Art & Maker Wednesdays: Chromatography Butterflies

Art + Science = Fun! Let’s make some beautiful butterflies while we learn about the process of chromatography.

Materials & Instructions

  • Water
  • An eyedropper, straw, or spray bottle
  • Coffee filters or paper towels (we used both!)
  • Markers
  • A clothespin, pipe cleaner, or piece of string

STEP 1: Use your markers to decorate your coffee filters or paper towel. Abstract designs like shapes and swirls will work best.

STEP 2: Squeeze, drop, or spray a little bit of water onto your drawing using your eyedropper, straw, or spray bottle. Look what happens to the colors!

STEP 3: Take your clothespin, pipe cleaner, or string and use it to squeeze together the middle of your artwork. The two sides should fan out like beautiful butterfly wings!

What happened?

We did something called chromatography. Chromatography is a big word that means to separate different ingredients that were mixed together. 

Take a closer look at your butterfly wings. Do you see any new colors that you didn’t use in your drawing? What do you notice about the colors that you did use?

When markers are made, they aren’t made using just one color. Instead, many different colors are mixed together to make one marker! When we added water to our drawings, we un-mixed those colors. If you used a green marker, you might see blue and yellow colors spreading out from the green. That’s because your marker probably had blue and yellow ink mixed together to make green ink. 

Vocab Words & Storytime

Chromatography: Separating different ingredients that were mixed together.
Mix: To put two or more things together to make one thing (like when you mix ingredients together to make cake batter).
Abstract Art: Abstract art (like the art we drew today) is art that uses shapes, swirls, and colors instead of using more concrete things, like a picture of a tree.


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