What to Use to Mark on Fabric

What to Use to Mark on Fabric

What to Use to Mark on Fabric

A common question I get is what I’m using to write on fabric, especially minky fabric or dark fabrics. So I’m going to share what I use here! Keep in mind these are just suggestions, the “right” pen is going to be the one that works best for you and is also readily available. These are all available on Amazon, but I’ve definitely been in the situation where my last pen ran out before new ones arrive and I have to make an emergency trip. So it’s good to keep other options in mind. I’m going to list my all time favorites that I’m currently using as well as others I’ve tried in the past that I don’t like as much. And one I hate as a beware.

I’m also using affiliate links. These won’t cost you any extra, but if you purchase through them I get a % of the purchase for sending you their way.

First up, my all time favorite: The Gel Roller for Fabric by Pentel

This gel pen writes so smoothly, no need to go over lines multiple times and no pulling the fabric. This is a great pen for thicker fabrics like minky, but it can show through on thinner or lighter fabrics, so be sure to test it before you use it. They also run out relatively quickly compared to other pens so it can get expensive at $5.80 for 2 pens. For me, though, being able to move quickly when I’m tracing and still get an accurate line without going over a piece several times is worth it.

Best All Purpose: Madam Sew Heat Erasable Fabric Marking Pens

These pens are great all purpose pens. They come in several colors, including white, so you can mark a variety of fabrics with no issues, and they have a nice smooth line. Not as good as the gel roller so you sometimes have to go over a line twice, but they don’t pull the fabric. I use them on thin or light colored fabrics.

They will erase with heat and unlike Frixion brand, the ink does not re-appear when placed in the freezer or in cold temps. I like this best because my customers won’t ever see the lines if they leave their plush, say, in the car on a winter night. But for some people that will be a con. The ink can also turn translucent on its own inside the pens if exposed to heat, so be sure to store them somewhere out of direct sun or hot temps. You can’t bring them back once that happens. To erase them, simply run an iron over it quickly or use something like a steamer. Just be sure not to melt your fabric fibers.

The white is a bit odd in that you need to let it sit for a couple seconds before it shows up at full intensity, so that can be annoying, but don’t panic if you don’t see it right away..

And once you have the pens, you can buy re-fill kits for the ink and save some money.

For the outside of plushies: Dritz Disappearing Ink Marking Pen

This is my go to for marking the outside of plushies, like top sewing lines on wings or marks to help with placement. It vanishes with exposure to air over time or water, making it perfect for temporary marking, but not suitable for marks you will want to last like your sewing lines on pattern pieces. It will stay longer on some fabrics than others. I’ve noticed cotton lasts much longer than minky. It also means you need to keep the cap on nice and tight or the pen will be useless.  These last me forever since I only use them for a few specific things, too, so that’s nice.

It doesn’t show up great on dark fabrics, though. I can usually see a bit of a mark on everything except black fabric, but it’s not ideal.

For black or dark fabric: Uni-Ball Signo Gel Pen in White

All time favorite white gel pen! This one has a smooth, bold line. It doesn’t need multiple passes to show up and, unlike the madam sew white pen, it doesn’t need a few seconds to show up. My only real complaint with this pen is that sometimes the end gets clogged and it can be annoying to get it to start up and write smoothly again, but it doesn’t happen often enough to stop me from using them. I’ll just squiggly it around on a piece of paper until it writes again. Overall really great visibility on dark fabrics and a solid fav.

Runner Ups:

- Sakura Gelly Roll Classic 10 Point Bold in White

A nice option for a white gel pen to use on dark fabrics, but for me this pen skips a lot and I need to trace the lines several times which is annoying. It’s also not as bold I used them for quite awhile, though, until I found the sigma brand.

- FriXion Gel Pens

Some people swear by these. I’m not a huge fan, I don’t think they write very smooth and the fact the ink can show back up in the cold unless you fully wash it out is a no for me. They’re popular in many circles, but it’s not for me.

- Fine Point Sharpie

I see the appeal and I’ve used them before. The writing is smooth and bold. But they bleed through fabric so easily and can just be kind of messy overall. Plus the fumes aren’t great to be breathing in for long periods.

- Silver Metallic Sharpie

Many people use these for dark fabrics and, again, it’s another one I see the appeal of, but I think a white gel pen is a better choice. They run out fast and when you get to the end, your lines aren’t as bold

- Tailors Chalk

Hate it. It’s messy and too easy to rub off accidentally. But there’s a reason it’s loved and many people consider it a staple because it goes on and comes off relatively easy. It’s especially good on fabrics like cotton, I don’t think it’s as good on softer fabrics. You can also use regular blackboard chalk, but I find it’s even messier.

- Chalk Markers

I’ve seen these used for darker fabrics, but I think they’re a bit messy personally. They smear until they are dry and they can run out fast. They can also bleed through fabric if you go too heavy handed with them.

- Crayola Ultra-Clean Washable Markers

I think these are a great option largely because they’re available at most stores, no need to visit a specialty craft store if you run out. The ultra washable version really does wash out of even white fabrics so as long as you can wash and dry your plush, you should have no issues if these bleed through. But be sure to always spot test when in doubt. Not my favorite, but a good choice.

Avoid these:

- Cricut Washable Fabric Pen

This one seriously gets its own category and I’m not even going to provide a link for you! If you use your cricut at all, this one is tempting because you can use it with no adapters. But don’t be fooled, it’s easily the worst fabric marker I’ve used. It bleeds very badly, making your lines much wider and fuzzier than intended and shows through fabrics. The washable factor also isn’t great, you’ll need to scrub it with soap and water and rinse repeatedly to get it out. Save yourself the headache and avoid these. I’ve used them a few times and always regret giving them another try.

And that’s it for my list! I’m sure there’s many, many other options out there, but these are the ones I’m personally familiar with. I hope it helps your search for a good marking pen.

Shop the story