Candies like M&M's or Skittles have different colors because of the various dyes inside. We will
figure out which candies have which dyes in this experiment. Using "Candy Chromatography" we
will dissolve the dyes out using water and separate them with a salt solution.
- Candies of Different Colors M&M or Skittles work Well
- Coffee Filters or Filter Ppaper
- Tall Clear Glass or Jar
- Pencil (no pens or markers)
- Aluminum Foil
- Empty 2 liter Bottle and Cap
Process For Candy Chromatography:
1) Cut the filter paper into a 3 x 3 inch squares.
2) Take the pencil and draw a line ½ inch from one edge of the paper.
3) Plot six dots equally spaced along the line. Leave ¼ inch between the first and last dots and the
edge of the paper.
4) Under the line label each dot for the colors of candy your going to test. (Y for yellow, G for green,
BU for blue, BR for brown).
5) Make candy dye solutions. Cut a 10 x 6 piece of aluminum foil and lay it flat.
Put six drops of water spaced evenly along the foil. Drop one of each color of candy in the water
drops (one color candy per one water drop). Let the candies soak in the water for a minute or two.
The color will begin to come off the candy into the water solution. Remove the candy from solution.
6) Take a toothpick and dip it into one of the colored candy solutions on the foil. Get the tip of the
toothpick wet. Next gently touch the toothpick to the corresponding marked place one the filter
paper (blue solution on the dot you marked BU for Blue on the filter paper). Be gentle, we need the
dot to be small 1/16 inch or less. Repeat the process using a different toothpick for each color until
you have a small dot on each marked part of the filter paper.
7) Let the colored dots on your filter paper dry.
8) Repeat step 6 to get more color dye on each of your filter paper dots. You will need to do steps 6
and 7 a total of three times. Be patient!
9) Once you have completed step 8, fold the filter paper in 1/2 so it will stand up on it's own. The
dots need to be on the bottom portion.
10) Lets make a developing solution next. Measure and put ⅛ teaspoon of salt and 3 cups of water
into the empty (and clean) 2 liter bottle. Screw on the lid. Shake until the salt is dissolved in the
water making a solution. This is called a 1% salt solution.
11) Pour 1/4 inch of the salt solution into a tall glass. The level of the solution needs to be low
enough so that when you put the filter paper inside the dots will initially be above the solution level.
Hold the filter paper with the dots at the bottom and set it in the glass with the salt solution.
12) The salt solution will start to climb up the paper using a process called capillary action.
13) The solution climbs up the filter paper and moves through the colored dots.
The colored dots begin to separate into different color bands. Notice that some candy colors were
made from mixing several different dyes. These colors separate into different bands as they move
up the filter paper. Dyes separate due to some dyes sticking more to the filter paper and others
being more soluble in the solution. As a result the dyes climb will stop at different heights on the
14) Once the solution gets about ½ inch from the top edge of the filter paper, remove it. Lay the
paper out to dry.
15) Compare the spots from the different candies, noting similarities and differences. Record your
Which candies contained mixtures of dyes?
Which ones seem to have just one dye?
Do similar colors from different candies travel up the paper the same distance?
16) Repeat the experiment with a different kind of candy. If you did the M&M's first, then try the
The Science Behind Candy Chromatography
Chromatography is the collective term for a family of laboratory techniques for the separation of
mixtures. It involves passing a mixture dissolved in a "mobile phase" through a stationary phase,
which separates the substance to be measured from other molecules in the mixture and allows it
to be isolated and viewed.
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