SaH: Chromatography

Discover the science behind an art project. When we use markers, as intended, we only see one color in the ink. Using a technique called chromatography, we can separate the individual colors within a marker that give it its color.



Which marker has the most colors hidden inside it?



  • Coffee filter (or paper towels)
  • Clear cup
  • Water
  • Washable markers
  • Clothespin


What to Do

  1. Using washable markers, draw or write anything you’d like on the coffee filter.
  2. Fold the coffee filter in half 3 times.
  3. Using a clothespin, attach the coffee filter to the side of the clear cup so only the tip of the coffee filter is submerged in the water.

What happens when the water touches the colored part of the filter?


  1. Once you are happy with the color separation on your coffee filter, remove it from the water, carefully open it up, and lay it flat to dry. You can use your chromatography science experiment to make an art project!


What is Happening?

Chromatography is a technique used in chemistry to extract the contents of a solution after dissolving them. One way chromatography works by moving water through a membrane (in this case the coffee filter) to separate particles. As the water travels up the coffee filter, the different colors in the marker separate because smaller particles move faster than larger ones.

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