Ink Marker Chromatography

Are black inks all the same? This experiment will allow you determine what colors are combined to make black ink in some common water based markers.

What you need:

  • Coffee filters or paper towels
  • Water
  • Various colors of water soluble markers
  • Various brands of black water soluble markers
  • Pipettes or medicine droppers
  • Plastic cups

What to do:

  1. On a coffee filter or paper towel, draw a circle with the black marker of your choice.
  2. Place your paper on top of an empty plastic cup.
  3. Using the pipette, drop water, by droplets, onto your paper in the center of the circle you drew with black marker.
  4. Slowly add drops of water until the water starts to “bleed” through the black circle. What appears to be happening?
  5. Repeat this with the other brands of black markers. Are there any differences?
  6. Repeat steps 1-4 again using the colored markers. With which colors do you see multiple color bands appearing in the water run? With which colors do you see no other color bands? Can you use this method to blend colors?

What’s the science?
The word Chromatography comes from the Greek words for color (Chromato) and writing (graphy). It is a method of separating mixtures using a solid support plus a liquid solvent. In every kind of chromatography, a mixture separates because some of its components stick better to the solid so they stay behind. These components have a strong affinity or attraction for the solid. Other parts of the mixture dissolve in the solution that wicks into or across the solid.

The end result is that you see bands of color that separate out on the solid support. When using colored markers, this “color-writing” or chromatography process allows you to determine what  inks are mixed together to make a  particular color of marker.

10 replies
  1. Carmen Edwards
    Carmen Edwards says:

    This was pretty interesting and cool to see the seperate colors be divided up like they did.

  2. ulises
    ulises says:

    I learned to mixed colors with water and now I can teach my daughter something new for her coloring books

  3. Airahs
    Airahs says:

    I feel the lab was quite easy. I could even let my daughter watch and learn about mixtures of colors.

  4. Fabiola
    Fabiola says:

    It was really fun to see all the different colors. I liked it so much that I did it twice one by myself and the second one with my 5 year old son, he had as much fun as I did!

  5. sophie Rodriguez
    sophie Rodriguez says:

    This was an easy and interesting experiment and it showed my daughter how interesting chemisty could be.

  6. Denise
    Denise says:

    It was pretty cool to see to see how the black turned into different colors when it came in contact with the water. The yellow nor the red changed colors. Brown did change a bit. Interesting to blend colors like this.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] (secondary colours) and the colours splitting when they absorb. Early this summer we did an experiment with markers on strips of paper towels dipped in water and you could see the secondary colours […]

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