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I'm about to start on a project made of felt. I'm making caterpillar segments out of felt, and I need to mark alphabet letters on the back.

This project is for kids. They'll make their caterpillar by putting the alphabet in order or spelling words.

What type of marker will best show so that it will not fade and be clear enough for the kids? (For instance, fine tip won't work). I'm using light colored felt patterns.

I'm thinking fabric markers may be okay, but the color assortment is expensive. On the other hand, there are permanent markers (cheap and on hand) and paint markers. I'd test it out myself, but I'm on a budget.

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  • I'd probably go ahead with the fabric markers. I haven't worked much with felt in my classes, so I'm not too familiar :/ How old are the kids? – Zizouz212 Apr 27 '16 at 22:51
  • 3 and 5? I want them to last awhile, too. – user24 Apr 27 '16 at 22:51
  • Maybe sharpies? Those may be expensive too, but I'm sure normal crayola markers should work fine (but I haven't tested that). – Zizouz212 Apr 27 '16 at 22:53
  • I can try Sharpies. I'm worried washable markers will smear, but I might try with some scraps. – user24 Apr 27 '16 at 22:54
  • Crayola's don't actually smear much in my experience, and you can use them anywhere. They may need a few seconds to dry, but no one gets hurt in trying with scraps :) – Zizouz212 Apr 27 '16 at 22:55
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I tried an experiment on a square of random tan felt I had sitting around. I chose the letter B because it has a good mix of straight and curved lines, so I could also get an idea of how easy a particular marker was to use.

Clockwise, from top left:

  • Permament Marker (Sharpie)
  • Washable Marker (Faber Castell)
  • Fabric Marker (Marvy)
  • Fabric Paint (Tulip)

Square of felt fabric with multiple marker tests


Permanence: The washable marker easily transferred color from fabric to finger. To my surprise, even the permanent marker could be smeared if rubbed with a thumb. The fabric paint and fabric marker didn't transfer color to my fingers, though.

One additional note: Because of the nature of felt, the surface threads can be rubbed around in such a way that the letter looks smeared -- even the fabric marker version. The fabric paint, however, also "glued" the threads in place and so the letter couldn't be distorted.

Ease of Use: This was sort of a tie. The fabric paint was the easiest, because I only needed one pass for each line I made. However, the felt really wicks up paint, and so it took a couple attempts to figure out how much to apply (a thin paint line expands and becomes thicker as it dries). See the purple blob to the left of the letter? That was attempt #1 :)

Bleedthrough: Fabric paint and permanent marker showed through the most; all could be seen to some extent, though.

backside of test swatch to compare bleedthrough

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  • Very helpful! The Sharpie and fabric marker look similar enough, but the point about the fabric marker not rubbing off on your fingers seals the deal for me – user24 Apr 30 '16 at 22:04
  • Be sure to let the fabric marker dry thoroughly is my only caveat :) – Erica Apr 30 '16 at 22:05

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