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Adding color to your soap

Adding color to your soap

Soap color was one of the hardest things for me to master. Mainly because I was using synthetic colors.


When working with color you have to know how they will react in a high PH environment. Many synthetics just will not hold up in cold process soap. I have had blues turn burgundy, purples turn dark green and orange turn lime green. I want my soap to smell and look the same, I don’t want green lavender scented soaps, it tends to confuse the mind sometimes.


Color is an option. Many do not even like colors in their soaps. I have begun a trend towards more natural looking soaps and do not use a lot of colors any more. It is always nice if you are using the soap as gifts to have nice colors that make it eye appealing. I am going to save you a lot of time, money and aggravation by letting you in on the color secrets associated with cold process soap making.


There are several companies that offer high PH lab colors. I have used these and they usually work pretty good when used in moderation. I have had some problems with them morphing, that I have yet to explain. They are a dye and will bleed in layered soaps. If you want distinct color lines these probably will not be suitable.


Colored micas make beautiful colors but make sure they are suitable for cold process soaps. Usually they will list this information for you. Do not use mica unless you know it will work, you do not want grey dirty looking soap, which is what you will get with an unstable mica.


Oxides are a powdered color pigment that usually works well in cold process soap. The distributor will list the information most of the time and sometimes even a color swatch so you can see how it turns out. I particularly like these colors. They are usually mixed in a bit of glycerin or oil before you add them to your soap. I find the fluorescent colors don’t always turn out fluorescent but they always make bright colors in cold process soap.


I am trending more and more towards the natural colors.  Natural colors are herbs/botanicals that are infused in oil and create beautiful natural colors.  Some botanicals can be added directly to the soap batch to create color, but you will want to do a test batch first. Many of them will turn brown due to organic content.


French clays come in a variety of colors; I prefer the pink and the green for color. They also add a detoxifying property to your soap. They create a duller color but I find a smidge of oxide powder will brighten the color if that is what you are preferred.  They are economical and can be added right to the soap batch.


I usually use coco powder to make browns and activated charcoal to make black these is added directly to the soap batch.  Chlorella makes a beautiful dark green when added to the cold process soap batch.


When infusing herbs and botanicals in oil I usually add about a fourth of a cup per quart and let it sit for about a week. Now, this will take some experiments, some herbs will produce much darker color thus you will have to use much less to reach the desired effect.
Alkanet root = purple
Turmeric = yellow/gold
Annatto seed = peachy orange
Paprika = orange (too much may irritate skin)
Indigo = several shades of blue (a little goes a long way)
Woad = blue (can be hard to find and pricey
Madder root = pink to red depending on how much you use.
Sandalwood powder = red to purple depending on the ph of your soap, higher ph tends towards purple.
Spirulina powder = greenish blue


Debbie Shivvers is the owner of Plott Hollow Farm, dedicated to preserving endangered breeds of livestock and poultry. She is an experienced soap maker and member of The Handcrafted Soap Makers Guild. Find her farm and products at

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  1. by petrakujo
    Comment made on: December 25 2013

    I am fairly new at CP soaping – happily all has turned out well so far. I would really like to stick to natural botanicals, spices etc for coloring my soaps. I did read your list of botanicals and wonder if all herbal powdered components have to be infused in oil before use or if I can add powders at trace? I have most of the listed botanicals but really want to use Chlorella for a naturally deodorizing soap. a response would be very much appreciated.

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