8 Reasons Why You Should Explore a New Hobby Every Month

reasons-explore-new-hobby-monthlyAt The Curiously Creative, we explore a new arts & craft hobby each month. We encourage people to fully immerse themselves in a particular hobby for 30 days. To help with the immersion, we release a guide that covers all the basics of this hobby and provides daily or weekly exercises for you to practice this craft. We also provide a list of the best resources we’ve found so you can spend less time searching and more time actively learning and doing.

Hobbies have so many benefits, but the benefits are even better when you explore a different one each month!

1. You learn more.

Simply put, you learn more about a variety of topics that you might not have ever considered learning about before. Since we release a guide every month on a topic, you don’t have to go wasting time by looking around everywhere for beginner’s advice and resources. We have it all here. You maximize your learning by sticking with us!

At the end of the month, you won’t be an expert by any means…but you’ll certainly know enough to be able to carry a conversation with and expert. That’s pretty cool if you ask me.

2. You keep your curiosity piqued.

If you are like me at all, you get bored extremely easily. I’m very curious though. I want to know a little about everything. Once I get interested in a subject, I obsess over it. I read countless articles, watch videos. I live it. I breathe it.

A month later, I’m spent. I’m onto the next thing.

Exploring a new hobby every month is perfect to keep your curiosity piqued. Maybe you won’t like February’s hobby of the month. No big deal. You gained some good, basic knowledge of it and you can move on. No real loss there.

Maybe you absolutely LOVED April’s hobby of the month. Well, that’s great. You just found yourself a brand new spanking hobby to invest more of your time in. And that’s where number 3 comes in…

3. You discover new interests and passions.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “You’ll never know until you try it.” Well that’s exactly what we preach here. You can become interested in something by seeing or hearing about it but sometimes, you can surprise yourself.

A particular hobby might not sound interesting. Let’s say knitting. When I was younger, I just always associated knitting with something that old people do. I never thought I would get into that.

But you know what? Maybe Grandma Betty was on to something. Knitting is relaxing AF. I would have never actually experienced that if I didn’t try it. It also was found to be associated with increased happiness and calmness along with better cognitive functioning.1 Tell me that doesn’t sound good.

4. You meet new people.

Not only can you meet other curiously creative souls from joining us here on our monthly adventures but if you end up finding a new passion, it opens a lot of new doors for meeting people.

Enjoyed our month on oil painting? Find a local oil painting class. Go to more art shows. You’ll be able to meet new people and talk to them about what you learned while exploring that hobby.

5. You provide yourself multiple creative outlets.

Are you a creative person? Perfect. Because exploring a new hobby every month gives you the opportunity to find a new way to be creative. Maybe different than the creative outlet that you are used to. You love drawing with pencil? Well what happens when you introduce watercolor? How do your skills translate to a new medium?

Are you not a creative person? Well, here’s the time to practice. If one month doesn’t work out well for you, maybe the next one does!

6. You can improve your time management skills.

Time management is a well-known issue for even the best of us. When you commit to exploring a new hobby each month, you really got to make sure you stay on top of it. Otherwise, it’s sort of for nothing.

The Curiously Creative actually provides you with a nice daily or weekly learning schedule that only takes a little time out of each day. You can either dedicate 30-60 minutes each day or a few hours on the weekend to explore the activities and learn more about the hobby.

With work, it can be difficult to balance relationships with friends and family while finding your own time to explore a hobby. Why not kill two birds with one stone? Explore these hobbies with a friend or family member (maybe even your significant other or your kids)!

7. You challenge yourself.

Challenging yourself can really encompass all of the aforementioned reasons. Depending on which one of those is more difficult for you.

If you typically have trouble learning a new skill, exploring a new hobby each month will help you work on that. If you have trouble with meeting new people, use this as a way to push yourself to do so. You’ll at least have a common interest if you choose to meet people at an event geared towards a particular hobby. It will give you a great way to start a conversation and be more confident in meeting new people.

8. You live longer.

Yeah, that’s right. I said it. Hear me out though.

Participating in hobbies, or leisure activities, can do absolute wonders for both your mental and physical health. Since I come from a healthcare background, I’m such a big nerd for these scientific research studies and evidence-based medicine but…I promise I’ll keep it brief. This time.

Studies show that participating in hobbies, or leisure activities, can do the following:

  • Lower stress levels 1,2,3,4
  • Lower risk of depression 5,6,7
  • Lower risk for dementia8
  • Lower blood pressure and cholesterol9
  • Lower waist circumference and body mass index (BMI)9
  • Improve decision-making skills10
  • Improve creativity11
  • Improve cognitive skills and other aspects mental health12,13,14,15,16
  • Prolong age17,18,19,20

Yes, there is seriously a study that shows that those who engage in a hobby will live longer. Makes sense if it can do all of the above mentioned items for both mental and physical health. Obviously, hobbies that involve physical activity have a great impact on your physical health but even your less active hobbies can provide physical benefit.

What are you waiting for?

Seriously. If these reasons haven’t convinced you to explore a new and different hobby each month, I don’t know what will. If you want to join in the fun and explore hobbies every month, check out the rest of the site to see what we’re all about!

 


 

The Ultimate List of 1001 Things to Draw (Free E-book!)

list of things to draw

Ever feel like you’re in creative block and you have absolutely no idea what to draw?

Well, you’re in luck! I made this handy dandy guide that provides you with a whooping 1001 things. Yup, 1001. That’s almost 3 years worth of daily drawing ideas!

Whether you want to throw down a quick doodle in your sketchbook or dedicate several hours to a realistic portrayal, the choice is completely yours! Colored pencils, watercolor, acrylics, charcoal…the possibilities are endless.

 

 

Don’t know how to draw at all?

No worries. I got ya. Check out my beginner’s guide to drawing right here. I created a 4-week schedule on learning how to draw with links to the best resources around the web!

Get your FREE e-book by joining our mailing list and receive updates from The Curiously Creative.  In January 2017, we’ll be publishing guides (like the drawing one) for a new hobby each month! You can follow along our 4-week learning schedule to explore a brand new hobby. We mainly explore art & crafts-related hobbies from oil painting to knitting to candle-making and we’re always open to new suggestions! See what topics we’ll be exploring here.

I truly hope that this list of drawing ideas can help get your creative juices flowing and your pens, markers, or brushes going!

Happy creating!


 

The Beginner’s Complete Guide to Urban Sketching

Woah, woah, WOAH. What in the world is urban sketching?!

Urban sketching is an amazing and creative form of art that is perfect for artists of ANY skill level. Seriously. It’s one of the most relaxing way to document the world around you.

It’s also a great way to meet new people! The urban sketching community has skyrocketed in popularity in the past 10 years with sketch crawls happening all over the world (like bar crawls except with art!). Even if you’re not the best artist, this hobby is DEFINITELY one I recommend everyone to try out.

Here’s a list of what’s covered in this guide so you can easily jump to each section.

1. Introduction
2. History
3. Tools Needed
4. Sketching Techniques
5. Developing Your Own Style
6. Choosing Locations & Subjects
7. Community
8. Getting Started

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Don’t worry! Your price stays the same. I just receive a small percentage of the sale which helps cover the costs of maintaining this website. I only link to products I highly recommend. Check out my privacy policy for more info. 

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INTRODUCTION to urban sketching

So what exactly is urban sketching? Urban sketching is the act of drawing while on location in areas that you live in or traveling to. You can sketch out your local farmer’s market, museums, beaches, temples, concerts, parks –you name it, you can sketch it! It’s a great way to document the world you live in or the attractions you visit while on vacation.

Can’t even draw a straight line? Doesn’t matter! The beauty of urban sketching artwork is the informality of it. However… if you want to learn, you can always check out my beginner’s guide for drawing. Having a grasp of the basics is always helpful!

Urban sketching has a wide variety of benefits and is perfect for anyone who loves journaling or can appreciate art. It not only gives you the opportunity to explore, but to document the world around you. By sitting down and drawing on location, you’ll be able to really appreciate the beauty of life. Even if you’re just sketching a busy parking lot. While sketching, you’ll need to decide which part of your view is important enough to capture in your artwork.

Sketching a scene allows you to capture more than you would if you were writing in a journal. You’ll capture the atmosphere and your view. Well, can’t I just photograph it? You can. Like you probably have, I’ve taken hundreds of photos of places I’ve been. However, when you take photos, you pretty much just snap and go. There’s a much, deeper connection to the environment if you actually take the time to sketch it.

Repost from @youkki_art – Sketch&breakfast 🖌&☕️ in a charming district of Saint-Petersburg. ❤️ It took 1h 20 min. I will show you details and step-by-step in my next post. Don't miss it 😉 ✨//✨Скетч&Завтрак на Петроградке, очаровательном районе Питера. ♥️ Рисунок занял 1ч 20 мин. В моём следующем посте я расскажу про детали и покажу поэтапный процесс. (На самом деле, всего 4 этапа: закусить, отхлебнуть, нарисовать, допить 😆). Не пропустите! 😉. UPD: Идеальное место для рисования – длиннющая барная стойка вдоль окна-витрины, красивый вид. Рекомендую 👌🏼 . . #usk #urbansketchers #urbansketch #coffee #coffeesketch #cafe #saintpetersburg #piter #sketch #sketchaday #sketchdaily #питер #кофе #скетч #урбанскетч #watercolorsketch #sepia #sepiaink #sketchbook #sketching #петроградка #питернарисунке #sketcher #graphics #archisketcher #arch_arts #arch_more #sketchwalker #vangoghwatercolors

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HISTORY of urban sketching

The global popularity of urban sketching is relatively recent. Although people have been documenting their lives by drawing the world around them for ages, the global community aspect of it has skyrocketed in the past 10 years or so.

In 2007, a Seattle-based journalist and illustrator named Gabriel Campanario founded a blog and online forum for urban sketchers. This allowed urban sketchers all over the world to share their artwork with others. UrbanSketchers.org is now a non-profit organization who hosts the International Urban Sketchers Symposium annually and offers urban sketching workshops all over the world.

The UrbanSketchers.org manifesto pretty much tells you explains what urban sketchers are all about!

Around the same time, SketchCrawl was founded by Enrico Casarosa, a Pixar storyboard artist and director. SketchCrawl is a like a bar crawl but without beer. You meet other local urban sketchers to walk around and sketch various sites throughout the day. It’s a great way to meet fellow artists and find new locations around your own hometown! I’ll touch more on the community at the end of this guide.

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TOOLS NEEDED for urban sketching

Simply put, you only need something to draw with and something to draw on. However, just having a paper and pencil might not allow you to have the best experience possible while you are urban sketching. Paper won’t be easy to carry so you might want to invest in a sketchbook or sketchpad. If you want to add colors on location, you can use colored pencil, art markers or watercolor.

PENCILS

Many people like to sketch with pencil first so that they have the ability to erase mistakes or change the way they first drew something. If you’re using a pencil just to lay down the foundations of your artwork, any pencil should do. However, if you want to only use pencil for your artwork, you should be aware of the types of pencils available and which one would best for you. Check out this great sketch using only pencil!

Repost from @mariaamakes – #uskchicago #usk

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Pencils are categorized by 2 different scales. The HB graphite scale and the numerical graphite scale. You’ll have to be aware of what these mean and which type of pencil works best for you. For more information on pencils, check out my beginner’s guide to drawing supplies.

With pencils of different brands, you’ll really have to experiment with the ones that work for you. JetPens has a pretty great guide on pencil grades and even better guide on wooden pencils if you want to learn more.

PENS

If you want your artwork to last longer, you may want to consider using pens. If desired, you could always sketch with pencil first before adding pen ink. I actually prefer skipping the pencil stage all together and start straight away with the pen. This allows me to spend less time fixing and erasing mistakes and more time actually capturing what I’m drawing. You should try out different pens to see which one works best for you.

