Updated: Feb 21
Fabric markers are one of the best alternatives to textile paints for those who likes to have a control over painting/drawing process even when they create on clothes.
This article could be invaluable for you if you wish to learn about types of fabric markers and their possibilities, as well as to find out some expert tips on how to use them the right way.
Which markers are suitable for drawing on fabric?
For drawing on fabric, there are two kinds of markers – disappearing markers and permanent fabric markers. Both types are fast drying on the surface, leaving a uniform, rich and clear mark.
Fabric markers are usually odorless. Just like in case with fabric paints, look for the mentioning of a word “textile” on the sticker of a marker which you’re thinking of using on fabric, this will help you identify its true purpose.
Markers for temporary sketch and marking on fabric
If you’re not new to working with textiles, then you’ve probably heard about disappearing or washable markers. These fabric markers are convenient for making a temporary sketch on textile, such as transferring a pattern onto fabric (both light and dark), for drawing the outline of embroidery, for marking the place of future buttons on the right side of garments and so on.
In many of my tutorials you could have noticed how and when I use this kind of marker.
What you should know when working with disappearing markers:
I’d suggest choosing reliable brands of textile markers, after which, you can be sure that your sketch will wash away/disappear. Yes, sometimes when people decide to try some “nameless” marker (new to the market, no reviews, unknown manufacturer, etc.) for use in their textile projects, they face a problem that some “washable markers” do not disappear! It’s a big deal and a disappointment. This, however, is never the case with trusted brands. My experience covers only a few of manufacturers, which I’ll mention below. However, feel free to share here your recommendations about other good disappearing fabric markers, if you’ve tested any.
Avoid leaving a fabric marked with disappearing ink under direct sunlight, and even more so, do not iron sketch markings with an iron (not all, but some brands of washable markers turn into permanent ones if heated).
To wash off traces of a disappearing marker you need to either spray, rinse, touch it with a wet cloth or simply wipe the sketch mark with a wet paint brush. No soap required.
If left untouched, a sketch on fabric made with disappearing ink usually fades away within 12-24 hours. My sketch on a purely synthetic shirt vanished after about 16hrs. Drawing marks on a cotton fabric stayed somewhat longer. Consider this, if you’re not planning to complete your painting in one sitting
And a general advice: before you’ll get to working with disappearing marker that is new for you, test it on a spare piece of fabric to avoid any sort of surprises.
This article is part of a Lesson from an free course "Fabric Painting Foundations". If you’re finding it useful, you’ll definitely enjoy the course!
Best disappearing ink textile markers which I’ve tried and can recommend:
Clover has a very handy marker for marking fabric with two tips. One tip draws and the other erases. The markup disappears on its own within a few days. With this and similar markers, I create sketches on all light fabrics.
To sketch on dark fabrics, we can use a washable white marker, white marking pencil or a marking pen. These can be easily wiped off with a damp cloths before heat setting of painted design.
Permanent textile markers for drawing on clothes
Now let’s move on to the next point of our interest – permanent markers which can be used in fabric art.
Primary things to consider when choosing a textile marker are their opacity, tip shape, size and effect.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, first we need to identify the purpose of a marker. Once you’re confident that it’s a textile marker, find out whether it is meant solely for light fabrics or for both – light and dark. If it’s the later one, it means such fabric marker is expected to be opaque.
You may also find it useful to know that there is a variety of sizes and tip shapes of fabric markers as well. This can help us in drawing lines and curves of different width and even shapes.
Just like with drawing on paper, textile markers are best used for small jobs.
I’ll show some examples later in this lesson, but in short, since markers have a limited ink capacity and a small tip to cover the surface with, it’s better to use them only to create small illustrations, doodles, outlines or lettering.
Types and shapes of fabric markers
Extra fine tip textile markers. These are as fine as a ball-pen or a gel-roller. While it’s not advised to draw the lines on clothes that are too thin (with a paint brush or a marker), simply because they’re more prone to damage and washing away, such precise art material can still be of great help when we add small but valuable details to our work, like eye lashes, freckles, micro shading, etc.
