Impressionist Soap Tutorial

This pretty and unique soap is inspired by impressionist paintings. It utilizes a unique “swirl” technique created with…of all things…squirt bottles! Don’t forget to bring a little bit of patience along. Squirting the soap can take up to 10 minutes, but it is SO worth it. Get ready to fall in love.

Recipe:

10 oz. Canola Oil
2 oz. Castor Oil
11 oz. Coconut Oil
11 oz. Palm Oil
8 oz. Sunflower Seed Oil
6 oz. Sodium Hydroxide (lye)
14 oz Distilled Water

2.7 oz. Sage and Lemongrass Cybilla Fragrance Oil

1/2 teaspoon Green Chrome Oxide
1/2 teaspoon Titanium Dioxide
1 teaspoon Fizzy Lemonade Colorant
2 tablespoons Sunflower Oil

3-12 ounce Condiment Bottles
Silicone Loaf Mold
Mini-Mixer

Get everything you need for this project at the click of a button!

Do you want to see this soap in person? Are you a more tactile learner? This soap is in our Etsy shop if you’d like to hold it in your hot little hands.

If you have never made cold process soap before, I strongly suggest getting a couple of basic recipes under your belt before starting on this advanced recipe. Check out Soap Queen TV on Cold Process if you want to get started with cold process. It’s a series of FREE videos that will take you through the basics! Be sure to watch the episode on Lye Safety. Safety is the most important part of any soap recipe! If you’re a book worm, Bramble Berry also has some helpful reading on the cold process technique. There’s a downloadable book on making CP soap right here.

Before starting this recipe, gear up in gloves, safety goggles (regular eye glasses don’t count!) and long sleeves. Make sure kids and pets are in another part of the house so there are no distractions or tripping hazards.

Color Prep: Prior to starting the soap making process, pre-mix your colorants in oil. 1/2 teaspoon (tsp) Green Chrome Oxide in 1/2 tablespoon (Tbl) Sunflower Oil, 1/2 tsp Titanium Dioxide in 1/2 Tbl Sunflower Oil, and 1 tsp Fizzy Lemonade in 1 Tbl Sunflower Oil. Blend each color with the mini-mixer, but make sure to saturate the powder in the oil before you turn on the mixer or you’ll get a messy cloud of pigment. Take the tip of your mini-mixer and push the powder under the surface level of the oil. Mix the colorant thoroughly for even color results.

 

ONE: In a well ventilated area, slowly and carefully add the lye to the water. Stir until the water is clear and set aside to cool.

TWO: Melt and combine Coconut and Palm oils. Add the Canola, Castor and Sunflower oils. When both the lye water and oils are below 120 degrees (and ideally within 10 degrees of each other), carefully add the lye water to the oils. Insert stick blender into mixture and “burp” it to release any excess air trapped under the blade. Stick blend the soap until a light trace is reached.

THREE: Split the soap three ways between three containers (you can just eyeball it – totally fine!). Add 1 tsp of the dispersed Green Chrome Oxide and .9 oz of Sage and Lemongrass fragrance oil to one batch, 2 tsp of the dispersed Titanium Dioxide and .9 oz of Sage and Lemongrass to the second batch, and 5 tsp of dispersed Fizzy Lemonade colorant and .9 oz of Sage and Lemongrass to the third. Mix all three batches well using a whisk so not to accelerate trace.

Tip: If you mix from lightest color to darkest color, you can use the same whisk; makes for less dishes to clean!

FOUR: Pour the soap into the condiment bottles; each color will fit into one bottle. Once the bottles are filled and capped, be sure to shake them intermittently by placing a gloved finger over the tip to ensure that the soap doesn’t separate.

FIVE: Choose a starting color (it doesn’t matter too much which one) and squirt soap inside the silicone loaf mold in a horizontal (long way) striping fashion. Keep the tip of the squirt bottle low and close to the mold, and make 3-4 passes back and forth then switch to another color. Continue this way, alternating colors, until the mold is full. Be sure to turn the mold every so often so that one side isn’t heavier than the other.

SIX: Tamp the mold on the table to eliminate any air bubbles.

SEVEN: Add a fun finish to the top of the soap by adding a liner swirl to the top layer! Drag a chopstick or skewer through just the tippy-top layer (so you don’t affect the look of the rest of the soap). Don’t let your chopstick go more than about 1/4″ deep in the soap.

EIGHT: Spray entire surface with 91% alcohol to help prevent soda ash.

NINE: Cover and insulate for 24 hours. Unmold within 3-4 days.

TEN: Allow soap to cure and dry for 4-6 weeks before using.

If you’d like to see this soap in person and really examine it close-up, the soap is in our Etsy shop here.

