Coloring 101: Coloring on Fabric


By Anisa Claire.

Recently, I ordered a color-able bag with an Absur’D pattern on it. I was really excited to get it in the mail, couldn’t wait, in fact, to get going on it. Until it arrived… then, suddenly, I became intimidated by the project and worried I would mess it up, costing myself money I didn’t want to loose.

So, on went the research. I pulled out my Google-Fu and got to work. There were a lot of different options, but one name kept popping up… Sharpie. Well, just so happens, I love me some Sharpie markers and happened to have a small army of them. The one thing people were saying was that they ran a bit if they weren’t “set” first.

Some examples showed a bit of runnage (is that a word? It is now!) after washing. Unfortunately, I didn’t have what I needed to “set” Sharpie, so I just went for it and decided to spot wash my bag rather than fully wash it in a washing machine if needed.

Sharpies work well, but there are a few things I noticed.

1. They bleed past the black lines fairly easily. I found if I applied less pressure closer to the black edges, it helped.

2. They’re time consuming, as they don’t just ‘flow” like some markers. You definitely need patience for Sharpies on fabric.

3. I had read that if you outline the black with aloe, it would reduce the bleed. This is true, but it takes even longer to outline it all in aloe, and though it works, it’s not 100% foolproof.

My conclusion for the Sharpies is that if you’re not extremely picky about little bits of bleed through, they are a good option. If some bleed through is going to bother you, I would not recommend plain Sharpie markers for fabric coloring.

The next on my list was Sharpie, again, but these are called: Stained by Sharpie. They are meant for fabric coloring. I snatched up a package and hit the bag again. First thing I’ll say? Wow! What a difference from the regular Sharpies. They are easy to use on fabric, flow nicely and provide a full looking color. I was impressed, but there are a few things about them to consider before buying your own set.

1. The color selection is extremely limited. You only get eight markers. That’s not enough colors to really justify doing a full bag or shirt with them. They would be good for smaller pictures printed on fabric, such as team shirts or things of that nature.

2. Of those eight markers, at least three are neon. I like neon, personally, but it has its place, and I wouldn’t want to be forced to color all fabric in neon colors.

3. Most of the pens did not bleed past the black line. However, the blue marker did. I don’t know if it was just this package or if all of the blue Stained markers are like that. This color, specifically, was difficult to manage.

All-in-all, I liked Stained by Sharpie more than I liked regular Sharpies.

The next marker I tried was Chameleon. Now I love Chameleon markers. They’re a bit pricey, but totally worth the extra money you have to spend on them. That said, I wouldn’t recommend them for fabric.

1. They allow you to do shading on fabric, but are quite difficult to control and run a lot, so you end up with a lot of bleed through past the black lines. I only did a few small sections with Chameleon before I knew they weren’t going to do what I wanted on the fabric.

2. Since they are a bit pricey, it’s hard to justify using them on a project that needs a decent amount of ink.

Finally, and very randomly, I stumbled across Derwent Inktense colored PENCILS. Yes, you read that right. I couldn’t believe it either. Colored pencils… for fabric? Can’t be true. But yes, it is true! You can actually use Inktense colored pencils on fabric, and they’re fantastic. They are watercolor pencils, and there is a bit of a trick to applying them. Here’s what I did.

1. The color won’t set if you don’t wet it. So, you can color it on like you would with regular pencils, and then use a paint brush or Q-tip to apply the water.  I didn’t have a paintbrush, so I used a Q-tip. It worked. You do need to dab the excess water off, though, or you will get bleed through past the black lines.

2. When you first apply the pencil, it looks lame. Don’t get discouraged because once you wet it, it looks awesome.

3. You can also dip the pencil tip directly into water and do it that way. You still need to dab off the excess though. I found doing it directly in water actually gave me more control.

4. As a final step, you need to use some kind of Textile Medium to set the color.

Of the four products I tested, I would without question, recommend Derwent Inktense pencils over all the other markers I tried. If price is an issue, I would then recommend Sharpies, but urge you to remember… patience, patience, patience! They do work and the end result is quite nice, but you need to be extremely aware of your borders and the amount of pressure you apply while coloring.

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