Choosing the best fabric markers for your next craft project shouldn’t be that hard but it is. Of all of the different fabric markers on the market we have selected the best of the lot, and paired them with a “guide to fabric markers” to help you choose the right option for your next craft project.
Fabric markers are an excellent and affordable way to transfer awesome designs onto fabric. Marker paint or ink can be applied to virtually any fabric type including synthetics if you choose the right product. Other methods of transferring artistic designs onto fabric like heat transfers are less accessible and costs are substantially more.
This is also a fantastic activity for kids and groups to participate in. Fabric markers are convenient and requires very few supplies to get started. Beginners and seasoned artists alike can create fun and personal designs, together, without having to cater to individual skills individually.
When children get to create their own designs and then wear them, nothing can be more gratifying. Just as well, seeing a family or friend wear your creations is just as great. Check out the guide below to get started with fabric marker crafts or if you think your project would be better served with paint check out our fabric paint guide!
Complete Guide To Fabric Markers: How To Choose Your Markers
Fortunately, when searching for fabric markers, you only have to decide between two different types of markers. Your choices are really limited to alcohol based markers and paint based markers. Always steer clear of water-based markers as they will wash away easily.
In the guide I will discuss the difference between paint and alcohol based inks. Each will produce different results. Once you understand the different types of fabric markers you will be able to select the right fabric paint for any project and fabric you have in mind.
Fabric Marker Types
Fabric markers are a great alternative to fabric paint as they are very convenient and portable. Fabric markers are also a very good choice for kids crafts since they do not require any special setup and cleanup is minimal.
Fabric markers are available in both alcohol ink based and acrylic textile paint based versions. Choose the type of marker you go with based on the project and material you are using. Typical the alcohol based fabric markers will work best on any semi to non-porous surface including plastics, leather, and more. Acrylic paint markers will work on virtually any surface it will adhere to.
Acrylic Based Fabric Markers
Acrylic based fabric paint is the most common and popular form of fabric paint and will achieve the best results in most cases. Color pigment is added to acrylic polymer and then emulsified with water to create the fabric paint. The paint is then added to special markers meant for fabric application.
Acrylic paint markers are typically able to form the best bond with fabric and is also the most durable, holding up under repeated washing and resisting fading from light exposure. The other benefit is acrylic paint is usually more opaque which is important for saturated coverage..
Alcohol Based Ink Markers
Alcohol based inks are less commonly used for fabric mostly due to a fabric’s porous surface and more transparent coverage but you can still create beautiful designs. In this marker type, alcohol is used as a binder to deliver the pigment to the medium. Alcohol ink will achieve the best results on non-porous material as the pigment can bond directly onto the surface giving the best appearance.
If used on porous surface, alcohol pigments will have a more transparent look and will not have the color saturation of acrylic. More application will be needed to achieve a rich color. It is also important to note that this form of fabric paint will not always achieve great results on darker fabrics. Lastly, alcohol based inks are not nearly as wash-fast unless you seal it with a fabric sealer of sorts.
Should I use Alcohol Markers or Paint Markers?
Fabric paint aims to affix or bond the paint onto the fabric which eliminates the issue of worrying about what fabric type you are working with. Each will ultimately achieve a different look and effect, typically paint being more opaque and ink being more transparent. Technically speaking, fabric markers are available in the same pigments and paints as the paints jars.
A good thing to do is try out both types of fabric markers on your surface and evaluate the outcome. You might be surprised how different or similar the outcomes will be on the fabric. When choosing a marker keep in mind the nib type the marker is equipped with as it will determine type of lines you can paint.
Other Considerations to Selecting Fabric Markers
Fabric paints have a few other characteristics one should consider in addition to the paint type and application method. These are other attributes that will also affect both the final appearance and application of the paint.
Fabric Marker Paint Opacity
A fabric paints opacity refers to how opaque or transparent a paint is when applied to the fabric. This can determine how well the color shows up on the fabric and in particular, dark fabrics. For darker colored fabrics and material you will usually need a more opaque paint so the paint color is more visible and vibrant on top of the dark color.
Paints that are transparent or opaque will work well on lighter colors. Lighter colored fabrics typically aren’t affected by the opacity of a paint but if you are painting a lighter paint color on a light fabric color it is better to use a more opaque paint. There are also additives like Flowable Extender
Paint Body & Consistency
The body and consistency of a paint will affect both the feel of the paint on the fabric once dried and the application of the paint. A thin or body-less paint will work well in an airbrush system or for someone who desires a more watercolor-like consistency when painting.
On the other end of the spectrum, a heavy body paint is how paints are able to achieve textured or raised appearances when dried. Since fabric markers are pre-filled you may need to try different brands to find a desired consistency. There are some refillable fabric markers which would allow you add custom blends and achieve virtually any desired consistency using different additives, simply adding a little water to the paint more flow.
