How to Use Fabric Markers on T-shirts

When it comes to using fabric markers on t-shirts, there are several techniques to keep in mind to achieve the best results. Below, you can learn how to decorate your fabric surface easily and permanently using a marker pen. 

Once done, you can wear the T-shirt yourself or give it to someone else as a gift! And before you ask, the methods below are great for both a dark t-shirt or light-colored t-shirts!

Choosing Your Fabric Markers & Clothes

Using a fabric marker that is specially designed for being used on a t-shirt and other clothing is important. Depending on the fabric pen or paint that you use, you may find that they work to varying degrees of success on different materials.

Top Tip: Metallic fabric markers can add a sheen to the design, which is something worth considering.

For the most reliable results, choose polyester or cotton fabrics. This ensures that any bleeding between the fabric markers is kept minimal. Furthermore, the colors from paint pens absorb well for reduced ink bleeding and a smoother design. 

Make sure that the fabric you’re drawing your pattern on or writing on is free from wrinkles. 


  • Lay your fabric down so it’s smooth and on a flat surface by using masking tape on the edges to keep it in place. This prevents any rough texture so that you can use your paint pen to create patterns and designs.
  • Make sure that you have all the tools needed ready to go. This includes stencils, fabric markers, freezing papers, stamps, and pencils. Feel free to use as many colors as you want to create your DIY projects.
  • It’s a good idea to have markers handy that have different tips, as they can be used to add different details to your outline and unique designs. 

Design Time

  • You can choose whether you want to draw a pattern of your own design, use a stamp/stencil/printed picture or whether you want to write something on your clothes with your fabric marker.  
  • For the printing method, search your desired image online and print it out. You can then cut the outline of the picture that you want to be applied to the clothing. 
  • Alternatively, you can use stencils that have a design that you like. This is great for keeping the design consistent and allows you to add details easily. 
  • Transfer the stencil directly on top of your clothing and keep it in place using masking tape. 
  • When it comes to a printed design, place freezer paper or cardboard inside the fabric to prevent the markers from bleeding through. 
  • Use a soft pencil to trace the outline of the stencil or printed design, using it lightly to avoid damaging the clothing. 
  • When you’re writing letters on your clothing, use a pencil and baking paper to trace it. 
  • You can then iron over the word/phrase so that the heat set works to let you easily stencil the words on your clothing. 
  • Next, you can add color to fill your design inside using fabric paint.
  • The dye-based ink contained in fabric marker pens means that you must be careful when using them due to how permanent it is. 
  • Use a fabric pen with a fine tip to draw thin lines around the outline of your design.
  • You can then use wide-tip markers to fill in the design with permanent color. 
  • Once you’re done, leave the t-shirt to air dry completely. 
  • Once the design has been set, put the t-shirt into the washing machine and leave it to air dry again. 

Also read: How to Set Permanent Marker on Fabric


After reading through this post, we hope that you’re feeling more assured about how to use fabric markers on t-shirts to create unique designs and phrases. It’s a fun activity for you and your children to do together.

…and always ensure your fabric marker works effectively to keep designs permanent and prevent ink from bleeding.

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Written By Adam Rushton

Adam has made a name for himself in the illustration industry and is a passionate blogger and writer on the subject of art, illustration and graphic design.

His artwork has been featured in countless publications and used for very well-known media projects. As a professional illustrator for over 20 years, Adams media outlets, a wealth of knowledge, and experience enable him to consult and advise artists and illustrators in this country (from York and Manchester to Southampton and London) and all over the world.