Chasing Cheerios

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Absorption Color Wheel

When I saw this super fun and simple science experiment via Pinterest, I thought it would be perfect for our upcoming beach vacation (gotta fit a little bit of school in each week :), and it was!  I decided to expand on it a little to make a color wheel.

To do this experiment, you need 6 clear glasses, water, 6 plain white paper towels, and food coloring (red, blue, and yellow).   We filled every other glass about 2/3 of the way full with water (a total of 3 glasses).  The girls took turns putting food coloring in each glass with water.  So, we had one glass with blue water, one glass with yellow water, and one glass with red water.

Between each of these glasses was an empty glass, and the 6 glasses formed a circle.  We rolled the paper towels and connected the glasses with the paper towels (this may not make sense, but it makes sense if you look at the picture).

Then we watched and waited.  After a few minutes, we could see the water beginning to slowly travel up the paper towels.  We kept watching...

We left and came back later to check on the progress.

We went into town for snow cones and to play at the playground and came back to find this!

The colors had traveled all the way up the paper towels and were beginning to mix!  We were all VERY excited!
When we woke up the next morning, this is what we saw.  The colors were mixing within the glasses, but they were very dark and the colors on the paper towels hadn't really mixed.

So, we kept watching, and by the end of the day we had this!

By the next morning, the paper towels had soaked up all the water and were beginning to dry out.

Throughout this process, we discussed the "why" of it...capillary action and the mixing of primary colors to form secondary colors.  We were very excited by how well this project turned out, and we saved our colorful and beautiful paper towels for a future art project.


  1. That's so fun!! What a great idea, and perfect for learning. :) Thanks for sharing!


  2. Glad to know we need to be patient for this to work!

  3. I absolutely love this! My oldest loves art and we've done several color wheel activities. She'll be totally thrilled with this one. Thanks.

  4. Wonderful experience!

  5. thanks for sharing this Melissa, we have just done it too, it was a great success

  6. Linked back to you:

  7. aww cute!..I've got to try this one for my lil one too. I'll link back to you when we do it :)I would love too see how the paper towels look opened up. We did color mixing but a different way. The final result of that was pretty cool too. You can see it here

  8. I'm going to do this at preschool the day of family open house. When kids and families come in the evening they could see the change. Thanks for this!

  9. I enjoy it. I will share this to my kids and try making this on weekends. Starfall