Do Fabric Pens Work on Canvas?

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Fabric pens are an easy way to create detailed, permanent designs on canvas fabric. Fabric pens are available in fine, thick and chisel tip varieties and in a large assortment of colors. Use fabric pens to create original drawings or to trace templates onto canvas bags, sneakers and aprons.

Preparing Canvas

  • Before beginning any fabric-painting project, you must launder the material. Machine wash the canvas to remove any chemicals that might prevent the paint from properly absorbing into the fabric. Do not use fabric softener, since it lingers behind on the otherwise chemical-free fabric. Dry the canvas to preshrink it. Place a thin piece of cardboard behind the fabric to prevent fabric markers from bleeding through the canvas to the work surface.

Setting the Paint

  • Depending on the manufacturer, some fabric pens may require heat setting while others will be immediately permanent. For pens that require heat setting, you may need to hold a hair dryer over the project, iron it or place it in the clothes dryer. Always check the manufacturer's instructions to determine what steps must be taken to set the paint. Do not wash the painted canvas until the paint has been fully set.

Project Ideas

  • Blank canvas tote bags, aprons, wall plaques and tennis shoes are readily available at craft stores. Decorate a set of canvas tote bags to use instead of disposable shopping bags. Decorate canvas aprons to give as gifts. Draw on three or more canvas plaques and hang them side by side on a wall. Use markers in colors that match a favorite football team or school to transform inexpensive white canvas shoes into spirited attire.

Kids Parties

  • Provide blank canvas tote bags or aprons to be decorated at a child’s birthday party. You can find fabric markers produced especially for children at craft stores. Provide painting smocks or ask the children to bring an old T-shirt to protect their party clothes. You may want to purchase fabric markers in duplicate colors so that children don’t have to wait too long for their favorites to become available.

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