Active Time
20-30 minutes
Total Project Time
45 minutes to 1 hour
Key Concepts
chemicals, metal salts, fire, atoms, energy
Photo of multicolored fireworks at night


Have you ever watched a fireworks show and wondered how all the different colors — amazing reds, yellows, oranges, blues, purples, greens, and more — are made? The color, or colors, that a firework makes depends on what color-producing chemicals are in the firework. These chemicals are various metal salts that burn when the firework goes off, and burning the metals is what makes the colors. Different metals give off different, specific colors. In this science activity, you will get to burn some metal salts at home to investigate what colors they make. Then, at the next fireworks show, you can impress friends and family with your knowledge of what may be causing some of the colors they see!


Teisha Rowland, PhD, Science Buddies
This activity is not appropriate for use as a science fair project. Good science fair projects have a stronger focus on controlling variables, taking accurate measurements, and analyzing data. To find a science fair project that is just right for you, browse our library of over 1,200 Science Fair Project Ideas or use the Topic Selection Wizard to get a personalized project recommendation.


  • Chemicals to burn, specifically table salt and copper sulfate.
    • Table salt is technically called sodium chloride.
    • Copper sulfate is available through pet or aquarium stores to combat algae, or through home improvement stores as a root killer. Make sure the product is pure copper sulfate and that it is in powder or small crystals form.
    • Alternatively, if you would like these chemicals plus two other colorful, hard-to-find metal salts and some safety equipment all in one convenient package, try the Rainbow Fire Kit from our partner Home Science Tools.
  • Small plastic bag
  • Bamboo skewers (at least 6)
  • White glue
  • Candle
  • Matches or lighter
  • Container of water
  • An outdoor surface you can safely burn a candle on when it is dark outside (or twilight). Be sure it is in an open area to allow good air flow.
  • Adult helper
  • Recommended: Disposable gloves, dishwashing gloves are a fine alternative. These are for handling the copper sulfate.
  • Recommended: Safety goggles
  • Optional: Flashlight
  • Optional: Masking tape and pen or marker to label the skewers with the chemical names

Disclaimer: Science Buddies participates in affiliate programs with Home Science Tools,, Carolina Biological, and Jameco Electronics. Proceeds from the affiliate programs help support Science Buddies, a 501(c)(3) public charity, and keep our resources free for everyone. Our top priority is student learning. If you have any comments (positive or negative) related to purchases you've made for science projects from recommendations on our site, please let us know. Write to us at


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Active Time
20-30 minutes
Total Project Time
45 minutes to 1 hour
Key Concepts
chemicals, metal salts, fire, atoms, energy
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