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Fabric Markers vs Sharpies: Which is More Permanent?

Written by Robert S. Brown / Fact checked by Helen B. Harris

fabric markers vs sharpies

Modern markers are no longer limited to writing but have been used for other functions, including self-expression and customization.

This can be customizing shirts, shoes, tote bags, and other garments. These kinds of stuff are mostly made with different types of fabrics.

Two of the most convenient art tools to use for textiles are fabric markers and Sharpies. But how do you know which one to use? Which is more permanent?

We’ll find that out here. In this article, we will be comparing fabric markers vs Sharpies, know their similarities/differences, pros/cons, and a lot more.

Specifications/Qualities Sharpie Permanent Marker Fabric Marker
Purpose Designed to produce permanent marks on paper, plastic, metal, and others Specifically designed to mark most types of fabrics, create designs for clothing, and more.
Formulation Alcohol-based Can be ink-based, gel-based, or acrylic-based
Ink Durability May not be permanent on fabrics Resists fading upon washing but also has a washable version
Color Range Wide range Limited range depending on the brand
How It Works on Fabric May bleed, produce streaks, or skid upon application Does not bleed and glides smoothly on most fabric

Sharpie Vs Fabric Marker

1. Sharpie Permanent Marker


Is an iconic brand of permanent marker that has been used by many for more than 50 years. It was one of the first permanent markers available in a pen-like barrel that can be used on various surfaces.

It is available in over 40 vibrant colors, including metallic and neon colors. Sharpies are formulated with alcohol-based ink.

Some of the notable features that set them apart from other markers are their ability to dry quickly, resist fading, and waterproofing.

These features are also on the list of important things to consider when looking for a marker that you can use on fabrics.

2. Fabric Markers


From the name itself, this marker is specifically manufactured to write on fabrics. Fabric markers have two main classifications: permanent and non-permanent.

A fabric permanent marker is waterproof and won’t fade or come off after washing. Non-permanent markers, on the other hand, are washable and easily come off with water.

Non-permanent or washable fabric markers are best for children and for making temporary designs and patterns. Click here to know everything you need to choose a fabric marker for your purpose.

Are They Similar?

Sharpie permanent markers could work like fabric markers. Both could be used to write on different fabrics.

But Sharpie markers on fabric may not be as permanent as pens made for drawing on clothes; they can bleed and eventually fade after several washes.

But, did you know that Sharpie fabric markers do exist? Sharpie’s version of permanent marker for fabric is called “Stained”.

This product from Sharpie is available in a set of 8 colors. It has a brush tip that provides more freedom in crafting your designs.

Unlike the regular Sharpie marker, Stained is made to create permanent and fade-resistant colors on bags, shoes, clothes, and more.

What Are the Differences?


1. Purpose

Sharpie’s regular permanent markers are made for writing, coloring, and creating bold marks on paper and other surfaces.

They are very versatile writing tools and are commonly used by students, artists, and professionals in schools, offices, and at home.

Meanwhile, fabric markers are basically made to leave marks, writings, and designs on any fabric. A farbric pen is more commonly used for nylon, canvas, and other garments.

It is also used to make patterns for embroidery or sewing.

2. Formulation

Sharpies are known for their high quality ink formulation. Their regular permanent marker is alcohol-based. This formulation may also include other solvents such as Ethylene Glycol Ether.

Fabric markers can be ink-based, gel-based, or acrylic-based. Depending on the base and formulation used, it can either be permanent or washable.

3. Ink Durability

Sharpie permanent marker ink is among the most long-lasting types available in the market, but because it is not purposely designed to stick on fabric, its marks would eventually fade over time.

Meanwhile, waterproof fabric markers are manufactured and tested to be permanent on fabrics.

Good fabric markers retain their colors even after several washes or dry cleaning, unless you are using the washable version.

4. Color Range

Sharpie permanent markers have a vast variety of colors. A wider color range gives you more options and more room for creativity.

