HOW TO: Christmas Chromatography

Crayola Washable markers
Large coffee filters
Spray bottle with water
Newspaper to cover your work area

What to do:
1. Cut fun Christmas shapes out of coffee filters.  Stars, angels, or snowmen are great ideas. 
2. Make large dots (about an inch in diameter) on the coffee filter shape using the washable markers.  Place the dots about an inch apart.
3. Place your coffee filter shape flat on a pile of newspaper and squirt it with the spray bottle until the entire filter is damp.
4. Wait five minutes and observe what happens to the dots you made!
5. Allow your filter to dry.
6. Punch a hole in your filter and tie a ribbon through to hang it on your Christmas tree.

What’s going on here?
Different colors make up ordinary ink. Colored dyes can be separated when dissolved in a liquid like water. This process is called chromatography. Different dye mixtures are used to make various inks. When you spray water on the filter paper it dissolves the dyes in the ink. The dissolved dyes move through the filter paper by capillary action and form color patterns.  Did some of your colors travel further on the filter paper than others?  Can you design an experiment and see? 

Attach a ribbon to make a pretty ornament!
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6 thoughts on “HOW TO: Christmas Chromatography

  1. I made one at home and the lights behind the tree made it have the same effect as stained glass; very cool!

  2. I really like these. I never thought to use these as christmas ornaments. I recently did a color chromatography post and podcast (episode number 3) on my blog and I used fabric, non washable markers, and rubbing alcohol. I drew pictures and designs and instead of using a spray bottle, used a paintbrush to guide the alcohol, which gives a totally different effect than the spray bottle. But I DO love the spraybottle design you have here! I am really looking for ideas that relate science to my new love – quilting – but I appreciate all sorts of ‘sciency crafts’. Any further designs or ideas that you would like to share, I would be willing to post and podcast about! Happy holidays!

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