Soap designs can elevate the sophistication and beauty of even the simplest soap recipe. Imagine a classical, ivory-colored olive oil castile soap with a lace pattern, delicately stamped with gold mica or pink kaolin clay for contrast. Easy to achieve, these methods for soap designs can increase the appeal to your customers as well as making a more beautiful gift for friends and family. With a little forward preparation, these soap making ideas can create soap designs that are subtle or dramatic. To try the techniques in my video, you will need a silicone fondant lace mat, a sheet of regular bubble wrap, a resin stamp, rubbing alcohol, and colorants such as micas, clays, oxides or ultramarines. If using oxides or ultramarines, you will also need a small amount of plain kaolin clay.
One of my favorite soap making ideas is to use a template cut from a fondant mat to impress an intricate pattern into the sides of my soap loaf. This soap making idea is easily translated to slab molds as well. To create a pattern with a more dramatic contrast, try using a different color of soap to fill in the pattern on the template before pressing into the mold or into the top of your soap. For instance, you could use plain white soap to fill in the lace pattern on the template, and then use purple soap batter to fill the mold. This will produce a purple soap with a white lace pattern on top. This method is demonstrated in the included video, so be sure to watch!
There are several ways to incorporate embossed soap designs into your soap. When using a slab mold, the broadest face of the finished soap will sport the embossed design. Place a template into the mold and pour the soap on top to achieve this look. You can also use a second template cut from a silicone fondant mat to impress the top side of the soap bar, so that your soap has front and back designs. Coloring soap naturally or with micas, oxides or ultramarines in a contrasting shade from the base will allow for a more dramatic effect, whether you are using this technique in a slab mold or a loaf mold.
As far as the recommended soap ingredients or recipes to use for this technique, I would say any moderately slow moving recipe will do. In fact, if you are using a silicone mat or bubble wrap to line the bottom of your mold, even a quick moving recipe or misbehaving soap scents can be persuaded to work beautifully with embossing and stamping.
Speaking of bubble wrap — when making a soap that incorporates beeswax or honey, the honeycomb-like pattern of bubble wrap forms an excellent embossing tool. The plastic stands up well even with a hot recipe or a soap going through full gel phase, as honey soaps often do. The technique for bubble wrap is exactly the same as for silicone fondant mats — simply cut out a template, and use it either to line the bottom of the mold or to press into the top of the poured soap.
When it comes to stamping soap, I have read countless opinions on when. Some experts recommend two- to four-week-old soap, while others prefer to stamp fully cured soap using a mallet to gently tap in the design. In my testing, I found myself preferring to stamp very freshly cut soap, cured just enough (only hours from cutting) to no longer have a sticky surface. This requires no mallet and the soap can be impressed with the pressure of just a fingertip. A brief dip of the resin stamp in alcohol between stampings works well to keep the soap from sticking. While some sources recommend wrapping your stamp in plastic wrap to prevent soap from sticking, I did not have a problem with this when stamping three-day-old, freshly cut soap using alcohol.
The resin stamp can easily become a more dramatic design element simply by dipping the alcohol-dampened stamp into mica, colored clay, oxides or ultramarines. When using oxides or ultramarines, I recommend adding an equal amount of plain white kaolin clay to the colorant, mixing very well, crushing all clumps. This seems to dilute the color just enough to prevent color “bleeding” into the soap when it is wetted, but it does not visibly dull the color of the stamp. With mica this does not seem to be a problem. I have also found that rubbing the colorant into a piece of napkin and then using that to load the stamp with color leaves a cleaner impression than dipping the wet stamp directly into powdered colorant. Whichever method you choose, if the stamp becomes too loaded with color, simply wipe the surface of the soap with a damp paper towel to remove the excess color.
Whether you choose to use silicone fondant mats, bubble wrap or resin stamps to embellish your finished soap, you will find the techniques shown in the accompanying video simple and easy, yielding dramatic results. In the video, I demonstrate several techniques for using these tools to create wonderful designs on your handmade soaps. Will you try embellishing your soaps at home? Please share your results with us!