The first time I made salt dough ornaments, they came out looking lumpy and messy. I promptly threw them in the garbage and didn’t attempt another batch for a couple of years. For some reason, I wanted to give them a try again this year, and I was pleasantly surprised!
The BEST salt dough recipe and directions are on Julie Blanner’s website (found here). You will need more water than what is listed (but the idea is that you add it slowly so you have just the right amount). I find it best to use my hands after the flour, salt and initial water are mixed together. This way you can get a good idea of the consistency as you go. After you have your dough, you must knead it. You can use a mixer for this, but I prefer to do it by hand.
At that point, you’re ready to roll out the dough and start making ornaments. The thicker the dough, the longer your ornaments will need to bake and I witness that my thicker ornaments tended to curve. I found it helpful to break up the original dough ball into three or four (that way I am working with less) to start with and I can easily roll it out to a thinner consistency.
I have the Wilton’s 101 piece cookie cutter set (found here) and 18 piece metal holiday cookie cutter set (here). You get a great selection of Christmas – shaped items and I really like the letters in the 101 piece set. I stuck with classic stars for this batch of ornaments. After your ornaments are cut, I use either my hand or spatula to transfer them to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
The ornaments are baked for 30 minutes at 200o F. I usually flip the ornaments after 15-20 minutes. I’ll occasionally bake thicker ornaments longer…but I just play it by ear. I’m a wild woman like that. I move the cookies to a wire mesh cooling rack and let them sit overnight. Thicker ornaments may need a couple of days. I threaded fishing line (12 lb, Trilene XL Smooth Casting) through the small hole in the ornaments to prep them for painting.
I decided to paint the cookies using a dip method (not really sure if this is the right term – please correct me). I wanted multiple colors and organic lines. It’s pretty straight forward. All you need is cheap acrylic paint, a plastic cup or larger lid (for the bigger ornaments), a skewer and a place to hang your ornaments.
I decided to use red and white for my colors. You could use more but you have to be careful that they don’t create ugly colors when mixed. My technique was to pick a color as a base, I picked white, and then add drops of a secondary color (red). I tried my best to spread the drops out and not have them next to each other.
After a couple of drops of red, I took my skewer and started to swirl the red into the white. I did not completely mix them as I wanted to retain the different colors.
Once I was happy with the swirl pattern, I dipped my ornament into the paint slowly. I used a skewer to help submerge it.
I also tilted the cup to encourage the movement of the paint over the ornament and to create a unique pattern.
After it was completely submerged, I very, very, very slowly removed it from the paint by pulling straight up. It’s fun to see the paint running off of the ornament and to get a glimpse of the end design.
I like to very gently give the ornament a shake or two to help get off access paint. I then hung it up to dry. I monitored the stars for drips. They usually formed on the bottom points. I would just take the skewer and gentle push any drips away.
I think this is such a fun painting method because every ornament will come out completely unique. The more you use the same painting dish, the more the colors start to blend and you’ll start seeing more pink. To continue getting the striped effect, add a few more drops of red paint once it’s pink and swirl it gently like at the beginning. (Side note: I tried to use red as my base with white swirls and the effect was not as dynamic or interesting.)
I’m so happy with how they turned out and I’m excited to make this a family tradition. I already have a million ideas for NEXT Christmas. 🙂
I also made a video showing from start to finish how to make and paint the ornaments.
I also made another ornament that represents 2020. I just molded the dough into a poop shape (or “chocolate ice cream”) and baked it. I dipped it in brown paint and threw gold glitter on it. Ta-day! Clearly, I’m not a classy lady.