March 2016

tie-dye butterfliesMagical Marker Tie-Dye (3/2/16)


  • colorful permanent markers
  • coffee filters
  • 70% or higher rubbing alcohol
  • pipette/glass dropper
  • paper or plastic cup
  • plate
  • pipe cleaners (optional)


  • Take your coffee filter and flatten it out on you paper plate.
  • Go crazy and color! This is the fun part of the experiment. Test out different colors, shapes, patterns, and see what kind of cool designs you can come up with. Beware though of colors that will mix together to form brown or too much happening in one section of the filter. You want to make sure there is at least a little of the white coffee filter left for the tie-dye to happen!
  • Once you are done coloring, place your filter over the top of your cup. Take your dropper, place it into the rubbing alcohol and gather up some of your solution that will turn your artwork into tie-dye!
  • Go ahead and cover your artwork with drops of rubbing alcohol! You can just do a few drops here and there, or soak your filter – either way, as you begin to spread the solvent around, you’ll start to notice your colors moving and spreading out!
  • Let your filter sit for a few minutes to let the rubbing alcohol do its work, and then let your artwork dry! Discuss why the markers made such cool designs rather then just fade away when liquid was dropped on them. Would water do the same thing? Once it is dry, hang your tie-dye up and show it off!
  • Another fun, optional step to turn your tie-dye into something more (and just in time for spring), is to add a pipe cleaner to the center of the filter after bunching it up. Wrap it around, twist it, and then bend off the ends to represent antennas. You now have tie-dye butterflies!


This experiment teaches us a little bit about a really cool word – solubility! Solubility means that a solvent (in our case, the rubbing alcohol), has the ability to dissolve another substance (our permanent markers). Permanent markers may dissolve in water, but flourish in rubbing alcohol! As the coffee filter absorbs the permanent marker colors, the rubbing alcohol will pick up the ink and send it trailing off into little streams and designs…the tie dye effect you are seeing! The wet ink will slowly begin to diffuse, and when it moves areas of higher concentration (already colored areas) to lower concentration areas (the blank areas of the filter), we see the tie-dye coloring take effect! You can even try this with different materials such as t-shirts and shoes! Tie-dye away!