Updated: Jan 7, 2019
I absolutely love using colorants when creating soap. It gives me the opportunity to use a blank canvas and turn my soap into a beautiful work of art. With so many different colorant options, both natural and artificial, I have found that powdered colorants create some of the most exciting colors and are my go-to choice when designing my soaps. Powdered colorants include micas, pigments, oxides, charcoal and clays. Each of these options can be blended and combined to form create new hues and shades so the color possibilities are endless.
In cold process soap there is often a very significant difference in the final soap color between those that gel and those that do not. The colors in soaps that gel are often much more distinct and vibrant and often appear deeper and more true to the original colorant. Luckily for hot process soap makers, all of our soaps gel. This means that we have the opportunity to use this to our advantage and play with fun and exciting colors.
So how exactly should we use colorants in hot process soap? Before the cook? After the cook? Added to oil or to water? There are so many different ways to use colorants that there is no one “right” answer, but we have found some tips that may help your colors “pop”.
Powdered colorants should always be added to a "solvent" before adding to your soap recipe. I use the word "solvent" loosely to describe the liquid that colorants are added to, although many colorants may not actually dissolve, but rather become hydrated which significantly reduces the risk of clumping, uneven color and glycerin rivers. There are many different options for solvents, but three of the most popular choices are water, oil and glycerin. All of these are excellent selections and it is truly a personal preference on which one you would like to use. I like to use both water and oil for solvents, depending on the design I am trying to achieve and which method of hot process soap making I am using. No matter what solvent I use, I always warm it up in the microwave first because it helps the colorants mix more evenly and prevents cooling when added to the soap mixture.
When using colorants in fluid hot process, I always use sugar water to mix my colorants in. Yep, you heard me, sugar water! Sugar acts as a bridge between the hydrophobic and hydrophilic portions of the surfactant head groups which allows us to easily modify the properties of soap and positively affects the lather. When sugar is dissolved in water and/or when it is added to soap, it creates an exothermic, or heat producing, reaction. Sugar also creates larger and longer lasting bubbles and when added to soap it increases the rate at which lather forms and increases the stability of the lather. I also like to use water instead of oil because it is less viscous than oil and therefore provides a more fluid effect.
For each color, I use about .25-.50 ounces water per pound of oil and the corresponding amount of colorant needed to achieve my desired effect. You do not need to discount the water from your soaping chemical equation because it is such a small amount and does not affect the final outcome of the recipe. Creating the sugar water solution doesn't need to be a super detailed process and doesn’t require you to weigh each colorant’s water unless you feel uncomfortable "winging it". I simply add a large splash of hot water to my colorant pitcher or squeeze bottle, sprinkle a little table sugar, add the colorant and mix until the everything is evenly distributed. I have found that using hot sugar water for my colorant, in comparison to all other tested solvents, tested at varying temperatures, works the best for me because it produces the brightest and well blended color, increases the fluidity of the recipe and increases the stability of my lather.
What about colorants that are softer in hues like pale pink and sky blue? Or colorants that just don’t seem to “take”? A great solution to enhance or brighten colors is to add Titanium Dioxide to your entire batch before separating your recipe into your other colorants. Use the same hot sugar-water solution to mix your TD and then add it to your entire recipe (after the fragrance). You will then have a lighter base to work with and it will provide additional coverage to ensure that your colors are able to really pop. This is also a great solution when using additives or oil preferences that naturally darken your recipe like goat’s milk or pumpkin oil.
Now that you have some some tips on how to better color your hot process soap, try them out and show us your next creation!
Do you have any suggestions on how to use colorants in your fluid hot process soap? Feel free to share!