Soap Making Technique ~ Color

Soap Making Technique ColorShape and color are two things most people will notice first about a bar of soap.  Through the use of molds you can create the shape you think is best suited for your soap, and through the use of colorants you can create the shade you think best represents your soap’s ingredients, scent, or message.

Soap can be colored with dyes, micas, pigments like ultramarines and oxides, and natural herbs.  You will want to choose colorants that are noted as safe for skin, don’t bleed, and hold up well through your chosen method of making soap.

Unfortunately, there are many colorants that do not hold up well through the high pH of the Cold Process method of making soap and can fade or morph into totally unexpected colors that are completely different than what you started with.  Read reviews when possible and make sure to note when you use a colorant that doesn’t work well in your soap so you can steer clear in the future.

FD&C Dyes

FD&C stands for Food, Drug & Cosmetic and these are synthetic dyes that are lab created and FDA approved for use in such products.  They come in a wide selection of vibrant colors and are generally recognized by their names that are associated with the color and a number, such as Yellow #5 or Blue #1.  They are relatively inexpensive and easy to find, but they are also associated with some perceived or potential health risks and are to be avoided if you are marketing your soaps as all natural.  They remain a reliable choice for some soapers for their ease of use and are best suited for the Melt and Pour method of making soap.


Micas are made from rock minerals that are mined from the earth.  These minerals are iridescent and shine, shimmer, sparkle and glow.  They are powdered and even though they are generally considered natural, they are coated with synthetic dyes and colorants, and can even be found as lab created look-alikes that aren’t natural at all.  Make sure you know the company you are buying from and product you are purchasing so you can label and advertise your soaps properly.

They come in a rainbow of beautiful colors and neutrals and when added to clear glycerin based Melt and Pour or liquid soaps, micas can show off their shimmer and glow.  They don’t dissolve, but stay suspended in the soap, so they are non-bleeding.  They can be mixed with a bit of oil or glycerin and added to the soap mixture.  When added to hot and cold process soaps, light can’t pass through to illuminate them so they lose their shimmer and the soap is opaque.  Some colors will fade or change during HP and CP method soaps.

Pigments- Ultramarines & Oxides

Ultramarines and oxides are minerals that were once mined from the earth to be used in cosmetics but are now lab created to be identical to what is found in nature.  Although they are not technically natural, they are considered safe and are generally stable in the various methods of making soap.  They come in a good range of colors and most of them are relatively inexpensive and cost effective.

They have to be mixed into a bit of oil or glycerin before being added to the soap mixture, and a bit of care has to be used to make sure they are mixed well to be clump-free.  They can give soaps a vibrant color without having to use much, which adds to their cost-effective qualities.

Natural Herbs & Clays

The main colorant that is totally natural comes from dried herbs and clays.  Subtle or vibrant colors can be extracted in almost every shade of the rainbow to give your soaps a beautiful color while keeping them all-natural.  The color of dried herbs can be infused into oils and strained out, or added in the powdered form to give texture or abrasive quality.  Powdered clays can also be added to your soap mixture to give natural color and texture.

Not only do herbs and clays give natural color, many of them also have skin-loving properties that add to their natural benefits.  They are also attractive to people who value handmade soap for its all-natural ingredients and appeal.

Not all herbs stand up well in high pH soap mixtures like Cold or Hot Process soaps, but some popular choices for coloring soap include Annatto Seed or Saffron for yellow, Green Clay or Chlorella for green, Madder Root or Red Clay for red, Coffee for brown, and Alkanet Root for purple.  There are many more herbs and clays that can be used as soap colorants, but make sure to read reviews for color stability and label your soaps well if you plan to give them away or sell them as some people have allergic reactions to certain herbs.

Each type of colorant has its own benefits and drawbacks, but they are all fun to work with and experiment with.  Once you are familiar with coloring your handmade soaps, you can move on to more interesting and creative ways to color your soaps like swirling and layering.  Are you ready to have fun?  Start making soap!

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Peace, Love, and SOAP! :)