Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Testing colorants

There was a thread on the Teach Soap forums last week from a soaper wanting to know how the heck so many other soapers were able to achieve such bright colors in their cold process soaps.

So, do you guys prefer liquid colorants, or pigments? So far, I've only used pigment, but I can never seem to get the color that I want (at least, not without using A LOT of pigment). I see so many bright and bold soaps, and I'm never sure what they use, but mine never come out that bright. I'm trying to keep my soaps as natural as possible, and I just hate the idea of using the lab colors from BB.

I volunteered a photo of a soap I'd made using a few different pigment colors from TKB Trading , a website that offers a ton of pigments, micas, and other soap and cosmetic supplies. (Careful, that link may cause hours of color browsing and/or money spending!) I'd just made another order when this forum thread was posted, and had already planned to test the new colorants out before using them in a huge batch, so I decided to take some photos too to share both here and in the aforementioned forum thread. 

Some of my new colorants from TKB Trading

Measuring out the colorants, adding oil or water and mixing.

I tested 12 different pigments, micas, and natural colorants (not pictured), as well as a fragrance oil I want to use later on to see what the discoloration would be like. I used a new palm kernel oil recipe to test with, and I did get a pretty fast and slightly thick trace with it, so I didn't worry too much about making the soap pretty in each cavity of the mold. It was colors I wanted to see! I was so panicky about how quickly my batter was moving, that I didn't think to write down my usage rates for each colorant, which turned more into pouring from the cup than anything exact anyway, if you must know the truth!

Some made me squeal with delight, others just made me sigh sadly. I think the gold mica (top, row three) was the most disappointing to me, as it was just completely lost. Having been a melt and pour soaper before I was a CP soaper, it's always sad to lose that beautiful shimmer from micas when added. The blue-violet from TKB also mixed to a dull blue-gray, which I knew was a possibility with purples, but.... did you see how bright it was in the baggie?? (It also looked much bluer to me on arrival than it did on their website....) I am still in search of a nice strong purple, without using bleeding LabColors, and I do have a couple of pigment blends in mind, so I'll let you know when I find it. ;) 

Another observation, the Chromium Green Oxide from TKB is actually a much lighter green than the Chromium Green Oxide from Bramble Berry when used in equal parts in the soap. I have used both. The red from TKB turned out very orange also.

I was most pleased with the Neon Blue pigment from TKB, followed by the Flourescent Strong Pink, and then the Coral Reef Mica because it is such a nice teal color, even if it didn't turn out as beautiful as it was just lying in the baggie. 

So here they are, with a little lime wedge to show uncolored from the same batch. (I've got some pretty dark olive oil right now....) I haven't tested the lather for color on any of these yet as I have been using them to practice making soap curls.

Do you have any tips for making micas pop better in cold process? Any favorite pigments or micas, or even suppliers? Tell me tell me! :)

Thanks for reading!


  1. It's good to see how the colorants behave in CP soap. Love the neon blue and pink! I have mostly used Bramble Berry's oxides and micas. The oxides are my favorite - I mix them with a bit of liquid glycerin first to work the clumps out. I haven't used micas as much - they seem less dramatic than the oxides and I always worry about them morphing.

  2. I really like oxides best too. They aren't a guessing game like some colorants. Usually what you see is what you get. With the exception of gosh darn purples!