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77 Comments

  1. Sarah says

    Help!
    I’m very new to soaping as a hobby (made lots of soap in Chem lab though!) and I stupidly tried this recipe and technique to start!

    I bought the kit from bramble berry.com and followed the instructions to the ‘T’. However, by the time I separated the batch for color and FO, it was starting to set. I quickly added the color and the FO and as fast as I could- I put the batter into the squeeze bottles. I had too much of the yellow left so I ‘spooned’ that into the mold and dropped it on the counter a few times to settle it in and try to remove any air bubbles. I followed the technique and alternated color zig-zags and some how I was able to fill the top half of the mold properly.
    The consistency was a little weird to me. It didn’t look like Anne-Marie’s batter at all. It looked grainy. But- maybe that was what it’s supposed to look like when its setting? I have no idea! I insulated the soap and let it sit for 3 days- as suggested. I just cut it tonight when I got home from work. The top half is great! But when I got to the bottom- it started to crumble as I was cutting it. Any ideas what caused this?

    Thanks so much!

    • says

      Hi Sarah!

      First of all, congrats on starting your soaping hobby! This is definitely more of an advanced recipe, but sometimes the best way to learn is just to go for it! :)

      It sounds like you definitely experienced accelerated trace. If you found the batter was also grainy, you may have experienced a ricing, or it could be seizing. You may find this blog post helpful, it gives photo examples of each, that way you can see if that is indeed what happened to your soap.

      Soap Behaving Badly: http://www.soapqueen.com/bath-and-body-tutorials/tips-and-tricks/soap-behaving-badly/

      I would pay extra attention to the final product of “Exhibit C,” which was rough and crumbly. Is this similar to the texture of the bottom of your soap? This soap experienced seizing, which is an extreme version of acceleration in which the soap becomes the texture of mashed potatoes. This can lead to a crumbly finished bar.

      If you are unhappy with how your soap turned out, you could make rebatch soap! Making rebatch soap is basically a way to remelt cold process and remold it. If this is something you’re interested in doing, you may find these blog posts helpful :)

      How To Make Rebatch Soap: http://www.soapqueen.com/bath-and-body-tutorials/cold-process-soap/soap-queen-tv-presents-how-to-make-rebatch-soap-2/

      Rebatch-Double Boiler Method: http://www.soapqueen.com/bath-and-body-tutorials/rebatch-double-boiler-method-2/

      I hope this helps Sarah, let me know if you have any more questions :)

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

      • Sarah says

        Amanda-

        Thanks so much! I did as much trouble shooting as I could prior to posting- to include the “Soap Behaving Badly” post but I didn’t think any of those fit. Turns out- I’m sure I had seizing. Good to know there are ways to save it!
        I am going to try this again after getting a few basic bars under my belt. I have not yet begun to soap!

        • says

          Hi Sarah!

          I’m glad we could figure out your “soaping mishap,” and I’m glad you’re going to try rebatch to save your soap! I hate wasting soap :).

          -Amanda with Bramble Berry

    • says

      Good morning, Mariselys!

      All you need to do to cover the soap without ruining the top is not fill the mold all the way to the very top. Then, just cover with cardboard over the top and a towel and you are good to go! I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. :)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  2. Choi CHin says

    Hi, may I know whether alcohol 95% is ok to be used to spray on the surface of the soap?
    Thank you

    • says

      Hi Choi!

      We normally like to stick with 91% rubbing alcohol for the soda ash on cold process soap. Most drugstores will carry rubbing alcohol, and you can also try a natural grocer as well. We’ve never tried the 95% rubbing alcohol, but if you do try it, you can let us know how it works for you.

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

      • Choi Chin says

        Hi Becky,
        The 95% alcohol worked well to my soap to reduce soda ash. It’s almost invisible on my soap. In Malaysia I can’t get the 91% alcohol in pharmacy so I tried the 95% ..The result turned out well. Thanks: )

  3. Charlene says

    I tried this technique yesterday. By the time I had mixed my colors and filled the bottles the soap was thickening too fast. I got halfway to filling up the mold and then had to dump the rest of the color in on top. I know I’ll have air pockets. If I add the lye mixture at a higher temp will that help? I mixed at 115 degrees and separated the 3 colors at light trace. Or maybe I just have to work real fast? Any tips? I love using color and trying new techniques but this is always the problem I run into. Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Charlene!

      When we made this recipe, we specifically choose the oils to give us a good amount of time to work with the soap. When you tried this technique, did you follow this recipe and use the same oils?

      -Becky with Bramble

      • Charlene says

        You know what, I used a different lemongrass fragrance oil. I’ll buy yours and try it again.

