white food coloring. I just use alcohol thinned Titanium Dioxide, which seems to be the base for all white food coloring and is used in candies and toothpastes.

    Make a slurry (ca. 50/50 royal icing with food coloring) as shown to pipe/paint the reflection spots on the eyes.

  61. 23:17 - My piping is better than my painting, so I go with that. The spots should be as flat as possible while still covering the black well.

  62. 23:36 - I find the easiest way to do this, is to apply a bead of the slurry for ease of styling the dots, and then removing the excess with the brush.

  63. 23:55 - Take a bit out to paint the small reflection spot, or pipe it, if you wish.

  64. 24:37 -If you want to place a whole royal icing transfer on a cookie like here, place it on the flat backside. Attach it with a bit of icing.

  65. 24:47 - To lift off a larger transfer as this, I use a thin, sturdy clear plastic sheet as shown here. I can't remember where I got this from, but a piece cut from a clear document folder would work well, too.

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