|Today’s blog is about how to approach color. When coloring a soap, we often think, “I want half my soap blue and half white in a lovely swirl.” In reality, the color is nowhere near half the mixture. True mixtures which are half white and half color have too much color, and the swirls don’t appear as vividly.
When swirling soaps, think CAKE. If you were never taught to do chocolate swirls in a cake, now is the time to learn. Cakes are a much thicker batter than our soap when it goes into a mold, but the concept is the same: primary color (flavor) in the pan, then place spots of color (flavor) in random positions across the top, swirl with the long handle of a round handled spoon. For my soap, I used a highly technical piece of laboratory equipment called a drinking straw.
Here is today’s recipe:
30 fluid ounces water
6 fluid ounces water
1 teaspoon Ultramarine Blue Color
Mix the lye solutions and set aside. Heat the oils for the large batch of soap. (This took about 8 minutes in the microwave.) Heat the oils for the small batch while you are mixing the large batch of soap. I used a 2-gallon pail to mix the large batch of soap.
Once the white soap is at a light trace, I set it aside and began mixing the blue batch. When the blue soap was a bit thicker than a plain colored soap batch, I rinsed my blender and went back to blending the white batch. It only took about 10 seconds more of blending, and I poured the white batch into the cardboard box lined with a plastic bag.
Once all the white soap was in the mold, I added the blue soap, pouring in random areas. I then used a straw to swirl the color through the mold and also up and down. The up-and-down action has the straw mixing across the top and dipping down to the bottom in a circular motion like whipping pancake batter with a balloon whisk.
The soap should appear somewhat colored on the top. Allow it to rest. You can see this great picture of the soap going through gel phase. Try very hard not to move the soap while it is gel phase; you may lose all of your beautiful swirls.
Let’s fast forward to the time when the soaps are ready to cut. You can see all the soaps from the week. These soaps are the shea butter basic soap, then neem oil, then lanolin, and finally our peppermint leaves and blue colored swirl soaps. The only soap that we poured this week that was as viscous as unwhipped heavy cream was the colored batch we did today. All others were poured at a water-thin viscosity. All had reached trace, and none was over mixed.
The soap today was 5 parts of white plus 1 part colored soap. Look at the finished soap. Can you see why we chose the ratio of 5:1? Beautiful!
So, let’s recap today:
Happy soaping! Send pictures of your new batches. We’ll share here in the blog. Everyone should try a new batch of soap with this week’s lessons at hand.
Beautiful blue swirls!
I have a question about mixing the soap to trace. I usualy mix my soap until a spoon dragged across the surface of the mixture leaves an indentation that stays,think pudding. Am I mixing to long and what will this do to the final product? So far I haven’t had any problems but I am always looking to improve.
You won’t have any problems with the soap. A more fluid trace makes finer and easier to swirl ribbons of color. If you like what you are getting, keep doing it!.
After reading this, I find it absolutely fascinating that you mix the oils with the lye mixture so soon! I have always been “OCD” about temperatures, and feel a bit overwhelemed/confused. Is it okay to always do the mixing without taking the temperatures, as you have been doing this week? If so- I am very excited! Many days I put off making soap because of the time I have to wait (mostly for the lye mixture to come down.) I also have learned that I have been looking for trace to be much thicker than you have pointed out this week and have been waiting too long to pour into the molds. I am usually in a panic to pour my soap into the molds while the mixture has almost hardened in the pot. Thank you!
Try taking the temperatures immediately before mixing and do the same process we use. Note the temperatures while mixing, it would be handy if you have a secretary to write these things down during the process. Secretaries can be good friends, spouses, kids or even a tape recorder.
Don’t worry about the temperatures being something specific, just take them so you know what they are. After a week of making soap like we have done, you will start to break your OCD issues of having specific numbers on the dial of your thermometer. I sure am glad we got some photos of the
thin, fluid mixture we pour into the molds.
I am definitely going to give this a try.
Even though it’s twice the process it will be twice as easy to color and swirl.
Trying to play “beat the clock” with the one batch method just wasn’t working for my “OCD”.
I wanted my swirls to be swirly and not…glop…glop…glop.
hi Andee – Can I grease my molds to avoid the plastic wrinkly marks on the outside of the soap? what would I use – olive oil, butter, …..or is lining the mold with plastic the common thing to do amongst soap makers who are pouring into a big plain mold/pan who are cutting into bars vs. pouring into “pretty” shaped individual molds. thanks again, Emily
You can avoid the plastic wrap but you should consider that the fold lines will disappear after a good hand washing, AND these are test batches. Soaps which are sold are often poured into molds that will have straight sides. For greasing a mold we recommend a thin coating of mineral oil, Vaseline, or a silicone spray that meat grinders use. These are not saponifiable materials. If you use olive oil, butter or some other saponifiable fat, then the process of converting that fat to soap makes it act more like Super Glue than a mold release. We use the plastic wrap because we can make lots of soaps on a given day, not have to rewash the molds, and get each soap out of the mold within seconds. Again, these are test batches.
Finished soaps for sale are a different story.