I love using Sakura Micron Pens since it uses waterproof, archival ink. This ink is also chemical-resistant, fade-resistant, bleed free and quick-drying as well. The waterproof quality also helps if you want to add watercolor to your sketch. These pens are also available in a variety of different sizes so I’ll switch pens when I need to something that works well for refined details. I started off with this pretty affordable pack of 8 pens (pictured) since it came in a variety of sizes (0.2-mm, 0.25-mm, 0.3-mm, 0.35-mm, 0.45-mm, 0.5-mm) and a brush and graphic tip too!

These pens are also available in a few different colors as well. You can always use these to add color to your scene. For a while, I was doing a lot of my urban sketching in just black and red ink. I used the red ink to accent certain areas of my sketch –like a fire hydrant, a woman’s dress or a kite. The example below shows that you really don’t even need more than just a nice, solid pen to create some amazing sketches.

COLORED PENCILS

If you want to add color, you have the option of using colored pencils. However, you’ll probably need a variety of colors to really capture your scene. If you want a wide range of colors available to you on location, you’ll have to carry quite a bit of different colored pencils. This can be difficult if you don’t want to carry a lot of supplies around.

Like the way I used red ink to highlight certain areas of my artwork, you can use colored pencil to do the same! You don’t need to have hundreds of color on your sketches to make them look awesome. If you want to try using colored pencils, check out my beginner’s guide to colored pencils before you start.

ART MARKERS

Art markers are always a fun tool to use to add colors. However, like the colored pencils, you’ll need to carry quite a few of them if you want a wide range of colors available to you. Art markers are much heavier than colored pencils so it can be a burden to carry these around with you. Although you can probably achieve decent results by blending colors with a small set, you’ll may realize that you want to capture  WAY more colors than you have available.

However, if you don’t mind having a limited color palette, art markers may be a great option for you. You can apply color pretty quickly (compared to colored pencils) with great results. Some artists have used a range of shades for one color –such as gray or blue. If you have a good understanding of highlights and shadows, you can have a pretty awesome monochromatic piece of work.

My favorite art markers to use are Copic Sketch markers. When I’m the mood for art markers, I normally stick with carrying a small range of Copic markers for a monochromatic urban sketch session. This is mainly because I hate carrying things. Copic also sells a pack of 6 shades of gray markers for those who like to create grayscale artwork (see right). Copic has a neat color coding system that makes it easier to choose colors that are easier to blend. Find out how to do that by checking out my beginner’s guide to Copic markers. If you’re completely new to art markers, you may want to start at this guide instead.

WATERCOLOR

You’ll see that many urban sketchers use watercolor to add color to their artwork. Watercolor is great because you have a larger variety of colors available to you. There’s also travel-sized palettes that are small enough to fit in your pocket or purse! You can mix on these palettes but colors can be mixed on paper from adding washes anyway. When using watercolor, try not to paint your highlights and use the paper color as a highlight instead. Focus more on the midtones and shadows when using watercolor to add color to your urban sketches.

I currently use the Koi Pocket Field Sketch Box when I want to use watercolor while urban sketching. It’s so compact and portable while still providing a lot of different colors. My current kit has 24 colors but they have ones ranging from 12 to 30 colors within one set. Another frequently used watercolor set is the Windsor and Newton Deluxe Sketchers Pocket Box. 

SKETCHBOOK

Most likely, you’ll want to carry a sketchbook for urban sketching. Not only does this keep all your sketches in one places, it’s also more convenient and portable. There’s a few things you should consider while picking out a sketchbook that’s right for you.

Size – The size of your sketchbook will really be based on your preference. Smaller sketchbooks mean you could probably finish sketches quicker and move on to more locations. Larger sketchbooks mean you’ll be able to capture more of the scene both in distance and detail.

Paper – The type of paper is going to depend on the type of art supplies you are using. If you are using art markers, you should find paper that won’t bleed through. For watercolor, you may want to get a sketchbook full of watercolor paper. If you need more info on paper weight or tooth, check out my beginner’s guide to drawing supplies.

Binding – The binding of the book is will depend on your preference too. Spiral bound sketchbooks allow you to complete flip open to a particular page. However, drawing on the edge might be difficult. Hardbound sketchbooks may be difficult to keep open. Some urban sketchers even work on accordion-bound sketchbooks to create an expansive panorama. Other sketches like lined or graph paper within their sketches as a personal preferences.

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SKETCHING TECHNIQUES

There’s a variety of techniques that you should keep in mind while urban sketching. Although it helps to know how to draw to some extent, you don’t realllllly need to as long as you are happy with the results. These are your own sketches to document your own world. If that person you drew doesn’t really look like a person, who cares?

Sometimes it helps to have a good foundation in some of the basics of drawing. I’ve linked to some guides that I created that should help with that. These guides were created to help you be familiar with some of these concepts over a one-week span. I included plenty of resources and videos to help you as you learn and practice.

BASICS (Part One) – This guide covers pencil holding techniques, 2D & 3D shapes, guidelines, proportions, silhouettes and contouring. Super important if you’re just starting out.

BASICS (Part Two) – This covers drawing techniques, value, shadow, contrast, texture, reflection and transparencies.

PERSPECTIVE – This guide covers 1-point, 2-point, 3-point (bird’s eye view & worm’s eye view), 4-point and 5-point (fish-eye) perspective. It also covers elliptical perspective and foreshortening. Perspective is an important concept to grasp if you want to get into urban sketching. It’s not necessary but urban sketching will allow you to get LOTS of practice on perspectives.

FIGURE DRAWING  – This guide covers construction/pose, proportions, muscle structure, hands, feet, face, hair and clothes for figure drawing. You can choose whether or not you want to include people in your sketches. If you choose to, this guide will help you learn how to sketch them. People may move frequently through your scene. You don’t necessarily need to capture them perfectly. It’s just a sketch!

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DEVELOPING YOUR OWN STYLE

Explore the works of popular urban sketchers to help inspire you to find your own style. Each urban sketcher is unique in their style based on the mediums they use, they way they draw and their subject. My biggest recommendation is to check out this Instagram account by UrbanSketchers. They feature urban sketchers with varying styles using many different mediums. This example below features an artist who utilizes only a black and white pen on brown paper to create a unique look for her urban sketches.

 

CHOOSING LOCATIONS & SUBJECTS

If you are just starting out, you may want to pick a location that is quiet and secluded. Try sitting outside your house and just draw the view across your street. Even if it’s not an ideal view (I used to live across a large dirt lot), you can still get experience of setting up your sketch. It’s helpful to first frame your scene and determine what you’ll draw for the most outer right, outer left, top, and bottom of your view.

Once you are comfortable with these scenes, venture out to other places around your city. When you draw these scenes, you can decide whether you what you really want to focus on. Like the architecture of the church? Or maybe you like the variety of people you see at a festival? Whatever it may be, spend more time on drawing those as the focus of your drawing. Don’t really have a focus and just want to draw the whole scene? You can do that as well!

Here are a few suggestions to get your started:

  • Farmer’s market
  • Festival/local events
  • Store
  • Museums
  • Schools
  • Parks
  • Hospital
  • Restaurants/Cafes
  • Gardens
  • Beach
  • Church

COMMUNITY

The urban sketching community is amazing. Lots of groups meet up often in their selected cities and choose a time and place to bring their sketchbooks. It’s a great way to meet people and explore areas of your city you might not have never known. Don’t worry if you feel like a beginner. These groups welcome artists of all skill sets and experience levels!

Urban sketching is a global phenomenon! Through UrbanSketchers.org, you can find a huge list of official chapters located worldwide. Find your country’s (or city’s) official chapter on this list and find the next urban sketchers meet up. You can also try to find a group of urban sketchers in your area if you search through the forums at SketchCrawl.org! You can find most of the groups through a quick search on Facebook! Request to join and share your work!

Repost from @usk_terrassa – #UskTerrassa en el @mnactec. #Exposicion de #davinci

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READY TO GET STARTED?

Get your sketch pads and join me on this weekly schedule!

Week One We aren’t going far for this one! Go outside your house, find a nice place to sit and sketch exactly what you see across from your home. If you aren’t too thrilled about the view, turn around and draw your home instead. It’s a great way to capture where you’re living during this part of your life!

Week Two –  Take your sketchbook out to a cute, local cafe where you may find people working on their laptops, reading, or maybe on a coffee date. If you aren’t comfortable with sketching in public, this environment is perfect! Many people around you are working on their own things so most likely no one will even notice you sketching! Sit at table that has a view of either the coffee shop wall or of the counter and draw what you see.

Week Three – Head to a local museum and find a great quiet spot. Try a museum you’ve frequented before so you don’t have to worry about the excitement you have to check out all the exhibits. Lots of museums usually have a free admission day for locals. Find out when your free museum days are and head out then!

Week Four – Find a  free, local event that is happening in your city and go people watching. Try sketching at a festival (like a cultural celebration where you can sketch some fun, lively decorations) or even a farmer’s market (where you can sketch tons of colorful fruits and vegetables).

The Ultimate List of Collage Art Ideas

For the hobby of the month of collage art, there’s no set schedule for assignments or prompts this time.  I’ll provide a wide range of ideas to get you started and you can pick the technique that is most appealing to you throughout the month! Want to know how to get started with collage art? Check out our guide on choosing the right tools and supplies right here.

the beginners guide to collage art

Color

Color is a design element that can be applied in a variety of different ways in your collage art work. Check out these ideas below that revolve around utilizing color.

Use only black and white elements. Newspapers are a great resources for a collage piece that’s only black and white. You can also use magazines or any other paper. Try utilizing old school photos or magazine art in order to get that old-school feel.

Use black and white with an accent color. Try the prompt above EXCEPT pick one color as an accent color. The black and white background will really allow your color to pop. I really love using red as an accent color in my collage art pieces. Check out the Instagram feature below for a great art piece with a red accent.

Use only ONE color. Go for a monochromatic theme and choose only one color to be represented throughout the art work.

Surrealism

I love surrealist art. Surrealism change the rules, altering perspective and scale and always making the impossible possible. With collage art, you can become a surrealist artist with just some magazines, scissors and glue! Check out some examples of surrealist collage art below!

Change the scale of an object. Changing the size of an object is a popular Surrealist technique. Take an object that is normally small and change the size by adding elements around it to enlarge it!

Make things fly. You know how they say pigs can’t fly? Well, in collage art they can! Make objects/people/animals/whatever do things that you would never imagine them doing!

Join objects together! Use juxtaposition to combine two or more things that don’t relate. Cut out a photo of a cat’s head and place it on the body of a mermaid!

Dislocate your subjects. Make incredibly bizarre scenes by dislocating an object and placing it an environment you wouldn’t usually find it in.

Typography

I don’t know why but I’ve always been obsessed with typography. In collage art, you can do more than just spell out words in your collage art. You can actually use the text itself. Explore the colors of the type itself and use it to create your artwork (like the feature below by @_takasao) or use the text as a symbol (like the feature by @mlassens).

 

Photo Rearrangement

Get creative with just one magazine clipping. Collage art doesn’t have to include tons of different paper items. You can create art from just one image. Find a different way to display one image. Manipulate the image by slicing it into multiple pieces or rearrange them in a more creative way like the examples below.

SHAPES

You can create a collage by focusing on the shapes of your clippings rather than the shape of the image you are cutting out. You can also get creative and cut out different shapes and layer other pieces of paper underneath like the example below.

Object Replication

You can use newspaper, magazine clippings, construction paper or whatever else you’d like to use to replicate an object. Focus on the color of your clippings and use them to compile a much bigger image.

