Fabric Painting With Fabric Markers or Paint Pens

Little Girl Decorating T-Shirt
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Fabric painting with a marker pen or paint pen rather than brush and paint is particularly useful when it comes to painting thin lines. And there's no brush to clean afterward! Fabric markers and paint pens give you great control for "coloring in," they work easily with stencils, and they can be used with rubber stamps.

  • 01 of 07

    What Makes a Pen a Fabric Marker?

    A fabric marker contains permanent color (dye, paint or ink) that is designed to not wash out of clothing or fade with washing. A regular marker pen labeled "permanent" will likely not wash out either, but these don't come in as many colors as fabric markers do.

  • 02 of 07

    Size Varieties

    Fabric markers come in various sizes, from thin to thick to brush-style tipes. The finer the tip of the marker, the thinner a line you'll be able to make. To get a wider line, don't press down on the tip as this can damage it. Rather tilt the pen so it's at a slight angle, so you're creating the line with the edge of the marker, not just the tip.

  • 03 of 07

    Fabric Selection

    The grain of your fabric has an impact on how well a fabric marker works. A coarse grain or rough texture to a fabric means there are "lumps 'n bumps" the pen has to go over. A fine grain or smooth fabric is easier to work on. If in doubt, test the marker on a scrap bit of fabric or somewhere out of sight, such as an inside seam.

    Be careful not to stop or pause with the tip of the marker resting on the fabric as the color will bleed out into it. If you find yourself hesitating, lift the marker off the fabric while you think about what you're doing.

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    Lettering is easier with a fabric marker rather than a brush. Practice makes for neater letters, and a light pencil line helps get the letters straight. Don't obsess over it though, as the irregularity is part of creating something by hand rather than a machine. It's part of the character of the final item.

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  • 05 of 07

    Large Areas of Color

    You can "color in" with a fabric marker, but it'll use up your markers quickly. It's cheaper to use fabric paint for large areas. Be sure to let an area of color dry before using another, otherwise, the colors may bleed.

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    Fabric markers work very well with stencils. For an outline, run the tip along the edge of a stencil, keeping the pen upright so it doesn't slip underneath.
    To "color in" a stencil design, you can do it with the stencil in place or remove it. The former makes it easier to avoid accidentally going over the edge of the design, just be careful the stencil doesn't slip as you're working.

  • 07 of 07


    Fabric markers work great for printing on fabric with rubber stamps or any flattish, non-absorbent item. The technique is simple: add color to the stamp by running the fabric marker over it, turn stamp over and put on fabric, press down firmly and the color comes off the stamp onto the fabric.

    The tricky bit is that you need to work quickly so the color doesn't dry on the stamp, but that's easy to do if it's a small stamp. You can, of course, use multiple colors on a stamp, not just one. Pressing the stamp down a second time will give you a lighter image as there'll be a little color on it. Experiment on a scrap piece of fabric to get a feel for it before doing it "for real."