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How to Keep Permanent Marker on Plastic: 5 Easy Methods!

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

How to Keep Permanent Marker on Plastic

Did you ever try writing on plastic using a permanent marker? You are probably working on artistic handicrafts or creative projects on a plastic surface. You are expecting these markers to adhere since these are permanent. Unfortunately, they smear and rub off easily until they disappear eventually.

If this has been your dilemma, you have come to the right place. As you read on, you will find effective but easy ways on how to keep permanent marker on plastic. I will also walk you through the step-by-step procedures for every method so that you can get them done without a hitch!

5 Methods to Keep Permanent Markers on Plastic


Method 1: Prep the surface with sandpaper

Plastic usually has a smooth and nonabsorbent surface that wanes down its adhesive properties. With the help of sandpaper, we can build a rough or porous texture that will pave the way for a more adhesive surface. Thus, this will allow permanent markers to stick and prevent any smears in the long run.


Step 1: First of all, you need to choose sandpaper to polish the plastic surface and eliminate any minor imperfections. You may opt for 80 to 12-grit sandpaper.

Step 2: Before sanding, make sure to clean the surface and remove any dirt or oils. Use a soft and damp cloth to tidy the target area on the surface. Then, wipe it again with a dry cloth.

Step 3: Soak a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol for final cleaning. This will keep the surface spotless before sanding. Then, let it dry.

Step 4: Use sandpaper to polish the surface where you would write. There is no need to sand the whole material or area.

Step 5: After sanding, you will notice some small particles or surface remnants. Wipe them off with a soft cloth.

Step 6: Once you have prepped the surface, you can now start writing. Since it now has some tooth or roughness, you will be able to leave inks permanently.

Keep in mind that whatever you write on it will not be erasable anymore. Hence, make sure to plan or practice on scrap paper before writing anything on the surface.

Step 7: Allow the inks to dry completely, preferably overnight.

Method 2: Invest in the right type of permanent markers

While some seek ways to revamp plastic surfaces, the problem might not be the surface itself but rather the type of markers you are using.

I have used different types of permanent markers. At first, I thought that all of them would work the same. Unfortunately, they do not.

Therefore, it is imperative to look carefully for permanent markers that are compatible with plastic surfaces.

When I was conducting some research regarding this, I have found a few reputable brands, including Sharpie, STAEDTLER, and Arteza, that provide an impressive lineup of permanent markers that can perform efficiently on plastic.

In addition to that, I have compared markers of different ink types and discovered that oil-based markers are not the best option for plastic items. They take a long time to dry and will likely lead to smudges and ink pooling.


Step 1: Try it first on scrap paper before writing on the plastic surface. This will let you check if the marker skips or if there are any problems with the ink flow. Furthermore, doing this will prevent smudges, bleeding, or any messy ink spills.

Step 2: Although you are using a compatible permanent marker, I still recommend sanding the surface with sandpaper to enhance its adhesive features. Do this on the target area and remove the dust particles with a soft cloth.

Step 3: After testing the marker for any ink flow issues, you can now start writing.

Step 4: Leave it to dry for 24 hours or as long as it is entirely dry.

Step 5: Don’t forget to put the cap back on to prevent the ink from drying out.

Method 3: Use a Mod Podge mattifying sealer

As I search for products that can secure permanent markers on plastic, I’ve found a multipurpose sealer that can do the job, which is the Mod Podge water-based sealer.

Just some heads-up about this product, it is actually formulated for decoupage art or to efficiently glue colored paper cutouts from magazines onto bottles, ceramics, and other decorative pieces.

When it comes to markers on plastic surfaces, it can work as a sealer or something similar to a fixative that can keep the markers completely permanent and protected from smudges. It can also make the surface water-resistant.


Step 1: Cleaning the surface is a prerequisite before you apply anything on the surface. Dampen a cloth with water and mild dish soap to remove any dirt or oils.

Step 2: Use 120-grit sandpaper to sand the surface and leave some rough texture in it. Wipe any residues with a cloth.

Step 3: Make sure that the surface is completely dry before you write anything on it. Then, use a marker to draw or write any design you want. Allow it to dry for a few hours or much better, overnight.

Step 4: Once it dries, apply a light layer of Mod Podge glue over the marker to seal it. Let it dry. Luckily, this sealer is quick-drying. After that, you will notice a matte finish that keeps the markers permanent and sealed.

Step 5: If you are going to use the Mod Podge acrylic spray sealer, keep it away from the plastic for about 6 to 8 inches. Then, spray lightly over it. Leave it to dry for 24 to 48 hours.

Method 4: Use a versatile acrylic sealer spray

Another effective product to try is the Aleene’s Spray Matte Finish Acrylic Sealer.

When I checked it, I noticed that the formulation and features are almost similar to Mod Podge. It also contains a potent formulation that works as a durable protective finish, keeping the surface weatherproof and waterproof.

I think the only difference between the two is that Mod Podge highlights its preservation properties for decoupage art projects. Aleene’s is a versatile sealer spray that works on porous and non-porous surfaces, including plastic. It seals and protects indoor and outdoor projects from fading and yellowing.

When it comes to keeping markers permanent, it does the same. Impressively, it doesn’t cause messy smears or ink spills when sprayed over markers; it releases a clear coating and leaves a matte finish when fully dried.


Step 1: Like what you should do first with plastic surfaces, prepping the surface is crucial. Use 120-grit sandpaper to sand the spot where you would write.

Step 2: After sanding, clear out the surface from any particles and dust using a soft cloth. You may also wipe it again with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. If you did it correctly, I’m sure you’ll feel some rough texture in it.

Step 3: Once completely clean, you can start writing. Let the marker ink dry for a couple of hours. When it dries completely, you can use the acrylic sealer spray for the protective finish.

Step 4: The downside with this sealant is its strong odor, similar to spray paint. Therefore, it’s better to spray it when you’re outside or in a well-ventilated area to prevent any headaches. You should consider wearing a respirator mask and gloves.

Step 5: Try it first on a scrap board or material with marker writings before spraying it directly on the plastic surface. This is to avoid any smears and ink pooling as well as to check if it alters the original colors.

Step 6: Keep the item away from you for about 6-8 inches. Go for light and continuous sprays. Do not spray heavily on one spot to avoid any thick and uneven applications or significant color changes. In case that happens, it will take a long time to dry.

Step 7: Let it dry for 24 to 48 hours or as long as it is completely dry.

Method 5: Try using clear nail polish

This is probably something you can find in your house or buy from any store without spending too much. Nail polish contains adhesive polymers, stabilizers, and thickening agents that can coat nails and leave a glossy or shimmery finish.

With markers, you can use it to seal and protect writings, making them permanent.


Step 1: The first thing to do is to always prep the surface as mentioned in previous methods. When you’re done sanding and have achieved some tooth in it, proceed with writing on the plastic surface.

Step 2: Letting the writing dry is a must. When they’re completely dry, apply a light layer in a single direction. Do not apply multiple layers at once to prevent uneven coats and long drying times.

Step 3: If you must add a layer, let it dry first. This way, it will leave a protective coat and nice sheen on your markers.


In a nutshell, there are different ways to keep permanent markers on plastic. You may use protective sealers, build rough surfaces, or simply replace the markers that you are using and choose the right type. But whatever method you choose, the key is to wait and let the marker dry before you add anything to it.

Hope you have found the appropriate answer to the question, “how to keep permanent marker on plastic?”. Which of these methods would you like to try? If you have any concerns or questions, don’t hesitate to share them with us!

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