UTILIZING OTHER ART MEDIUMS in collage art

The best thing about collage art is that you can up the creativity game and utilize other art mediums. Incorporate any of the art mediums listed below into your collage! If

  • Watercolor paints
  • Acrylic paints
  • Gouache
  • Pencil
  • Pen (ink)
  • Colored pencils
  • Pastels

Got any ideas that you think would make a great addition to this list? Comment below and I’ll add them on!

 

 

 

The Beginner’s Complete Guide to Collage Art

The Beginner's Guide to Collage ArtCollage art allows for an incredible range of creativity as it can utilize a variety of materials and mediums. Most likely, you’ll have everything you already need at home! Honestly, all you need is paper and some sort of adhesive (like glue or tape) and you’re good to go.

Collage art is pretty much the least intimidating art medium ever. It’s great for beginning artists as it requires no technical skills whatsoever. However, if you love drawing or painting, you can incorporate that into your collage art as well! Collage art is also great for accomplished artists as it can offer up brand new challenges. From construction paper cut-and-paste to surrealist magazine style of collage art, the possibilities are endless.

So what exactly is collage art? Collage art is, “a technique of composing a work of art by pasting on a single surface, various materials not normally associated with one another.” This can include magazine images, newspaper clippings, photographs, movie tickets, basically anything and everything paper. You can even explore mixed media collage art and add unique items like buttons, ribbons, or even flowers.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Don’t worry! Your price stays the same. I just receive a small percentage of the sale which helps cover the costs of maintaining this website and  I only link to products I highly recommend. Check out my privacy policy for more info. 

What’s included for this hobby of the month? 

For this hobby of the month, we’ll explore a different technique of collage art each week. I’ll provide a wide range of ideas here to get you started and you can pick the technique that is most appealing to you!

Before we can start with collage art, you’ll need to get familiar with some materials and supplies you can use for this hobby. Although you only really need paper and some adhesive, you always have the option to upgrade!

Collage Art Tools & Materials

Support for collage art

The first thing you’ll need to create collage art is something on which to put your art. This can include papers, cardboard, or even canvases. What you select is ultimately going to be based on a few parameters:

    • What do you want to do with the final product? If you want to mount it on a wall, you might consider using something that provides high stability and support. Canvases are great for this purpose. If you want to keep it tucked in a folder or binder, use something much thinner like watercolor papers. Use a thicker variety of watercolor paper so it can withstand the weight of your adhesives and paper.
    • What materials do plan on using in your collage? If you are planning on utilizing heavy objects, you’ll need something with a strong support. Try a mat board, davey board, cardboard, hardboard, or even plywood for the really heavy stuff.
    • What adhesive do you plan on using? If you’re using tape, you can probably stick with watercolor papers, cardboard, or bristol paper. If you’re using glue, you need to consider the thickness of the glue and whether the support will be able to withstand the layers of this adhesive.

I personally like hanging up my collage art, but I don’t necessarily need to stability of a stretched canvas on frames. I love using these 8×10 flat canvases. They provide good support and I don’t have to worry about the amount of glue I apply. I have the ability to hang these and they’re the perfect size for me. The best thing for me? They’re pretty damn affordable.

Adhesives for collage art

Another item you’ll need for collage art is an appropriate adhesive. You can use either tape or glue for your artwork but I would recommend glue for this. Glue is definitely more long-lasting but it can be way more messy than using tape. There are tons of different glues available and you should be aware of the different characteristics that each one can offer.

Since I typically only work with paper, I like using Elmer’s 2-in-1 Dual Tip Glue Pen. This is the same glue I used in my scrapbooking days. I like that there’s a flat surface tip for you to glide the glue across the paper but there’s also a small tip for more precise applications. It also dries wrinkle-free on paper. It works well for me as a casual explorer in collage art for now.

Other glues I would consider are white glues like Mod Podge. You can find archival (good for long-lasting durable art) and non-archival glues in gloss and matte finishes and it works great as a sealant as well. You can also consider polyvinyl acetate (PVA) all-purpose glues but it’s not archival. This is your typical white Elmer’s glue that you see commonly used in schools.

You can also use glue sticks but only pick higher quality, permanent ones. The cheap school-grade glue sticks won’t be durable for your collage art. If that’s all you have in the house and you don’t want to invest in any other glues, glue sticks will work fine to get the job done. If you are utilizing heavier objects on your collage, I would recommend more durable options like wood glue. Other options would include acrylic mediums (can be used as both a glue AND a finish) or rubber-based adhesives (like rubber cement).

Whatever you use, just make sure that it’s strong enough to secure the materials that you’re using for your collage!

Cutting Tools for Collage Art

Scissors – The scissors you have sitting on home is probably good enough to get started. If you want to explore collage art on a deeper level, you may need more heavy-duty scissors for cutting heavier material like leather or cardboard. If you need more precise scissors for detailed cutting, grab some fine-tip scissors. If you want decorative edges in your clippings, buy some decorative-edge scissors at your local craft store. Adding fabric into your collage art? Try some fabric shears.

Knives – I’m not good with knives at all. I don’t use them unless I have to because I’m always bound to cut myself. Knives are great for cutting a variety of material. You can use large utility knives, craft knives or even desktop paper cutters. Desktop paper cutters are perfect if you’re want straight lines in very precise measurements. I love using this X-Acto knife set (pictured on right). It gives me pretty precise cuts for magazine clippings.

Materials for Collage Art

Need ideas on what type of materials you can use for collage art? Here’s a list of ideas! Most of these can be found around the home but if you don’t have a lot of these items, try visiting your local recycling plant, secondhand stores, or libraries (for used book sales).

  • Magazines
  • Books
  • Newspapers
  • Junk mail/flyers
  • Old memorabilia like plane tickets, movie tickets, souvenir pamplets, etc.
  • Photographs
  • Decorative scrapbooking paper
  • Gift wrapping paper
  • Notebook paper

the beginners guide to collage art

painting mediums for collage art

Want to add more than just paper and objects to your collage? Utilize these other mediums to add a flare to your collage!

  • Watercolor paints
  • Acrylic paints
  • Gouache
  • Pencil
  • Pen (ink)
  • Colored pencils
  • Pastels

Now that we’ve covered supplies, let’s see what types of collage art you can get into! Check out this list of collage art ideas!

The Ultimate Soap Recipe Index

Ultimate-Soap-Recipe-IndexSoap making is a wonderful hobby that gives you the option to be able to control everything you put in it.  If you need ideas, I’ve listed the top soap making recipes I’ve found! They’re indexed by ingredient to make it easier for you to find a recipe based on an ingredient.

– Kids
– Floral
– Herbal
– Goat’s Milk
– Honey
– Vegetables
– Fruits
– Oatmeal/Nuts
– Desserts
– Coffee
– Holiday
– Charcoal
– Others

We’re exploring soap making for the month of January so if you’re new to this hobby, check out these guides:

Kids (Fun)

Rainbow Popsicle Soap (DIY Inspired) (1)

Colorful Polka Dot Soap (Tree Hugger) (2)

Rainbow Hearts Soap (Soap Queen) (3)

Snow Cone Soap Loaf (Wholesale Supplies Plus)

Birthday Cake Loaf Soap (Soap Queen) (4)

Floral

Lavender Soap (A Pumpkin and a Princess) (5)

Carnation Cube Soap (Soap Queen) (6)

Hops & Lavender Soap (Haley Maxwell)

Dandelion & Honey Soap (Ashli Soap Blog)

Lavender Lemon Yogurt Soap (Emily’s Homestead)

Herbals/Plant-based

Ground Rosemary Bar (Soaphisticated Lady)

Whole Rosemary Leaf Bar (Soaphisticated Lady)

Spearmint & Rosemary Soap (Home Spun with Love)

Rosemary & Mint Goat Milk Soap (Soap Recipes 101) (7)

Rosemary Citrus Goat’s Milk Soap (Everyday Home Blog) (8)

Cucumber & Borage Soap (The Nerdy Farm Wife)

Eucalyptus & Tea Tree Soap (Soap Deli News)

Lime Cilantro Soap (Simply Stacie) (9)

Goat’s Milk

Goat’s Milk Soap (Pioneer Settler)

Sweet Almond Honey Oatmeal Goat’s Milk Soap (Essentially Eclectic) (10)

Rosemary & Mint Goat Milk Soap (Soap Recipes 101) 

Coffee Bean Goat’s Milk Soap (Living Well Spending Less)

Grapefruit Mint Poppyseed Goat’s Milk Soap (A Beautiful Mess) (11)

Goat Milk Oat Soap (Nearly Crafty)

Rosemary Citrus Goat’s Milk Soap (Everyday Home Blog)

Folded Goat’s Milk Soap (Rustic Escentuals)

Honey

Oatmeal & Honey Hot Process Soap (The Nerdy Farm Wife) 

Sweet Almond Honey Oatmeal Goat’s Milk Soap (Essentially Eclectic)

Honey Oatmeal Banana Soap (Soap Deli News)

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey Swirl Cold Process Soap (Soap Queen) 

Carrot & Honey Soap (The Nerdy Farm Wife)

Dandelion & Honey Soap (Ashli Soap Blog)

Honey Almond Chamomile Goat’s Milk Soap (Over the Apple Tree)

Honey Lemon Soap (A Pumpkin and a Princess) (12)

Milk & Honey Soap (Happiness is Homemade) 

vegetable

Cucumber & Borage Soap (The Nerdy Farm Wife)

Carrot & Honey Soap (The Nerdy Farm Wife)

Fruit

Seeded Strawberry Bar (Soaphisticated Lady)

Juniper Berries Bar (Soaphisticated Lady)

Pink Grapefruit Soap (Garden Therapy)

Lemon Soap (A Pumpkin & a Princess)

Grapefruit Mint Poppyseed Goat’s Milk Soap (A Beautiful Mess)

Rosemary Citrus Goat’s Milk Soap (Everyday Home Blog)

Honey Oatmeal Banana Soap (Soap Deli News)

Lemon & Lime Soap (Bulk Apothecary)

Sweet Orange Chili Pepper Cold Process Soap (Nature’s Garden)

Charcoal Facial Bar with Mango, Avocado and Babassu (Lovin’ Soap) (13)

Citrus Honey Scotch Ale Soap (Offbeat + Inspired)

Tropical Coconut Soap (Bulk Apothecary) 

Orange + Tea Tree Soap (Offbeat + Inspired) (15)

Strawberry Pie Soap (Soap Queen) 

Cinnamon Orange Soap (AO)

Orange Clove Gardener’s Soap (A Cultivated Soap) 

Orange Peppercorn Massage Soap (Soap Deli News)

Grapefruit Eucalyptus Soap (Natural Beauty Workshop) (17)

Honey Lemon Soap (A Pumpkin and a Princess)

Pink Himalayan Salt Grapefruit Soap ( A Pumpkin and a Princess) (18)

Lavender Lemon Yogurt Soap (Emily’s Homestead)

Lime Cilantro Soap (Simply Stacie)

Peaches & Cream Soap (Happiness is Homemade) (19)

Orange Creamsicle Soap (Simple Stacie)

Oatmeal/Nuts

Sweet Almond Honey Oatmeal Goat’s Milk Soap (Essentially Eclectic)

Honey Oatmeal Banana Soap (Soap Deli News)

Shea Butter Oatmeal Soap “Beach Side” (Our Wolfden)

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey Cold Process Swirl Soap (Soap Queen) 

Oatmeal + Cinnamon Soap

Desserts

All-Natural Dark Chocolate Soap Bars (Essentially Eclectic)(20)

Vanilla Latte Soap (A Pumpkin & A Princess) (21)

Chocolate Almond Soap (Window on the Prairie) 

Strawberry Pie Soap (Soap Queen) 

Pumpkin Pie Soap (Humble Bee and Me) (22)

Vanilla Bean & Peppermint Loofah Soap (She Makes a Home) (23)

