What Colored Dyes are Found in Powdered Drink Mix and in Colored Marking Pens

3.6 based on 16 ratings

Updated on May 01, 2010


To find out which colored dyes are used in powdered drink mix and in colored marking pens.

Materials Needed

  • pencil
  • ruler
  • filter paper cut into twenty 6-by-6-inch (15-by-15-cm) squares
  • 10 packages of powdered drink mix, each of a different variety
  • tap water
  • dropper
  • 10 small plates
  • stapler
  • 20 glass jars with lids (or substitute plastic wrap)
  • rubbing alcohol
  • 10 differently colored marking pens
  • timer


Paper chromatography, which separates a mixture into its component pigments, will be used to analyze the various colored dyes present in ten flavors of drink mix and ten differently colored marking pens.


  1. Make pencil marks ¾ inch (2 cm) up from the bottom on both lower corners of ten of the cut-out squares. Draw a line connecting the marks.
  2. Mix a pinch of each variety of powdered drink mix with a drop of water on each of the ten small plates.
  3. With the dropper place a droplet of a different variety beneath the pencil line of each filter and allow them to dry. Label the names of each flavor in pencil.
  4. When each paper has dried, staple each into a cylinder shape, with the droplet stain on the outside.
  5. Fill ten jars about ½ inch (1 em) high with rubbing alcohol.
  6. Place one paper cylinder into each jar without touching the sides of the jars.
  7. Cover the jars with lids or plastic wrap.
  8. Leave each paper cylinder in the alcohol for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the alcohol reaches the top of the paper.
  9. Remove the paper filters and allow them to dry. You have just made a chromatogram and should be able to see the different colored dyes that make up each of the powdered drink mixes used.
  10. To experiment with the colored marking pens, repeat steps 1 through 9, making colored marks on the paper filters instead of using the drink mix.


  1. Were there more pigments in the chromatograms of the drink mixes or the colored marking pens? What colors were visible in each chromatogram?
  2. What pigments were found most often in the drink mixes? What pigments were found most often in the marking pens?
  3. Were the lighter-colored drink mixes and marking pens made up of as many pigments as the darker ones?
  4. Which of the component dyes traveled furthest up the filter paper? Why?
  5. Were the drink mixes and marking pens of the same color made up of different pigments?