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DIY @ Home Craft: Chromatography Butterflies

chromatography butterflies

May 2, 2020

Let the kids bring a little color into your home with chromatography butterflies!  This easy craft (and science experiment) can be done at home using items you probably already have!  Just take a look at the list of supplies below and get started!


•  Coffee filters
•  Water-based markers (such as Crayola)
•  A small cup
•  Water
•  Pipe cleaners
•  Clothes pins

First, a little science! 

Experiment Steps:

1. Color a coffee filter with different blocks of color. The more color you use the more vibrant your filter will be.

2. Fold your colored filter in half, and then in half again creating a pie shape. 

3. Put your pie-shaped filter in a small cup that has a small amount of water in the bottom.  Watch how the colors start to move and change as water hits them. (NOTE: If you used permanent markers, drip rubbing alcohol onto your filter.) 

steps 1,2 and 3 of making chromatography butterflies

What happened?  Do you notice that other colors are appearing?  If you used purple, did the color change when it touched water? (If things are not happening as fast as you would like, take a spray bottle with water in it and give the filter a spritz.) 

If the purple changed into blue and red/pink that is chromatography! Chromatography is the separation of a mixture. You just separated the blue and red that make purple. Try to separate other colors such as orange or brown. Which colors separated?  Which colors did not?

In this example, we colored the filter with black marker only. Can you see the blue and pink that separated from the black?

chromatography butterfly experiment example

Craft Steps:

1. Let your colored filters from the experiment dry.

2.Take the filter and pinch opposite sides into the middle to create wings. 

3. Fold a pipe cleaner in half and place the wings in the fold of the stem, then twist the ends. If you are using a clothespin, place the wings into the clothespin. Voila! A butterfly!

Get creative with your colored filters:  make a flower bouquet, or a flock of bugs, or twirling dancers.  Let your imagination run wild!  

chromatography butterflies

You can find more science and crafting ideas with kids on the internet or in books.  Here are a couple of books available through MCPL and Wisconsin’s Digital Library:

Arts and Crafts Children

image credit: MCPL