DIY cookie decorating ideas: How to make your own sweet family and friends

A variety of cookies decorated to look like the faces of different people and pets and a piping bag full of chocolate icing lay on a white marble countertop; a woman's hand is reaching into frame to take one.

Delicious, versatile and fit for nearly any dessert occasion, it’s no secret that cookies are pretty awesome. And when you decorate them to look like your favorite people (or pets), they somehow get even better! 

So if you love cookie decorating, want a yummy, personalized gift, or just need to practice all the skills you’ve learned from watching so many baking shows (you know who you are), we promise you’ll eat up these fun, DIY cookie faces. Dig in!

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How to make DIY cookie faces  

A variety of cookies decorated to look like different people's and pet's faces sit on a light green surface; the cookies appear in three different flavors—chocolate, sugar cookie and gingerbread—and are decorated with white and chocolate royal icing.

What you’ll need:

Cut out your cookie faces  

A free cookie face template printable sits on a white marble countertop with an example sheet of how to decorate different facial features, alongside a tray of undecorated cookies.

We used three kinds of cookie dough created by cookie expert Bernard S.: chocolate cookie dough, sugar cookie dough and gingerbread dough. You can use your favorite versions—the ones passed down through your family or the ones that come refrigerated from your grocery store.

If you’re making your dough, once it’s mixed up, put it in the fridge to chill for at least an hour. Then print the free downloadable cookie templates and cut the faces out with scissors.

First, sprinkle a little flour on a sheet of parchment paper. This will help make sure your dough doesn’t stick. Roll all of your chilled cookie dough out onto the parchment—it should be a scant 1/4 inch thick. Then transfer the whole dough-covered sheet of parchment to a large baking sheet and pop it in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

Remove the dough from the freezer and place the templates on the dough. Trace them with the tip of your paring knife, then cut them out. Remove the extra dough and put the cookie faces back in the freezer to keep those edges nice and sharp when they bake.

Then just follow the baking instructions for each recipe and let your cookie faces cool completely. (This is really important!)

Pro tip: We’re all about the cookie decorating here, but great cookies start with great dough. Check out our best tips and tricks for rolling your dough.

Decorating your cookie faces  

A woman's hands hold a piping bag as she demonstrates how to decorate a baking tray full of cookies to look like different people's and pet's faces; on the left, she shows how to pipe icing to make eyes, and on the right she shows how to use a different color of icing to add details like pupils to the eyes.

Now for the fun part—decorating!

Your cookies must be completely cool before you start decorating. Otherwise, the icing will break down. If you have to bake and decorate on the same day, let the cookies cool to the touch on the rack, then give them a quick chill in the freezer (about 10 minutes).

Pro tip: Bake your cookie faces a week ahead and freeze them in a zipper bag ’til you’re ready to decorate.

A stop-motion GIF of a woman using a piping bag full of white royal icing to draw a face and hair on a round gingerbread cookie; next to the cookie sheet on the white marble countertop lays a printout of a guide for drawing different facial features.

Make the royal icing

Start with the basic royal icing recipe mixed in a super-clean glass or metal bowl. (Fats can break down the icing, so you want your bowl completely free of oil or butter residue.) Mix the royal icing to the consistency of cake frosting and set it aside. 

Next, separate the royal icing into as many smaller (and clean!) bowls as you want colors.

You’re going to thin it down by mixing in the tiniest bit of water. To test the consistency, run a knife or spatula through the icing. 

When it takes a good 20 seconds to fill back in, it’s the right consistency. If it’s too thick, add a tiny bit more water and mix again. Too thin? Add a little more powdered sugar.

Pro tip: Adding too much water will make your icing runny. A spray bottle will allow you to control the amount of water so you can get the right consistency.

We used plain white royal icing and added tiny dabs of gel food coloring to create different shades of brown.

You’ll notice we kept our color palette super simple because #aesthetic. If you want a wider range of options, check out this post about food coloring ratios for different skin tones.

We’ve provided our sketches to show different ways to try hair and noses and textures. But we don’t know your fam—you do. Play around!

A woman holds a piping bag full of white royal icing and uses it to draw a face and hair on a round gingerbread cookie.

Fill your pastry bag with icing and pop on a no. 1 tip.

For the larger areas, like hair and beards, start by outlining with royal icing then fill it in. If there are any open spaces, you can use a toothpick to move the icing around before it starts to dry.

For a little dimension, let your first color dry completely (about 2 hours) before adding another on top in a slightly thinned down icing. (If you add icing to wet icing, it’ll all smooth out in one layer.)

Pro tip: Have extra cookies to share? Host a cookie exchange or make someone a cute cookie bouquet!

A white platter is filled with chocolate cookies, sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies decorated with white and chocolate royal icing to look like different people's and pet's faces.

Once your royal icing has dried completely, you can make a fun cookie tree. Or package them up and give them as gifts (see our ideas on how to wrap ’em here)! Or eat them right away.

A group of cookies decorated to look like different faces sit on a red surface; drawn around the cookies is a simple illustration of a house and two evergreen trees.

You could also paint a super adorable house on butcher paper and serve your cookies on it.

Your beautiful cookie faces are officially ready to take on the world. 😉 We hope you enjoyed these sweet cookie decorating ideas. Happy baking! 


Still craving cookies? Look no further: