Let it Bleed: Cold Process Soap Color Gradation Tutorial

I’ve long been fascinated with how to make Labcolor’s inherent bleeding qualities work in a bar of soap. It does a great tie-dye look and the swirls are romantic and ephemeral. But, the idea of a sunset or a rainbow really drew me in. I started with a simple but sophisticated color graduation. It’s a very easy concept in theory but in practice, takes precision and weighing … and patience.

My husband and I are using this bar in our shower at home right now at home and it has fantastic lather and a great balance of bubbles with moisture and creaminess. Coupled with the absolutely exquisite scent and sophisticated color, it’s one of my favorite recipes I’ve made in a while. Read through all the instructions; it requires prep and precision.

29.6 oz Olive Oil
14.8 oz. Coconut Oil
8.89 oz. Palm Oil
2.96 oz Mango Butter
9.34 oz  Lye
21.5 oz DistilledWater
4 oz  Fresh Snow (the star of the show!)
Magenta Labcolor (20 ml diluted in 8 oz. of distilled hot water, Germaben II preservative added at 1%)
5 containers that will hold 18 ounces each


5 lb Mold With Sliding Bottom


Get everything you need with the click of a button.

(Note: If you’re looking at this recipe and thinking “Why, oh why, are you weighing to .96 on any of these? Anne-Marie, you are on crack!” It’s okay to round up to whole numbers on the Palm Oil, Sweet Almond Oil and Mango Butter and not change the lye. You’ll end up with slightly more superfat but not enough to change your recipe. So not to worry you don’t need to buy a brand new scale!)
Step One: Stop. Check. Do you have all of your safety gear on hand? Are kids out of the house? Animals locked outside? Do you have an hour to focus? Do you need to review the Lye Safety Video? How about scaring yourself half to death with this scary blog post I did on lye? Done? Check? Great. Eye protection ON!
Step Two: Weigh out all of your oils. Melt the Palm, Coconut and Palm Kernel Oil. Add the Mango Butter to the warm oils and stick blend the Mango Butter in. Add the Sweet Almond Oil and Olive Oil to this mixture. Set this aside.
Step Three: Weigh out your water (I don’t do volume because I like the precision factor of weighing it). Weigh out your lye in a separate container. Add the lye slowly, slowly, slowly to the water, stirring the entire time, taking pains NOT to breathe in the fumes. Work only in a well-ventilated area. If you are ultra sensitive, wear a mask.
Step Four: We’re working with a hotter mixture this time so check the temps of your oils. If they’re not up to 140, heat them up until they are. Check the temp of your lye; has it dropped to 140-150? Is it clear? If so, it’s  ready to add into the oils, slowly. Careful! No splashes.
Step Five: Use your stick blender to achieve light trace.
Step Six: Separate out the soap into 5 containers. WEIGH the soap out into containers. Weigh out 18 ounces of soap per container. There is no fragrance added yet.
Step Seven: We are working from lightest to darkest. For each layer, you will add fragrance and color and *then* stick blend to a very thick trace.
Layer 1: No color, Fragrance suggested usage rate: .8 oz.
Layer 2: 7 drops of color, Fragrance suggested usage rate: .8 oz.
Layer 3: 14 drops of color, Fragrance suggested usage rate: .8 oz.
Layer 4: 28 drops of color, Fragrance suggested usage rate: .8 oz.
Layer 5: 43 drops of color, Fragrance suggested usage rate: .8 oz.


For each layer, you’ll strive to achieve a THICK trace. Then, pour carefully over a low-placed spatula. This helps the soap not break through to the next layer. You’re looking for very straight lines. Do not hurry the pour. You have time.
I did a light dusting of fine glitter over the top just for a little Fairy Queen look.
This soap does best with a warm gel phase; the colors pop! more with a strong gel phase.


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  1. Wendy says

    Dear Ann Marie,
    Your soaps are all so beautiful! I love your tutorials. I am fairly new to soaping and I have a question about preservatives, I have not used the lab colors and I am wondering why they need one. Also I love your carrot buttermilk soap and I don’t understand why that does not need a preservative. Please explain.

    • says

      Good morning, Wendy!

      The reason you need to use a preservative in your LabColor is that you will be diluting it with water, and anytime you are using water (other than cold process soaping), you are going to want to use a preservative to keep any bacteria or mold from growing.

      And, in both melt and pour and cold process (like the Carrot Buttermilk Soap), you don’t need to add a preservative because they both have a pH level that does not allow mold or bacteria growth in the soap.

      If you have any more questions about preservatives, we can answer them for you, and you can check out this blog post that talks all about preservatives: http://www.soapqueen.com/bath-and-body-tutorials/lotion/talk-it-out-tuesday-preservatives

      I hope this helps! :)
      -Becky with Bramble Berry

    • says

      Hi Moony!

      Anytime you gel your soap, it will come with that brighter and deep color. IF you don’t want it to gel, all you need to do is soap at lower temperatures and not insulate your mold. :)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  2. Moony says

    Thanx for ur nice soap really looks great, i wana ask u some questions , im a beginer in soap making and i faced some problems themfirst is in the cold process after i get my bars out then leave them as they say 2weeks for saponification , the nice creamy color would be changed after my soap gets dry !! Its bad and i dunno how to stop this its naturally happens , second Q i tried milkmsoap but it turned to light brown color although i used slushy frozen milk , any advise to get a nice super white bars?
    And finally plz let me know how to order for some equpmint and tools from brumble berry (im not from U.S)

  3. Pelin says

    Dear Anne Marie,
    The soap looks wonderful, so I will try it. But I don’t have the exact colorants and fragrance so I will use the ones on hand.

    I have two questions: What is the reason why you’re working with 140 degrees? I don’t have your labcolors so I will try a different colorant and wondered if the temperature is related to the colors and/or the fragrance you used?
    I also plan to use an EO blend of rose, lavender, geranium and some scent coming from chamomiles infused in olive oil. Would you rather suggest lower temps?

    Many thanks, looking fwd to your reply…

    • says

      The soap stays more liquid at 140 degrees so I like to soap at that amount when I know I’m going to need to have a bit of extra time to work with the soap base. The oils you’re planning on using should be fine at 140 degrees – the soap gets much cooler when it is poured because it takes a while to get all those layers to work =)

      • Pelin says

        Thx so much… One more question: It is often said that palm kernel oil and coconut oil almost have the same qualities, and I see in different soap recipes – as well as this one- that both are included. I really would appreciate if you could explain their difference and effect on the soap. Thx again :) P.

        • says

          Palm Kernel Oil and Coconut Oil definitely contribute different things to a soap recipe. The Palm Kernel Oil is much harder than the Coconut Oil, and we usually add it to our recipes to help make the soap last a little longer. But, it does lather less than Coconut Oil, which is why we’ve included both in this recipe.
          -Courtney with Bramble Berry

    • Anne-Marie says

      Thank you! It is such a great looking soap and worth the payoff of the time consuming precise nature of the technique. =)

  4. says

    Wow, I want to try this! I love my scale, so this should be fun :) It looks beautiful, I love the shimmer and the color fade – great technique

  5. Marva Small says

    I have just registered my soap business, Marvalous Creations and am definately looking forward to trying out all your beautiful soaps for sale. Thanks you so much. You have the best prices. Bramble Berry rocks!

  6. Heidi says

    Thank! I have palm kernel flakes. I’m excited to try this recipe this w/e. I really appreciate and enjoy this website, videos and all the info the website gives.

  7. Heidi says

    Question… The recipe calls for palm kernel oil, but I don’t see it on the Brambleberry Oil list. I see peach kernel oil and I see just plan palm oil.. So can I use just the plan palm oil or is the peach or is it palm kernel flakes? Thanks…

  8. Mandy says

    Hi Anne-Marie
    I use only olive oil and have been going to medium trace with oxides.
    Of late my soap has been cracking on top when drying in the moulds.
    What is going on?
    help please

  9. MistyH says

    Thank you SO MUCH Anne-Marie for replying. You are SO great! LOVE all your blogs and videos and EVERYTHING! =) Thanks!

  10. Anne-Marie says


    The INCI does have a preservative in it and it does use a preservative for
    the small amount. It does not have the full preservative for the 8 ounce
    size so you’ll want to use a preservative at 1% in your distilled 8 oz. size
    of water as well.

    The soap will lighten up with the titanium dioxide but definitely won’t be
    perfectly white – but it will get lighter. =)

  11. Hudsonvalleysoap says

    Anne-Marie this is wonderful! I have a question – I am using your Impatien Pink High pH LabColor. The INCI mentions Germaben II. Do I still need to use it at the 1%? Also, I notice that the soap has a slight tannish coloring. Can I lighten it in the beginning with titanium dioxide? Thank you so much!

  12. Anne-Marie says

    I’ve never gotten a brittle trace like you’re talking about. I’ve gotten a soap that sheers when I use oils that are too hard but I’ve not experienced what you’re describing with regards to trace. I generally trace heavy for all my layers and then cut for weeks/months afterwards (especially if they end up at Otion for sale!) =)

  13. Anne-Marie says

    Palm Kernel and Palm are tough to replace. The best is Lard but many people aren’t thrilled about Lard in their soap. You could just leave it out entirely and go for Coconut Oil/Olive Oil/superfatting oil. You’ll give up a bit in hardness, size of bubbles and duration of lather though only the die hard soap fanatics will notice the difference. =)

  14. MMXI says

    What is “warm gel phase”? For a time, I was experiencing very hard and brittle soap that shattered whenever I tried cutting it after unmolding. Troubleshooting suggested that I was achieving too much trace. When I started pouring on softer trace, my brittle soap problem went away! How do I avoid brittle soap if I mix this to hard trace?

