Posted by on 3/18/2021 to Let's Talk Soaping
Working with Colorants in Cold Process Soap Making: How to Premix
One of the questions that you'll impose on yourself every time making a batch of cold process soap is going to be related to colorants.
Do you want to use natural colorants, like clay's & other botanicals? Do you want brighter more vibrant colors? Do you want one solid color or multiple colors? How will the colors complement one another? How do I make sure they are properly mixed in the batter? Which colors are more difficult to work with, as far as shades and/or blending? What color are your base oils?
Like anything soaping related, you get better and more decisive about colorants the more you work with them. Many people like to keep their soaps 100% natural, if this is the case you will find yourself working with natural colorants, and may find your soap to be beautiful, but also slightly more muted then compared to if you chose to go with other types of colorant additives.
Let's take an important first step and that is understanding the different colorants you'll see and commonly use in cold process soap making.
Common Colorants In CP Soap Making
These types of colors are, you guessed it, natural, meaning they are nature derived. There are some important tips to remember when working with natural colorants.
a. They are not produced in a lab, or mass manufactured.
b. Because of the above, there can be subtle differences in a natural colorant from supplier, and that's ok!
c. When adding these colorants to CP soap recipes, it can make a difference how much is added to the recipe. For example, if you're using "rose clay" you will see a shade (lighter or darker) variations if you add different amounts of rose clay.
d. Their may also be differences in shades over-time (as the soap cures), and whether you add the colorant to the lye solution as oppose to directly to the oils or batter. For example, if you're using "indigo" you will see a shade (lighter or darker) variations if you add the indigo directly to your lye solution as oppose to your directly in with your oils.
These are all things to think about, and if you choose to go the route of natural colorants, it's helpful to research examples of how natural colorants act in CP soap. How their shades change based on amount used, and/or, how the colors may change dependent on the stage at which you add them.
Keep in mind for all colorants, especially natural colorants, the base oils you use will effect the final product. For instance, if you use a large amount of olive oils in your soap or oils with a yellow/green hue to them, this is going to change how your colorant looks when added. If you use oils that are light colored, like coconut oil or sweet almond oil, again the colorant will look much more like it's original shade.
Related Article: Base Oils and Their Fatty Acid Properties In The Soap Making Process
If you're making soap to sell, you may also want to gel your soaps. Gelling your soap, especially soaps that are naturally colored will help the color show up brighter. Some natural colorants are extremely dull, if not gelled.
Natural colorants also tend to fade more then synthetic colorants like "some" mica's.
Clay's: Clay's have somewhat of a dual purpose here in cold process soap making. Not only do they add a nice subtle color, but they can make your soaps feel amazing on your skin as well. You can also mix in other colorants like mica's with clay's if you want the color to pop slightly more in your end product.
Mixing Natural Colorants For Cold Process Soap Recipes
A good rule of thumb for mixing clay's!
The best way we have found to mix clays is with distilled water. Just like the distilled water you should use with your lye. We tend to mix our clay's directly into our lye solution.
Natural colorants are tricky because if you don't add enough you may certainly end up with a very dull color.
We usually add our clays based off PPO or per pound of oils. The usual rate is 1tsp per pound of oils. Again, you can increase this to even as much as 3tsp PPO, for clay's like French green clay if you want a deeper color.
There is no getting around testing with natural colorants!
Some natural colorants like indigo, you can also mix with hot water and add directly at trace and this will be a different shade then adding it to your lye solution. Kind of crazy, right!
Again these are somewhat of a wild card in cold process soap making, but if you can find a good rhythm and workability with natural colorants you can truly create your own unique, beautiful brand of soaps!
I. Like mica's, pigments come is vast array of colors. Pigments also stay true to themselves in cold process soap making, meaning they don't usually morph or bleed in the harsh environment of saponification. Mineral pigments are considered "nature identical" and are skin-safe, however they are made in a lab as certain impurities are removed like metals. Many people in fact, consider pigments in bath and body products to be a natural ingredient.
Keep in mind, pigments tend to give you a slightly more difficult time blending, so pre-mixing pigments, in our experience, is key. We'll explain this process below.
Mixing Pigments For Cold Process Soap Recipes
Remember, soap making requires testing, trial and error. Some pigments and/or mica's blend super easy into your batter or lightweight oil. Others take more effort.