Aside from them being known as permanent markers, this is probably one of the reasons why people use Sharpies on fabric for their designs.

Sharpie’s color range also includes metallic and neon shades; these color palettes are hard to find on fabric markers.

Notably, Sharpie has an Ultimate Collection set that includes more than 100 markers and 65 different colors to choose from, while for fabric markers, you rarely find a color set bigger than 40.

5. How It Works on Fabric

Sharpie and fabric markers work alike, but since Sharpie tips and ink are not meant for fabric, common problems like streaks, skidding, fading, and bleeding of colors are inevitable.

Meanwhile, you won’t have these problems on fabric markers as their tips and ink are designed to work smoothly on most types of fabrics.

Pros and Cons

Fabric Marker

Permanent on fabric Limited color range
Does not bleed  
Glides smoothly on fabric  

Sharpie Permanent Marker

Wide color range May bleed
  May fade over time
  May skid and produce streaks upon application
  Needs additional treatment to stay permanent

Related: Sharpie marker lifespan


There are different kinds of permanent Sharpie markers. To be fair, we have selected sets that are closer to some of the top permanent fabric markers available on the market.

Marker Type Description Price Price/Pc.
Sharpie Permanent Markers
Sharpie Fine Point, Assorted Colors Set of 8 $7.88 $0.98
Set of 12 $13.09 $1.09
Set of 24 $20.86 $0.87
Set of 36 $39.15 $1.09
 Average price/pc.: $0.99
Permanent Fabric Markers
Tulip Fine Tip markers Mountainside Meadow, set of 12 $16.99 $1.42
Crayola Fabric Markers Basic colors, set of 10 $6.10 $0.61
Arteza Fabric Paint Markers Assorted, set of 30 $29.99 $1.0
Crazy Colors Dual Tip Fabric Markers Assorted, set of 40 $24.99 $0.625
 Average price/pc.: $0.93

Based on the actual price comparison, permanent Sharpies and fabric markers price are about the same although fabric markers can cost cheaper or higher depending on the brand.



Do fabric markers work better than Sharpies?

Yes. Fabric markers generally work better on fabric than Sharpies. Regular Sharpies are not made and tested on fabrics and may create several issues during the actual application.

Permanent fabric markers have supreme permanency over Sharpies. They are also easier to use and write on fabrics.

Can Sharpies be used on fabric?

Yes. As mentioned, Sharpie’s permanent marker does possess some excellent features that make it usable on textiles.

However, beware that Sharpies on fabric may not last after washes, and you may have to deal with skips and imperfect application.

To avoid these problems, there are different types of Sharpies, and you can opt for the Stained type, which produces a more permanent mark.

Can a Sharpie be used as a laundry marker?

Yes, but regular Sharpies may fade after washing while laundry markers don’t. That’s the main difference between a laundry marker vs Sharpie permanent marker.

If you want to label your clothes, there’s a Sharpie product that is made for this purpose. It is a black fabric marker called “Sharpie Rub-a-Dub” that stays permanent even after several washes or dry cleaning.

Are Sharpies washable on skin?

Yes. However, if it won’t come off with soap and water, you can try the following remedies.

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Sanitizer
  • Acetone
  • White toothpaste
  • Baby oil
  • Sunscreen
  • Shaving cream

Simply apply any of these on the affected area and use a cotton pad or soft cloth to rub it on the skin to remove Sharpie marks.

Can you use Sharpie on polyester?

Yes. But it might not be as permanent as fabric markers. If you want to make Sharpie marks on polyester last longer, you will have to take additional steps such as applying heat after application.

You can also paint on a clear paint suitable for fabrics or apply fixatives to seal and preserve the Sharpie markings. Weigh your options, as additional steps entail cost and effort.


Choosing between fabric markers vs Sharpies could be difficult, but it is much easier when you know your priority.

If you are looking for durability and ease of use, fabric markers are your ultimate choice.

However, if permanency or fading is not an issue and you need a wide color range, then using a regular Sharpie would certainly be fine.

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