  15. Anne-Marie says

    I always let my CP soap cure for a minimum of 4 weeks before giving it away or selling it. =)

  16. MistyH says

    I LOVE ALL the soaps you make on here. I’m beginning to try my OWN CP soap making and would LOVE to start w/ some of these soaps here that you’ve suggested (like this one, the hot cocoa one, the beer stout) BUT am wondering, can anything be used to substitute the palm and palm kernel oils?? THANKS!

  17. Anne-Marie says

    Phenonip tends to be oil soluble so yes, mix it with Polysorbate 20 to be on the safe side.

    How does the soap look now that it’s cut?

  18. Isoapy says

    I just made the soap with the blue, it’s in the oven now, so hopefully I will have beautiful soap when I cut it tomorrow morning! One other question I had, when I dilute my other labcolors that I have, can I use Phenonip? That’s all I have. I do have polysorbate 20 if I need to use it like you suggested with optiphen. Thank you!

  19. Mónica says

    Fantastic as always. I am charmed with the explanation. I want to try also.
    Thank you for teaching us how it is done.
    Besos (Kisses).

  20. Karen says

    This looks super fun!! I admire your creative soaps that you come up with!! Someday, I am going to attempt some soap!

  21. Anne-Marie says

    It is a Kitchen-Aid bowl. You can buy it from their site under Mixer/Accessories for $75.

    Love it soooooo much.

  22. Lesley says

    Ooh this looks awesome! I’m just about finally ready to start soaping, I’m just missing my final piece of equipment – a pot! The glass bowl you use is awesome with the spout and everything. Do you mind sharing where you got it? Is it a Kitchen-Aid bowl? (perhaps you’ve already addressed this in previous posts…sorry if I’m asking a redundant question!)

  23. Anne-Marie says

    Optiphen can be used in aqueous (water) based solutions but tends not to mix very well. If you use Optiphen, I find a mixture of Optiphen and Polysorbate 20 at 1:1 helps it mix in better.

  24. Anne-Marie says

    I can’t wait to hear what you think when it comes out. I can see a rainbow really working beautifully with non bleeding colors too.

  25. Anne-Marie says

    Yes, oven process away so long as your mold uses hardware and not glue to hold it together.

    Fresh Snow – LOVE LOVE LOVE – and blue would be great. Yes, the Surplus Blue Labcolor IS already diluted. And don’t be surprised if you end up using MORE drops than I used. Just remember, what you see is what you get MINUS about a 15% color pop thanks to a really strong gel phase – so if it looks too light (see the final photos versus the final pour photos – that’s the color POP I’m talking about), don’t hesitate to add few more drops.

  26. Anne-Marie says

    No, no extra water – just leave it the way I have it. The fragrance oil isn’t really a “water” and the amount of water in the colorant is too small to make a difference. I LOVE the recipe; can’t wait to hear what you think of it (sans scent and color) =)

  27. Anne-Marie says

    Easy easy to do – just as long as you weigh out those layers – and really, it’s not all that bad because the whole process is thrilling =)

  28. Statii tir says

    The soap looks great. And the way you described the steps is like making a cake. I don’t know about trying it, because I’m not a super pacient woman, but congrats for trying and it looks amazing.

  29. Karen says

    Anne-Marie – it looks great. I’m focussing on no scent and no colour right now – if I make this recipe do I need to add more oil or water to make up for the colour and scent? thx

  30. Isoapy says

    Love the soap, I can’t wait to try it! 2 questions though. Since a strong gel phase makes the color pop more, is it O.K. to oven process it in the mold? And second question, I love the fresh snow fragrance, but I would like to use the blue labcolor. The one I have was the “surplus blue labcolor.” Is it already diluted? It doesn’t say on the bottle, and since it’s gone, it’s not on the website any more, so I don’t know if I should dilute it!

  31. kellyanntaylor says

    That turned out SO perfect no one would have ever known it was measured so minutely and layered so carefully. This is a must try! Thank you so much for sharing this technique!

  32. Linda says

    I have several of your lab colors, not tried yet but now I will. One question can I substitute Optiphen for GermabenII? I don’t care for Germaben

  33. Teresa Callahan says

    The notes in “Fresh Snow” are intriguing….I am a sucker for heliotrope.

  34. Midnightstorm6 says

    This is beautiful! I can’t wait to try it, although I’ll be using a different color than the magenta shown above. Thanks for sharing this.

    I do have one question: How do I control whether my soap achieves a warm gel phase or a strong gel phase?