Chocolate Mini Melt Soaps (Soap Queen) (24)

Cocoa Mint Soap (Hello Glow)

Ginger Spice Cookie Soap (Feathers in Our Nest)

Gingerbread Sugar Scrub Soap (A Pumpkin & a Princess) (25)

Orange Creamsicle Soap (Simple Stacie)

Coffee

Cinnamon Hazelnut Coffee Soap (Essentially Eclectic) 

Coffee Bean Goat’s Milk Soap (Living Well Spending Less)

Coffee Grounds Soap (Pop Sugar)

Coffee Ginger Soap (A Cultivated Nest) 

Vanilla Coffee Soap (Frugal Family Home)

Vanilla Hazelnut Coffee Soap (H+P Artistry)

Holiday

Ground Cinnamon Bar (Soaphisticated Lady)

Whole Cinnamon Stick Bar (Soaphisticated Lady)

All-Natural Dark Chocolate Soap Bars (Essentially Eclectic)

Pumpkin Spice Soap (Happiness is Homemade)

Pumpkin Spice Cold-Process Soap (The Things We’ll Make)

Peppermint Soap (Happiness is Homemade)

Cinnamon Hazelnut Coffee Soap (Essentially Eclectic) 

Vanilla Latte Soap (A Pumpkin & A Princess)

Pumpkin Pie Soap (Humble Bee and Me)

Cool Yule Peppermint Loaf (Soap Queen) (26)

Chocolate Mini Melt Soaps (Soap Queen)

Ginger Spice Cookie Soap (Feathers in Our Nest)

Gingerbread Sugar Scrub Soap (A Pumpkin & a Princess)

Mint

Spearmint & Rosemary Soap (Home Spun with Love)

Peppermint Soap (Happiness is Homemade) (27)

Rosemary & Mint Goat Milk Soap (Soap Recipes 101) 

Grapefruit Mint Poppyseed Soap (A Beautiful Mess)

Vanilla Bean & Peppermint Loofah Soap (She Makes a Home)

Cocoa Mint Soap (Hello Glow)

Peppermint Charcoal Soap (Bulk Apothecary) (28)

Minty Poppy Seed Scrubby Soap (Humblebee & Me) (29)

charcoal

Charcoal Facial Bar with Mango, Avocado and Babassu (Lovin’ Soap)

Other

Felted Soap (DIY Ready)

Folded Goat’s Milk Soap (Rustic Escentuals) (30)

Shea Butter Oatmeal Soap “Beach Side” (Our Wolfden)

Sweet Coconut Soap (Essentially Eclectic) (31)

Patchouli Beer Bars (Great Cakes Soap Works)

African Black Soap (Soap Recipes 101)

Citrus Honey Scotch Ale Soap (Offbeat + Inspired)

Neon Geometric Soap (Soap Queen) (32)

Cleansing Clay Soap Bars (Cultures for Health) 

Black Clay & Sea Salt Soap (Soap Deli) 

Activated Charcoal Soap (Heartful Habits)

Chia Seed + Aloe Soap (Hello Glow)

Cornmeal and Calendula (Hello Glow)

Lemon Poppy Seed Soap (Raising Up Rubies)

 

The Beginner’s Guide to Soap Making – The Hot Process Method

The Beginner's Complete Guide to Hot Process Soap MakingThe hot process of soap making is very similar to the cold process except the best thing about it is that you won’t need to wait 4-6 weeks for your soap bars to cure! They’ll be ready to use right away! The soap will also result in a different, more coarse texture compared to cold process soap.

This method is referred to as the “hot” process because you are using heat to actually cook the soap mixture to neutralize it. It’s considered a more advanced method of soap making so I would only explore it once you have a good grasp of the other methods. You’ll also be using a slow cooker for this process!

You also will be working with lye during the hot process method. Lye can be dangerous and extreme caution is required to work with it. Lye combines with a fat to form soap — this is called saponification. If you don’t want to work with lye, you can try to rebatch method or the melt and pour method.  In these methods, you’ll work with pre-made soap that has already gone through the saponfication process.

SUPPLIES NEEDED

The supplies needed for the hot process are listed below. For specific information about these supplies, check out this guide here.

  • LyeCrock Pot Soap Making
  • Ventilated space
  • Rubber gloves, goggles, mask
  • Slow cooker
  • Water (distilled and tap)
  • Heat-safe glass containers
  • Stainless steel measuring spoons
  • Digital scale
  • Thermometers (2)
  • Silicone spatulas
  • Electric stick blender
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Soap mold
  • Litmus paper

WORKING WITH LYE

Lye is what makes soap into SOAP! Lye is also known as sodium hydroxide, a soluble base. If making liquid soap, you’ll actually be using potassium hydroxide instead. Lye has been categorized as generally safe to use for cosmetics. However, working with the pure product is another story. Lye is extremely corrosive. It can penetrate the skin and cause some pretty severe damage. That’s why it’s extremely important to take safety precautions by wearing heavy-duty goggles and rubber gloves while working in a well-ventilated space.

It may seem pretty scary to work with lye but if you’re going to make soap from scratch using the cold or hot process, you’ll have to learn how to handle it. Lye is necessary to react with fat in order to form soap. As long as the lye has reacted with the appropriate amount of oil, the lye should be completely undetectable in the final product of the soap. Use an online lye calculator to determine how much lye you should use.

Lye can be purchased as several different crystals, beads or flakes. It’s normally available in hardware stores but make sure you buy lye that is definitely marked at 100% sodium hydroxide. You might get some strange looks if you buy a huge supply of lye though…just because it’s also an ingredient used to make meth. Who knew? If you don’t want to buy from the store, there’s tons of online stores and websites that sell it. My favorite store to purchase from is Brambleberry.

The Beginner's Guide to Soap Making Ingredients Lye
Here’s a few tips you NEED to know before working with lye:

  • WEAR PROTECTIVE GEAR. This includes strong rubber gloves, heavy-duty goggles, and protective clothing. You do NOT want this stuff getting anywhere on your skin.
  • USE LYE IN A WELL-VENTILATED PLACE. You really don’t want to be breathing any of these fumes. If possible, I would make soap outside. If you want to make soap indoors, make sure there are plenty of windows you can open around that area. Definitely keep children and pets away. If you have children or pets, you may want to consider minimizing all risks involved when working with lye.
  • ADD LYE TO WATER (NEVER WATER TO LYE). This is extremely important. If you add water to lye, it puts you at risk of pretty much having the lye explode everywhere. Try to remember that with this cute rhyme I’ve seen many others use: Water into lye will cause you to die, lye into water will make you smarter.
  • USE HEAT-RESISTANT PLASTIC OR GLASS BOWLS. You’ll need something pretty durable and safe. Don’t mix lye solution in metal containers since it can cause the lye solution to become too hot and may produce a hazardous reaction depending on the type of metal. Only use silicone, stainless steel and glass equipment when handling lye. Never use aluminum, cast iron, nonstick finishes, weak plastic or thin glass.
  • CLEARLY LABEL LYE WHILE IN STORAGE. Do whatever you need to make sure that the lye is appropriately labeled. Keep away from children or pets and label with “DON’T TOUCH,” “DANGEROUS CHEMICALS,” or “POISON.” Always make sure you put the chemical name, the manufacturer and expiration date. This helps if you end up storing it in a container other than the original.
  • WASH WITH WATER IF LYE GETS ON YOU. If lye gets on any part of your body or your eyes, wash with water for at least 15 minutes and seek medical attention. If you accidentally inhale it, move to any well-ventilated area for fresh air.
If you are going to work with lye, PLEASE do your research before starting. I cannot stress this enough. Read this guide by the Soap Queen or watch this video to learn all about the safety precautions and proper use of lye. 

HOW TO MAKE SOAP USING THE HOT PROCESS METHOD

The cold process method of soap making will vary based on your recipe but generally you’re going to follow the basic steps I’ve listed below. Always check with your recipe and always check the amount of lye you have in your recipe with an online calculator. If the ratio is off between lye and oil, the soap will not fully saponify and you may have lye leftover in your final product. Leftover lye is NOT good.

  1. Work in a well-ventilated space. Make sure you are wearing all your protective gear (rubber gloves, goggles, long sleeves, and mask). This is because lye doesn’t like to play nice.
  2. Measure out your ingredients. Remember, only use silicone, stainless steel and glass equipment when handling lye. Never use aluminum, cast iron, nonstick finishes, weak plastic or thin glass. Weigh out using a digital scale to get exact weights. The ratio of the ingredients will definitely make a difference.
  3. Add your oils into the slow cooker. Melt your oils together in the slow cooker. Do NOT overheat your oils so watch them closely.
  4. Fill a heat-safe container with water. Use distilled water when making your own soap. You never know what sort of contaminants you might find in regular water. Since you’re working with lye, you don’t want the risk of it reacting to anything you don’t want it to react to.
  5. Slowly add lye into water. Sprinkle the lye carefully into the water. Remember, water into lye will cause you to die, lye into water will make you smarter. NEVER EVER add water into lye. This can cause a very unwanted, terrible reaction. The lye solution WILL heat up so be careful. Once you have mixed the lye in, set it aside to cool.
  6. Use your thermometers to track the temperatures. Once the mixtures are at 110F, you will slowly pour the lye solution into the slow cooker.
  7. Stir the mixture. Since you are still working with lye, make sure you use only silicone, stainless steel or heavy-duty glass equipment to stir. Stir for about 10 – 20 minutes until you start to notice traces.
  8. Cook for 3 hours on the low setting. Check the soap every 30 minutes. Consistently check the neutrality of the solution with the pH paper.
  9. Add any additional ingredients. If you want to add any extra ingredients, make sure the mixture is neutral.  Also remember that the mixture will be hot so you shouldn’t add anything that might melt. Since glitter is plastic, it will melt when added at high temperatures. If this is something you want to add, make sure it’s mixed in when the mixture starts to cool down a bit.
  10. Pour the mixture into the mold. When everything has been evenly distributed, you can fill the molds.
  11. Let the soap cool before unmolding. If you used a mold that will result in a long log of soap, use a knife to cut it into bars.
  12. Use! Your soap bars are now ready to use! If you want to save it for later, store them in a ventilated container.

SPECIAL TECHNIQUES FOR HOT PROCESS SOAP MAKING

EMBEDDING

Soap-Making-Embedding

You can embed pretty much anything you want inside a bar of soap such as plastic toys, gemstones, or even silk flowers. Remember that certain objects can melt under high temperatures.

  1. Fill your mold halfway with your mixture.
  2. Generously spray your object with rubbing alcohol.
  3. Press your object into the soap mold but don’t press it so hard that it hits the bottom surface of the mold.
  4. Pour the remaining soap mixture to fill up the remainder of the  mold.

LAYERING

Layering soap can create some pretty sweet looking creations. You can get really creative with colors and shapes when you layer.

  1. Pour your first layer of mixture into the mold. Let this layer cool but not so much where the whole layer is hardened.
  2. Spray the first layer with rubbing alcohol to allow the next layer to stick.
  3. Pour the second layer onto the first layer.
  4. If you want more layers, repeat the above steps.

Soap-Making-Marble-Swirls

SWIRLING & MARBLING

Swirling and marbling take a lot of practice! If you really enjoy soap making, you should try exploring this special technique. Swirling is generally done by controlling the level of trace of the mixture and the way your pour into your mold. Since swirling can really only appear if you use different colors, pour at a thin-medium trace for a thinner swirl. Pour when the mixture is heavily traced for thick colors. Use a toothpick to lightly drag through the mixture to create a marbling effect. If you want to the whole bar of soap to have this effect, make sure to use a thin, marbling tool that will touch the bottom of the mold. Play around with this special technique to see what you can create!

Ready to start creating? Check out our ultimate soap making recipe index for over 100 recipes and ideas!