Heat Setting fabric Paint
Some acrylic paints will have to be set with heat to make them permanently set into the fabric. If you are painting onto any heat sensitive fabrics be sure the heat setting requirements can be handled by the fabric. If you are not able to heat set the paint in may not adhere like it should and will not be as durable and long lasting.
If you are using acrylic paints you can try using Jacquard’s Airset Product in a custom mix when heat setting isn’t an option.
Since you have a better understanding of what makes a great fabric marker you can set out to find one that works best for your needs. We have also provided several choices of both the best fabric markers each in their only list so so jump into the list now.
The Best Fabric Markers- 2018 Top 5 Quick Reviews
If you really desire a fabric marker over fabric paint our list below has both alcohol based options as well as acrylic based paint markers. Each has its benefits and various achievable effects. With your project in mind, choose the style and type of fabric marker that will give you the best results.
The choices also range from budget priced fabric markers to the best of the best regardless of price. Pick the marker in your price range and start creating those incredible designs.
The Liquitex Professional Paint Marker is the best fabric marker that uses acrylic based paint. You will not find a better quality fabric paint marker that contains acrylic paint. There are two options of nibs/tips as well, one for fine precise lines and another broad tip nib for greater coverage. These are also very versatile and provide great results on materials other than fabric as well.
If you really require versatility in your art work, these can be used with just about any acrylic-based Liquitex products including Liquitex Heavy Body, Soft Body or Spray Paint and even finished with the Liquitex varnish for a bleed-proof finish which is made even durable. This alone gives you just about unlimited options in colors and finishes with these fabric markers. For maximum coverage and opaqueness you can also lay multiple layers without issue.
- Professional Water-based acrylic
- Very Lightfast and Permanent
- More than 50 colors and inter-mixable combinations
Another high quality acrylic paint marker, Molotow is one the best choices that isn’t specifically marketed as a fabric marker. They offer some of the best pigment concentration and are refillable making them a lasting investment that is can also be very versatile.
One thing you will notice with the Molotow is that even though the consistency is a bit thinner, these still offer great coverage and opaque performance. These paint markers perform quite well on a variety of surfaces but work best on surfaces that aren’t too smooth and provide a bit of tooth for the paint to adhere to making them great for fabric.
- Acrylic Base
- Opaque with good coverage
If you are an artist you may already be familiar with Copic Markers as they are well known as one of the best alcohol markers and are used by so many illustrators. Copic markers are known for their superior pigments as well their outstanding color saturation. Pair the markers with a blending marker and the designs you can create are unlimited.
One of the benefits of choosing a premium marker for fabrics like the Copic Sketch is the ability to refill the inks and replace the nibs. There are several nibs styles available and using ink refills ultimately makes them the more affordable option in the long run. The Sketch is also a double ended marker which includes two different nib styles giving you more versatility. For the full list of available colors see the Copic website.
- Highly belendable alcohol markers
- Great color saturation
- 358 color options
Prismacolor Premier much like the Copics, are a premium artist marker that also work really great as fabric markers. These are a double-sided marker but available in two options of tips, a chisel with either a brush or fine tip. The nibs are not replaceable on the Prismacolor’s you will need to replace the entire marker when they wear out. The same goes for refills as it is not possible to refill them.
These are moderately priced for a premium fabric marker which makes up for the fact that you cannot refill them or replace the nibs. The inks are richly saturated pigment which makes them really stand out on fabric. Some have noted they tend to be a bit dry but this is easily remedied. Just saturate the nib with pure isopropyl alcohol a few times and let it sit 24 hours.
- Alcohol based marker
- 156 color options
- Advanced dye-based ink
Artistro Markers is the best acrylic based fabric marker for those on a budget. Artistro offers incredible value with their 8 marker set and even better is the ability to purchase refill cartridges for less than half the price of the marker set themselves. The medium sized tips are perfect for both fine details and filling in large areas.
They work on a variety of surfaces as well including leather and fabric with a smoother textures for best results but certainly possible with more textured fabrics like cotton. At this great price, these are also a great choice for kids crafting since they are also odor-free and non-toxic.
- Acrylic based paint
- Budget priced fabric markers
The Creative Joy Fabric Markers are another budget fabric marker pick which are alcohol based. If you want an ink based fabric marker but cannot justify the price of Copic or Prismacolor Markers these are an excellent choice. The Creative Joy fabric markers provide great color saturation onto fabric and other surfaces. They are dual-tipped as well, giving you a fine and broad tipped option.
These markers will be less washfast than a more premium ink based marker but if you need a cheap fabric marker for a quick project that you do not need to last they are a great option given the cost. I cost is your major concern, this is an option worth looking into.
- Alcohol based ink
- 12 colors
- Budget pick
We understand there are a ton of options out there and they can all be very similar or very different. If you are still left with question, please leave us a comment and we will put you on the right track. We love hearing from readers so comments are always welcome.