You can use Copic markers on fabric and it’s an easy way to customize clothing or to make home decorations. However, using Copic markers on fabric is very different from using them on paper. And you might be better off using other markers or fabric paint.
I know this might sound a little disappointing to some.
Copic markers work amazing on marker paper after all.
But fabric is a completely different medium, and the alcohol-based ink of the Copic markers behave completely different on it.
Let’s take a closer look at what to expect when using Copic markers on fabric.
When I first used my Copic markers on fabric, I was actually surprised how well it worked.
The colors look as good as on paper and I had no problem with the color coverage, unlike when I tried using Copic markers on canvas.
However, what quickly caught my attention is that Copic markers will bleed like crazy on fabric.
On paper you might experience some bleeding after you apply several layers, depending on which marker paper you are using.
However, on fabric the markers will bleed even on the first layer if you don’t move your markers fast enough.
So you have to be extremely careful.
If you outlined any design on the fabric beforehand, you don’t want to color all the way up to the lines because your markers will bleed for sure.
Instead, you have to color from the center and stop before reaching the lines. And then you wait for the ink to bleed towards the lines.
Not very surprisingly, this makes coloring small areas a nightmare. So I would advise to keep your designs simple.
Additionally, because the fabric gets saturated so quickly it’s very difficult to blend colors together. Normally when blending Copic markers you would use circular motions and go over the same area several times.
On fabric this will lead to bleeding for sure. So you will have to keep the blending to a minimum.
Overall, the Copic colors looked pretty good on fabric. But constantly having to worry about bleeding and the inability to freely blend colors are huge downsides.
Tips for using Copic markers on fabric
Ok, I just said it’s super difficult to control the ink when coloring with Copics on fabric.
But there are a few things you can try to get better results.
Here are a few simple tips to keep in mind:
- Make very fast and light strokes to minimize bleeding
- Use flicking rather than circular motions if you want to blend colors
- Go with a design that isn’t too detailed
- Try your markers on a scrap piece of fabric to check the degree of bleeding and colors
- Color from the inside to the outside
- Give the colors plenty of time to dry between layers.
- Wash the fabric beforehand to prevent shrinkage
And, of course, the best result comes from experience.
Don’t expect too much from your first try. You will probably have to try it a few times before you get a good grasp of the degree of bleeding.
Choosing the right type of fabric is the key!
If you ever tried using your Copic markers on different types of paper, you know the performance of your markers is dependent on the paper.
This is even more true for fabric.
There are a lot of different fabrics to choose from.
Not only can they differ in terms of the fibers used (such as cotton, linen, merino wool, etc.), but also in the weaving technique that is used to make them (such as plain weave, satin weave, twill weave, etc.)
Of course, some fabrics are more suitable for Copic markers than others.
What I didn’t know when I first tried my Copic markers on fabric is that in general the more dense the fabric is woven, the less your markers will bleed.
So if you insist on using your Copic markers on fabric, make sure you choose a fabric that has a very dense weave.
Using the Copic colorless blender on fabric
By now you might be wondering: if bleeding is such a big problem when working on fabric, when not use the colorless blender to fix it?
After all, on paper the colorless blender can be used to wet old ink and fix small mistakes by pushing the ink around a bit.
But if you are thinking of using the colorless blender on fabric…
Stop right now!
When using the colorless blender on fabric you will only make the bleeding worse.
I’m not entirely sure why there is such a difference.
My best guess would be that on paper most of the ink stays close to the surface, while on fabric the ink directly sink through the entire weave.
Whatever the reason might be, please don’t use the Copic colorless blender to correct any mistakes on fabric.
Fixating your colors
If you use your Copic markers to customize a T-shirt or some other clothing, you want to be sure that you won’t wash away all the colors next time you do the laundry.
Fortunately, since the Copic ink is alcohol-based rather than water-based, the colors should be close to permanent.
However, some people have mentioned that certain colors when used on certain fabrics might still fade when you wash them.
To fixate your colors you can try to heat them before washing.
You can easily do this with a laundry iron.
Make sure you don’t apply the heat directly though. Place a second piece of cloth over your design and iron that instead.
After that, your colors should remain on the fabric for a long time.
You can use your Copic markers on fabric but it’s not as easy as using them on paper.
There is a lot of bleeding which makes it difficult to work accurately. Moreover, since fabric gets saturated quickly, you won’t be able to blend a lot either.
To me, these are two big red flags. And to be frank, you might be able to get the same results with cheaper art markers or fabric paint.
However, if Copic markers are all that you have and you are up for a challenge, you can give it a try yourself.
If you want to get the most out of your Copics, I suggest you stick with marker paper though. You can find the best choices in my article on Copic paper.