The Beginner’s Guide to Soap Making – The Cold Process Method

The Beginner's Complete Guide to Cold Process Soap MakingYou can make soap completely from scratch by using the cold process method of soap making. If you like being able to control every single ingredient in the soap, then this method is definitely for you!

This method is referred to as the “cold” process because you aren’t really using any heat to cook the soap. However, you do use heat to liquify some of your ingredients so that they are easier to mix.

You also will be working with lye during the cold process method. Lye can be dangerous and extreme caution is required to work with it. Lye combines with a fat to form soap — this is called saponification. If you don’t want to work with lye, you can try to rebatch method or the melt and pour method.  In these methods, you’ll work with pre-made soap that has already gone through the saponfication process.

Supplies Needed

The supplies needed for the cold process are listed below. For specific information about these supplies, check out this guide here.

  • Lye
  • Ventilated space
  • Rubber gloves, goggles, mask
  • Water (distilled and tap)
  • Stainless steel pot
  • Stainless steel saucepan
  • Heat-safe glass containers
  • Stainless steel measuring spoons
  • Digital scale
  • Thermometers (2)
  • Silicone spatulas
  • Electric stick blender
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Soap mold
  • Pipettes (optional)

Working with Lye

Lye is what makes soap into SOAP! Lye is also known as sodium hydroxide, a soluble base. If making liquid soap, you’ll actually be using potassium hydroxide instead. Lye has been categorized as generally safe to use for cosmetics. However, working with the pure product is another story. Lye is extremely corrosive. It can penetrate the skin and cause some pretty severe damage. That’s why it’s extremely important to take safety precautions by wearing heavy-duty goggles and rubber gloves while working in a well-ventilated space.

It may seem pretty scary to work with lye but if you’re going to make soap from scratch using the cold or hot process, you’ll have to learn how to handle it. Lye is necessary to react with fat in order to form soap. As long as the lye has reacted with the appropriate amount of oil, the lye should be completely undetectable in the final product of the soap. Use an online lye calculator to determine how much lye you should use.

Lye can be purchased as several different crystals, beads or flakes. It’s normally available in hardware stores but make sure you buy lye that is definitely marked at 100% sodium hydroxide. You might get some strange looks if you buy a huge supply of lye though…just because it’s also an ingredient used to make meth. Who knew? If you don’t want to buy from the store, there’s tons of online stores and websites that sell it. My favorite store to purchase from is Brambleberry.

The Beginner's Guide to Soap Making Ingredients Lye
Here’s a few tips you NEED to know before working with lye:

  • WEAR PROTECTIVE GEAR. This includes strong rubber gloves, heavy-duty goggles, and protective clothing. You do NOT want this stuff getting anywhere on your skin.
  • USE LYE IN A WELL-VENTILATED PLACE. You really don’t want to be breathing any of these fumes. If possible, I would make soap outside. If you want to make soap indoors, make sure there are plenty of windows you can open around that area. Definitely keep children and pets away. If you have children or pets, you may want to consider minimizing all risks involved when working with lye.
  • ADD LYE TO WATER (NEVER WATER TO LYE). This is extremely important. If you add water to lye, it puts you at risk of pretty much having the lye explode everywhere. Try to remember that with this cute rhyme I’ve seen many others use: Water into lye will cause you to die, lye into water will make you smarter.
  • USE HEAT-RESISTANT PLASTIC OR GLASS BOWLS. You’ll need something pretty durable and safe. Don’t mix lye solution in metal containers since it can cause the lye solution to become too hot and may produce a hazardous reaction depending on the type of metal. Only use silicone, stainless steel and glass equipment when handling lye. Never use aluminum, cast iron, nonstick finishes, weak plastic or thin glass.
  • CLEARLY LABEL LYE WHILE IN STORAGE. Do whatever you need to make sure that the lye is appropriately labeled. Keep away from children or pets and label with “DON’T TOUCH,” “DANGEROUS CHEMICALS,” or “POISON.” Always make sure you put the chemical name, the manufacturer and expiration date. This helps if you end up storing it in a container other than the original.
  • WASH WITH WATER IF LYE GETS ON YOU. If lye gets on any part of your body or your eyes, wash with water for at least 15 minutes and seek medical attention. If you accidentally inhale it, move to any well-ventilated area for fresh air.
If you are going to work with lye, PLEASE do your research before starting. I cannot stress this enough. Read this guide by the Soap Queen or watch this video to learn all about the safety precautions and proper use of lye. 

IMPORTANT SOAP MAKING Terms

Trace – This term refers to the moment when oils and lye have emulsified. It refers to the traces of the soap mixture that can be seen. You will be adding your ingredients at different levels of trace. Trace can be referred to as “light” to “heavy” and will become heavier the more you stir the mixture.

Saponification – Saponification is essentially the process of your lye solution and oil mixture turning into soap. The reaction starts as soon as the lye solution comes into contact with the oil. When your soap mixture fully saponifies, there will be no lye remaining in the product (which is good!).

Curing – Curing is the time period when the water evaporates from your soap bars causing it to become milder and harder. This can take up to 4-6 weeks with the cold process method of soap making. The longer you cure your bars, the longer you extend its shelf life. However, just know that the shelf-life of homemade soaps will never exceed the commercial-grade soaps. There’s a lot of preservatives added to those soap bars that you won’t have in yours.

How to Make Soap Using the Cold Process Method

The cold process method of soap making will vary based on your recipe but generally you’re going to follow the basic steps I’ve listed below. Always check with your recipe and always check the amount of lye you have in your recipe with an online calculator. If the ratio is off between lye and oil, the soap will not fully saponify and you may have lye leftover in your final product. Leftover lye is NOT good.

  1. Work in a well-ventilated space. Make sure you are wearing all your protective gear (rubber gloves, goggles, long sleeves, and mask). This is because lye doesn’t like to play nice.
  2. Measure out your ingredients. Remember, only use silicone, stainless steel and glass equipment when handling lye. Never use aluminum, cast iron, nonstick finishes, weak plastic or thin glass. Weigh out using a digital scale to get exact weights. The ratio of the ingredients will definitely make a difference.
  3. Fill a heat-safe container with water. Use distilled water when making your own soap. You never know what sort of contaminants you might find in regular water. Since you’re working with lye, you don’t want the risk of it reacting to anything you don’t want it to react to. If you want to work with milk, replace the water with the milk of choice. You can use different types of milk in your soaps including cow’s milk, goat’s milk, buttermilk or even half-and-half. Don’t use room temperature milk though; it will lead to a disgusting color when you add lye. The most effective way is to use frozen milk.
  4. Slowly add lye into water. Sprinkle the lye carefully into the water. Remember, water into lye will cause you to die, lye into water will make you smarter. NEVER EVER add water into lye. This can cause a very unwanted, terrible reaction. The lye solution WILL heat up so be careful. Once you have mixed the lye in, set it aside to cool.
  5. Combine your oils. In a separate heat-proof glass container or saucepan, combine the oils you will be using in your soap. Melt these together over the stove or using a microwave. Stir so that the oils are evenly mixed. Do NOT overheat your oils so watch them closely. Set this aside to cool. It’ll most likely take longer to cool than your lye solution.
  6. Use your thermometers to track the temperatures. Once the mixtures are at 110F, you will slowly pour the oils into the lye solution.
  7. Stir the mixture. Since you are still working with lye, make sure you use only silicone, stainless steel or heavy-duty glass equipment to stir. You can also use an electric stick blender here. Stir for about 10 – 20 minutes until you start to notice traces.
  8. Add any additional ingredients. If you want to add any extra ingredients, now is the time to do it. Different ingredients will need to be added at varying levels of trace so do your research. Also remember that the mixture will be hot so you shouldn’t add anything that might melt. Since glitter is plastic, it will melt when added at high temperatures. If this is something you want to add, make sure it’s mixed in when the mixture starts to cool down a bit.
  9. Pour the mixture into the mold. When the mixture starts to trace, pour it into your mold. Cover your mold with a plastic wrap. You can also wrap it in a towel for additional warmth. Let it sit for 2 days.
  10. Unmold your soap. Make sure you are wearing your gloves and goggles for this. If your soap is having difficult coming out of its mold, throw it in the freezer for an hour. If you used a mold that will result in a long log of soap, use a knife to cut it into bars.
  11. Let the bars cure. Store the bars in a paper bag to dry. You can turn over the soap bars daily to make sure that the cure evenly. In 4-6 weeks, your soap will be ready to use!

SPECIAL TECHNIQUES FOR COLD PROCESS SOAP MAKING

EMBEDDING

Soap-Making-Embedding

You can embed pretty much anything you want inside a bar of soap such as plastic toys, gemstones, or even silk flowers. Remember that certain objects can melt under high temperatures.

  1. Fill your mold halfway with your mixture.
  2. Generously spray your object with rubbing alcohol.
  3. Press your object into the soap mold but don’t press it so hard that it hits the bottom surface of the mold.
  4. Pour the remaining soap mixture to fill up the remainder of the  mold.

LAYERING

Layering soap can create some pretty sweet looking creations. You can get really creative with colors and shapes when you layer.

  1. Pour your first layer of mixture into the mold. Let this layer cool but not so much where the whole layer is hardened.
  2. Spray the first layer with rubbing alcohol to allow the next layer to stick.
  3. Pour the second layer onto the first layer.
  4. If you want more layers, repeat the above steps.

Swirling & Marbling

Swirling and marbling take a lot of practice! If you really enjoy soap making, you should try exploring this special technique. Swirling is generally done by controlling the level of trace of the mixture and the way your pour into your mold. Since swirling can really only appear if you use different colors, pour at a thin-medium trace for a thinner swirl. Pour when the mixture is heavily traced for thick colors. Use a toothpick to lightly drag through the mixture to create a marbling effect. If you want to the whole bar of soap to have this effect, make sure to use a thin, marbling tool that will touch the bottom of the mold. Play around with this special technique to see what you can create!

Ready to start creating? Check out our ultimate soap making recipe index for over 100 recipes and ideas!

The Beginner’s Guide to Soap Making – The Melt & Pour Method

The Beginner's Complete Guide to Melt & Pour Soap MakingThe melt and pour method of soap making is my absolute favorite method to make soap. It’s easy, it’s quick, and it doesn’t require too many ingredients. The best reason of all? You don’t need to work with lye!

The melt and pour method is great for anyone who doesn’t work with lye or anyone who has kids and pets at home and would like to be extra cautious about even having it around the house. The downside is that you won’t be able to control every single ingredient and you can’t really say you made the soap from scratch. However, you’ll still have a lot of freedom and creativity with the soap ingredients!

This technique is also known as the “soap-casting” or “melt and mold”method. Simply put, you melt down a pre-made soap base to add in your ingredients. Once it’s thoroughly mixed, you can pour them into your molds!

Want to learn more about soap making or explore other methods? Check out these other guides from our exploration of soap making as January’s hobby of the month:

SUPPLIES NEEDED

Pre-Made Soap Base – You’ll be using a pre-made soap base to start the melt-and-pour process. Pre-made soap has completely gone through the saponification process which means you won’t need to work with lye. You can find these online or in craft stores. Popular melt-and-pour bases include clear, white, hemp, aloe, honey, shea butter and goat’s milk. If you’re concerned that you can’t control all the ingredients when using a pre-made soap base, look for those labeled as SFIC Soap. It’s a company that only uses natural ingredients in its products. After much searching for an affordable but natural soap base that provides a variety of options, I found the Melt-and-Pour Sampler Kit from Brambleberry. It’s only $20 and provides 1 lbs. each of 7 different types of bases. I’m not paid to promote their product or anything (I wish!), but I just love this affordable variety pack.

