Candles have been used for centuries to provide light and create ambiance. While plain white candles are most common, colored candles are popular for their ability to set a mood or represent a meaning. But how exactly do colored candles get their vibrant hues? The answer lies in the addition of pigments and dyes during the candle making process.
The Candle Making Process
Candles are made primarily from wax, which comes from natural sources like soybeans, palm, beeswax, or petroleum. Paraffin wax from petroleum is the most commonly used since it is inexpensive and burns cleanly. The wax is heated until it liquefies. Once in liquid form, other ingredients can be added for scent, color, and properties like hardness or opacity.
Dyes and pigments are added when the wax is in liquid form so they can be fully dispersed throughout the wax. Typical candle dyes are oil or liquid based and use colorants like titanium dioxide for white or iron oxide for red. The pigments bind with the wax molecules as the candle solidifies to provide an even distribution of color. More pigment results in a more saturated or deeper hue.
After the wax has been colored, it is poured into molds or jars. Wicks, which are normally cotton strands braided together, are inserted into the center before the wax cools and hardens. This completes the candle making process, resulting in solid candles ready for use.
How Colored Candles Burn
When a candle is lit, the wick at the center ignites and draws up the liquefied wax via capillary action. As the saturated wick burns, it produces a flame fueled by the wax. The heat of the flame melts the top layer of wax, which is then drawn up the wick to continue fueling the fire.
The dye or pigment mixed into the wax does not hinder this burning process. As the candle wax liquefies and vaporizes, the colored pigment is left behind in the melted pool of wax. This allows the candle to retain its color as it burns down. The color also remains consistent throughout since the pigments evenly permeate the wax.
Types of Colored Candles
Candles come in every color imaginable. Here are some of the most common types of colored candles:
- White – White candles represent purity, peace, and spiritual renewal. Titanium dioxide is typically used to produce a bright, clean white color.
- Red – Red symbolizes love, passion, and romance. Iron oxide provides the signature crimson hue.
- Pink – Pink represents femininity, affection, and romance. Rose oil or carmine dye produce the soft pink color.
- Orange – Orange signifies joy, creativity, and success. Beta-carotene oil or annatto extract make the vibrant orange color.
- Yellow – Yellow represents happiness, intellect, and positivity. Turmeric, saffron, or yellow dye #5 create bright yellows.
- Green – Green embodies growth, balance, and renewal. Chlorophyllin dye derived from plants gives greens their natural color.
- Blue – Blue promotes calmness, tranquility, and spiritual wisdom. Ultramarine blue pigments create cool, deep blues.
- Purple – Purple symbolizes imagination, spirituality, and luxury. Mixtures of red and blue dyes produce purples.
- Black – Black represents mystery, sophistication, and elegance. Carbon black pigments result in deep black candles.
Colored Candle Uses
Beyond just setting a mood, colored candles can have many specific uses:
- Scented colored candles, like lavender or vanilla, promote relaxation.
- White candles are used in spiritual or religious ceremonies to represent purity and divinity.
- Red and pink candles create romantic ambiance for a dinner or valentine’s day.
- Light blue candles have a calming effect and can aid sleep.
- Green and yellow candles brighten up a space and promote feelings of joy and optimism.
- Purple candles help stimulate creativity and imagination.
- Orange candles boost energy and evoke success.
- Black candles set an elegant, sophisticated mood.
Safety Tips for Colored Candles
When burning any candle, it’s important to take safety precautions. Here are some tips for safely using colored candles:
- Always trim wicks to 1⁄4 inch before lighting to prevent excess smoking and fiery flames.
- Use candle holders that are heat resistant and won’t tip over easily.
- Burn candles in an area free of drafts to prevent uneven burning and dripping.
- Keep candles away from flammable materials like curtains, blankets or decorations.
- Don’t leave burning candles unattended.
- Extinguish candles when they get to within two inches of the holder or jar bottom.
- Don’t burn candles for more than 4 hours at a time.
- Allow candles to fully cool before moving them to prevent spills.
Making Colored Candles
You can make your own colored candles at home with a few simple supplies:
- Paraffin wax – Use paraffin wax chips, granules or blocks as the base candle wax.
- Wicks – Purchase cotton or paper wicks to sustain the flame.
- Candle dye – Use liquid or block candle dye in your desired color.
- Scent oil – Add a few drops of essential oils for fragrance (optional).
- Containers – Pour melted wax into containers like glass jars, tin cans or silicone molds.
- Double boiler – Melt wax in a double boiler or makeshift double boiler.
Steps to make colored candles:
- Prepare wick by cutting to size and attaching to bottom of container with hot glue.
- Melt wax in double boiler until completely liquefied.
- Add candle dye a few drops at a time, stirring until desired color is reached.
- Carefully pour colored wax into containers, leaving room at top for wax to pool when lit.
- Allow candles to fully set and cool before use, at least 24 hours.
Take proper safety precautions when melting wax and pouring candles. Making your