Photo of vessel with paper inside

Paper Chromatography

Presented by: COD Chemistry and Chemical Bonding Club

Join us as we explore fun chemistry concepts using things you can find around your house. In this activity, we will explore chromatography using coffee filters and washable markers. Use cabbage juice to learn about acids and bases, and explore chromatography with coffee filters.

Materials List

These are the materials you will need to follow along with this activity.

  • White coffee filters
  • Non-permanent (washable) markers
  • Plastic cup to hold the filter paper upright
  • Water
  • Small piece of sponge as a base for the filter paper (optional)

Safety Considerations

Use care when using markers - do not put in mouth.


  1. Choose any dark color washable marker (darker colors such as black, brown, purple gives best separation).
  2. Take a white coffee filter and straighten it a bit. Place it on a thick paper, newspaper or plastic sheet to protect the surface of your table.
  3. Draw a thick circle around the center of the coffee filter where the ridged part meets the flat center (about 1 inch from the center of the coffee filter).
  4. Fold the marked coffee filter in the middle to make a semi-circle, and then again to make it a cone shape.
  5. Get a plastic/glass cup, place a small piece of sponge such that it lays flat. Then, pour water in it to fill only till the top of the sponge.
  6. Place the marked and folded coffee filter into this container placing the pointed part on the sponge.  Open the top part a bit to make sure the folded parts do not touch each other too much.
  7. Let it sit and watch what happens as the water begins to flow up the coffee paper. Separation can take 15-30 minutes, depending upon the coffee filter thickness and the marker type/color.