Colloidal processing is a key aspect in modern ceramic processing but most formulations are found empirically. The need for a better knowledge based design of suspension formulation can be achieved by using interparticle potential modelling linked to rheological models. Here we look at the details behind slurry formulation for freeze granulation of doped alumina powders for use in the production of transparent polycrystalline alumina. The degree of complexation of the dopant ions with the dispersant, polyacrylic acid, has been investigated and shows the effect of both lowering the ionic strength and modifying the adsorption conformation. These insights into the subtleties of colloidal processing are discussed to provide a better basis for future formulation development.