        • Anne-Marie says

          Definitely could be it; let me know how it goes. I’m really curious! Also, watch those traces of each of the little batches after you’ve split so they’re not very thick before they go into the squirt bottles. Keep me posted. =)

  4. Kay says

    Becky I went on Cas and Carry website to find the large squeeze bottles but I could only find a case of the 8 oz. Any suggestions? Oh and do you remember the size you got? Sorry for so many questions but I so want to make the soap!!!!

  5. Kay says

    Your soap is just lovely. Did you just pour the colors at the bottom and leave them….no swirling at all?

  6. audrey says

    I tried this out and it worked! Thanks for the great idea! I plan on using this with other color and scent combos:)
    audrey

  7. Tracey says

    Hi, I love this and would like to have a try at it. i live in UK and would like to know what my alternative to alcohol would be over here or what I need to ask for and where to get it here as I have a lot of ash but always superfat below 5%.
    Many thanks

  8. Kelly Croasmun says

    What a fun idea! Are there any other BB fragrances you could recommend for this project that don’t accelerate trace?

    • Anne-Marie says

      It varies – I tend to keep mine below 5%. I find that my soda ash is more with higher superfat and I don’t notice a major difference with the soap at a 5% versus a 7% but I do notice less soda ash. You can, of course, always go up to 10% if you like a creamier lather. =)

      • heidi says

        Thanks.
        Just a question on silicone molds.
        Have made soap 2 days ago with 5% superfat using a silicone mold,( I also added sodium lactate) and noticed that it was sticky to cut
        after 48hrs. Should I wait another day, reduce the superfat to 3% or is it due to the mold?

        • says

          Hi Heidi!

          I’d wait another day before trying to unmold it and see if that extra day helps it dry it out a bit more. If it is still sticky when you finally unmold it then on your next batch I would try a lower superfat! =)
          ~Becky with Bramble Berry

  9. zjacquelyn says

    Lovely! I did this technique from your previous post with lilac fragrance and pink, white and purple just last night. I used one of your other recipes with olive and palm oil etc. Soap was getting pretty thick by the time I finished so I think I will have some spaces where I don’t want them. I need some larger squeeze bottles..real messy refilling them. The only size I could find are 6- 8 oz. Any suggestions on how to find larger ones? Maybe a restaurant supply?

  10. sara. says

    I don’t know why but canola oil just makes me cringe. as long as i run it through a lye calc can i use some thing else or is this recipes success due to the canola?

    • Anne-Marie says

      Olive Oil will be great – though a bit more green/yellow so your colors might turn out a bit different =) Yes, run through a lye calc again (though I believe the SAP value of Olive and Canola are the same) just to be on the safe side.

  11. says

    Really pretty soap. This soap would be great done with my favorite Ginger Ale fragrance. :) This swirl seems like fun to do.

  12. inspiration says

    I love that nail color of yours, matches exactly to your soap, I swear it’s no accident
    Is there any specific reason why you add your fragrance after dividing the soap in three batches? I mean you’re applying the same fragrance in all three, what is the difference if you add the fragrance at trace to the whole batch?

      • inspiration says

        It is the only reason I can imagine. Let’s see what the labwitch (I hope it doesn’t have any negative meaning in English, we apply witch in German to admire somebody’s skill) responds.

        • Anne-Marie says

          Ha! Love the term! In the US, the term “maven” probably means about the same thing. =)

    • says

      Hi!

      The reason why we add our fragrance separately is so that we do not accelerate trace (especially for this project), because we want as much time as possible to work with our soap and create a fun impressionist design. =)

      ~Becky with Bramble Berry

      • says

        Very good reason, I wish I’d done it that way — I gave this a try, but it was waaaay too thick. Oops. Well, I’ll try again later and hopefully at a much thinner trace it’ll work better!

  13. Lori Rodenbush says

    I have GOT to learn how to do Cold Process! I don’t think this technique would work for M&P. This is SO pretty!!

    • Anne-Marie says

      I agree; I don’t think it would work for MP (can you imagine how many times you’d have to ungum that spout!?) but for CP, it’s awesome! =)

    • says

      You can try swirling all the way to the bottom, but we’ve noticed that it may muck up the pretty swirls you’ve created on the top. If you do try it out we’d love to see pictures of it! =)
      ~Becky with Bramble Berry

  14. says

    Gorgeous! I should have seen this before I made my lemongrass soap today. This would have been a good effect.

  15. says

    Oh, I can’t wait to try this! It’s so pretty. I am swirl-challenged but I’ll be able to do this one since it’s a different way to swirl. Wish me luck!

    Linda
    The Enchanted Bath

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