Sunrise soap (gradient technique)

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 500 g soap

I often doodle my ideas and designs in my notebook, before I start working on the recipe. Sometimes, the inspirations for my soaps come from the name of a fragrance, like last week’s Love Spell Soap, but I also get my ideas from certain places, moods and emotions, or particular ingredients. This week I was inspired by the colours (yellow and orange), and I wanted to create something to use in the morning shower that would remind me of those sunny mornings, when it’s easy to get up in the morning. The result is a simple layering with gradience colours. Here’s the sketch I drew in my notebook and the notes I wrote alongside. Even if I don’t end up making the soap, these sketches often end up as further inspiration for future soaps.

The scent I used to accompany the design is sweet orange essential oil from Pure Nature, not just because of the colour but because I feel the fruity, fresh fragrance of oranges fits my idea of a wake-up-and-shower soap. The mica is called Orange Saffron, also from Pure Nature.

If you have never made cold-process soap before, I strongly suggest you check out the basic cold process soap tutorial first.

Before starting, please read the safety and precautions post, especially since this tutorial requires the handling of caustic soda!

In addition to your usual equipment, you will also need 3 small containers for colour preparation and 3 extra jugs (250-500 ml).

ONE: First, prepare your lye. Weigh out the caustic soda in a small container. Measure the water in a small pyrex or other heat proof glass jug. Then carefully add the caustic soda to the water and gently stir until all the caustic soda has dissolved. Stir one teaspoon of sodium lactate to make the soap harder. Set aside to cool.

While you are waiting for the lye to cool down, ….

… it’s time to prepare the colours…

TWO: You will need three small containers. To each add 10 ml of light weight oil, such as rice bran oil. In the first container, add 1/4 teaspoon of orange saffron mica. To the second, add 1/8 teaspoon of orange saffron mica. And to the third, add 1/16 teaspoon of orange saffron mica. Mix the mica with the oil, using a little whisk or electric mini-mixer, until you have a smooth mica/oil mixture.

… and to prepare the oils.

THREE: Weigh out the coconut oil in a pyrex jug and heat in microwave on high for one minute or until melted. Weigh out and add the other oils to the now melted coconut oil and give it a good stir to blend all the oils together.

Check if the lye has cooled down to room temperature, and if it has, it is time to add it to the oils.

FOUR: Make sure you are still in protective gear (goggles and gloves), carefully pour the lye to the oils, avoiding any splashes. Gently whisk until you have the lye and oils have emulsified and are at light trace. Don’t let it get thick, because then you won’t be able to work with it.

FIVE: Add 20 ml of sweet orange essential oil and give it another good stir.

SIX: Into each of the three extra jugs you have set aside, pour 125 ml of soap. You should now have four jugs of soap: 3 jugs with 125 ml of soap (these will be coloured), and the large jug with the remainder of the soap (which will be left uncoloured)

SEVEN: Add one of the containers of mica/oil mixture to each of the jugs and stir them well, to disperse the colour evenly throughout the soap. This is an important step, as any uncoloured streaks will show up in your soap.

EIGHT:  Starting with the darkest colour, pour the soap into the mold. It should be still fairly fluid. Tap the mold gently on the bench a free times to get rid of any air bubbles and to create an even surface.

NINE: Next, add the medium colour, and carefully pour it over the dark layer, trying not to disturb it. Ideally, your soap will still be fluid. Because I have to take pictures at the same time, my soap thickened by the time I got to do the layers. I tried smoothing the surface with a spatula as much as possible. If you have to do this, try to avoid touching the sides of the mold, so you can keep the sides clean.

TEN: Add the lightest colour over the other layers carefully, as not to disturb the surface underneath. Smooth with the spatula if necessary.

ELEVEN: Lastly, pour or scoop the white (uncoloured) soap over the layers.

TWELVE: Using your fork, texture the soap top, by carefully scraping upwards and into the centre on both sides. Sprinkle bronze coloured mica, and gently mix it into the centre peak, before pulling the fork down each side again to spread the mica into the grooves. Make sure you place the fork into the same grooves as before.

