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8 Awesome Soap Techniques! (See How to Do Them)

Most soapmaking design techniques are combinations of basic techniques, including layering and manipulation of the layers. Once you master controlling your formula rather than letting it control you, you will see a whole world of possibilities with a little bit of patience.

Cold process soap designs and how to do them.

Here are some common techniques with variations you can try and tips for success:

Soap Design Techniques: Layering & Embeds

Soap Design Techniques: Layering using bleeding colorants for a true ombre effect
Soap Design Techniques: Layering using bleeding colorants for a true ombre effect

Using various layers of soap or pieces of soap can add a lot of depth and dimension to otherwise Plain Jane soaps. There are a multitude of options and layers or embeds can be used in conjunction with just about any other soap design techniques.

For instance, a gradient or ombre version of layering uses varying shades or hues to create a pattern of color change throughout a bar of soap. The type of colorants used can also change the effect: by taking advantage of bleeding colorants, the gradient can appear seamless and beautiful.

And layering itself can help sandwich another soap design technique between another, like in the Layered Modified Mantra Rainbow Soap tutorial.

Want to see more layering and embedding in soapmaking tutorials?

Try these out:

Soap Design Techniques: Column Pour

Build on the Column Pour Soap Design Technique: Funnel, Faux Funnel, Spoon Plop, Spin Swirl

Soap Design Technique: Faux Funnel Swirl
Soap Design Techniques: Faux Funnel Swirl made by Amy of Great Cakes Soapworks when we soaped it up together

A column pour is a circular pattern to layering, created by pouring the soap over a column down into the mold. A funnel swirl mimics a column pour, but is created by pouring the soap through a funnel suspended over the mold.

A faux funnel swirl skips the funnel, and pours the soap directly into circular layers in the mold. A spoon plop is exactly the same, but using a spoon to plop the soap into the mold.

After pouring the soap, you can then accomplish the spin swirl by spinning the mold in one direction, and halting/jerking the mold in the opposite direction. (A lazy susan is really helpful!)

If you have a thicker trace, the layers in the circular pattern will be thicker, while a thinner trace will create smaller layers. You can modify this design technique further by using a chopstick to drag stars and flowers into the circular pattern, which works fabulous in a slab mold.

Soap Design Techniques: Linear Swirl

Build on the Linear Swirl Soap Design Technique: Impressionist Swirl, Taiwan Swirl, Serpentine Swirl, Peacock Swirl

Soap Design Technique: Peacock swirl
Soap Design Techniques: Peacock swirl

A linear swirl layers the soap in a linear pattern. In a slab mold, this creates a nice linear pattern on the top of the soap, however, in a loaf mold it becomes small stripes of color on the bar.

Taiwan, serpentine, and peacock swirls are modifications on the linear swirl by using a chopstick to change the direction of the swirls in various patterns.

The size of the linear pattern will depend on the amount of soap you pour for each line, less soap per pour gives thinner lines (more soap = thicker lines).

Want to see more linear swirl soap design techniques in soapmaking tutorials?

Try this out:

Soap Design Techniques: In the Pot Swirl

Build on the In The Pot Swirl Soap Design Technique: Elemental Swirl, Clyde Slide, Flow Swirl, Holly Swirl

Soap Design Technique: In The Pot Swirls can create a wide variety of designs!
Soap Design Techniques: In The Pot Swirls can create a wide variety of designs!

ITPS are accomplished by mixing more than one color of soap together in the main soaping pot and pouring into the mold. The amount of soap poured into the various locations in the soap pot, and the direction of pouring will change the pattern accomplished by an ITPS.

The method of combining more than one ITPS and using pencil lines between layers is an elemental swirl.

The other variations of the ITPS that are gaining traction, like the Clyde Slide, depend on placing the colors in the pot in specific places and/or pouring into the mold in a certain direction.

Want to see more in the pot swirl soap design techniques in soapmaking tutorials?

Try these out:

Soap Design Techniques: In the Mold Swirl

Build on the In The Mold Swirl Soap Design Technique: Drop Swirl

Soap Design Techniques: In the Mold Swirls can also be changed up for a lot of different patterns...
Soap Design Techniques: In the Mold Swirls can also be changed up for a lot of different patterns…

You can create an ITMS by pouring soap of varying colors directly into the mold. The amount of soap you pour, the height of the pour, and the thickness of trace will all influence the size of the swirl pattern.

A modification of this is a drop swirl, and it can be further modified by hanger swirling, combining soap types (MP and CP), or pouring in various parts of the mold in varying amounts.

Want to see more in the mold swirl soap design techniques in soapmaking tutorials?

Try these out:

Soap Design Techniques: Hanger Swirl

Build on the Hanger Swirl Soap Design Technique: Mantra Swirl, Butterfly Swirl, Spiral Swirl

Soap Design Techniques: Hanger Swirls can be modified by changing the swirling tool, the soap layering, the color placement, etc.
Soap Design Techniques: Hanger Swirls can be modified by changing the swirling tool, the soap layering, the color placement, etc.

A hanger swirl is any swirl by which you use a wire (hanger, silicone gear tire, etc.) to insert into the mold after pouring multiple colors of soap. The thickness of the wire will dictate how much soap is moved using a hanger swirl, and the design can be modified by the direction of movement of the hanger itself.

