Science and art collide in this fun experiment

Putting the 'magic' into magic markers

Science and art collide in this fun experiment
by Natalie Keeler

Is black ink really black? This chromatography experiment is a fun science and art activity rolled into one – your child can create some amazing effects when they reveal the secret colours hidden in their felt-tip pens. Don't forget to scroll down to find out how it works!

Want to try another cool science activity? Try this amazing walking water experiment.

You will need

  • Coffee filters
  • Jars
  • Water
  • Felt tips

How to do this ink chromatography experiment

Step 1

Start by drawing a line around the middle of each coffee filter with a different colour felt-tip pen.

Step 2

Pour a small amount of water into each jar.

Step 3

Stand the bottom of the filters in the water.

Step 4

Watch as the water travels up the filter and separates the colours inside the felt tip!

Step 5

Which felt tips are made of the most different colours? Your little one should find that black and brown reveal the most.

science icon


Learning guide

Get little ones excited about science with this cool experiment! Your child's felt-tips are made up of lots of different pigments (colouring agents). As the water touches the filter paper, it dissolves the ink and pulls it up the paper. You might find that some colours move further up the filter paper than others – this is because colours with smaller molecules move further than those with larger ones. Use washable felt-tips if you can, as they work better than permanent markers.