How to choose best fabric markers for cotton


Choosing the best fabric markers for cotton

Textile markers are suitable for many types of fabrics. Especially cotton, but also polyester and silk, can be decorated with markers. When choosing the fabric, however, always make sure that it is as light as possible, otherwise, the colors will not show well.

The most important things in summary

  • Textile markers work best on white fabric with a low percentage of synthetic fibers. The fabric should be finish-free (no impregnation) and not pre-washed with fabric softener. Vivid, high-quality colors and white decorative markers are also visible on dark fabrics.
  • After a few washes, most motifs lose their luminosity. Painting with textile markers is, therefore, best suited for textiles that can be washed cold or do not need to be washed too often. Faded motifs can also be painted several times.
  • A high-quality alternative to textile markers is textile paint from a tube or jar. You can apply this to homemade or purchased stamps and then bring opaque on the desired fabric.

Special features

  • Painting like felt pens.
  • No gradients are possible.
  • Luminosity varies.
  • Washable up to 60.
  • Fades in the long run.

What types of markers are there?

Highlighters contain highly pigmented colors that are waterproof and light fast after drying. Painted-on motifs thus remain in shape. The markers are not only used for signatures but can also be used for decorative and artistic fabric painting. Markers for colorful textiles contain varnish-like substances that combine with the textile fabric when exposed to high heat and form an opaque layer. Simple markers are used dry and are suitable only for light fabrics.

  • Standard is 5 to 12 colors.
  • Large sets contain up to 24 colors.
  • Colors with glitter effects.
  • Colors with metallic effect.
  • Neon colors.
  • UV colors.

How to dye fabrics with textile markers

Textile markers are child’s play to use and are therefore often used by craft beginners. Professionals in fabric painting use paint from a tube or jar and apply it with stamps or pad printing. There are two variations for fixing the paint in the fabric:

Drying markers.

The easiest way is to use fabric paint markers, whose color is washable after drying. To do this, simply paint on the desired motif and let the fabric dry (lying down!) for 24 hours.

Colors to iron on

Colors that are fixed with heat are usually more opaque and less air-permeable than textile colors for drying. Markers for dark textiles must actually always be fixed with heat. If you are painting stuffed animals and other textiles that cannot be ironed, you can also fix them with a hairdryer or in the oven.

Short ironing instructions

  • Place the painted fabric on a heat-resistant surface. For multi-layered fabrics, remember to put a piece of baking paper between the layers of fabric to prevent paint from getting on the back.
  • Heat the iron to the temperature specified in the instructions. For most pens, temperatures between 100° to 110° are sufficient. Some colors need to be heated at up to 150°.
  • Let the fabric cool lying down after ironing. After 24 hours, the design will be firmly bonded to the fabric and crack resistant.

Advantages and disadvantages of textile markers


  • Suitable for children.
  • Free painting on fabric.
  • Perfect for signatures.
  • Easy to fix.


  • Low opacity.
  • Fading luminosity.
  • Inferior products scratch and write very pale.

Best Permanent Fabric Markers

Crafts 4 ALL Fabric Paint Art Markers

Crafts 4 ALL Fabric Paint Art Markers


  • Multi-purpose ink works on fabric and paper.
  • Machine washable and non-toxic.

Best Fabric Markers with Bullet and Chisel Tips

US Art Supply Permanent Fabric Markers

US Art Supply Permanent Fabric Markers


  • Provides fine detail lines.
  • Non-toxic, fade-proof, washerproof.

Best Machine Washable Permanent Fabric Markers

Arteza Fabric Markers

Arteza Fabric Markers


  • Non-fading colors.
  • The ink is weatherproof, fade-resistant, and lightfast.

Best Non-Toxic Permanent Fabric Markers

Tulip Permanent Nontoxic Fabric Markers

Tulip Permanent Nontoxic Fabric Markers


  • Dries quickly and permanently.
  • No need to heat set.

Best Opaque Finish Fabric Paint Markers

Tulip Fabric Paint Markers

Tulip Fabric Paint Markers


  • Best choice for dark fabric.
  • Paint inks dry permanently.

