How to Sharpen a China Marker? – 4 Easy Ways

Written by Laura Walker / Fact checked by Leilani Carroll

how to sharpen a china marker

China markers, often also called grease pencils, are writing tools with waxy cores. Instead of lead or graphite, these markers/pencils have hardened and colored wax, which can be used on glossy non-porous surfaces.

For example, you can use them for rhinestones markings.

They are quite handy, so it doesn’t hurt to have one ready at home or work. However, it is crucial to note that they are used differently from ordinary markers/pencils. The biggest difference is in the sharpening. So, how to sharpen a China marker?

Learn the methods along with the materials to prepare and the steps to follow in this article.

Step-By-Step Guide to Sharpen a China Marker


Way #1: Using the Attached Pull-Out String

What to Prepare

You should have a pair of scissors ready and a trash can to collect the peelings after you are done with sharpening. Aside from these, let’s get started!

Detailed Steps

Often loosely referred to as the pencil with strings, most China markers come with a pull-out string. This string is thin and attached to the tip of the writing tool.

When you pull the string, it will unravel the paper that encases the pencil. And when the paper is peeled off, more wax is exposed for you to use and continue making markings.

Here are the specific steps to take:

  1. Find the string at the tip of the pencil.
  2. Hold it between your thumb and index finger.
  3. Tug it downward with moderate pressure and speed.
  4. The string should pull off the paper wrappings as it tugged downward, exposing the waxy core.

The peeling process does not always happen seamlessly. So, if this is the case for you, do not fret, use more force to yank the string downward or pull it sideways.

Instead, consider following these steps:

  1. Hold the string with one hand’s thumb and index finger
  2. At the same time, hold the pencil in your other hand’s thumb and index finger
  3. Pull the string down while rolling the pencil in one direction (either left or right)

The simultaneous actions will help you strip the paper casing off more easily.

  • If you are still struggling to peel cleanly, re-position your fingers so that you are tugging at a slightly downward angle. You just need to pull and unwind the marker until you have enough of the waxy core to continue using the tool to write or draw.
  • To finish sharpening, cut off the excess peeled string. You should use sharp scissors to do this. Do not leave any hanging string because it can get in the way while you are making marks.

You can use this method to sharpen flat pencils, Sharpie peel-off China markers, white or any other color, Dixon China markers, and Phano China markers!

Way #2: Using a Knife


This second method applies to China markers that are wrapped by wood and do not come with a pull-out string. A knife will substitute your hands in sharpening the writing tool.

Steps to follow:

  1. Hold the knife in your dominant hand and the marker in the other.
  2. Place the knife at the end of the marker’s wrapper. Then, tilt it at a 45 degree angle.
  3. Push the knife into the wood wrapper. Make sure you are very careful while doing this to avoid getting hurt.
  4. Once the knife penetrates the wood wrapper, push it further to shave it slowly.
  5. Continue doing step 4 while twisting the marker to shave it all-round.
  6. Stop when enough of the waxy core is exposed. You can test the marker on a hard surface to see if it is alright for use.
  • Wear cotton gloves for added protection.
  • The key to success with this method is being attentive. It is important that you are meticulous. If you want the best results, be prepared to spend a lot of time and effort. That being said, we advise against using this procedure when you are in a hurry.
  • Using the pull-out string or a knife are the traditional ways to sharpen a China marker. But there are less conventional ways as well. This section runs through them:

Way #3: Using a MarkME Microblading Pencil Sharpener

A MarkME sharpener is a product specially designed to sharpen China markers.

Compared to the traditional approaches outlined above, it:

  • Takes less time and effort
  • Minimizes the chances of you cutting your finger(s)
  • Reducing the risks of breaking off the marker/pencil tip
  • Guarantees that you get a sharp pencil every time

Here’s how you use it:

  1. Hold the sharpener in one hand and your marker/pencil in the other.
  2. Slide the tip of the pencil into the slot on the sharpener.
  3. Check that it is firmly lodged in place.
  4. Push it upward through the slot with light pressure. This motion will shave off a bit of the casing.
  5. Repeat step 4 until you reach your desired waxy core exposure.
  • Make sure you do not shove or press the pencil down into the slot from above. You can only get it to work by sliding it from the end of the slot and into it.

For visual guidance, check out this video.

This China marker sharpener will work excellently for grease eyebrow markers. Do not use it to sharpen Sharpie grease markers or similar markers with pull-out strings.

Way #4: Using Scissors


It is also possible to sharpen a pencil with scissors. This is just like using a knife to sharpen your China marker. Indeed, the steps are the same, so make sure you have a sharp pair of scissors.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Can you sharpen China marker?

Although we use the term sharpen for China markers, we don’t actually use a sharpener to make the lead tip pointier. Instead, we use the steps above! Scroll up again if you do not remember the proper procedure yet. Read and follow along to sharpen your markers.

What is the string for on a China marker?

This string is what can be pulled to strip off the paper wrappings of a China marker to expose the waxy core. Sometimes, instead of a string, there is a paper strip.

Do you sharpen retractable China markers?

No. Retractable China markers, also known as mechanical grease pencils, are refilled rather than sharpened. When your marker stops working, you will have to purchase the cores separately.

How do you sharpen a marker tip?

Normal markers filled with ink do not need to be sharpened. But you will have to sharpen wax pencils, such as China markers. To reiterate, if you want to stick to the traditional methods, you can either use the pull-out string or a knife. For less conventional methods, MarkME sharpener or scissors.


How to sharpen a China marker? As you have read above, you can use the attached string, a Markme sharpener, a knife, or scissors.

Regardless of the procedure to opt for, it takes some steps to get a Chinagraph pencil back to work.

Which is the best method for you? Let us know in the comments. Share any other tips/tricks you have there too.

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