Intaglio Soap Carving

082017_22348wpThis month’s Great Cakes Soap Challenge involved learning a carving technique called intaglio (pronounced in-tal-yoh). Intaglio is defined as an engraving or incised figure in stone or other hard material. We had to apply this technique to bars of soap, carving a design into each bar. For my design, I decided to create a little landscape using various colors and carving small details into the tree and road. Carving away the top layer of soap to reveal the colors underneath was a lot of fun. :)

Clyde Yoshido of Vibrant Soap has created some beautiful intaglio soap carvings and made several detailed videos on how he carves these soaps. Clyde’s videos, along with a beautifully carved soap and tutorial from Amy Warden of the Great Cakes Challenge Club, were our guides for this technique.  Also, if you have any questions about color theory, Clyde’s soap videos are an excellent resource. Thanks to Clyde, I actually know how to use a color wheel now.


I began this challenge with a simple drawing of my idea – a tree with a road that winds away to the horizon. I did go back and forth over doing a planned picture type carving versus freehand carving (like Clyde’s). Since this was my first attempt at carving anything (ever), my engineer brain needed a detailed plan. I also have an obsession with trees and really wanted to include one somehow.

I wanted to pour the soap in such a way that I could carve 4 (somewhat) identical soaps from the same batch. I used some dividers for the thin bottom layer, then poured the rest of the soap at a very thick trace so it would (hopefully) stay put.

intaglio-pour-1wp            intaglio-pour-2wp

Even though my carving layer was poured on bottom and very thin, I still planed each soap to create an even, smooth surface. When I finally started carving, I was so relieved to find the correct colors beneath the top layer.


It took me almost 4 hours to carve and clean all four soaps. I did work very slow and really took my time. But it’s the detailed cleaning that took me the longest amount of time. I thought I would never get all the little dry soap bits off. Then, after I had all 4 soaps carved and meticulously cleaned, I decided the tree and road would look better if they had some texture, which required more cleaning afterwards. Even though it did take me a while to finish, the carving and cleaning in the quiet of my soap shop was actually very relaxing.

Olive Oil – 33%
Coconut Oil – 25%
Lard – 28%
Avocado Oil – 8%
Castor Oil – 6%

Colorants: Indigo root powder, white kaolin clay, nettle leaf powder, french green clay, activated charcoal, yellow brazilian clay, & cocoa powder. More details on the colorants are listed below my actual video on YouTube.

Essential Oils:
Rosemary – 4 parts
Peppermint – 1 part








Thank you for reading my post!


15 thoughts on “Intaglio Soap Carving

  1. Holly:
    Another winner for sure! SO Gorgeous!
    You really do need an engineering degree and detailed plan to figure out how to pour each layer.
    Beautiful Soaps!
    Thank you so much for sharing your process!


  2. This turned out amazing!! I love how you were able to plan it out to get four very similar bars! It’s a fantastic design! Great idea to add the extra texture at the end, but I know what you mean about cleaning up the little soap bits!!


  3. Oh my, Holly! You are simply amazing! Not only is this a beautifully designed soap, but many so people won’t have any idea what kind of planning needed to transpire to pull it off so successfully! A truly incredible job! Brava!


  4. Holly, I’m a regular visitor to your blog because I love your art. I now again admire your sense of detail, the color composition and the overall executionof your design. I wish you good luck in the competition.


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