Color mill food coloring
Traditional liquid food coloring (liquid dye)
Traditional liquid coloring for food is an inexpensive option. It’s the best kind to use when you want a lighter tint. With large desserts, like cakes, it can take a few bottles to create a rich, vibrant color. However, it only takes a drop to make the pretty pastel filling in these dreamy cream wafers.
Liquid food coloring is usually made with synthetic dye in a water base. It’s often sold in small plastic squeeze bottles, which are great for beginners because you can add as many (or as few) drops as you’d like until you reach the desired hue.
Liquid gel dye
Liquid gel dye is similar to its traditional counterpart as it consists of synthetic coloring with a base of water, glycerin or corn syrup. Like plain liquid dye, it’s sold in small dropper bottles. But the two products similarities stop there. Give a bottle of liquid gel dye a squeeze and out comes a much thicker, gel-like liquid. The dye is very concentrated, so a little goes a long way. This type of food coloring works great for creating vivid color. The downside of liquid gel dye is that it’s not as readily available as the traditional liquid dye, and it can be somewhat difficult to find. Also, its thick consistency makes it difficult to spread evenly into doughs. Stick to using it for icings and your favorite homemade candies.
Gel paste dye
Though you’ll likely only find this concentrated gel in a specialty store, it’s worth the trip if you’re looking to give a large batch of batter a bold look. Just like liquid gel dye, it’s made out of synthetic coloring with a water, glycerin or corn syrup base. The paste is packaged up in small pots or jars. Since gel paste dyes are very thick, it’s best to use a toothpick to collect the paste, adding very small amounts at a time to what you’re coloring. If you’re trying to avoid a mess—or if you have clumsy hands or if there are kids involved—this is a great option, as its liquid components can spill and splatter. Warning: if you don’t know how deep you’d like your color to look, this isn’t the best choice. It doesn’t allow for a lot of for trial and error. And since its consistency is semi-solid, it can also be tricky to work into dough.
Natural food colorings
For anyone who wants to steer clear of synthetic dyes, natural food colorings do exist. You won’t find any glycerin or corn syrup in them. They can be difficult to locate, but an online search is all it takes to order them quickly or to help you find a specialty store in your area.