One of the things that I love the most about making and designing soap is all the color options. This is interesting because I feel like color is the one aspect of soapmaking that leaves me feeling the least confident. If you could see me when I’m thinking about a new soap, you’d find me with a color wheel in my hands, staring at all the combinations, trying to predict what will look good. I guess I like a good challenge.
But soapmakers have to decide between not only which colors to use, but also what kinds of colors. There are many ways to get color into soap, but I choose to use pigments, micas and some natural sources.
Pigments are a class of colors that include oxides and ultramarines. They are the kinds of colorants that have been used for centuries by artists to mix up paints. Today many pigments are also used in mineral make-up. While they used to come from stones, earth and even insects, modern pigments are chemically-identical to the ancient ones but made in a laboratory. This results in a pure colorant, free of any toxic contaminants like lead or mercury.
Mica is a mineral that reflects light, making it sparkle and shimmer. But it has no inherent color. Chemically attach a pigment to the mica, and you have something colorful and shimmery that is a great soap colorant, especially in clear glycerin soap. I like using micas because they are easy to work with and include some vivid and bright colors.
And the final kind of colorant that I sometimes use is natural colorants. These can be spices, herbs, fruit juice or clays. They do tend to fade over time, but if a soapmaker wants a completely natural soap, they can’t be beat.
As long as I have so many options, I’ll keep playing with color. While I may not always feel comfortable combining different colors, it sure is fun!