Tools for Melting – You’ll need a way to melt down your soap pieces so that you can stir in the additional ingredients, coloring and fragrances. We’ll cover 3 methods: microwave, Crock-Pot slow cooker, or doubler boiler.

Tools for Cutting  – You’ll need a way to break down the soap into smaller pieces so that it’s easier to melt. Options include a grater, knife, or food processor.

Tools for Measuring – You may need a food scale, measuring cup or measuring spoons to weight out your additional ingredients. The tool you will need will vary based on what you’re adding in.

Mold – You can use either a plastic, paper, silicone or wooden mold for your soap. Each type of soap has its pros and cons. Check out the beginner’s guide to soap making supplies for more info.

Container/Bowls – Containers and bowls will be used to hold the miscellaneous ingredients you want to add to your soap. If you want to melt your pre-made soap using the microwave method, you’ll need a large heat-safe glass container.

Kitchen Utensils – When prepping or adding your additional ingredients, it may require the use of spatulas, spoons, etc. This can vary based on what you are adding in.

Rubbing Alcohol – Rubbing alcohol is used to eliminate any bubbles on the surface of your soap that may occur when you pour the mixture in into the soap mold. Lightly spray rubbing alcohol onto the soap’s surface and pop any large bubbles with a small toothpick if they remain. Rubbing alcohol is also used to prepare the surface of the soap if you plan to add layers.

HOW TO USE THE melt & Pour METHOD FOR SOAP MAKING

The rebatch method is really simple. All you have to do is cut and melt down your pre-made soap bases, add and mix your desired ingredients and pour it into a mold. There are three different ways that you can cut down your soap and three different ways that you can melt your soap. Pick the one that works best for you!

The Beginner's Complete Guide to Soap Making using the Melt and Pour Method

1. Break down your soap base into smaller pieces. Personally, I prefer to cut my pre-made soap into small 1-inch chunks of cube using a strong knife and cutting board. You can also grate your soap in a large bowl. Try wearing some heavy-duty gloves while grating to minimize any risk of cutting yourself. Lastly, you can use a food processor to cut it up. However, the pieces may be too big and you’ll just resort to the regular knife method instead. Many food processors are not equipped to take on the hardness of the pre-made soap.

2. Melt down your soap pieces. There are three methods you can use to melt down your soap –a double boiler, slow cooker, or microwave oven. Check below on specific information on how to use these three methods.

3. Add your special ingredients. During the melting process, you’ll have the opportunity to add ingredients to your soap. Ingredients that need to be evenly distributed (like coloring) within the mixture should be added early on. Ingredients that might melt (like glitter) should be added towards the end. Check out this guide to soap making ingredients for a full list of what you can add in your soap.

4. Pour mixture into a mold. You can pour mixture into a plastic, silicone, wooden, or paper mold. If there are any bubbles on the soap mixture after pouring, spray a bit of rubbing alcohol on the surface.  If using a wooden mold, you’ll need something to cut the soap into small bars. Silicone molds have been my favorite to use so far. They pop out so easily when they harden!

MELTING WITH A DOUBLE BOILER

Double Boiler Soap Making Make a double boiler with a pot and a stainless steel or glass bowl. The bowl must be able to be placed on top of the pot without it touching the bottom. Fill up the pot with water and bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat and place the bowl on top of the pot. Voila! A double boiler.

  • Place the shreds of the soap in the bowl on top of the boiler.
  • For every pound of soap shreds you are melting down, add 4 ounces of distilled water.
  • If you want to add coloring, add it now.
  • Boil the water to melt your shreds while stirring gently.
  • Cover the mixture for about 10 minutes while continuously checking to make sure your soap hasn’t dried out. Add a little water if you feel that the mixture is getting too dry.
  • Once your soap has become a little translucent and a bit soft, you can add any additional ingredients you have. Stir them evenly into the mixture.
  • Add the fragrance at the very end and give it a few stirs so that it is evenly distributed.
  • Once the mixture has been thoroughly stirred, pour them into your molds.
  • Let the soap sit until it has fully hardened.

 

MELTING WITH A CROCK-POT SLOW COOKER Crock Pot Soap Making using Rebatch Method

You can use a crockpot to melt your shreds of soap. Just make sure that it can hold enough of your soap mixture. You won’t really need to designate a Crock-Pot to soapmaking but if you are doing this frequently, you should. This method can take anywhere from 1 to 24 hours. Since every slow cooker is different, use the instructions below regarding time as only a guide. You should always be continuously checking on your mixture.

  • In the Crock-Pot, add your soap shreds, distilled water and any coloring you might have. For every 1 lbs of soap you have, put in 4 ounces of water.
  • Turn on the Crock-Pot to the lowest setting and  wait 15 minutes for the low heat to melt everything together.
  • Stir the mixture gently. If you stir too hard, you’ll create some unwanted foam.
  • Allow the mixture to cook for 30 minutes.
  • Watch over the crockpot carefully. If it gets too hot, the soap mixture might burn. If you find this happening to your batch of soap, try adding a bit of distilled water and turn the heat down.
  • When the mixture is translucent, you can add in any special ingredients. Try adding a few dried herbs to the mix!
  • Add your fragrance and mix thoroughly.
  • Pour into the mold once everything is evenly distributed.
  • Let the soap sit until it has fully hardened.

 

MELTING WITH A MICROWAVE

Microwave Soap Making using Rebatch MethodIn my opinion, this method is the easiest and quickest of the three. It can take anymore from 15 – 30 minutes. Just be careful using this method as your soap mixture might overheat. You know your microwave better than anyone so be cautious when first using this method to melt the soap shreds.

  • Put your soap shreds in a microwave-safe glass container.
  • Cover the container with a plastic wrap.
  • Heat the soap shreds for 15-30 seconds. If this has melted your soap even a bit, you should be using the microwave in shorter increments. If this has not melted your soap at all, you may want to consider leaving it in the microwave for longer.
  • Check your soap mixture after each microwave use. Stir gently. If the soap mixture does not look translucent, place it in the microwave again.
  • Once the soap is translucent, use oven mitts to remove the container out of the microwave.
  • Stir the mixture gently.
  • Sprinkle any additions you have into your mixture. Put any coloring in first.
  • Once the mixture is evenly distributed, pour it into your soap mold.
  • Let the soap sit until it has fully hardened.

Special Techniques for melt & pour soap making

Embedding

Soap-Making-Embedding

You can embed pretty much anything you want inside a bar of soap such as plastic toys, gemstones, or even silk flowers. Remember that certain objects can melt under high temperatures.

  1. Fill your mold halfway with your mixture.
  2. Generously spray your object with rubbing alcohol.
  3. Press your object into the soap mold but don’t press it so hard that it hits the bottom surface of the mold.
  4. Pour the remaining soap mixture to fill up the remainder of the  mold.

Layering

Layering soap can create some pretty sweet looking creations. You can get really creative with colors and shapes when you layer.

  1. Pour your first layer of mixture into the mold. Let this layer cool but not so much where the whole layer is hardened.
  2. Spray the first layer with rubbing alcohol to allow the next layer to stick.
  3. Pour the second layer onto the first layer.
  4. If you want more layers, repeat the above steps.

Ready to start creating? Check out our ultimate soap making recipe index for over 100 recipes and ideas!

The Beginner’s Guide to Soap Making – The Rebatch Method

The Beginner's Complete Guide to Soap Making using the Rebatch MethodThe rebatch method of soap making is a great beginner’s way to learn about this hobby. This technique is also known as hand-milling. As you can probably guess from the name, you make new soap by rebatching any old, leftover bars. It’s a great way to recycle all those tiny bars that aren’t worth using anymore because they’ve been reduced to some rinky dink sliver of soap.

You can also use this method to recycle any failed batches of soaps made from the other methods. Just make sure that you don’t rebatch any soap that failed due to an imbalance of lye and fats. Complete saponification should have occurred and there should be no residual lye left in the soap you’re going to use for the rebatching method.
Don’t know what I’m talking about? No worries, we’ll explore the other methods later this month and talk more about this in detail.

The best things about this method? It doesn’t use any lye (can be dangerous to handle) and cleanup is super easy. Everything is already covered in soap!

SUPPLIES NEEDED

Soap-Making-Rebatch-Supplies

Soap – Collect all the soap you want to use. As mentioned previously, this a great way to recycle any old soap you don’t want anymore. It’s also a perfect way to reuse any failed soap experiments you have. Just make sure that you don’t rebatch any soap that failed due to an imbalance of lye and fats. Complete saponification should have occurred and there should be no residual lye left in the soap you’re going to use for the rebatching method.

Cutting Tools  – You’ll need a way to break down the soap into smaller pieces so that it’s easier to melt. Options include a grater, knife, or food processor.

Grater – The most common method is using a grater. Although you’ll only be grating soap on it (which makes it easier to clean), it’s recommended that you find a grater that you dedicate to only soap making if you decide to do fully invest in this hobby. If you don’t want to use a grater, you can just use a knife to cut your soap.

Knife – A knife will be used to cut the soap into smaller pieces. The smaller pieces, the better. This will help it melt faster. It’s recommended that you use a grater as it will produce small shreds that make the process go by quicker.

Cutting Board – If you are using a knife to cut your soap, you’ll need a cutting board.

Food Processor – A food processor can be used if you want to shred your soap much faster. Use a food processor that has a blade with larger holes and a strong motor. Push the soap through the tube to grate it. Some soaps might be too hard to run through a food processor.

Tools for Melting – You’ll need a way to melt down your soap pieces so that you can stir in the additional ingredients, coloring and fragrances. We’ll cover 3 methods: microwave, Crock-Pot slow cooker, or doubler boiler.

Mold – You can use either a plastic, paper, silicone or wooden mold for your soap. Each type of soap has its pros and cons. Check out the beginner’s guide to soap making supplies for more info.

Container/Bowls – Containers and bowls will be used to hold the miscellaneous ingredients you want to add to your soap.

Kitchen Utensils – When prepping or adding your additional ingredients, it may require the use of spatulas, spoons, etc. This can vary based on what you are adding in.

Measuring Tools – You may need a food scale, measuring cup or measuring spoons to weight out your additional ingredients. The tool you will need will vary based on what you’re adding in.

For additional information, check out our beginner’s guide to soap making supplies!

HOW TO USE THE REBATCH METHOD FOR SOAP MAKING

The rebatch method is really simple. All you have to do is cut or grate your soap into small pieces, melt it down, and pour it into a mold. There are three ways you can melt down your soap. Pick the one that works best for you!

Soap Making using Rebatch Method

1. Break down your soap into smaller pieces. Most prefer grating the soap when using the rebatch method. Use a grater to grate the soap into a large bowl. Try wearing some heavy-duty gloves while grating to minimize any risk of cutting yourself. When the soap gets too small or thin, roll it into a little ball and continue running it through the grater if possible.

2. Melt down your soap pieces. There are three methods you can use to melt down your soap –a double boiler, slow cooker, or microwave oven. Check below on specific information on how to use these three methods.

3. Add your special ingredients. During the melting process, you’ll have the opportunity to add ingredients to your soap. Ingredients that need to be evenly distributed (like coloring) within the mixture should be added early on. Ingredients that might melt (like glitter) should be added towards the end. Check out this guide to soap making ingredients for a full list of what you can add in your soap.

4. Pour mixture into a mold. You can pour mixture into a plastic, silicone, wooden, or paper mold. If using a wooden mold, you’ll need something to cut the soap into small bars. Silicone molds have been my favorite to use so far. They pop out so easily when they harden!

Double Boiler Soap Making using Rebatch Methodmelting with a Double boiler

Make a double boiler with a pot and a stainless steel or glass bowl. The bowl must be able to be placed on top of the pot without it touching the bottom. Fill up the pot with water and bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat and place the bowl on top of the pot. Voila! A double boiler.

