Craft Advent: Day 4: Chromatography Christmas Trees

I am so excited to have Naomi from Science Wows stopping by today. She is known in this house as 'Mama's Scientist Friend' and any questions my girls have for me about how things work or whether slugs have eyes or not - my first port of call is always Naomi's brilliant site. Not only does she find the time to share all the answers to all the big questions on her blog, she also runs her own successful children's party business, visits schools regularly with her science demos and she's even written the scripts for a new science-based TV show for kids called 'Is Eolaí Mé', which will air on TG4 in 2016. Naomi is passionate about making science FUN and this sciency-craft proves that she knows exactly what she's doing!
I am a big fan of “Where Wishes Come From” and was delighted to get a chance to join in Sadhbh’s Craft Advent project. I always feel that science and craft go hand in hand and I hope this little project gives a good example of that.

I love chromatography and thought it would make a great Christmas project. You could adapt this to any project using paper, such as making a paper Christmas wreath, but I had my heart set on making 
some little paper Christmas trees.

What you need…
Blotting paper or filter paper (I used coffee filter paper)
A mix of coloured pens, both water soluble and non-water soluble
Sellotape, glue and scissors
Glitter (optional)
A plate 
Some water
Strips of coloured paper (not shown)

What to do…
Firstly fold the paper so that it resembles a tree. Using the coffee filter paper, I folded it in half, then 
quarters, then eights in a concertina type fashion… as the photos below show.
Fold the paper around to complete the tree shape and secure with a small piece of sellotape.
Now repeat the process two more times so that you have three similar trees.

Time to decorate… using water insoluble markers, make a number of large dots, in different colours 
around each tree. Keep all marking at least 1cm from the base of the tree. These are the ‘baubles’. 

Next, switch to the water soluble markers, adding more ‘baubles’. Remember to keep above 1cm 
from the base. 

Finally, add some squiggly lines, the ‘tinsel’, again using the water soluble markers.
Stand all three trees on a plate and add water to the plate. The water should not come up more than 
half a centimetre from the base of each tree. You will see the water rising up through the paper, 
making the colours from the water soluble markers separate into their composite colours.
Remove the tree once the water has reached the top of the paper and place in a warm dry place to 
air dry. 

While the trees are drying, make some mini stars. Using some colourful paper, cut strips about 1.5 
cm wide and 30 cm long and fold them into stars as per this tutorial.
Once the trees are dry you can cover them in some glue and sprinkle on glitter… well it is Christmas!

Then you just need to assemble your tree by placing one tree on top of another, inserting each one into the base of the other until you have all three trees stacked into one long tree (see the image below).

Alternatively you can make a nice little Christmas scene by leaving all three trees separate and place them on a festive plate, adding your own trimming.
The Science bit…

Many dyes and inks are made up of a number of different colours. In simple terms, this is what happens… when the water creeps up the tree, the water soluble colours dissolve in it and are carried up the paper. However, the molecules of each colour differ in their sizes and weights, meaning that they travel at different rates. This is how one colour gets separated out into a streak of its composite colours.

Chromatography comes from the Greek words chroma and graphe and literally means colour writing. I really hope you enjoy this colour writing craft…. Happy Christmas!


  1. All of them are so lovely, but I love these star more. Its so cute. I am going to make these one for the Christmas this year. Thank you


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