Food coloring has many ways of being made, but store-bought coloring is often comprised of similar ingredients. Propylene glycol, propylparaben and water are the most commonly found, with more specific dyes affecting the color outcome.
Red dye 5, red 40, yellow dye 5 and blue 1 can be found on most store-bought dyes, listed clearly under the ingredients in order of presence in final product. These are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and carry no taste or scent. Although the FDA ruled they are safe to use, many consider these artificial colors to be unhealthy and prefer less manufactured colorants.
For more natural concoctions, one can use fruits or plants to create food coloring. Currants, cherries, beetroot and elderberries yield a red color. Turmeric and saffron give a yellowish hue. Mint and matcha powder supply a green color. Blackcurrant can be used to give a food a black color. For an orange dye, cooks can use paprika or carrot juice, and for purple, they can turn to grapes or grape juice.
There are a litany of other options to make natural food colorants, depending on the flora available. It is important to note that almost all natural food coloring does have both flavor and a smell and can alter the taste of what they are added to. Holistic and organic stores commonly have sections dedicated to dyes if there are not colorant sources readily available.