Fun With Chromatography

After watching some videos by Inky Rocks on YouTube, I really wanted to try doing some chromatography. Chromatography is “the separation of a mixture or solution through a medium in which the components move at different rates.” The medium in this case is water, and the mixture is fountain pen ink. There is special paper available for this on amazon and other sites where scientific equipment is sold, but I already had a bulk box of industrial grade paper towels. The special paper might yield richer results, but the paper towels work pretty darn well. I might try some tests with more absorbent bounty paper towels to see if there’s a difference.

My setup. In the foreground is Robert Oster Fire & Ice, and in the background is Diamine Wild Strawberry.

I cut up the paper towels into strips, swabbed a line of ink at the bottom with a q-tip, and let the towel soak until the ink reached the top. It’s very fun to see what your favorite inks are made of. I dipped the strips by hand at first, but then I clipped them to some plastic chopsticks with bag clips so they could rest on the rim of the glass and be able to soak for a longer period of time. Some inks yielded predictable results while some inks yielded results that blew me away. My favorites so far are Robert Oster Velvet Storm, Colorverse Mariner 4, Diamine Nutcracker, and KWZ Honey.

I was really surprised at how much purple there is in Velvet Storm, since it’s a teal-black ink. The colors separated out so distinctly, and it looks neat. With Mariner 4, the corners of the towel stuck to the side of the glass and ended up separating in a triangular shape. It looks like a purple and blue iceberg. Nutcracker yielded a very nice gradient with a thin line of black at the top. Honey might be my favorite because it looks like some kind of rock formation.

Some results that surprised me were the Sailor Ink Studio dual shading inks. 123, 162, 150, and 224 all look different out of the bottle, but separated in water look very similar. 150 has more a more vibrant pink and purple than the others, and 123 has a more vibrant teal than the others. 224 has the least vibrant results. 162 has a pretty equal amount of teal and purple.

So far only one ink has completely separated out, with a clear white space in between colors, and that’s Iroshizuku Chiku-rin. It’s like blue and yellow polarized each other. I expected there to be some green in this strip, but there isn’t any.

In science class in school, we did chromatography on paper towels with magic markers. I remember being fascinated then, and had a lot of fun making these now. If you have bottles of ink or ink samples, it’s very easy to do chromatography at home with things you might already have. All you need are some paper towels, a glass, some q-tips, and something to hold the paper towel while it soaks up the water.

5 thoughts on “Fun With Chromatography”

  1. This is a lot of fun. If you do any of the olive/yellow greens they’re almost all a combination of yellow, a large separation, then blue at the bottom. No green to be found.
    Huh, figure that. Yellow and blue makes green ink!

    Liked by 1 person

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