Fine tip textile markers. These are more common ones. Almost every brand offers this size of tip because of its moderate precision and ease of use. These are very often resemble a bullet-shape, and their size can vary.
Note, that Edding markers can withstand laundry with temperature up to 60 degrees Celsius. That's remarkable!
Brush tip fabric markers. This type of marker tip is also rather convenient. It allows creating thin and thick lines as well as filling up small areas of fabric with color
Chisel tip textile markers. We can also find them in several sizes, which is often mentioned on the body of a marker. This type of marker has an edgy tip (kind of like an angle brush), where one side is shorter and another one’s longer. Such shape really gives a lot of opportunities to create with and I’d really recommend to have at least one of these, if you enjoy drawing with paint markers. Chisel tip allows for a bold, thick sharp lines, which is great for expressive art. If placed vertically, it can draw a thin straight line without any efforts. If you’ll however, use it at an angle, chisel tip marker will make a beautiful, curvy & confident line which is not possible to achieve otherwise with any other marker tip. That’s why chisel tip markers are so popular among calligraphy enthusiasts and for all other kinds of lettering art. Lettering designs look fantastic and really slick on clothes, think about it.
This "fat" chisel fabric marker from Tulip, can actually be considered as a broad marker due to it's size. However, since it's got a chisel shape tip, we'll keep it in this category. Keep in mind the size of marker tip you need for your project. Chisel tips can be small and broad!
Broad fabric markers. They are really huge and frankly, impressive. If you find a good manufacturer and this kind of marker is properly filled with paint, you can draw really solid lines, imitate graffiti style art, draw some giant tic-tac-toe designs, and basically do anything else big and bold.
If you need to fill an area with color, fabric paint and a wider paint brush will do a better and a faster job, than a textile marker.
Priceless tips for drawing with textile markers on fabric
Following recommendations are experience based. Make sure to take notes, as these points are not a common sense: they are some pro tips which one can figure out only after tests and trials.
Apply them in layers. Illustrations made with textile markers stay bright on clothes longer if we repeat the drawing process at least once. I’ve noticed, that if a design was created with only one layer of paint (fabric marker ink), the color intensity fades away already after second wash. However, if I repeated a drawing once the first layer was dry, illustration outlasted the fabric itself!
Fabric markers are not suitable for creating watercolor style paintings on textile. If you create a line with textile marker on a fabric and then touch it with a little bit of water on the tip of a brush, it will spread out leaving a faintly colored stain. However, you can still draw with fabric markers on top of a watercolor style design made with fabric paints, as it’s demonstrated in the next Lesson
Following a previous point: use markers only on a dry surface. If you’re planning to make a line art or doodle on some colorful background created with fabric paints, first, let that painting dry completely, and only then proceed with markers.
Textile markers also require a thorough shake before you start using them. Be careful, and don’t shake an open marker next to your garment as it may spill out some paint (it happened to me so many times!). Even if you need to freshen up your marker tip in the process of drawing – replace the cap and only then shake it.
Just like fabric paints, markers can vary based on the type of textiles they are suitable for. Some markers are really versatile and can be used on either natural, mixed or entirely synthetic fabrics. Others are suitable only for natural textiles or those with particular percentage of man-made fabrics (usually it’s between 20-25%). This fact is very important to consider before you’re starting your project, because otherwise there’s a risk of your entire work being washed away during laundry.
While some brands of fabric markers state that their product doesn’t require heat fixing, most textile markers turn the design into a permanent one only if we properly iron it. So let’s remember this important step as well.
In the next blog post, we'll look at fabric markers with special effects and design ideas that can be created using any type of textile markers on clothes or other fabrics.
If that's something you want to learn about, Subscribe to FPC community letters, and I'll let you know as soon as the article is out!
I hope you learned something new and these tips can help take your creative work to the next level of awesome👍. Please share your thoughts and insights/questions in comments below or engage with our wonderful community of fabric art enthusiasts on Forum.