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I've tried using gel pens, ballpoint pens, sharpies, markers (although this was an obvious answer) and felt tip pens on colored craft (EVA) foam, but they all seem to smudge or never fully dry. The ink tends to rub off upon touch. Obviously once it dries it does it less so, but I find that it can still smudge or leave imprints on the skin.

Has anyone used something that was more effective that doesn't require using paint? The type of lines i need to draw range from hand lettering to thicker lined outlines.

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  • Welcome to Arts & Crafts. By colored foam, are you referring to EVA (craft) foam? Some types of foam are harder to get stuff to adhere to than others. How broad a line do you need? The Fisher space pens will write on almost anything, but I've never tested how durable the marks are. Would it be practical to over-coat it with something clear?
    – fixer1234
    Oct 31, 2022 at 22:49
  • Is it the pen rubbing off or the surface of the foam? Sharpie on EVA should be OK, but even black Sharpie fades pretty quickly in direct sunlight
    – Chris H
    Nov 1, 2022 at 10:02
  • What kinds of markers? Water-based, alcohol-based, solvent-based?
    – Allison C
    Nov 1, 2022 at 13:48
  • Yes, EVA (craft foam), the ink tends to rub off upon touch. Obviously once it dries it does it less so, but I find that it can still smudge or leave imprints on the skin. The type of lines do range from hand lettering and also thicker lined outlines. I have also tried felt tip pens, gel pens, and sharpie.
    – T L
    Nov 1, 2022 at 16:48
  • 2
    It might help in getting answers if you could describe the nature of the marks (short-term marks for construction, cutting guides for items you will send to someone else, decoration, etc.). What kind and nature of handling do the marks need to stand up to, and for how long? How will it be used? I suspect the question has too many unknowns for people to make reliably good suggestions without writing a book that covers every possibility.
    – fixer1234
    Nov 3, 2022 at 3:57

2 Answers 2

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Sharpies can be good on plastic (including foamed plastic like EVA craft foam) but they're not always the best choice.

Here I've tested (top row, blue) a Schwan Stabilo OHPen 841 universal permanent superfine and on the bottom (pink) a fine Sharpie.

Test: OHP pen vs Sharpie

On both rows, from the left the mark was

  • made and immediately smudged
  • made, left about 10 seconds then smudged (rubbed hard in the case of the OHPen)
  • gone over 3 times, then smudged (again, rubbed vigorously for the blue)
  • made and left
  • gone over 3 times and left

A few minutes later, after taking the photo and typing this answer, the Sharpie still smudges.

Permanent overhead projector pens aren't available in as many colours as sharpies, but are very useful for marking on many plastic materials, and seem far more photo-stable - I've seen sharpies fade to nothing after a few weeks in sunlight (on plant labels) but I have things that have lasted years labelled with these pens.

A further test with a fatter permanent OHP pen (red, same series) suggests that allowing it to dry for a minute or so is a good idea. The finer pen seems to withstand hard rubbing better than the broader one, partly, I suspect, because it marks deeper into the foam (as the pressure is distributed over a much smaller area).

Do be sure to get the permanent sort, not the water-based washable ones. Denatured alcohol will take most permanent markers off smooth surfaces if necessary, but on foam would just make a mess

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It would depend on what you intend to do with the foam.

Any acrylic based paint pen should mark it sufficiently to label pieces or to draw lines to cut later on, but if you want to draw a design (for example, decorating cosplay armour with a pattern), you may be better off cutting vinyl and sticking it on.

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