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A good fabric marker can easily transform T-shirts, canvas totes, sneakers, denim jackets, and more with its vibrant, nontoxic, and often permanent ink.
We researched the best fabric markers for every project, considering the permanence, tip style, and compatibility of each pick. Our favorite option for shirts is the TULIP Dual-Tip Fabric Markers. Thanks to the unique two-tip design, creating vibrant and detailed permanent designs on T-shirts is mess-free and easy.
Here, the best fabric markers for every material.
Best for Shirts: TULIP Dual-Tip Fabric Markers
Fine tip is great for details
Brush tip fills large areas speedily
Ink holds up in the wash
Can dry up quickly
Tulip is a top name in fabric markers, and these dual-tipped markers get top marks from customers. They’re perfect for T-shirts as they have both an extra-fine tip for outlining, stippling, and detailed designs as well as a brush tip for filling in larger areas quickly. Included are 14 colors that span the rainbow. They work best on white or light-colored fabrics.
Tulip boasts a nontoxic formula safe for kids of all ages that dries quickly and permanently. Also, the tips won't snag the fabric when drawing, making it easy to color on clothing.
Customers say that while these markers can take a bit of getting used to, the colors are vibrant and cover fabric well. They also hold up well after going through the washing machine (just be sure to wait 24 hours before washing).
Best for Shoes: Best Fabric Markers
Colors don't run
Work well on dark colors
Some colors dry out quickly
To jazz up your kicks, this set of markers from Best is hard to beat. You can use them to decorate almost any fabric, and their bullet tips make them nimble enough to create intricate designs on all parts of your shoes.
Customers give them high marks, with the majority saying they don't bleed at all, and the colors stay vibrant even after washing. Some report that the colors vary in consistency, but most say the colors are gorgeous, go on smoothly, and work well on a variety of materials.
Best for Onesies: Crafts 4 All Fine Tip Fabric Markers
Varied color range
Great for shading
Hold up well after washing
Some colors run out of ink quickly
For gussying up onesies, you can’t go wrong with this pack from Crafts 4 ALL. There are 24 markers in the pack with a variety of colors, including neutrals like brown and black as well as bright shades of yellow, pink, and blue. The bullet-tips are fine, so you can make detailed designs, and they work on any material. The no-bleed ink is also non-toxic and safe for children—this is essential when you're making something for baby.
Customers give these markers high marks all around, saying the colors are vibrant and long-lasting. They’re not the best if you want to color large areas, but the fine point is great for outlining and small, detailed designs on baby clothes and other items.
Best for Black Fabric: Mosaiz Fabric Markers Pen Set
Great color selection
Works well on dark colors
Stencils won't last long
It can be difficult to find fabric markers that will show up on darker fabrics, but this pack from Mosaiz is full of vibrant colors and bright metallics that stand out on any color. There are 24 pens in all, which have pointed, bullet tips that allow you to draw thin lines as well as shade in bigger areas. The set also comes with 36 adhesive plastic stencils, which are great for those times you don’t want to freehand a design.
While the stencils don’t last forever, customers like that they’re included and say the ink doesn’t bleed. They also note that these pens are easy to use, and the colors are beautiful and stay bright after washing.
Best for Labeling: SHARPIE Rub-a Dub Laundry Markers
Holds up well after washing
Doesn't wash off in the dishwasher
Ink dries quickly
Some colors can fade after time
When you’re not trying to get creative and you just want to identify clothing so it doesn’t get lost, these straightforward Rub-a-Dub markers from Sharpie do the trick. They have a fine point, so you can write in small spaces, and the ink won’t come off in the washing machine, even if you use bleach. If you want clothing autographed, these markers are great for that too.
Customers say they work well on everything from clothing to sippy cups and snack containers. They like that the ink dries quickly without smudging and doesn’t fade from clothing even after months of washing. Some wish the tip was finer and some report bleeding, but most say they work great and are handy to have on hand for all sorts of labeling needs.
Best Sewing: Dritz Dual Purpose Marking Pen
Goes on vibrant but disappears completely
Wipes away easily with a damp cloth
Not messy at all
Can be difficult to make straight lines
For many craft projects you want ink that will stay put, but when it comes to sewing, you'll want the least visibility. These marking pens from Dritz do just that. They allow you to make the marks you need for quilting, needlepoint, and other sewing projects, then they disappear with no telltale sign there were ever there—without needing to fully wash your project.
While you have to be willing to work pretty quickly, customers say these pens work well and are much easier to use than chalk or waxy pencils. They also love how thoroughly the marks vanish and say they’re a staple for sewing.
