You’ve probably tried mixing paints to make new colors (i.e. blue + red = purple). But did you know that you can also unmix colors? Give it a try and learn about chromatography, a science technique for separating mixtures (like the colors you see here). You’ll also learn about capillary action and how water can be “sticky.” With a little help from Ziploc® brand bags and a set of markers, we can become "color scientists" and unravel the mystery of color mixing.

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Chromatography is a technique for separating components of a mixture. In this project, we use chromatography to separate the colors in washable marker inks, using water. Some liquids, like water, stick to themselves and to other things. This stickiness can cause water to pull itself up a thin tube or other space. This is called capillary action. And thanks to capillary action, the water sticks to the paper fibers in the coffee filter and travels up, bringing the colors up with it. As the water moves, you’ll see how the colors travel at different speeds, so fast-moving colors pull ahead while the slow-moving colors stay behind. Try this experiment with different colored markers to see their component colors.

Connections with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Matter and its Interactions 2-PS1-1

. Plan and conduct an investigation to describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties.

Conduct an investigation to describe and classify marker colors by their component colors.