Buying Guide

The true quality of textile markers usually becomes apparent only weeks after purchase. Therefore, it is worthwhile to study customer reviews. In the best case, you can even find product pictures among the customer reviews, which show the colors after washing. You should consider the following points when buying:


  • After the first wash, it becomes apparent how durable the colors actually are.
  • Water-based colors soak into the fabric completely and are usually less durable than opaque colors. They are only easily recognizable on light-colored fabrics.
  • Varnish-type markers can also paint and write on dark fabrics. The colors are stronger.

Fixation method

  • Allow drying.
  • Iron on.
  • Blow-dry or heat in the oven.


  • Water-based inks wash out faster than iron-on textile inks.
  • Heated ink layers sometimes form plastic-like surfaces that easily become brittle or fade due to UV radiation.
  • High-quality textile markers.


  • Sets for dark textiles almost never contain black pencils.
  • Opaque colors are more intense than textile colors for white fabrics.


  • Water-based paints are mostly non-toxic.
  • Paints for children should also only be used under supervision.

Fabric painting techniques for markers

With fabric markers, small and large artists can simply paint away. As a base – at least for the first attempts – you should first use worn-out white shirts or shirts to get a feel for the pens. If you want to make street-ready designs, you can pre-paint them with a ballpoint pen or transfer paper. Hobbyists who have a lot of experience with fabric painting usually use a mixture of stamping and felt painting techniques. On many fabrics, you can also use markers in combination with stencils.

Removing textile paint from clothing

If something goes wrong when painting textiles, the colors can be removed from almost all surfaces with solvents containing alcohol. It gets a little more complicated when textile paint gets onto textiles that were not intended for painting. The paint is made to survive as many washes as possible in textiles, so the speed is of the essence in the event of minor accidents.

First aid for stains in clothing

  • Wash the stain as soon as possible under cold water. Water-soluble paint can be completely removed in this way, provided you do not wait too long.
  • If the paint has already dried up, try to pick up any residue that has not yet bonded to the fabric with a paper towel or carefully scrape it off.
  • If the stain cannot be removed with water, rub the area several times with washing-up liquid or detergent and wash the fabric.
  • If there is still color in the shirt after a subsequent wash, allow the fabric to dry and use an alcohol-based solvent to remove the stain. Nail polish remover, alcohol cleaner, or disinfectant spray are suitable solvents.


Do textile markers work on jeans?

Yes! Textile markers for dark fabrics are more suitable than those for light fabrics.

Can you paint shoes with textile markers?

Customizing sneakers is a huge trend. The more individuals, the better! Since the soles are not heat-resistant, you should dry the paint with a hairdryer or use self-drying markers.

How environmentally friendly are textile markers?

Not very environmentally friendly. All products on the market are made of non-recycled plastic. There can also be a microplastic waste with some paints. Alternatively, you can use jarred water-based textile paints available at creative markets.

How to draw on clothes using a fabric pen – Video

Additional Questions

Do fabric markers work on cotton?

Indeed, fabric pens are highly versatile and can be utilized on a wide range of materials, cotton included. Other surfaces that these markers work well on comprise polyester, rayon, velvet, leather, and canvas to name a few. They are a fantastic resource for personalizing clothing items with unique designs or text, or even producing intricate artwork on bags or shoes.

Which markers are best for fabric?

The choice of the best fabric markers depends largely on the specific project or the type of cloth you’re working with. However, it would be helpful to consider the color variety, the tip size, and whether the markers are washable or not. Brands renowned for their quality fabric markers include Arteza, Crayola, and Tulip, among others.

How do you get Sharpie to stay on cotton?

Getting a Sharpie to stay on cotton involves several steps. First, be sure to use a Sharpie that is specifically designed for fabric. Traditional Sharpies may fade over time or run in the wash. Secondly, after drawing your design, let it dry completely. You can then set the ink by pressing it with a hot iron (ensure there’s a protective cloth between the iron and the design). Finally, when washing the cotton item in the future, do it on a gentle cycle to preserve the Sharpie design.

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