Chemistry of colour


Create and play with colour with chemical engineering student Emily Xu, and chemical biology researcher Helena Dodd. Like many scientists and artists they are fascinated by the chemistry that puts colour into the world around us, from our clothes to our food. And they have a story to share about a Victorian chemist who found fame with a colourful invention he created by accident!

Join them for some hands-on activities you can try at home to experiment and invent with colour and create your own colourful artworks. They want to answer your questions about science and engineering, and help you become a scientist or an engineer too.

This workshop is aimed at children aged 5-12 and their families. 

Download the Chemistry of colour activity instructions (PDF)

You will need:

Scissors, paper, glue stick and string, yarn or ribbon.

There are extra materials you might like to have with you so you can join in with the activities our scientists will do on screen. These materials are listed below. You don’t have to do all of the activities, though - there are some you might prefer to just watch, and maybe try them later. We suggest you look around your house and see if you have any of these materials to spare, rather than buying them especially.

Activity 1:

  • A glass of water
  • Food colouring (any colour)
  • A stick of celery)

Activity 2:

  • A few fresh fruits (strawberries, raspberries and blackberries work well)
  • 3 small cups, plates or bowls
  • 3 balls cotton wool or a paintbrush
  • A spoon or fork
  • White paper
  • Water

Activity 3:

  • A packet of skittles
  • A small plate or saucer
  • Cotton wool pads or paper towels
  • Water

Activity 4:

  • White paper
  • Water
  • A paint brush or cotton wool balls
  • A small cup, plate or bowl
  • A jar of spice, e.g. turmeric, cumin or paprika (do not use chilli or cayenne powder). You will only use a small amount, but keep it safely in the jar until instructed to use it.