Can You Use Sharpie On Jeans? A Step-by-step Guide

More than 20 years ago, when I was just a 6-year-old kid, I was severely punished by my mother when I used crayons to draw on her jeans.

At the time, I couldn’t understand why my mother was so angry at me when I drew on her pants because I thought she could wash the ink away at any time. I was also pissed off at her because she broke my dream of becoming a time designer the moment she rejected my artsy ideas.

In fact, these crayon inks couldn’t get washed off with water or any detergent easily.

To this day, my mom still keeps the jeans and recalls that crazy memory every time I return home to visit her.

Interestingly, yesterday my beloved daughter did the same thing with my jeans. But instead of punishing her as she deserved, I gave her the pants as well, so she could continue to have wild dreams.

My daughter used Sharpie pens to draw on jeans, and I noticed it’s a fun way to decorate old jeans. That’s why I’m writing this topic to discuss whether you can use sharpie pens on jeans or whether you should not.

DIY-decorating jeans have always sparked the excitement and delight of any jeans lover.

But there’s probably no going back if you get the wrong ink to paint on that kind of material in the first place. Some of the ink will fade, others will bleed, making your painted jeans just worth throwing in the trash.

Let’s see if you can use sharpie pens on jeans and how you can make the process go smoothly!

Can You Use A Sharpie On Jeans?

Yes, sharpie pens can be used on jeans. Some people have even made a decent amount of money by decorating old jeans with interesting cartoons using Sharpie pens. What a smart and worthwhile investment!

As an American, most of us draw our first pictures in life with sharpie pens. This is one of the oldest brands of writing implements in the US, and you can trust their quality with full confidence.

This line of pens comes in a variety of styles, allowing you to erase the ink on the whiteboard or leave it on forever.

sharpie markers with different colors

But in most cases, Sharpie pens will stay firmly and boldly on the jeans fabric after you draw on the fabric surface.

You should use Sharpie stained fabric markers to paint on jeans when this is a specially produced ink to paint on fabric.

Regular permanent markers can get the job done pretty well on any type of denim, but they fade quickly. With this line of fabric markers by Sharpie, you don’t need to draw again and over again to make the image clear.

Pros of drawing Sharpie pens on jeans

Here are why you should use Sharpie to freshen up your jeans.

1. Low cost

Compared to buying a new pair of pants with interesting embellishments, you can save a few bucks by redecorating your jeans and making them look more interesting.

With a one-time purchase of sharpie pens for fabric, you can even complete the decor on 2-3 pairs of jeans without any extra cost (depending on the amount of decoration you want to make).

2. Draw what you want and feel free to express your personality

three sharpie markers with blue, red and black

Some fashion houses allow you to customize your favorite image on your jeans, and they will produce it for you.

But I believe that hand-drawing things you love bring a different passion and excitement. You can also change your mind whenever you want when you use sharpie pens to draw on jeans.

3. Save a couple of old jeans

Worn old jeans can look boring and obnoxious. You may have thought about replacing them with new and more perfect jeans.

Don’t rush to throw them in the trash. You can turn jeans into some lovely and colorful mini jean skirts for the summer by sewing them together and decorating them with graphics.

This also helps to hide the patchy discoloration of old jeans. And that’s how sharpie pens are helping you out.

Cons of drawing Sharpie pens on jeans

But there are some more drawbacks as well.

1. Permanent colors won’t stay for too long

That’s why fashion houses use machines to print colors instead of drawing them on each pair of jeans.

Even though Sharpie fabric markers are made for drawing on fabrics, they won’t stay as long on denim for years to come since this material’s surface is way more rough and thick.

back side of jeans

Some lines of heavy jeans often have a large thickness and a less smooth surface because the thick fibers are woven together. Therefore, the color from Sharpie pens can be very difficult to penetrate deep into the fabric.

This makes them easy to wash off or fade all around. Otherwise, you will have to re-draw again and over again to keep the colors stay fixed on the fabric.

Sharpie fabric markers work best on thin, smooth, and stretchy denim fabrics. These materials also absorb ink quickly and retain ink color longer.

2. Ink color is sensitive to common detergents

Most methods of printing or painting jeans are chemically treated afterward to prevent color fading during normal denim washing.

soaking dark blue jeans

Ink colors from Sharpie fabric markers on stretchy, light, and poor-quality jeans may not be durable enough to resist heavy cleaning detergents, and drawings may fade during washing with strong soap or cloth bleaching agents.

Colors are likely to blur and cling to other clothes if you wash them together.

3. The colors ain’t sharp enough

A lot of my friends are disillusioned with the practice of drawing on jeans with Sharpie markers.

The ink from the pens when seeping down to the surface of the denim looks like you are drawing on paper. They don’t look as pretty and vivid as you wish, like buying a new pair of jeans. What do you expect?

