The 5 Best Fabric Markers For Decorating & Labeling Textiles

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by Erica Gerald Mason
Yuriy Golub / Shutterstock

When you want to decorate or label clothing and other soft items, the best fabric markers ensure high-quality results that last. Look for markers with fine tips for more precise, detailed work, or thicker tips for covering bigger areas. No matter what, be sure they use colorfast ink that stays put even when washed. In order to find the ideal markers for you, pick ones that come in your desired color and feature a strong pigment that will stand out against your intended fabric.

The shape of your fabric marker’s tip will affect both your experience of use and your end results. A bullet-tip fabric pen is meant to mimic the motion of drawing with traditional markers, while chisel tips provide crisper lines with sharper edges. Brush-tip pens, with their longer and more flexible ends, can be also be perfect for lettering.

Be sure to pay particular attention to the manufacturer's instructions when choosing and using a fabric marker, as some formulations need to be applied or treated in a very specific way to remain permanent. For certain fabric markers, you will have to let your project dry for up to 24 hours before you can wash it. Some might require heat setting with an iron, so check the manufacturer’s instructions before putting the garment in the wash.

You can customize almost any type of textile with these fabric markers, whether you’re decorating a T-shirt, labeling laundry, or simply trying to disguise stains.

1. A Budget-Friendly 20-Pack Of Fine-Tip Fabric Markers

Turn your clothes into a masterpiece with these Tulip fabric markers. For less than $1 per marker, you get 20 in a wide range of ultra-bright colors, each with a fine, bullet-shaped tip that allows you to create detailed designs without bleeding or smearing. The pens are nontoxic and can be applied permanently to fabric without any need for heat setting. Instead, make sure you prewash your fabric before using the marker and machine wash on a gentle cycle at least 24 hours after you use the markers (and tumble dry low). According to Amazon reviewers, fabric colored with these markers remains vibrant through washing, drying, and wearing. To keep the markers in working condition, the manufacturer recommends storing them horizontally, and suggests that if the tip gets dry, you can reactivate the ink by dipping it in water.

Tulip also sells another 20-pack of fine-tip fabric markers on the same Amazon product page, if you happen to like those colors better.

Helpful Amazon review: “I purchased these markers for an event that involved t-shirt designs.. they held up wonderful for more than 100 peoples' worth of use! I loved the variation in colors.. there was a color that pleased everyone. These colors have also held up in the wash. Great product, would purchase again.”

2. A Pair Of Dual-Tipped Black Fabric Markers

If you need a few fabric markers for labeling laundry, or simply don’t need a whole rainbow of color options, these two black Crafts 4 All fabric markers are a great two-in-one option since they each include a broad chisel and fine bullet tip. These tips are clearly marked so you won’t use one when you need the other, and the nontoxic ink is safe for kids to use. The markers don’t need to be heat set, and the non-bleed ink won't fade in the wash. Many Amazon reviewers report that they are especially useful for writing on fabric labels, but plenty of buyers also have enjoyed using them to create artistic designs or hide bleach stains on black fabric.

Helpful Amazon review: “These markers are great. I needed them to draw permanent, non-toxic faces on fabric teddy bears and the fine point worked perfectly! The icons on the outside make it easy to see which end is the fine tip and which is the broad tip. The cap secures well but is easy to get off. Simple, affordable, effective. What more can you want? I'm totally satisfied!”

3. An 8-Pack Of Brush-Tip Fabric Markers That Are Easy To Layer

If you want to add artistic designs or hand-lettering to your fabric, there’s nothing better than these unique Stained By Sharpie markers, which feature flexible brush tips so you can switch between drawing thick and thin lines. While the eight included colors are bright and Amazon reviewers suggest the results are opaque, they also have a stain effect that allows you to layer the colors as you go to create different shades. These markers resist fading when exposed to sunlight and water, and no heat setting is required to secure the permanence of the ink. That said, Sharpie recommends washing your fabric in cold water and skipping the dryer.

Helpful Amazon review: “This school year, my daughter got a new natural canvas backpack, because she wanted to be able to make it unique and personalize it. With these new markers, the process was fun, because the round paint brush style nibs made them easy to handle, there was no bleeding on the canvas, and there was no mess to clean after we used them. Since the markers are stains, we could easily layer them, so the drawings look professional. When I asked her about her backpack after the first day of school, she was thrilled to tell me that she got lots of compliments. Now I'm looking for new items that I can draw and write on!”

4. A 30-Pack Of Dual-Tip Fabric Paint Markers For Less Than $30

When you need a lot of colors to choose from, these Arteza fabric markers are here for you, with 30 different shades for a super reasonable price. Each marker includes two different tips (fine and ultra-fine), so it’s basically like getting 60 different markers for less than $30. The nontoxic water-based ink is vibrant and blendable, and Arteza suggests on its website that your designs will remain permanent so long as you always wash them in cold water. However, Amazon reviewers report that the instructions on the box of markers advise users to heat-set the ink by letting it dry for 6 hours, then ironing the reverse side of the fabric for 5 minutes using the cotton setting, so that might limit the fabrics this can be applied to.

So long as you’re willing to take the extra step, though, reviewers report that the markers are easy to use with minimal bleeding.

Helpful Amazon review: “These are easy to use, great quality, great color selection, controlled flow, easy to blend in small areas, barely altered the texture of the fabric, colorfast after drying overnight and ironing. I used them on a printed t shirt to punch up the colors. Tiny amount of bleed through; use a cardboard backing underneath.”

5. A White Fabric Marker For Dark Fabric

If you’re looking for a fabric marker that will show up on dark or black fabric, this white marker from Artline should do the trick. It has a fine bullet-shaped tip that allows you to create detailed lines or write a name on a clothing tag, and Amazon reviewers report that the ink is truly a bright, standout white. The ink is also quick to dry and shouldn’t run or fade with repeat washes, even without heat setting.

Helpful Amazon review: “Bought these to use on black fabrics. They write smoothly, and a nice sharp white line. No running, and I checked on several different materials. Dried quickly so no issue with smudging. Would definitely buy again.”