Chemistry is Colorful

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In this activity, learners explore materials through paper chromatography. This process highlights the properties of different pigments blended together in a marker by creating a colorful chromatogram. Learners will try to solve the mystery of which ink came from which marker in this colorful chemistry activity. Activity includes step-by-step instructions, a video guide, an explanation for the science behind the activity, and relevant connections to chemistry and color in the world. This activity uses low cost materials and can be done at home.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 6 - adult

Resource Type:

English, Spanish

Materials List (per group of students)

  • Filter paper disks (2 per participant)
  • Primary and secondary colored Visa-Vis brand markers
  • Three different brands of black water-soluble markers (Crayola, Mr. Sketch, and Vis-à-vis)
  • 2-ounce dropper bottles (2–3, filled with water)
  • 3 small white lids (to hold the paper off the table)
  • Hole punch
  • Colorful yarn or string cut into 6-inch lengths
  • Scissors
  • Mystery Chromatograms graphic
  • Tape (for the premade mystery chromatograms)
  • Dry-erase marker (for the mystery chromatograms graphic)


  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry

Informal Categories

  • Games


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • NISE Network


  • , National Informal STEM Education Network, 2018

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, 1612482

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