This weekend I made my own gemstone DIY soap rocks, and I think they turned out really cool! I had a lot of fun making them, and managed to recycle some unexpected materials in the process, which is a bonus. My hoarding tendencies were once again rewarded by the universe, Marie Kondo be damned.
There are other tutorials out there for making DIY soap rocks, and I followed one, but I wasn’t very happy with the result. The instructions said to dye soap various shades, chop it up, randomly dump it into a cup, then pour melted soap on top. My soap rock didn’t end up look very rock-like at all, so I melted it down and started over, making up my own techniques as I went along. By the time I was done with my epic experimental soap-rock-making session, I had made eight soap rocks. I just kept coming up with new colors and ideas I wanted to try. I think the only reason I stopped was that I ran out of clear soap. It was kind of addictive, and a lot of fun.
So here’s what I learned about how to make better, more realistic DIY soap rocks.
I was trying to figure out how to make my soap look more natural, and started reading about how mica dyes are often used in soap. Mica is a mineral, which is also used to color eyeshadows, like the samples (from here) I remembered I had stashed away somewhere. Which led to a sort through my makeup drawer, where I found several abandoned eyeshadows I never wear.
I’m old enough to have figured out by now that the colors that I’m drawn to and like the best aren’t necessarily the ones I want to wear on my face. Though I love shimmery purple and blue, wearing bright eyeshadow makes me feel like a self-conscious clown. I admire people who have the skills and confidence to pull it off, but I’ve accepted that I’m not one of them. Yet I’ve held on to colors for years that I’ve never worn. In a way, getting to use them for something fun and cool was kind of cathartic. So if you have any powder makeup (not just eyeshadow!) that just doesn’t suit you, now is your chance to use it up! Using it in soap rocks is way more fun than just tossing it in the trash.
If you don’t have any makeup you don’t use (good for you!), you could either buy mica pigments meant for coloring soap (sold here or here), solicit unused makeup from friends and family, or experiment with cheap drugstore eyeshadow. If I were to make these again, I think I’d use mostly makeup or mica as colorant, since it tended to make the soap look more realistically rock-like. I’d also use more clear soap than opaque soap. Glitter and shimmery eyeshadow shows up better in clear soap than opaque.
Here’s my tutorial for how I made DIY soap rocks. It’s more of a starting point, because it’s an organic, artistic process. I found looking at commercial soap rocks (examples here), and real rocks helpful. And don’t be afraid to start over if you’re not happy with the outcome! Chop up the soap you just made, and melt it back down. Try to separate the colors as much as you can, so you don’t end up with muddy, brown colors. Add more dye or more fresh soap to brighten or lighten the colors, or change them entirely. Just play around with it!
I think that this project would make a great gift (for Mother’s Day, perhaps?), but it could also be a really fun craft to do together with friends or family. It could turn into a cool collaborative activity, where you could experiment with the process, purge your makeup drawers, and end up with cool soap rocks in the end.
How to make DIY Soap Rocks
I put most of the supplies in a shopping list here.
Clear soap base
Opaque soap base
Soap dyes – I used these and these
Powder eyeshadows, or mica pigments (optional, though I loved the colors they added) – Try here or here
Small cups, or silicone muffin tins
Large plastic cups
Stirring sticks or utensils
Kitchen scale (optional)
Glass measuring cups (optional)
The makeup I used: light white/gold glittery eyeshadow, loose powdered bright blue eyeshadow, loose powdered bright purple eyeshadow, bronzer, shimmery black, dark blue, dark green, and dark purple eyeshadow palette, shimmery teal green palette.
1. First you need to dye some soap. You’ll want small amounts of a variety of colors. Small plastic cups would work for this, but I used silicon muffin cups. (I never use them for baking anymore, but a bonus was that the soap really cleaned up old stains!) If you have them, individual silicone muffin cups would be perfect for this.
Decide on what colors you want your rocks to be, melt down small amounts (1 to 2 oz) of chopped up soap, and add dye of various colors. If your soap starts to solidify before you’ve mixed in the dye, just heat it up again in the microwave. Initially it took about 30 seconds of heating to melt, and then 10 to 20 to reheat. After you’ve mixed in the dyes, stick the soap in the freezer to let it solidify.
I used various combinations of liquid dyes and powdered makeup. If the powder wasn’t already loose, I scraped it off in thin layers with a knife. The color showed up in the opaque soap, but shimmer didn’t as much. Sometimes the powder stayed a bit clumped up, but I thought that was more realistically rock-life sometimes, so I went with it.
Below, I started out with pink, peach, and red shades using just liquid dyes in the white and clear soaps. These are actually from my first attempt, which I chopped up and reused, but you get the idea.
2. Every soap rock will be different, but the basic steps are to pour layers of melted colored soap, then add in shards of contrasting veins. Let the layers set (either in the freezer or on the counter), then add additional layers of colors and veins. I’ll go through these steps for one of the soaps that turned out to be a favorite.
Here are the starting colors, although I used blue instead of the green shards. I made the yellow with white soap, yellow dye, and bronzer. The purple is either white or clear soap with purple dye, and the pink is from my first, re-melted attempt. I added a little bit of the opaque pink and shimmery gold eyeshadow to clear soap to get the color on the bottom right.
First I melted down some light blue soap, and poured it into the bottom of the cup. I scraped some shimmery gold eyeshadow off of the palette, and mixed it in. Then I put the soap in the freezer, and let it solidify so that I could get good color separation.
I added a grayish/beige shard for contrast.
Next I melted down purple, and poured that on top. To mix the colors just a little, I stirred a tiny bit with a toothpick before the soap solidified.
After the soap had just started to harden, I stuck in some dark purple shards, and scraped some dark purple eyeshadow on top. I let this solidfy in the freezer.
Next I added a layer of pink, then stuck in some thin mustard yellow shards that I shaved off with a paring knife.
The yellow melted a bit when I added the next pink layer, which was the clear soap with peach dye and shimmery eyeshadow.
I let the whole thing solidify, then I sliced it into a rock-like shape.
Like real rock-making in nature, this is an organic process. You can experiment with all kinds of things to make your rocks look more convincing. For some rocks I dumped powdered eyeshadow or dye directly into the mold on top of previous layers. Try not to use too much powder, though. This was probably more than necessary.
If you drip dye onto liquid soap, it’ll start to diffuse, but you can let it cool partially before you add the dye to get less diffusion. Then when you add the next layer of hot soap, it’ll partially bleed into that layer.
I found that if I wanted layers of soap colors to mix, I needed to let the soap cool at room temperature, but if I wanted them more distinct, cooling them in the freezer was the way to go. To get more natural-looking layers, prop the cup of cooling soap at different angles in the freezer.
There were also points where I stuck the whole plastic cup in the microwave, and let everything melt a bit to help meld the colors together. Sometimes my plastic cup would start to warp from the heat, but I put it on a plate and kept a close eye on it.
With one of these soap rocks (one of the peachy pink ones), I even took the soap out of the mold, sliced it into a rock, then put it back in a new cup. Next I poured melted clear soap with gold shimmer over the rock, put it in the freezer to solidify it, then re-cut it. It gave it more of an opalescent effect that I like.