Fabric Markers vs Fabric Paints: Which is Better?

Written by Laura Walker / Fact checked by Leilani Carroll

fabric markers vs fabric paint

Although you technically can use permanent markers like Sharpie on fabric, the colors will not be able to last long and are bound to fade eventually. Therefore, shelling out a few more bucks to get specialized options, such as fabric markers and fabric paints, would be a much better idea.

However, between markers and paints for fabric, which one is better? Which should you get?

Below, we will look into the specifics of fabric markers vs. fabric paints. Read on to decide!

Fabric Paints vs Fabric Markers

cloth-paint-pens

What are fabric markers (also known as fabric pens) and fabric paints? Their names are pretty much self-explanatory. They are markers and paints made for fabric. For example, you can use them on cotton, for t-shirts, and for shoes made from fabric.

Fabric markers and fabric paints both come in many colors, so users can bring vibrant designs to life. However, there are several differences between these two types that you should know to determine which one would be a better fit for your art project.

Let’s explore how fabric paints and markers are unique in detail now!

1. Colors

white-fabric-paint-pen

Both fabric markers and pens have a wide color range. You can easily get the individual color or opt for a set, which ranges from 3- to 30-pack options. There are also white fabric paint pen and ink for decorating darker surfaces and/or correcting mistakes.

In addition, these two fabric decorating items are also available in glitter colors, although fabric paint is slightly more diverse in this department.

2. The consistency

cotton

The first difference between fabric markers and paints is the consistency. Markers lay down ink, which is fluid and thin. On the other hand, paints are gooey and thick. This also affects how they can be used.

Markers are better for making clean lines and patterns, whereas the paint is for broader coverage, as well as effects like sponging, stenciling, and stamping.

3. The ink

permanent-fabric-pens

On a different note, fabric markers are available in both permanent and non-permanent ink, but fabric paints are permanent. And because you have another option with fabric markers, they are more versatile. You can use these fabric markers for sewing guides, for instance.

4. How to use

use-paint-pens-on-fabric

Fabric markers have tips, just like other regular markers. They can come in different shapes and sizes, but their application is always uncomplicated. You can use them the same way as you would a marker for paper.

Paints are different in that applying them requires tools, such as a paintbrush, combing tool, sponge, or sprayer. Depending on the requirement of your ink project, you may also have to thin down the paint with water.

As you can see, handling fabric paint can be trickier, and you might not have as much control in terms of application.

5. The drying time

clothing-paint-markers

The drying time is another aspect where fabric markers and fabric paints differ. The latter takes more time to dry than the former.

To be specific, whereas markers usually require a waiting time of 24 hours, you must leave fabric paint for up to 72 hours or more. In some cases, the paint must also be heat-set with an iron; otherwise, it’ll wash off.

As such, a project with paints can be more time-consuming.

6. The blendability

draw-on-clothes-permanently

Because fabric markers dry more quickly, they are not good for blending. Fabric paints are much better for this purpose. You can mix different colors for customization too.

7. The skills required

fabric-markers-for-sewing

This aspect is in line with something we mentioned briefly earlier. Fabric markers are simpler to use than fabric paints. With the markers, you just need to follow instructions on the packaging labels. But with the paints, you must have specific skills, like handling a brush.

If you are not ready to invest time and effort into developing and honing certain skills, then you might be better off with fabric markers. You can use these without learning special skills.

8. Cost

Fabric paints are more expensive than fabric markers. You can spend as little as $5 for a basic marker set! In contrast, most fabric paint kits start with double digits.

However, it is crucial to note that if you are working on a large project, you will need more fabric markers than paints to fill in the same area. Thus, fabric paints might only be expensive upfront, and you will actually have to shell out more money in the long run if you get fabric markers.

9. Lifespan

Between fabric paint and marker, the former will be able to last for a longer time, especially if heat set.

However, you can rest assured that fabric paint and permanent fabric ink will be able to stay for very long. To extend their lifespan, consider washing them inside-out using gentle-cycle settings.

Pros & Cons

Fabric Markers

fabric-paints-and-markers

Pros
  • Easy to use and control
  • Available in both permanent and non-permanent options
  • More versatile
  • Dry quickly
Cons
  • Do not blend well
  • Do not last as long

Fabric Paints

for-t-shirts

Pros
  • Permanent
  • Can be used for large coverage
  • Good for blending and mixing colors
  • Can last for a longer time than markers
Cons
  • Dry slowly
  • More complicated to use and control

Which is Better?

acrylic-paint-pens-for-fabric

This depends on your needs and wants.

If you are working on a small, time-limited project that does not need blending or color-mixing, then fabric markers will be better. These will also be ideal if your work is temporary or has to be washable.

That said, if your work is permanent, large, and requires mixing and blending, you will not go wrong with fabric paints.

Frequently Asked Questions

for-shoes

Do fabric markers wash out? Do paint pens wash off fabric?

This depends on the type of ink the marker has.

Fabric markers can have permanent or disappearing ink. The latter washes out. If you want something that will not come off, then permanent fabric markers and permanent fabric pens are the ones you should get. These will let you draw on clothes permanently.

Can I use Sharpie on fabric?

Yes. Sharpie ink can be used on fabric. However, it will not be the same as using clothing paint markers, cloth paint pens, dye pens, and permanent paint.

For more details, check out our other blog post on Sharpie vs. Fabric Markers.

Are fabric paints the same as acrylic paint pens for fabric?

Not all fabric paints are acrylic-based, but there’s such a thing as acrylic-based paint pens for fabric, but they are also designed to be painted on rocks, metals, ceramics, glass, etc. Therefore, I wouldn’t say that these two types are interchangeable.

In any case, feel free to use paint pens on fabric, so long as it suits your needs.

Should I use permanent markers as fabric markers for my projects?

You can, but we would recommend sticking to fabric markers. After all, these are designed to be used on fabric. They have more advantages than permanent markers. For example, they are less likely to bleed.

And although permanent markers are designed to be long-lasting, they are bound to fade after several washes. There’s also the issue that these markers’ ink doesn’t do well with certain fabric types, such as polyester.

If you insist on using permanent markers, wait an hour or so for the ink to dry completely. Then place a white cloth over the artwork and iron it for 5 minutes. This will extend the ink’s lifespan, albeit not permanently.

Conclusion

To make beautiful fabric art projects, you need the right tools. Now that you know the essentials of fabric markers vs. fabric paints, you can choose between the two. Think about what it is that you want to do to make an informed decision. Then, let us know in the comments below!

If you have other thoughts you would like to share, feel free to reach out to us in the comments as well.

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