I have another question: Do you have a set time table that you use for melting the oils in the microwave? I noticed that for the 16 oz batches, you microwaved the oils for 2 minutes, and for the batch on day five, 80 oz of oils, you microwaved for about 8 minutes. I typically make 40 oz batches- what would you recommend for time? I don’t want to overheat and/or catch my oils on fire….
No, we don’t have a set time table for melting oils in the microwave. I like to microwave each batch using short increments of time and then stirring. I keep doing that until the oils are completely melted.
For your 40 oz batch, start with 2 minutes and then check the oils and decide from there. If you are unsure about how much time you need, feel free to microwave in 30 second or 1 minute intervals if that make you feel more comfortable.
Fantastic information in this series, thanks so much!! I have been wanting to try making cold proccess soap for awhile but I have been scared because I always heard it was so hard to do. I did have a question on weights/scales though. How important is accuraccy here, do I need a scale that does .01 grams? I will just be making 1 lb batches (like your test batches) and not huge amounts at a time
Thanks again! Moira
If you are planing on making lotion in the future, then we do recommend using a scale that has .1 gram readability. If this scale is only going to be used for 1 lb batches of soap, then I don’t see the need for a scale that has the .1 gram readability. I hope this information has helped you.
I tried using your lavender fields color for the first time in my CP soap today. But I am pretty discouraged cause instead of it turning a lovely purple it turned a murky gray from the very start. Nothing I could do changed it either. What am I doing wrong? I probably ended up adding too much in the attempt to fix it. I added it to the batch after the lye and oils were mixed like I generally do with my natural colorants (Which turn out great) It’s a shame too cause the entire batch minus the gloomy gray color turned out perfect! Have and suggestions?
It is gray because too little was used. When you have oils that have their own color, palm and olive oils are common problems, then you need more color to cover. This is a pigment color and you must use enough to cover the other colors. A dye migrates through the product, a pigment will not. If you need to make the color pop out from the yellow oils, then use Titanium Dioxide. This white color makes all colors seem brighter.
I did use some Titanium Dioxide. I used about 1-1/2 TB of purple color on a 3lb batch of soap and about 1 ts of the Titanium Dioxide. How much would you suggest I use in a future batch?
In this particular recipe ( a Lavender Cream) I used, goats milk, palm oil, coconut oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, castor oil, Hydronated soybean oil, deodorized cocoa butter, shea butter, & scent… It smells wonderful though. It would make for a great blog recipe! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
What is the dilution rate of the color?
Milk, palm and olive will all require extra color to be added.
When adding color you can plan that what you see in the pot will be darker than the final bar of soap. So before pouring, decide if you want that color or if you want something darker. If you like blueish purples, you can add a bit of the ultramarine blue to the mix. This is like painting a room that has dark colored walls. We need to throw enough paint on the walls so we see only the new color, without enough paint it looks like mud.
I used about 2 – 2 1/2 TB of glycerin to about 1 TB purple pigment. Mixed well to remove clumps and then added to batch. So it wasn’t diluted much when it was added. Before adding my color to the batch it was a lovely bold purple color and I was disappointed when it’s ending color was a murkly gray with a slightly purple tint to it.
I guess I just didn’t think I would have to add soo much color to achieve what I wanted. Especially after seeing other recipes using color. Not to mention when I use natural colors I only use a small amount and achieve nice colors. Would adding color to my oils before mixing do anything different? I just want to make sure I get the most out of my pigment. I hate to use soo much that I dye skin or bath tubs,
Pigments are used at a much higher rate than dyes. You won’t color the bath tub or the skin with a pigment like this. Dyes are another thing. For a pigment, these we use to make swirl bars, it takes much more colorant than a dye.
Thank you. It’s good to know that. I will remember that in future batches.
Is there a way to make a smaller batch of this? Also, I have solid chunk soap colors. How would I use those?
I just stumbled upon this notion that you can make your own soaps and now I am hooked! One of the first sites I visited said to only mix lye/water in stainless steal or enamel, as glass can shatter and plastic can melt from the heat process. In all the blog posts and pictures I’ve been seeing here, I see that you use glass beakers and plastic buckets. Is that safe for any recipe? It would make life so much easier than for me to try and find suitable stainless steel containers…
We do show mixing in glass beakers that we purchase from a supplier of laboratory grade equipment. Our beakers are made from borosilicate glass, which can withstand thermal shock & chemical attack from acidic or alkaline solutions. We do recommend checking all containers for stress, injury or other potential problems. I have even had a plastic HDPE container begin to melt from a batch of soap! All containers have their weaknesses and as long as the user knows to check for potential problems in all containers that they use, we feel that any containers are fine to use. (As long as they are not aluminum! 😉 ) One of the benefits of using the glass beakers is the ability to photograph at different angles instead of only over the shoulder of the soapmaker.
Doesn’t that make the starting of soapmaking so much easier?
There are no links to the oils or colorant.
We have fixed these links. Thank you for your help!
Andee, I would love to try these recipes, but is there something that I can substitute in for the soybean oil? We avoid soybeans.
What do you have on hand? Are lard, tallow, palm, palm kernel or coconut acceptable options?
Thank you so much for sharing !
I just now got the soap disease 🙂 Very happy to see your website
Enjoy your soaping adventures! It’s a lot of fun! Let us know if we can help you along your journey. We’re always glad to help with technical issues and recipes! ~Denise