How To Draw On Clothes Permanently: Best Ideas

Whether you want to do a work of art on the back of a jacket or write your name on a friend’s last day of school shirt, the large array of art supplies that will do the job is mind-boggling. Are the colors on the box the same as when you apply them to your article of clothing? How thick will the application appear, and how long will it last?

In this article, we will concentrate on permanent paints and markers or pens. We will look at what components a permanent marker needs to make it water and heat-proof, what prevents it from leaking or bleeding into the fabric, and how quickly it dries.

If you have a choice of fabric on which to do your artwork, it may be worth your while to find out which makes the best canvases. So, without further ado, let us investigate this topic.

What Fabric Will Be Best?

Considering that clothing is generally not made out of stiff artists’ canvas, we need to explore the most suitable fabric for wearing and painting. Another point to consider is if your canvas can be stretched onto an easel while you work on it, and made into clothing later, or if you want to draw or paint onto an existing item of clothing.

Fabric made from natural fibers is better at absorbing ink than synthetic fibers. Both linen and silk can be used for paintings and clothing and give different finishes. Linen produces texture, whereas silk gives a smoother look. If your project is to simply mark an item of clothing with a name, there are numerous permanent markers on the market that will withstand frequent washing.

Painting pictures on clothing may be a different ball game altogether. Here you will need to assess the fabric for both watercolor and oil painting. Watercolor painting is best done on a light fabric such as unbleached muslin or calico. !00% Cotton and t-shirting also make good painting canvasses. Linen is recommended as the traditional fabric to oil paint on but is quite pricey. Cotton works well and is more affordable.

Whichever fabric you decide to use, you will need a portable painting hoop, available at most craft stores, that will hold the fabric and taut and still while you paint.


The good news is that you will not need to have top-of-the-range paints to paint on fabric. The quality paints have a richer pigment content and will last longer. Nowadays there is suitable paint for almost all applications, including fabric paint which is specially formulated. If it is not available, acrylic paint can substitute nicely.

It is fairly flexible, important on clothing, and colorfast. It also comes in a wide variety of colors. The million-dollar question arises. “Can I use wall paint on clothing?” The answer is yes. Your painting coverall can attest to that.

Latex indoor paint is probably the most suitable on fabric. You will probably need a fabric medium to mix with the paint to make it more flexible. However, it is prudent to check the safety of human skin before painting all over your favorite shirt. It is worth your while to do a small test beforehand to gauge the result.


Fabric markers contain ink that is specially formulated to stick to and glide over the material. Markers that are designed for paper and other surfaces may skip or bleed into the fabric. The permanent marker contains a polyester reservoir of ink, paint, or dye that is not affected by light, is waterproof, and should remain fast in most types of weather.

The felt tip is manufactured from strongly compressed porous ceramic or synthetic fibers. Solvents such as xylol and toluol are used for permanent markers.

Types of Permanent Markers

The main difference between types of markers is the ink. These are alcohol-based and pigment-based.

Alcohol-based ink dries quickly, is smooth and fluid and colors blend easily. If you want to create designs of various colors, these are the kinds of markers to look out for. On the downside, you need to work quickly and cannot keep the markers open for long because of the quick drying quality.

Pigment-based ink is suitable for beginners and those who want bold simple colors. This ink does not merge well and is resistant to water. The advantage is that they are easy to use, and stay moister for longer, but more experienced artists may be unable to blend colors and layers.

Marker Tip Size and Shape

There are several sizes and shapes of marker tips and these influence your style and writing. Practice with the most popular ones until you find those that suit you. Some common ones are:

  • The bullet tip. A favourite for creating clean lines due to its stiff round shape. The types of fonts you can use are limited.
  • The fine tip. As the name implies, this tip is very thin and is used for intricate designs and writing. It adds precision and detail.
  • The chisel tip. This tip has plenty of edges including wide, narrow, and flat. It is suitable for writing in different fonts and strokes.
  • The brush tip. These markers are not common and can be quite pricey. This tip is suitable for cursive writing and creates strokes that look like they were made by a brush. Hence the name.

Ink Quality, Quantity and Colour Variation

These three components can separate permanent markers of high and low quality. Good quality ink flows smoothly, with no color variations or disruptions. When choosing a set of markers pay attention to the variety of colours. Usually, the more color variations there are, the more expensive the set.


It is recommended that markers have an AP or ACMI-approved seal on them. Permanent markers can be toxic or cause allergies if the ink comes in contact with the skin. This is especially true when children are using them. Never place a permanent marker near your mouth or eyes.

Reviews and Buying Guide

There are numerous manufacturers and brands of fabric paints and markers on the market. Some artists swear by Sharpie ink and others on other brands such as Prismacolor and Shuttle Art. Most brands will have different types, suitable for whatever you wish to draw or paint on your clothing. The important criteria to remember are that they need to be non-toxic, fade-proof, and water-resistant. Permanent markers tend to be strong smelling and emit a certain amount of fumes. It is not only the quality of the ink and tips to look out for, but you should ensure that the caps of markers are not too difficult to remove and close completely to avoid them drying out when not in use.

Last Thoughts

Choosing paints or markers to draw on clothing may seem like a challenge especially if you want your work of art to be permanent. If you have the choice of fabric to use, ensure that it will be ‘drawing-friendly’ else you may find your picture disappearing in the first wash. Whether you are using paints or markers, ensure that those you choose are suitable for fabric or you may find fading or bleeding through ruins your design.

Remember that permanent markers may contain chemicals that are detrimental to your skin and lungs, so exercise caution when using them. If you stick to the basics of non-toxic, fade-proof, and water-resistant you can’t go too wrong, and the only restraint to your creativity may be your imagination.