How to Use Fabric Pens

Updated April 13, 2018

Marker on a child's clothes used to be a mother's nightmare, but now it's just another chance to show off. Fewer things are cuter than drawings made by kids, and what better way to display them then on dad's chest or mom's purse? Fabric markers aren't just for kids. You can use these markers, which are available in many colours, to draw on fabric of almost any type. There's no trick to using fabric pens, and the ink is permanent, so there's no limit to the things you can draw on.

Wash and dry your fabric. Do not use fabric softener or a dryer sheet because the oil in them will interfere with the colour absorption.

Cover your cardboard with waxed paper, and tape it down securely. Change the waxed paper between projects to keep any stray ink from smearing the inside of your fabric.

Pin your fabric to the foam core with straight pins. T-pins work best, if you can find them. Pin it taut without stretching it to prevent your final design from being distorted.

Slide the cardboard in between the layers of fabric---like the front and back of a T-shirt---to keep any colour from seeping through.

Draw on the fabric exactly as you would draw on paper. Use a straight edge for solid lines, and use stencils for repeated patterns.

Let your creation dry overnight before wearing it, and let it set for at least 24 hours before washing it.


Use fabric markers to embellish iron-on transfers and build scenes around little patches.


Never bleach your hand-drawn items.

Things You'll Need

  • Fabric markers
  • Clean fabric
  • Foam core (about 1 foot by 2 feet)
  • Cardboard
  • Waxed paper
  • Tape
  • Straight pins
  • Straight edge
  • Stencils
  • Shapes
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About the Author

Emmy-award nominated screenwriter Brynne Chandler is a single mother of three who divides her time between professional research and varied cooking, fitness and home & gardening enterprises. A running enthusiast who regularly participates in San Francisco's Bay to Breakers run, Chandler works as an independent caterer, preparing healthy, nutritious meals for Phoenix area residents.