Pigments tend to be thicker and more difficult to mix. Always pre-mix pigments. If not, you can easily run into pour dispersing or chucks of pigment in your finished soap.
A good rule of thumb for mixing pigments!
Mix 1 tsp of pigment into 1TBS of a lightweight oil. We almost always mix ours with sweet almond oil. Because most of our soaps contain SAO, it's an easy process for us, and we calculate the amount used to blend out colorants into our total recipe.
Try using a mini blender. You can find these super cheap, on places like Amazon!
Take the guess work out and try out this colorant calculator!
Tip #3: If you add too much colorant it can actually run off of the finished product, so it is better to be safe then sorry!
a. Oxides & Ultramarines:
These types of colorants can be extremely eye pleasing as they are very saturated, and often times, what you see if what you get in cold process soap making as far as these colorants out of the bottle. These are types of mineral pigments.
Mixing Oxides & Ultramarines:
It would be very wise to premix oxides and ultramarines, as they can be a little tricky if you attempt to add them in powder form right to your batter, potentially leaving speaks of colorants throughout your soap.
Most often-times a 1:3 ratio of oxides/ultramarines with a light weight oil is best. An example would be; 1 tsp of colorant to 3 tsp (or 1TBS) of lightweight oil like sweet almond oil or rice bran oil.
b. Neon Pigments:
Neon pigments have become quite the rage, these colors are extremely bright and work very well in CP soap, especially if you want that pop of color. In mixing these colorants, it's suggested that less is sometime more, depending on the desired look. Premixing these in our experience is important to increase the dispersion of the pigments.
II. Mica's are actually mined from the earth. Some mica colorants may be considered natural, but it depends what they are made with/of and how they are coated. If a mica is coated with FD & C dyes they would not be considered natural.
If colored with D&C dyes, the mica's have a tendency to bleed in cold process soap as well.
However, if there're made with other natural ingredients like like titanium dioxide, hydrated chromium oxide, or iron oxide, or colored with all-natural pigments, they would be considered as having mineral based components.
When you see mica in a container, it tends to look shiny, and if applied to your skin, gives off a certain sheen. In melt and pour soaps, mica's look super vibrant, however in cold process soap the vibrancy of some can be somewhat lost in the process. Most times this is why we gel our soaps, because the mica's and other colorants come out brighter, & more vibrant.
Mica's are oil soluble and really don't work well in water based products, that's why premixing them in oils in CP soap making works so well. Not only are they oil soluble, but most of the time they dissolve and disperse fairly easily.
So depending on the ingredient list you're going for, and the naturality you want your soap to be, make sure to read the list of ingredients when purchasing mica's and other colorants.
Mixing Mica's For Cold Process Soap Recipes
This is not mandatory, however if you want to negate or increase the probability that mica's and/or pigments blend appropriately in your soap, we always premix our colorants.
Let's say you're working with a fragrance that accelerates your trace. Do you want to add in mica that is in it's "powder-like" state where it may take a stick blender to incorporate. Well, the answer is probably not, as this could accelerate trace too fast and make the soap making process just plain frustrating. If you make small batches of soap this can be even more of an issue.
Many times, a well premixed mica can simply be hand stirred into your batter, giving your much more control of your trace.
A good rule of thumb for mixing mica's
Mix 1 tsp of mica into 1TBS of a lightweight oil. We almost always mix ours with sweet almond oil. Because most of our soaps contain SAO, it's an easy process for us, and we calculate the amount used to blend our colorants into our total recipe.
Tip #1: There is a wonderful tool for figuring out exact amounts of colorants to add to your recipe, you can find here!
Tip #2: Always read your product description on colorants, as some fade or morph in CP Soap
General Tips for Getting the Most of your Colorants include:
- Understanding usage rate, use the colorant calculator link!
- Understanding how base oils effect color. Try using lighter base oils when possible.
- Gel your soaps: Gelling your soaps helps with creating a shine as well as color vibrancy!
- Store soap away from direct sunlight. A cool, dark environment is best!
Related Article: How to Properly Insulate Cold Process Soap: Let's Chat About it
That's it. We hope you enjoyed this post on colorants. Thanks for stopping by. Have more tricks, tips or hints for colorants in CP soap recipes? Be sure to share them in the comments section of our blog!
Let's help each other!