Science & Art Experiment: Chromatography for Kids

Chromatography for kids sounds intimidating doesn’t it? It shouldn’t though, simply put, chromatography is the process of separating mixtures. That’s it! In today’s art project/easy science experiment for kids we are going to prove that black isn’t always black….and you can actually see the colors in black by separating them out using chromatography. This project is based on the well known black marker and coffee filter experiment for kids, but because I love a good cross disciplinary project we expanded the idea to make a fashion statement as well: Chromatography Bags! Perfect for Fabric Month as well!

Chromatography for kids

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Chromatography for Kids


Chromatography for kids


Chromatography for kidsChromatography for kids

  • Step One Using a black marker ask your child to draw a picture or design on their blank bag. Designs that alternate a thick coat of black marker and white space in between will show  the most obvious results.
  • Step Two Place the bag on a plate.
  • Step Three Give your child an eyedropper and a small cup of rubbing alcohol and ask them to start dropping the liquid on the drawing. Get that bag really soaked!
  • Step Four Some color will begin separating immediately. Allow the bags to dry over the course of several hours or overnight. The color will continue to separate.
  • Step Five Check on the color! The black should have separated into other colors. We had a lot of blue show up and a hint of brown/red.

Here’s how ours looked the next day:

Chromatography for kids

You’re done!  Tote ‘em around and show off the science experiment!

Here’s Mama’s version:

Chromatography for kids


  • DO NOT USE PERMANENT MARKERS! They won’t work.
  • Since we used washable markers I do not suggest washing these.
  • This experiment can also be performed using white coffee filters or paper towels in lieu of the bags. If you choose to do the experiment with coffee filters use water in lieu of the rubbing alcohol.
  • We tried substituting water for rubbing alcohol with the canvas bags but the results were less than spectacular.

Looks Like

Keith Haring. The “graffiti” look of this project reminded me of the work of Keith Haring, a very popular artist from the 1980’s whose work crossed the line between street art, fine art, and in my humble opinion, graphic design. His images are immediately recognizable to many of us and I have always loved the simplicity and straightforwardness of his work. When I lived in New York his art seemed to be everywhere, and his influence can be seen on a new generation of artists like Shepard Fairey, whose work blurs the line between graffiti, artistic expression, and social activism.

Chromatography for kidsConclusion & More

Science and art are at again with this easy project that explores chromatography for kids! As usual my kids were skeptical about doing this project (they get that skepticism from me) but were excited to see the results of the experiment. And my daughter couldn’t wait to get her hands on the bags when they were done, she LOVES putting things in bags and carrying them around. Anyhoo this was a fun little design project for mom too!

And speaking of Tinkerlab, it’s one of my favorite blogs, and blogger Rachelle Doorley has a new book coming out! Oh my goodness I can’t wait! You can preorder it on Amazon: Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors

Chromatography for kids

And don’t miss out on more art and science here on Babble Dabble Do! Your child’s inner Keith Haring thanks you! Subscribe below or like us on FB.


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