Picture This: Breakthroughs in Chocolate Imaging

Chocolate has always been thrilling to the senses of taste and smell, but nowadays chocolate imaging you can make your eyeballs happy, too.

Not long ago, the term "chocolate imaging" implied nothing more than meditating about your favorite foodstuff. While that's always fun, it did little to improve the look of what is, let's face it, usually a dumpy brown chunk of fatty goo.

But thanks to FDA-approved edible inks and advanced printing technology, chocolate can now look better than you ever imagined.

Mmm, inky goodness

That's right -- edible inks. Not that you'd want to squeeze a tube of it into your mouth or anything, but if you did it wouldn't hurt you. Think of this handy chocolate imaging tool as advanced food coloring, and you're not far off the mark.

For years bakeries have been applying edible transfers to cakes and similar items, which makes it possible to convert actual photographs to edible pastries. By contrast, images are applied to chocolate by running the chocolate through a machine that literally prints the image on the chocolate.

Sweet memories

If you've ever printed a graphic on an inkjet printer, the chocolate imaging process will be familiar. First, the image to be used is uploaded into a computer software program and manipulated as necessary. The image can be a digital photo, a logo, a special message, or even a business card layout.

Blank chocolates are then loaded into a special tray on the imaging system, and the image is sent to the printer. The inkjet zips back and forth, printing your image a line at a time; the whole process takes several minutes, and the result is amazingly sharp. To see a video of a chocolate printer in action, click below.

Expensive Tastes

Chocolate imaging is usually done on white chocolate, since it shows up better, but apparently it can work with any kind of chocolate. Popular formats include lollipops, CDs, photo frames, medallions, plaques, and cards. You can even have chocolate business cards made, though that seems to defeat the purpose!

One thing you'll have to expect, though, is to pay a lot for imaged chocolate. A single business card can cost up to $2.99. That said, though, they're great for one-of-a-kind events like weddings, anniversaries, and mitzvahs.

Before you run out to get a chocolate imager, be forewarned that it costs about $50,000 -- though that does include the printer, laptop, and five years' supply of ink. Is it worth it? That's debatable, but consider this: how many chocolate lovers can say they're extreme enough to have their own chocolate imaging system?