  • Place the shreds of the soap in the bowl on top of the boiler.
  • For every pound of soap shreds you are melting down, add 4 ounces of distilled water.
  • If you want to add coloring, add it now.
  • Boil the water to melt your shreds while stirring gently.
  • Cover the mixture for about 10 minutes while continuously checking to make sure your soap hasn’t dried out. Add a little water if you feel that the mixture is getting too dry.
  • Once your soap has become a little translucent and a bit soft, you can add any additional ingredients you have. Stir them evenly into the mixture.
  • Add the fragrance at the very end and give it a few stirs so that it is evenly distributed.
  • Once the mixture has been thoroughly stirred, pour them into your molds.
  • Let the soap sit until it has fully hardened.

 

MELTING WITH A crock-pot Slow cooker Crock Pot Soap Making using Rebatch Method

You can use a crockpot to melt your shreds of soap. Just make sure that it can hold enough of your soap mixture. You won’t really need to designate a Crock-Pot to soapmaking but if you are doing this frequently, you should. This method can take anywhere from 1 to 24 hours. Since every slow cooker is different, use the instructions below regarding time as only a guide. You should always be continuously checking on your mixture.

  • In the Crock-Pot, add your soap shreds, distilled water and any coloring you might have. For every 1 lbs of soap you have, put in 4 ounces of water.
  • Turn on the Crock-Pot to the lowest setting and  wait 15 minutes for the low heat to melt everything together.
  • Stir the mixture gently. If you stir too hard, you’ll create some unwanted foam.
  • Allow the mixture to cook for 30 minutes.
  • Watch over the crockpot carefully. If it gets too hot, the soap mixture might burn. If you find this happening to your batch of soap, try adding a bit of distilled water and turn the heat down.
  • When the mixture is translucent, you can add in any special ingredients. Try adding a few dried herbs to the mix!
  • Add your fragrance and mix thoroughly.
  • Pour into the mold once everything is evenly distributed.
  • Let the soap sit until it has fully hardened.

 

MELTING WITH A microwave

Microwave Soap Making using Rebatch MethodIn my opinion, this method is the easiest and quickest of the three. It can take anymore from 15 – 30 minutes. Just be careful using this method as your soap mixture might overheat. You know your microwave better than anyone so be cautious when first using this method to melt the soap shreds.

  • Put your soap shreds in a microwave-safe glass container.
  • Cover the container with a plastic wrap.
  • Heat the soap shreds for 15-30 seconds. If this has melted your soap even a bit, you should be using the microwave in shorter increments. If this has not melted your soap at all, you may want to consider leaving it in the microwave for longer.
  • Check your soap mixture after each microwave use. Stir gently. If the soap mixture does not look translucent, place it in the microwave again.
  • Once the soap is translucent, use oven mitts to remove the container out of the microwave.
  • Stir the mixture gently.
  • Sprinkle any additions you have into your mixture. Put any coloring in first.
  • Once the mixture is evenly distributed, pour it into your soap mold.
  • Let the soap sit until it has fully hardened.

Want to learn how to use other methods to make soap – such as the cold process, hot process and melt-and-pour method? Check out our beginner’s complete guide to soap making for those guides!

The Beginner’s Complete Guide to Soap Making Ingredients

The Beginner's Guide to Soap Making IngredientsThe best thing about soap making is that you can control every single ingredient that goes into your soap. There’s countless of combinations of ingredients you can use for soap. Glitter, tea leaves, fruit purees, even beer–the possibilities are seriously endless!

Before you start adding these cool, crazy things, you need to start with the basic ingredients for saponification to occur. Saponification is the process that produces soap. For this to happen, an acid needs to react with a base to form a salt. Typically, lye (a base) is combined with an oil (the fatty acid). The soap is actually the resulting salt. Don’t worry, we’re not going to get into too much chemistry.

The cold process and hot process method will require handling lye. Lye can be pretty dangerous so you’ll have to take some precaution when working with it. We’ll get more into it below. If you don’t want to work with it, no worries! You can explore the melt-and-pour and rebatch method. With these methods, you won’t actually need to go through the saponification as you will already be working with pre-made soap.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Don’t worry! Your price stays the same. I just receive a small percentage of the sale which helps cover the costs of maintaining this website. I only link to products I highly recommend. Check out my privacy policy for more info. 

WATER

You should only use distilled water as an ingredient in your soap. Distilled water will be free of minerals and contaminants. If you use tap water, there may be some unknown contents in the liquid that end up reacting with the other ingredients you use in your soap making.
The Beginner's Guide to Soap Making Ingredients


SOAP MAKING BASES

Lye (Sodium Hydroxide)

Lye is what makes soap into SOAP! Lye is also known as sodium hydroxide, a soluble base. If making liquid soap, you’ll actually be using potassium hydroxide instead. Lye has been categorized as generally safe to use for cosmetics. However, working with the pure product is another story. Lye is extremely corrosive. It can penetrate the skin and cause some pretty severe damage. That’s why it’s extremely important to take safety precautions by wearing heavy-duty goggles and rubber gloves while working in a well-ventilated space.

It may seem pretty scary to work with lye but if you’re going to make soap from scratch using the cold or hot process, you’ll have to learn how to handle it. Lye is necessary to react with fat in order to form soap. As long as the lye has reacted with the appropriate amount of oil, the lye should be completely undetectable in the final product of the soap. Use an online lye calculator  to determine how much lye you should use.

Lye can be purchased as several different crystals, beads or flakes. It’s normally available in hardware stores but make sure you buy lye that is definitely marked at 100% sodium hydroxide. You might get some strange looks if you buy a huge supply of lye though…just because it’s also an ingredient used to make meth. Who knew? If you don’t want to buy from the store, there’s tons of online stores and websites that sell it. My favorite store to purchase from is Brambleberry.

The Beginner's Guide to Soap Making Ingredients Lye
Here’s a few tips you NEED to know before working with lye:

  • WEAR PROTECTIVE GEAR. This includes strong rubber gloves, heavy-duty goggles, and protective clothing. You do NOT want this stuff getting anywhere on your skin.
  • USE LYE IN A WELL-VENTILATED PLACE. You really don’t want to be breathing any of these fumes. If possible, I would make soap outside. If you want to make soap indoors, make sure there are plenty of windows you can open around that area. Definitely keep children and pets away. If you have children or pets, you may want to consider minimizing all risks involved when working with lye.
  • ADD LYE TO WATER (NEVER WATER TO LYE). This is extremely important. If you add water to lye, it puts you at risk of pretty much having the lye explode everywhere. Try to remember that with this cute rhyme I’ve seen many others use: Water into lye will cause you to die, lye into water will make you smarter.
  • USE HEAT-RESISTANT PLASTIC OR GLASS BOWLS. You’ll need something pretty durable and safe. Don’t mix lye solution in metal containers since it can cause the lye solution to become too hot and may produce a hazardous reaction depending on the type of metal. Only use silicone, stainless steel and glass equipment when handling lye. Never use aluminum, cast iron, nonstick finishes, weak plastic or thin glass.
  • CLEARLY LABEL LYE WHILE IN STORAGE. Do whatever you need to make sure that the lye is appropriately labeled. Keep away from children or pets and label with “DON’T TOUCH,” “DANGEROUS CHEMICALS,” or “POISON.” Always make sure you put the chemical name, the manufacturer and expiration date. This helps if you end up storing it in a container other than the original.
  • WASH WITH WATER IF LYE GETS ON YOU. If lye gets on any part of your body or your eyes, wash with water for at least 15 minutes and seek medical attention. If you accidentally inhale it, move to any well-ventilated area for fresh air.
If you are going to work with lye, PLEASE do your research before starting. I cannot stress this enough. Read this guide by the Soap Queen or watch this video to learn all about the safety precautions and proper use of lye. 

SOAP MAKING ACIDS (OILS & BUTTERS)

Don’t let the term “acid” scare you off.  Lye (the base) needs to react with an oil or fat (the fatty acid) for saponification for occur. You can use a variety of different oils and butters as your fatty acid ingredient. Adding these into your soap mixture will bring a unique characteristic to your product. Every oil or butter will saponify at different values so it’s very important to follow recipes or use an online lye calculator. Online lye calculators will ensure that there is no residual lye leftover in the final product of the soap. I’ve listed just a few commonly used oils & butters below for soap making.

Beeswax – Beeswax will add a little hardness to your soap. However, you should only use small quantities since it will reduce the amount of lathering if you use too much.

Castor Oil  – Castor oil is made from a castor bean plant. You only need a small quantity of castor oil in your soap to reap its thick, lathering benefits.

Cocoa Butter  – Oh man. I love cocoa butter. Cocoa butter comes from the fat of cocoa beans. Using cocoa butter will provide a really moisturizing bar of soap. Use this ingredient in small quantities. Too much will produce a bar of soap that pretty much melts in your hand.

Coconut Oil  – I’m sure you’ve heard of all the magical properties associated with coconut oil. Using coconut oil in soap will provide a very good lather while increasing the hardness of the soap. Make sure you use no more than 30% of coconut oil in your total oil ingredients.

Olive Oil – Olive oil can be very moisturizing on the skin. It’s great for all skin types! Avoid using extra-virgin olive oil. Keep that for cooking instead!

Palm Oil – So I’m not a big fan of palm oil for MANY reasons…deforestation, illegal wildlife smuggling, human rights abuses. All that jazz. I’m only including it here because you may choose to use it. Palm oil can produce a pretty firm bar when used in soap. If you do use it, please do your research to make sure it’s from a supplier that supports sustainable production of palm oil. Choose a supplier who is a member of the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Soybean Oil – Soybean oil provides an acceptable lather with great conditioning.

Shea Butter – Like cocoa butter, shea butter will produce a pretty wicked moisturizing bar. It will provide a creamy lather while contributing to the hardness of the soap bar.

Sweet Almond Oil  – Sweet almond oil also moisturizes and conditions the skin.

Other oils and butters not listed above include aloe butter, aloe oil, apricot kernel oil, argan oil, avocado butter, avocado oil, babassu oil, baobab oil, borage oil, brazil nut oil, candelilla wax, canola oil, cherry kernel oil, chia seed oil, chicken fat (yes, chicken fat), cod liver oil, coffee butter, corn oil, cottonseed oil, emu oil, evening primrose oil, flaxseed oil, grapeseed oil, green tea seed oil, hazelnut oil, jojoba oil, kokum butter, kukui nut oil, lanolin, lard, macademia nut oil, mango butter, manoi oil, meadowfoam oil, milk oil, mustart oil, neatsfoot oil, neem oil, niger seed oil, nutmeg butter, palm buttle, peach kernel oil, peanut oil, perilla oil, pine tar, poppy seed oil, primrose oil, pumpkin seed oil, rapeseed oil, rice bran oil, rosehip seed oil, safflower oil, sal butter, sesame oil, shea oil, shortening, stearic acid, tallow, tamanu oil, walnut oil, watermelon seed oil or wheat germ oil.


PRE-MADE SOAP  

Pre-made soap is perfect for those who don’t want to work with lye as the saponification process has already been completed. No worries, you can still add tons of different ingredients to make your soap unique. For the melt-and-pour method, you’ll using pre-made soap bases that you can purchase online or in craft stores. Popular melt-and-pour bases include clear, white, hemp, aloe, honey, shea butter and goat’s milk. If you’re concerned that you can’t control all the ingredients when using a pre-made soap base, look for those labeled as SFIC Soap. It’s a company that only uses natural ingredients in its products. After much searching for an affordable but natural soap base that provides a variety of options, I found the Melt-and-Pour Sampler Kit from Brambleberry. It’s only $20 and provides 1 lbs. each of 7 different types of bases. I’m not paid to promote their product or anything (I wish!), but I just love this affordable variety pack.