Clockwise from top left: Using a fork and adding mica to texture the soap surface.

THIRTEEN: Leave the soap to cure for several days before removing it from the mold and cutting it up into bars. Cure for another 6-8 weeks.

Sunrise Soap

  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print
Before starting, make sure you wear protective goggles and gloves and work in a well-ventilated area, free from any distractions!


  • 150 g olive oil
  • 130 g rice bran oil
  • 100 g coconut oil
  • 20 g castor oil
  • 55 g caustic soda
  • 110 ml water
  • 1 teaspoons sodium lactate
  • 20 ml sweet orange fragrance oil
  • orange saffron mica


  1. Prepare your lye: carefully add the caustic soda to the water and stir gently until all the caustic soda has dissolved. Set aside to cool.
  2. While you wait for the lye to cool, prepare the colour. Add 10 ml of rice bran oil to three small containers. To the first, add 1/4 of orange saffron mica. To the second, add 1/8 teaspoon, and to the third, add 1/16 teaspoon of orange saffron mica.
  3. Weigh out the coconut oil in a pyrex jug and heat in the microwave on high for 1-2 minutes or until melted. Weigh out and add the other oils, and give it a good stir to blend all the oils together.
  4. When the lye has cooled down to room temperature, carefully add it to the oils and using only a whisk, stir briskly until emulsified to a very thin trace.
  5. Add 20 ml of sweet orange essential oil to the soap and stir well.
  6. Into three small separate jugs, pour off 125 ml of soap each. You will now have 3 jugs with 125 ml of soap, and the larger jug with the remainder of the soap, which will be left uncoloured.
  7. Add one of the mica/oil containers to each of the jugs, and mix them thoroughly to disperse the colour evenly throughout the soap. You should have a light, medium, and dark colour.
  8. Pour the dark colour into the soap mold, and tap gently on the bench to remove air bubbles and to even out the surface of the soap.
  9. Carefully pour the medium colour over the dark layer, without disturbing the surface. If necessary, smooth the surface with a spatula.
  10. Pour the light colour over the other layers and smooth the surface.
  11. Lastly, pour or scoop the white (uncoloured) soap on top of the other layers.
  12. Texture the soap surface with a fork, scraping both sides upwards and towards the centre. Mix a little bronze mica to the centre peak, and placing the fork into the same grooves, carefully pull downwards to spread the colour.
  13. Leave the soap to cure in the mold for several days, before removing and cutting into bars. Cure for a further 6-8 weeks.


  1. I’m wanting to try this recipe but I was wondering if it would still work if I added Shea Butter? If so, how much would you suggest adding? 🙂

    • Hi Billie! Yes you can add or substitute one of the oils and use shea butter instead, but that will change the recipe and more importantly, you’d have to re-calculate the lye amount. I would suggest using this recipe instead and using the gradient technique with it.

  2. Are you using sweet orange essential oil or sweet orange fragrance oil? If using essential oil did the scent hold or did you use 5xfold?

    • Hi Fiona! I used sweet orange essential oil in this one, because the 5fold wasn’t available in NZ at that time. If you want to keep a strong orange scent, 5fold would be better.

      • Thank you very much for your reply! I do have 5 fold orange essential oil but haven’t used it yet. Do you still use the same amount even though it is more concentrated? Also in a blend, would you use 5 fold or regular sweet orange?

      • Yes, use the same amount of 5fold as you would use the regular. In a blend, it depends. Usually the other essential oils will compliment and fixate the orange, so you can get away with using the regular.

  3. Can I please mention it is a safety precaution not to use glass ware to mix your lye and water. Can break far too easily. Thanks for the other information. Look forward to more.

    • Hi Sandra! I agree it’s important to make sure to use good quality material, which is why I recommend to use heavy glass Pyrex jugs. They may be a little more expensive but worth it. I don’t recommend to use plastic, unless you are certain that the plastic can withstand the high temperature and caustic of the lye. If you do prefer to use plastic to glass, I suggest to use laboratory equipment such as reagent bottles made of material to withstand high temperature and caustic material.

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