DIY Sharpie Chromatography

Your Challenge: Separate the different colors of ink in a sharpie marker using chromatography. Colored Sharpies


Coffee Filters
Sharpie Markers
A glass
Rubbing alcohol


Here’s How:

1. Cut the coffee filter into a rectangle

2. Use a sharpie to make a dot about an inch from the bottom of the rectangle

3. Fill a cup less than an inch high with half water, half isopropanol (rubbing alcohol).

4. Stand the coffee filter up inside the cup with the sharpie dots at the bottom almost touching the liquid.

Watch as the ink runs up the paper.


Take it further:

Try this with different kinds of markers that are the same color. Can you tell two different brands of black markers apart? Are some sharpie colors actually just combinations of other colors?


Fun Facts:

  • Colored light combines differently than colored paints or dyes. If you mix red, blue, and yellow paint you are left with a murky brown or black color. This is called subtractive color mixing
  • But when light is combined we call it additive color mixing. By combing orange-red (R), green (G), and a blue or violet-blue (B) you can make white light.

Creation of colors on a screen from small red, green, and blue dots.

  • Did you know your computer and television screen can only make three different colors of light? The colors on your screen are formed by different combinations of these three main colors, RGB.

Cool related careers:

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