SOAP MAKING ADDITIVES

Beer – You’ll have a great lather to your soap if you use beer in your soap. If you choose to use beer, make sure you remove the alcohol content by boiling it for 5 minutes. Let it chill until there is no more carbonation left in the liquid. Although the scent may be worrisome for some, it won’t last in the end product of your soap.

Bran/Oatmeal – Many people add bran or oatmeal into their soap as an exfoliating agent. You can suspend these in the soap to give it a neat appearance as well.

Coconut Milk – Coconut milk also feels really good on your skin when you use it in soap! It adds a bubbly, moisturizing lather to your soap. If using coconut milk, make sure you do not confuse it with coconut cream and never get the “low-fat” or “light” option. We want the most fat we can get!

Coffee – You can use coffee in your soap for the color since the scent might not last through the soap making process. Brew your coffee with distilled water if you decide to use it in your soap.

Goat’s Milk – Goat’s milk is frequently used in soap making because it’s really soft on the skin and doesn’t dry it. It’s amazing for sensitive skin as well.

Glitter – Glitter looks awesome in translucent soap. Just make sure that the your glittery bar isn’t used as a facial soap. If giving it as a gift, you may want to avoid adding this ingredient. It may look cool but some people don’t enjoy putting glitter all over their body. When adding glitter, make sure you don’t add it into a mixture that’s too hot. Since glitter is plastic, it might melt within the soap mixture. Add it at around 130F. Make sure to sprinkle it or else it will clump.

Herbs/Flowers – This is where you can really get creative. The sky is really the limit here. Just make sure that whatever you put into your soap can be safely used on the skin. Examples of flowers you can incorporate into your soap include chamomile, lavender, rosemary and roses. You can also try spices such as cinnamon or cloves. Depending on the herbs or flowers you add, it can either add color, exfoliate or other qualities to your soap.

Honey – Honey is frequently used for its scent and softening benefits. You’ll have to add honey in small amount since it can quickly raise the temperature of the soap. Start with 1 tablespoon of honey for each pound of oils used.

Tea – Tea or coffee made with distilled water can be used in your soap. Tea can add colors into your soap where tea leaves may add a little bit of texture. The smell of the tea may not remain by the end product of the soap but you may get some of the benefits in your skin from the tea.

Purees – Fruit and vegetable purees can be used in soap making to add color, fragrance or lather. When you become more comfortable with the soap making process, play around with different purees to see what combinations you can make!

Fruits – Fruits can also be pureed and added to the soap. Bright berries can produce some pretty deep and rich colors.

Vegetables – Vegetables in your soap? Yes! I seriously meant it when I said the sky is the limit with your soaps. Try adding vegetables by pureeing avocados, cucumbers, carrots and seaweeds. You can use vegetables to add colors to the soap as well. hat you can come up with!

Sweets/Beverages – To add fragrance to your soap, you can add various desserts and beverages such as brown sugar, cappuccino, chocolate, gingerbread, hazelnut or vanilla.


Other Fragrances

You’ll also have the option to add fragrances to your soap bar. You can rely on the natural smell of your current ingredients, or you can add a little something to just give it that extra scent. Many people with sensitive skin will try to avoid adding fragrances to their soap. Even if you decide to add some, you’ll still need to be cautious about the amount. Too much fragrance can be very irritating to the skin. Use this online fragrance calculator to give you an idea of how much to put in your soap.

Essential Oils – Many people love using essential oils for their therapeutic qualities. Essential oils can be extracted from bark, roots, seeds, flowers, leaves, wood or any other plants. The efficiency of those therapeutic qualities are debatable but many people swear by them. You need to also know that some essential oils are harmful to pregnant woman, such as basil, cypress, hyssop, marjoram, lemon balm, sage and thyme.

You should always look for high quality essential oils. Essential oils are high quality if they are extracted properly and produced from plants grown naturally. The purity of the essential oil depends on whether there are any unwanted additives or anything taken out that should have been left in. If you’re going to use essential oils, make sure you test them as they may not be as pure as it claims. Here’s a quick and easy test you can do: Place a drop on a white piece of paper. If the essential oil is pure, it will evaporate and leave no residue on the sheet.

Fragrance Oils – Fragrance oils can also be used to add scent to your soap. These are the same types of oils used in scented toiletries like lotions, body wash or shampoos you find in the stores. If you use these type of oils, you won’t be producing a “natural” bar of soap. It’s not recommended for use if you have sensitive skin.


Other Colorants

If you want to add natural coloring to your soap, there’s a few different options you have. Each option has its own pros and cons. Explore different options to see what you like!

Clay – By adding certain clays, you can produce colors like pink, green and white to your soap. The clay also helps to exfoliate the skin as well.

Charcoal – Charcoal has skyrocketed in personality in the last few years. Many claim that charcoal provides the benefit of thoroughly cleansing the skin of dirt and oil. As far as its effectiveness goes, there’s no real medical evidence yet at this time. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t any benefit, just that it hasn’t been proven yet. The claim comes from its highly absorbent quality (it’s used in the ER for alcohol and drug overdoses). If you want to use charcoal in your soap, it will add a deep, rich black coloring to your product.

Minerals & Mica – Mineral and mica powders can offer a pretty large range of colors. These powders are ‘natural’ but can sometimes be tainted with some pretty nasty metals. Do your research first if you want to use these.

The Beginner’s Complete Guide to Soap Making Supplies

Ready to get into soap making?! First, you gotta know what soap making supplies you need based on the method of soap making you want to explore. Once you get all the supplies, head over to the beginner’s guide to soap making ingredients.

There’s four main methods to soap making and the materials & supplies necessary may vary with each method. We’ll go over all of them in the other guides but I’ll make sure to specify if it’s only used for a certain method. Use the checklists at the end of this guide to make sure you have all the supplies for the methods you want to explore.

Soap-Making-Supplies

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SOAP MAKING SUPPLIES AND MATERIALS 

Ventilated Space – A ventilated space is most important if you’re working with lye (sodium hydroxide). Lye can be extremely corrosive and you’ll need to take a lot of precautions while working with it. It’s used in cold process and hot process soap. We’ll get more into lye later. (For cold process, hot process) 

Rubber Gloves, Goggles and Mask – Rubber gloves and goggles are required if you are using lye. Again, these are just safety precautions that are necessary in the cold and hot process of making soap. Don’t use cheap goggles for this. You really need to protect your eyes. Buy goggles that are typically used in labs where you would need extreme protection from various chemicals. Use a mask so that you aren’t inhaling the fumes of the lye. (For cold process, hot process) 

Water (Distilled) – When making soap bars, you should use water that is free of minerals and contaminants. Distilled water is way better than using regular tap water. This will produce the best soap bars if you’ll be able to control as many ingredients as you can in the final product. (For cold process, hot process) 

Water (Regular) – You’ll need water to wash off chemicals or any other ingredients you get on yourself. You can just use your sink for this. This is different than the water you’ll be using for the actual soap making. (For cold process, hot process, melt-and-pour, rebatch) 

Stainless Steel Pot – If using the cold process soap making, make sure that you designate one stainless steel pot to use for lye. Do NOT use aluminum. This is where the actual soap making magic will happen. Since this chemical is no joke, you want to make sure that it doesn’t get confused with a pot that you actually cook with. (For cold process)

Stainless Steel Saucepan – You’ll be using this to heat your fats, oils and other additives. (For cold process)

Heat-Safe Glass Containers/Measuring Cups – You’ll need these to start mixing your ingredients together. Do not use plastic containers as it may melt while making soap.  (For cold process, hot process, melt-and-pour, rebatch)

Measuring Spoons – Used to measure! When you use it to measure lye, you should stick with plastic. Certain metals may react with the lye. Make sure you don’t use any plastic for super hot solutions when you measure. You might melt the spoon. (For cold process, hot process)

pH Paper – Phenolphthalein or litmus strips can be used to check the soap’s pH. It’s recommended for use to check the pH in the hot process soap method. (For hot process)

Pipettes – Pipettes aren’t completely necessary but are pretty easy for measuring small amounts of ingredients such adding drops of essential or fragrance oils. (For cold process, hot process, melt-and-pour, rebatch)

Digital Scale – Digital scales are most important when making soap using the cold or hot process method since you’ll need to be pretty accurate with your measurements of the chemicals. Find a scale that weighs to the tenth of a measurement in both grams and ounces. I love the Amazon Basic digital scale (pictured on the right). It’s not expensive and weighs in ounces, grams, pounds, or kilograms up to 11 lbs. (For cold process, hot process, maybe melt-and-pour) 

Thermometers (2) – Thermometers are important for cold and hot process methods as you’ll need to keep a good eye on the temperature of your oil mixture and your lye mixture. It’s good to have 2 different thermometers so that you can use one for lye and one for oils. You also should ensure that the thermometers are made of glass or stainless steel so that the lye won’t react to it. (For cold process, hot process) 

Silicone Spatulas – Silicone spatulas are used to help you mix. Don’t use wood for soap making. The lye will start to erode the wooden spatulas if used frequently. (For cold process, hot process) 

Mixing Spoons/Spatulas – You can use wooden or metal spoons for mixtures that don’t have any lye in it. (For melt-and-pour, rebatch) 

Electric Stick Blender – An electric stick blender will be used to mix. The stick blender pictured on the side is pretty affordable and comes with a whisk too! Helpful for other kitchen adventures! (For cold process)

Bottle of Rubbing Alcohol – This will be used to ensure a smooth surface on your soap as you pop any bubbles that have formed.  (For cold process, hot process, melt-and-pour, rebatch)

Microwave – A microwave is typically used for the melt-and-pour or rebatch method.(For melt-and-pour, rebatch) 

Crockpot – A crockpot is only used for hot process soap making. It helps accelerate the saponification process. You don’t need to get a separate crockpot to work with the lye because the lye will cook out of the soap. A crockpot isn’t necessary for the hot process soap making either, it’s just one option you have if you decide to make soap using this process. Don’t think you can’t try the hot process method without a crockpot. (For hot process)

Plastic Wrap – This is mainly used for hot process soap making utilizing the crockpot method. (For hot process)

Knife – A medium-sized knife is used to cut soap or soap bases in the melt-and-pour method or rebatch method. (For melt-and-pour, rebatch) 

Cutting Board – Any cutting board will do while cutting soap or soap bases in the melt-and-pour method or rebatch method. (For melt-and-pour, rebatch)

Soap Molds – Molds are used to create the solid shape of the soap. There are several types of molds that you can use. (For cold process, hot process, melt-and-pour, rebatch)

Plastic – Plastic molds are cheaper but not the easiest to use. They can be pretty difficult to remove from the plastic once the soap solidifies. If you want to be more cost-effective, you can try these and see if the risks are worth the benefits.

Silicone – Silicone molds are my favorite. They are easy to use and still pretty affordable. The soaps are easy to unmold, which makes it easier to use than plastic ones. However, the silicone molds can be a bit flimsy and the shape of your soap may not come out exactly as you had desired. I currently love this affordable silicone mold I found on Amazon. It makes soaps that are perfectly-sized for gifts!

Wooden – Wooden molds are much more sturdier than silicone molds and provide more insulation. These types of molds will need to be lined with either a wax or parchment paper. These will be the priciest type of mold.

Paper – If you really want to be cost effective, you can use paper molds such as used milk cartons. They may be flimsy but the soap is pretty easy to unmold as you can just rip off the milk carton paper.

Lining Paper – These are used to line the wooden molds before you pour the mixture into it. You can also used plastic wrap to line the wooden molds. (For wooden molds, any method)

Tape  – Used to secure the lining paper for wooden molds. (For wooden molds, any method)

Cutting Tool  – If you’re using molds that produce a loaf of soap, you’ll need a cutting tool to cut them into separate bars. This is primarily for wooden or paper molds.  (For wooden molds, any method)