I have a few tips that I've found works best for me. Some of the well-known and some might not be so familiar - well not that I know of. My purpose of sharing these tips with you is to help you decorate quicker, faster and with less expensive tools.
When I started my cake decorating journey, I did not have money to buy all the tools, I had to improvise. I have learned a few from one of my best friends in the Cake Decorating World and copied lots of tools by just using something similar, and up till this day, I still use them.
Make sure your fondant is always sealed inside a plastic bag in a container - away from the sun and in a dry place.
If your fondant is not premium fondant - before you cover a cake - add some vegetable shortening so that the fondant to not crack on the edges. Just make sure that the fondant is mixed properly and that there are no lumps.
If you need to make figurines or flowers - add a bit of CMC powder to the fondant so that it can dry quicker.
Sometimes when you cover a cake with fondant - air pockets form. You can get rid of the air pockets by using a needle. Just prick it slightly, use a cake smoother to gently push out the air.
If you do not buy ready-made black fondant and try to color it yourself - never color directly from white. First color the white with a dark green, then add a bit of brown, then black.
I have found the best free tool you can use to decide how to mix colors. Sometimes we want an olive color or we need to know how to make black or even Barney Purple. This tool will help you do just that. It is also fun to use as you can actually play a game teaching you to mix colors correctly. Play around and see what I mean.
When rolling out your fondant, do not roll it out on cornstarch or icing sugar - rather between two sheets of food-safe plastic (if you cover a cake) or on a silicon mat. Too much powder can create fondant to crack and dry out quicker than what you can cover and smooth the cake.
Most Cake Decorators have cell pads that they use to do frilling and thinning with but I use the flower former like the picture below to thin out my flowers leaves. It allows you to give a bit more pressure than what you would be able to do on the cell pad.
You just need to turn the flower former over for a smooth surface.
Another great tip is the glue that can be used to attach fondant pieces or creating flowers. It is the magic glue in my Cake Decorating World and is called: Egg white! Now you might wonder if it really works. I've used it forever and have you ever seen a chicken fall apart! Try it, it is cheap and works instantly.
Just not overuse as it will make the fondant very sticky. You can also use water as an alternative or make your own glue. Just pop a small ball of fondant in a bit of water. Warm it in the microwave, stir and you have a sweet sticky glue.
All cake decorators use polystyrene dummies, why not use polystyrene platforms for your flowers to dry on or even little balls, to create certain figurines. I use the platforms for my roses to dry on toothpicks. Also use it to build a base for carved cakes, especially car cakes - it is light and can easily be cut to size.
You can also use a polystyrene ball, cut in half and form anything that you need a dome for, such as a teacup! See the pictures below.
Purchasing your first tools, are so much fun, but can be a daunting and expensive task as you do not always know what you really will use. One specific tool that you will not find in the market are very small circle cutters - I mean small enough for a figurines eyes. The options available to you are piping nozzles and straws.