Make your own colorful rainbow paper with just three materials! Easy physics demonstration, art project, and science activity for kids of all ages.
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Rainbows are one of the most beautiful natural wonders. They are created in the sky when just the right combination of rain and sunshine mix. Sunlight is reflected off of raindrops in the air, making the light we usually think of as “white” split into a gorgeous array of different colors. In this science activity the kids are going to create rainbows on paper that can be enjoyed year-round, rain or shine.
- Add 1-2 drops of clear nail polish to the bowl of water. Watch it disperse over the surface of the water.
- Quickly dip the paper into the water. Let it dry on a paper towel.
- Once it is dry (this only takes a few minutes) tilt the paper in different directions to see the rainbow patterns appear. Hold it next to a sunny window for best results.
- NOTE: The nail polish will dry quickly on the surface of the water, which will create a film that won’t stick to the paper. To do this activity successfully you will need to do it quickly. Be sure to dip the paper into the water within 10-15 seconds after you drop the nail polish in. If the nail polish does create a dry film on top, simply scoop it off and try again more quickly!
Easily print these directions for quick reference by clicking the button below:
We did this experiment several times with several pieces of paper. It was fascinating to see how each piece came out so differently!
How Does Rainbow Paper Work?
When you dip the paper into the water it gets coated with a thin layer of nail polish. The rainbow colors you see are caused by thin film interference. You will notice that the colors on the paper change as the you tip the paper back and forth. This happens because light hits the paper at different angles as you tip it.
This is the same effect you will see when oil mixes with water on the road on rainy days!