Custom Portrait Cookies without a Cookie Cutter or Projector

how to make whimsical custom portrait cookies

Decorating a cookie to look like an actual person can be slightly intimidating. I know this feeling well. With a few tricks up your sleeve, making custom portrait cookies can be easier, and more fun, than you might think. 

You might remember the cookies I made of Jack or of Spike. Those were made easy with a custom cookie cutter. Read those posts for details on the custom cutters and tips for using them. But, how do you make a cookie of a person without a custom cookie cutter or a fancy projector? 

how to make custom portrait cookies

Speaking of projectors, I'm going to get on my soapbox for a minute here. Don't go looking at Instagram and talk yourself out of decorating cookies because they won't be "perfect." What you see in the "popular posts" on Instagram are cookies made by bakers (some of my favorite people) who do cookies as their job! As in, they're making and decorating cookies for hours and hours and hours every day! Also, many of these cookies are produced with the help of a projector. Do not think that making cookies for your Uncle Bob requires you to purchase a projector. It does not. Your cookies will be beautiful little works of original art; they'll be a delight and well-received. *steps off soapbox*

How to Make Custom Decorated Portrait Cookies without a Cookie Cutter or Projector

how to make whimsical custom portrait cookies

When I made these cookies of my super fabulous friend Laura for her House of Colour Houston event, I started with a photo. In full stalker fashion, I looked through her Instagram feed for a photo that was pretty much facing forward. 

I'm not about super-realistic cookies. For me, it's all about cookies with a bit of whimsy and fun. 

STEP ONE. To help me make the photo into something I could translate onto a cookie, I uploaded it into a free coloring page website. I used Mimi Panda, but I'm sure there are others to use as well. 

how to make custom portrait cookies without a projector

STEP TWO. Make a template of the shape for the cookie itself. Looking at the coloring page, the outline was going to be too long and skinny. I really didn't want a 6-inch long, 1.5-inch wide cookie. Open the photo into a Word document and adjust the ratio a bit. This made Laura wider than she is, but I knew I could adjust that once I got the basic shape.

STEP THREE. Trace the general shape onto another sheet of paper, adjusting as needed. You can see I adjusted the width back to something more realistic and kept the main points like the scarf, boots, and dress. 

how to make custom portrait cookies without a projector

STEP FOUR. Color in the traced copy with colored pencils to plan food coloring.

how to make custom cookie cutter templates

how to make custom portrait cookies without a projector

STEP FIVE. Make the cookie cutter template. Using plastic for quilt stencils, a cookie cutter template is easy to make, and I've made lots over the years. I won't rehash the details here, but be sure to check out my post on how to make and use cookie cutter templates.  

STEP SIX. Speaking of cookies, you'll want one like my go-to cut-out cookie recipe that is delicious but also holds up well to decorating and packaging. For decorating, you'll want my no-fail royal icing recipe. 

STEP SEVEN. Cut out the cookies, make and tint the royal icing, and get ready to get to work! At first, the cookies will look strange; just trust that as you add more detail, they'll look more like the person you're trying to recreate. 

IMPORTANT NOTES: simplify the design where you can. You'll notice that I put Laura's hands in her pockets and ditched the handbag. I was worried about creating hands and thought they might distract from the overall look. To begin, start with the big shapes. For extra help in translating the design, use this tissue paper transfer trick to place the main areas onto the cookie.

how to make custom portrait cookies without a projector

You'll also see that I left out the pleating on the dress from my sketch; I decided that might not translate well. I added ruffle using a leaf tip instead to give the idea of the movement of her dress. 

how to make whimsical custom portrait cookies
Overall, for me, it's about the idea of the person, not an exact replica. Maybe the next cookies will be inspired by Picasso's Cubism Period. Ha. 

What do you think? Would you try to cookie a person? 

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