4. Color spill problems

Ink solutions are stored inside Sharpie markers. If you shake these pens vigorously, the chances of unwanted spillage of ink are very high.

I had this problem as soon as I received the pack of Sharpie markers delivered from an online store. They must have tossed the package many times, causing the ink to come out of the nib.

If you do not clean the top of the brush after use, sometimes mold can also form in this area.

When you let the nib come into contact with the surface of the fabric, fungal spores will follow it into the fibers of the fabric, causing a potential mold risk later on for the jeans.

5. Come in basic colors only

red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple sharpie markers

Sharpie fabric markers contain several primary colors (less than 10 colors). They are all solid colors, from neutral to warm colors.

You can’t mix colors and paint on jeans. As a result, the visual imagination and the color you want will also be reduced.

Will Sharpies stay on jeans?

Yes, most Sharpie pens are permanent markers. Their ink is likely to repel water and steam to an extent. For that reason, the colors are able to stay firm and bold on all kinds of fabrics.

However, the surface of denim jeans’ fabric is often rough and less smooth. Therefore, you should use Sharpie fabric markers to achieve the best anti-fading and color adhesion effects.

black sharpie on jeans

Will Sharpie bleed on jeans?

The chances of a Sharpie bleeding on 100% cotton, thick and sturdy jeans are probably pretty small since their fibers are more likely to retain more ink.

Therefore, their ink will immediately adhere to the fabric for longer after direct contact. In addition, some Sharpie pens’ inks are moisture-wicking, so are less likely to bleed due to steam.

In some cases, you probably see Sharpie fabric markers bleed on some delicate and fine fabrics. But this has kinda small chances to happen on denim thick and tough jeans. Once the fibers absorb the inks well, it won’t give them a chance to spread around.

But the bleeding will still occur on poor-quality, super stretchy and very light jeans after washing with ordinary soap or laundry detergent.

Essential steps to draw down sharpie pens on jeans

The most anticipated part of this article is that I’ve come up with some essential steps to draw great things on jeans with Sharpie fabric markers.

Step 1: Clean the jeans and dry them thoroughly

It’s way too superficial to paint on a dirty pair of jeans that you haven’t washed in weeks. Dirt, dust, and perspiration clinging to the fibers of the fabric even create a sour smell. Come on! The scent is killing your mood and the excitement to start creating something new in your pants.

hang jeans on clothesline in the sun to dry it

Let’s start things off with a thorough cleaning and drying of the jeans.

If the jeans are still damp, you will regret drawing Sharpie pens on them because the color will start to bleed badly.

Step 2: Think about what you will draw

This is a very important step, you may need a lot of time to decide what to paint on your jeans with Sharpie pens.

You need to understand that you won’t have too many color choices. Therefore, sketch out the most impressive images with all the resources you have.

a person sketching with many colored pencils

You should also consider the size of the image and whether that will cause the pen to run out of ink midway.

Don’t dye part or all of your jeans with Sharpie markers as it won’t give you the results you want and you may have to give up in the middle of your artwork drawing.

Step 3: Flatten the areas to draw on

If your jeans are very old and they are overstretched, you may need to flatten the areas you intend to paint on with a preferred iron and cardboard. However, you should not heat the fabric too much, as it will degrade the fiber’s strength.

flatten jeans to draw on it with sharpie

Overall, this step is to do anything to flatten the jean surface. So, pick whatever solution is available for your condition.

Flattening the drawing areas will help your picture be evenly colored without unwanted smudges. In addition, a smooth surface will make the brushes go much better.

Step 4: Briefly sketch a pencil image on the surface of jeans

You can use a pencil to sketch images on the surface of jeans. Don’t worry, Sharpie ink can cover pencil marks perfectly.

use pencil to sketch on jeans

Alternatively, you can also erase unwanted pencil marks and do it again. Never try to draw with Sharpie pens in the first place if you are not a professional painter.

Step 5: Color the sketch with Sharpie pens

You need to shake the Sharpie pens well before drawing so that the color does not settle, reducing the unevenness of the image.

a hand holds green sharpie to draw on the pattern on jeans


You need to put a layer of cardboard down underneath the area you will paint on. This prevents the ink from seeping into the back of the jeans.

Step 6: Air dry the pants

Air drying your artwork jeans may take 48–72 hours. This will help the ink stay longer inside the fabric.

jeans with green pattern drawn by sharpie

Final thought

Although DIY-decorating jeans with Sharpie pens sounds fun, you can also experience unfortunate failures, especially when this is your first attempt.

I think you should always do things and think about the worst case scenario. This will encourage you to proceed with caution when the drawings become permanent on your jeans.

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