Chromatography and phonics

This is a similar chromatography activity to our filter paper phonics, but this time we’ve kept the colours separate so the separation of colours can be seen more more clearly.

I wrote a selection of alien and real words on different pieces of filter paper and asked my daughter to sound them out and then choose only the alien words to experiment with.


What is Chromatography?

Chromatography is a technique used to separate mixtures. The mixture is passed through another substance, in this case filter paper. The different colour ink particles travel at different speeds through the filter paper allowing us to see the constituent colours of the pen ink.


  • Filter paper
  • Sellotape or paper clips
  • Container
  • Water


  • Write some words ( or just draw a dot ) on the filter paper.
  • Pour a little water in the container and suspend the paper in the water using a paperclip or sellotape.
  • Leave for about 10 minutes.
  • Observe the changes. You should see the ink separate into different colours.



Other Chromatography Experiment Ideas

Try using different types of felt tips, washable, non-washable, permanent markers? Is there a difference?

How are mixtures separated?

Mixtures can be separated in lots of different ways, I’ve listed a few below.

  • Decanting is where a liquid is separated from a solid which has settled by pouring the liquid carefully out of the container leaving the solid behind.
  • Centrifugation is where a substance is spun very quickly forcing the heavier particles to the bottom.
  • Distillation is a process where mixtures are separated by heating. The vapour of the liquid with the lowest boiling point is released first. The vapours can then be condensed using something called a Liebig condenser.


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