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Try This: Make Chromatography Butterflies


Try This: Make Chromatography Butterflies

Spring is filled with so many beautiful colors! From budding blossoms to emerging butterflies, the world around erupts in a vibrant spectrum this time of year. Using things around your house we can make colors emerge using a process called chromatography, and just for fun we can turn those colors into stunning butterfly art!

Make Chromatogrophy Butterflies

Here’s what you need:

  • Non-permanent, or washable markers
  • Coffee filters
  • Containers of water, they can be glasses, jars, or cups
  • Chenille stems, pipe cleaners, or even bread ties
  • Pencil


Here’s what to do:

1. Pick a marker. Don’t be afraid to use colors like brown or even black. Lay a coffee filter flat and draw a thick circle around the center.

2. With a pencil in the center of the coffee filter, write the color of the marker that was used. It may be difficult to remember what color you selected later.

3 Fold the coffee filter in half and then in half again. The resulting shape will be like a cone or a big slice of pizza.

4. Place the coffee filter gently in the container of water. The wide side of the folded coffee filter should balance the rim of the container, so only the pointed tip without marker on it touches the water.

5. Let the filter and water sit. Watch as the water flows up the paper, bring the marker with it. What do you notice?

6. Repeat this process with other color markers. What do you notice? Are there any surprises?

7. After the water has reached the edges of the coffee filters, remove them from the water. Lay all of the coffee filters flat to dry. Observe the color differences on each filter. Notice how a single marker color produced multiple colors on the filter when water touched it. What marker resulted in the most surprising colors?

8. Choose a dried coffee filter, scrunch it together in the middle and wrap a chenille stem, or whatever wiry item you have, around the center. Shape the extra bit of chenille stem, or whatever, into antennae. Form the filter into the wings of a butterfly. Repeat this step to turn the other filters into butterflies.

What will you do with your butterflies? You could hang them around your house. Could you turn them into a mobile?

What is happening:

Chromatography is simply a method of separating a mixture by letting it creep slowly past another substance. In this activity, water acted as a solvent. The ink of the markers dissolved as the solvent moved it over the surface of the paper separating the various pigments within the ink.

Chromatography provides a way of separating and analyzing a mixture into the different chemicals that make it up. Chromatography can be used to find out about the various components of mixtures like blood and gasoline. It can also be used to discover the beauty within ink!