Best for Silk: TULIP Fabric Paint Markers
Works well on dark fabrics
Wide color range
Dries out quickly, especially certain colors
You can create gorgeous, one-of-a-kind silk scarves with these opaque markers from Tulip. This pack of 15 bullet-tip markers features an array of colors, including gold and silver. They work on both light and dark fabrics—many fabric markers only show up on white or light-colored surfaces—and allow you to freestyle fashionable scarves in all sorts of color schemes.
Like other Tulip products, crafters give these pens rave reviews. They say the colors are bright and show up well no matter the fabric, and the price is good for these quality pens. The biggest complaint seems to be that some feel the ink runs out sooner than they’d like, especially with the silver pens.
Best for Hats: Sharpie Stained by Sharpie Permanent Fabric Markers
Doesn't require heat setting
Great for shading or gradients
Takes more ink to fill a space than other options
You can transform a basic hat into a unique, bold creation with just a few swipes of these fabric markers from Sharpie. The package comes with eight markers in black, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, pink, and purple, and while they look a lot like regular Sharpies, these are designed specifically for fabrics. They have brush tips, which make them great for outlining and filling in larger spaces.
According to users, the markers are easy to use, and the colors are bright, beautiful, and don’t bleed. Some wish they came in more colors, but say that overall these are the best markers they’ve found for customizing hats and other items.
The TULIP Dual-Tip Fabric Markers are the best pick for drawing on T-shirts. The formula is nontoxic, permanent, and holds up well in the wash. If you're decorating canvas shoes and sneakers, opt for the Best Fabric Markers. The vibrant colors don't bleed and work well on dark colors, all at an affordable price.
What to Look for in Fabric Markers
Perhaps the most important factor to consider is which fabric your markers are most compatible with, as this ensures that you get the most vibrant color possible. Luckily, this information is usually included right on the package. Most fabric markers perform well on cotton, canvas, and denim, which is great for designing clothing items. Others are compatible with wood and even rocks.
Also, some fabric markers are better on dark fabric than others. If you're working on black cotton or canvas, it may be wise to purchase fabric markers specifically made for dark fabric to ensure your designs will show up bright and opaque.
Fabric markers come in a variety of tip styles that are designed for different projects. Brush tips are wide and long and perfect for filling in large areas quickly, while fine tips help create detailed designs with lots of delicate lines. Bullet tips are most common. With these, you have the control to create thin lines that get thicker as you apply more pressure.
Most fabric markers are permanent. This ensures they last after runs in the washing machine or dishwasher. This is pivotal for preserving designs, labels, or autographs on fabric. Be sure to pay attention to the care instructions for washing to ensure your ink lasts as long as possible. Some require heat from an iron before washing or require a waiting period before putting in the machine.
If you are using a fabric marker for sewing, quilting, needlepoint, or embroidery, you will not want a permanent pick. These fabric markers are used for making marks and guiding lines that eventually disappear and won't show up on your final project.
How do you stop fabric markers from bleeding?
Bleeding is most likely to happen on loosely woven fabric, so selecting a tightly woven fabric will limit your bleeding. Ironing your fabric before drawing can also get rid of any bumps that may cause your markers to catch and bleed in the process. Additionally, some artists recommend lining your designs in gel pens to prevent bleeding.
It also helps to ensure you are using the best fabric markers for your project, which goes back to compatibility. The more suited your fabric markers are to your fabric, the less you will have to worry about bleeding.
Overall, you want to be confident in your strokes. Pausing between lines can cause blots that take away from the overall design.
Do you need to iron fabric markers?
Some fabric markers require heat setting to ensure they do not bleed in the wash. Read the instructions of your fabric markers to confirm if this is a necessary step or not, as some just require waiting a certain time period before watching. Heat setting involves using an iron over your design to set it so it does not move or bleed.
Can you use traditional Sharpies on fabric?
While traditional Sharpies are not specifically designed for fabric, they'll last on a variety of surfaces, including fabric. When using Sharpies, artists recommend washing the fabric thoroughly before beginning to draw. When it's time to wash the fabric again, the ink should be set with an iron before washing to ensure the design lasts. Overall, it's best to find markers specifically made for fabric, and Sharpies carries their own fabric pack.
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This article was written by Julie Evans, a writer and editor who has worked with a host of diverse companies including Microsoft, USA Today, Realtor.com, Brit + Co, CafeMom, and SheKnows among others. She started writing for The Spruce brands in August 2017.
Additional reporting was done by Julia Fields, a lifestyle writer for The Spruce brands covering all things surrounding toys, gifts, and the holidays. She's also covered similar topics in other roles, including toy reviews, product round-ups, and more.