Coloring Cold Process Soap

Here are some tips and tricks that can help you color your cold process soap!

There are several different types of soap colorants and each one can have different usage rates, so I made a YouTube video several years ago to show how much colorant to use for each type. The video also covers some common coloring mistakes and how to create a true red.

These are the guidelines I use PER CUP of soap:
Micas – I use 1 tsp. per cup of soap for the most brilliant color (1/2 tsp. can be plenty with darker colors though!)
Oxides and ultramarines – Use 1/4 tsp. per cup of soap
Titanium dioxide – use up to 1 tsp. per cup of soap. (Less is better!)
Neons – Use 1/2 tsp. per cup of soap for the most brilliant color, 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. per cup for pastels or lighter colors.
Black – Use 1/3 tsp black oxide with 1/3 tsp black mica per cup of soap
True Red – Use 1/2 tsp red lake 30 per cup of soap (may darken it with 1/16 tsp any brick red mica)

Pre-mixing your colorants: Use glycerin, oil or water to pre-mix your colors before adding them to the soap. You can test oxides and ultramarines to see if they mix better with oil or water. Titanium dioxide is available in water soluble or oil soluble. I prefer water soluble. Neons should be mixed with oil. You can use some of the oil from your recipe if you remember to do it that way, or just add a tiny bit extra to the colorants.

Avoid color clumps by using a mini frother.

Use titanium dioxide to offset yellow tones or discoloring fragrances unless the fragrance will turn the soap a dark brown. Titanium dioxide will not offset it, and vanilla stabilizers tend to break down over time. You can either add fragrance to a portion of your soap so that only that part will turn dark brown, or just go with it and have a soap that is completely dark.

Sometimes you will get a crackled soap (aka glycerin rivers) from using titanium dioxide with a soap recipe that overheated. There are certain fragrances that will overheat your soap, such as many of the florals, as well as certain oils in your soap recipe that can cause problems. For example, after I removed rice bran oil from my recipe, the amount of crackling from titanium dioxide was drastically reduced. Since it’s just a cosmetic issue, you don’t have to worry about it affecting the performance of your soap, and sometimes it just looks really cool!

Lily of the Valley soap with glycerin rivers

Morphing colors: low ph dyes will morph in a high ph environment. Sometimes you can make the color changes work for you, such as a blue that turns purple. Sometimes a blue will just turn a nasty gray though. If you want a true blue, stick to ultramarine blue or a mica that you know is stable. I can recommend soap stable micas from both Mad Micas and Nurture Soap.

Choosing a Beautiful Color Palette for your Soap:

How do you know which colors to put together for your soap? Sometimes a good contrasting color palette is best, and sometimes you can get the best effect from light to dark tones of the same color. Artists often study the color wheel to get the technical information about why certain colors look better together:

Real Color Wheel

Colors that are next to one another on the color wheel are called analogous colors. They usually match well and create serene and comfortable designs. Analogous color schemes are often found in nature and are harmonious and pleasing to the eye.

Colors that are opposite one another on the color wheel are called complementary colors. These include red and green, blue and orange, purple and yellow. They create striking contrast, but if mixed they will become brown and muddy.

Of course black and white create an amazing contrast and can be added to any color palette to create a striking effect.

If you need inspiration, it’s always fun to check out the Design Seeds website with hundreds of different color palette ideas. They are organized by color, or by seasons and themes.

Clyde Yoshida of Vibrant Soap also does an excellent job of explaining the use of color in his soaps. I highly recommend subscribing to his YouTube channel!