A mantra swirl uses vertical layers to create solid color blocks, that are then swirled in patterns with a hanger, dowel, or gear tie. The butterfly swirl and spiral swirl both modify the swirl pattern by changing how the hanger, dowel, gear tie, etc., are moved throughout the soap.

Want to see more hanger swirl soap design techniques in soapmaking tutorials?

Try these out:

Soap Design Techniques: Zebra/Tiger Stripe

Build on the Tiger Stripe Soap Design Technique: Teardrop/Dewdrop, Sectioned Tiger Stripe, Split Tiger Stripe, Modified Tiger Stripe, Dandelion Swirl

Soap Design Technique: Tiger Stripes can be modified and combined with plenty of other techniques, too.
Soap Design Techniques: Tiger Stripes can be modified and combined with plenty of other techniques, too.

A tiger stripe is essentially a faux funnel and a linear swirl combined. The layers are poured directly on top of one another, in a linear pattern down the length of the mold. The thickness of the layers will depend on the thickness of trace and the amount of soap poured in the mold.

This can be modified with a hanger to create a hanger swirl, by pouring the stripes into the mold on a piece of cardboard so that the stripe slide into the mold, by pouring the stripes down the mold walls, or in the center to create sections of striping in a full loaf of soap.

Want to see more hanger swirl soap design techniques in soapmaking tutorials? Try these out:

Soap Design Techniques: Top Decorations

Different Types of Top Decorations: Petals, Oil & Glycerin Swirls, Mica Sprinkles, Dusting, Hearts, Flowers, Texturing, Piping, etc.

Decking out soap tops: texturing, sprinkling, smashing, piping, lifting, moving, and all kinds of manipulative maneuvers can top it off!
Decking out soap tops: texturing, sprinkling, smashing, piping, lifting, moving, and all kinds of manipulative maneuvers can top it off!

A variety of top decorations can add more pizazz to soap. Petal toppings are creating by laying down dollops of soap, and using the back of a spoon to create divots into the soap.

Oil and glycerin swirls are created by mixing a colorant into an oil or glycerin, and swirled into the top of the soap (the soap sucks up the oil or glycerin, leaving behind traces of the colorant.) It’s also possible to place droplets of the mixture or pull off a Jackson-Pollock inspired design.

Cosmetic grade mica pigments can be dusted, sprinkled, or painted on the top of a loaf of soap to create a shimmery decoration.

Hearts and flowers are created by dragging a chopstick through dots of soap on the very top layer, while various texturing techniques use different tools to manipulate the soap with peaks and valleys.

Extra soap can be piped onto the top of the finished loaf of soap to create high whippy peaks, beautiful designs, and more.

Want to see more variations on the top designs in soapmaking tutorials?

Try these out:

Even with all of the cold process soap design techniques listed above, there are tons more out there that are mashups of basic foundation techniques and interesting (and innovating!) ideas from soapmakers all over the world.

Do you have a favorite soap design technique? Wish there was one Modern Soapmaking had a tutorial on? Shout it out in the comments!

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22 Responses

  1. Impressive post, and timely – I see different things here and there about design techniques and have been looking for a “one stop” place for information. Perfect post for this beginner! Thank you!

  2. You are the best!
    It is a pleasure to read what you write..:)
    what I love the most about this blog is your candid way of explaining everything , no secret recipes that leave one thinking this is a craft only for those fortunate enough to have special powers..lol
    Thanks for taking the time to patiently teach us how is done..;)

    1. You are so welcome, Gloria! I really appreciate the compliments, I do my best to give it like it is – there’s no secrets to hide here! 🙂 Thank you for following along!

  3. Wow, happy I have found this, lm always looking for something new, I have made soap with every fruit imaginable. I need to try new things , I have already got done thx Xx

    1. Fantastic, Toni! I love making soaps with purees, and the label appeal sure helps! I hope you enjoy trying out some of the techniques that are new to you!

  4. hi – love your site but was hoping you could do a tutorial or explain how to get a “gold” mica spray top on CP soap please? not glitter but a solid gold top that will stay on 🙂

  5. Just started following your site, wow! You are an awesome resource for us newbies. I have two questions for you. What are the main oils you recommend a newbie too have in their arsenal? What companies have you found with the best deals on oils? Essential oils? Natural colourants?
    Thx in advance for your time

  6. Thank you so much Kenna, love love love your name btw :). This website has helped craft and mold my soap making hobby into the career I always wanted it. I love to have face to face interractions at the local farmers market in Paris Tx. Seeing what a difference my soaps have made for people like myself who suffer with ezcema. The only thing I was lacking was the presentation and that you delivered to the fullest for me and my customers. Thank you again.

  7. This post is actuallly what i need now. It’s so helpful to me. I do soaping to earn for living, to support my little child and to make my life worth living.

  8. Just wanted to say, thanks for sharing all your wonderful experience and awesome skills. Your tutorials inspire me to keep striving to be a better soaper. Just discovered you are just across town from me. Looking forward to the gathering later this month.

  9. I can’t wait to start soaping with the right teacher! I have spent days on my computer looking for a site and someone as kind as you! Please be there when I need you🙂 I need sdvice and help with colors

  10. I have been searching for a tutorial video/instructions on producing the elusive “mustache swirl/handlebar swirl.” I haven’t been able to find anything! So, I would LOVE to see a tutorial on that beautiful swirl technique.

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