What are Petal and Luster Dusts?
Petal dusts (also known as blossom tint) and luster dusts are powders that are used to color gumpaste flowers, leaves, buds and other objects. You could call petal dusts gumpasting magicians because with just a little sleight of hand they will conjure up for you thrilling coloring effects. Luster dusts are the magician’s lovely assistant whose illusion is creating a soft, pearly finish on its subject.
These powders come in small plastic containers or vials and the amount they hold varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Most companies use grams when calculating the weight. One thing to keep in mind is they all use net weight which is the weight of the powder not including the container.
When coloring sugar flowers and leaves the powder of choice is petal dust because of their depth of color. These powders create a very life-like matte finish which is important when making realistic flowers since in nature most blossoms do not have a perceptible shine. They can also be used on molded and modeled objects and figurines. Because of all the color combinations used when mixing these powders there is a full array of petal dust colors available the number of which far exceeds the colors in a prism.
For the most part gumpasters rely on petal dust to color their flowers, buds, leaves, figurines or 3D objects, but when a little touch of shimmer is needed that is when luster dust comes into play. These dusts also come in many different colors, but do not expect the same results you will achieve applying petal dust because luster powders are more like a subtle highlighter. I find lighter shades to have an almost translucent complexion. Luster dusts can be used in conjunction with petal dusts to add that finishing touch.
Are They Safe?
The majority of petal and luster dusts that are available are labeled as non-toxic which means they are not harmful or destructive to human beings. Though they are not meant to be eaten, the bottom line is no one is going to get sick or die from ingesting the extremely insignificant amounts of dust that you would use in your finished pieces. If you are still concerned just be sure not to allow these dusts to come into contact with the cake itself. The good news is there are a couple of manufacturers out there whose products have been sanctioned as edible by the FDA. So, if you are worried because your project includes having your creation(s) come into contact with food, you can set your mind at ease by purchasing Crystal Colors powders produced by Sugarcraft LLC and/or Elite Color/ Sterling Pearl powders manufactured by The Sugar Art, Inc.
Selecting Dusts and Colors
Since the colors available in these dusts are almost limitless it can be easy to get carried away. The colors you will use will be determined by the color of the flower or object you have chosen for your project. I suggest when starting out that maybe you go with just a few luster dusts and complement the rest of your collection with several petal dusts. I made the mistake of loading up on too many luster dusts in the beginning only to find out that for the types of flowers, figurines, and objects I normally choose to create I only use them occasionally. However, if bling is your thing, knock yourself out and stock up on luster dusts. The good news is both petal and luster dusts go a long way!
When making floral creations, whether you are trying to mimic Mother Nature or not, the colors you will need ultimately comes down to the coloring of the types of flowers you will be creating. If you are making vibrant-colored flowers you will need more of that particular coloring to achieve that liveliness. For example, if you are making red roses then you will need a lot of red. However, if you want to tone things down a little, then you will want to stick with the more muted colors. When making art pieces or figurines you have more leeway when choosing colors, unless of course you are attempting to match specific colors to the object you are creating.
Filler or No Filler?
You will find that there are quite a few manufacturers of these dusts, so which brand should you chose? It basically comes down to two choices: dusts with fillers and dusts without. Fillers are additives that dilute the intensity of the dust’s coloring. Many companies use them and I suspect they add them to help keep their costs down.
If your final goal is to color your flowers and leaves with very rich and deep colors then you would want dusts without fillers. There are presently only five companies I am aware of that produce filler-free dusts: Diamond Colours, Squires Kitchen Professional Dust Food Colour, Sugarcraft Crystal Colors, Sugarflair Edible Blossom Tint (edible dusting color), and The Sugar Art, Inc.
I use dusts both with and without fillers, but I confess I prefer ones that are sans fillers since I love the concentrated coloring they add to my sugar pieces. If you are on the fence about which type to purchase because of the price factor, I would highly recommend trying filler free dusts in vibrant colors such as red, purple, deep blue, black, etc. because they achieve more striking results using less dust.
Sources for My Favorite Dusts:
Sugarflair Edible Blossom Tint (edible dusting color)