Sharpies on Ceramics

It’s all over Pinterest…that you can draw on ceramics with a Sharpie and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes and it’s permanent. I’ve used a number of special glass paints available at the local craft store, but wouldn’t it be awesome if Sharpies work? Somehow, I really doubted that it would be that easy, otherwise, why would those specialized products like Pebeo Vitrea and Porcelaine exist? But I just had to try this. And I’ve tried it twice now, mostly because my first pass had a spelling error (never start these projects late at night!).

I had a leftover tile from a previous ceramic painting experiment. It’s a cheap tile (around $1) from the local home improvement store. I rounded up a number of brands and colors of permanent markers. It’s actually embarrassing how many different kinds and colors I have, but I kept it to the ones that were in my kitchen.

On the tile are the following:

1. The ubiquitous black Sharpie
2. A fuchsia Sharpie
3. A purple BIC Mark*It
4. A fat, black Marks A Lot, with a raggedy tip
5. A blue very fine point Sharpie
6. Another kind of blue very fine point Sharpie
7. A silver metallic Sharpie

The picture shows each of the markers as well as my poor penmanship. Why is there a little heart after each? I wanted a larger area of contiguous ink to see if large areas adhered differently than writing.

Then I put it in a 350°F oven (as tested by the thermometers in the oven) and left it for exactly 30 minutes. I let it cool. It looked just like it did when I put it in the oven, with little, if any, color change.

Since this project seems like an “instant gratification” project, the first time through, I felt that I could test its durability immediately. The second time, I waited a few hours before testing it. The results were fairly similar.

I thought I’d start with carefully hand washing it, then get progressively harsher. For the first test, I used a dollop of dish soap from my Dawn foaming pump and gently wiped it with a sponge in a circular motion for 25 passes. I was quite surprised at how easily some of it came off! Here is the result:

Many of the samples aren’t holding up at all. The fushcia Sharpie (#2), the BIC (#3) and the Sharpie Pen (#6) came off easily (and to be fair, I’ve never seen BIC or Marks-A-Lot mentioned, only the Sharpie brand). In my initial test, the fuchsia Sharpie left an interesting outline. Maybe, just maybe, because the outline stuck and the rest washed off easily means that it should be baked or left longer before washing? Well, not really, as it washed off just as easily in this test without the cool outlining effect.

The next test was scrubbing with one of those blue scrubbie sponges. I used a fairly worn one, so it’s not as abrasive as it could be. I pumped another dollop of Dawn foam on it and lightly scrubbed another 25 times. By “lightly,” I mean as if I were using a sponge, not as if I’m trying to rub off baked-on food. I wanted to see how it would hold up to knicks and scratches.

At this point, only the silver Sharpie is intact. NONE of the other samples made it. I then tried rubbing alcohol, which is a solvent that usually cleans up permanent marker. And sure enough, it took off most of the rest, except the silver Sharpie. Light scraping with a razor blade, like you’d do to get paint off of a window or to clean your glass cooktop, took all of the markings off.

After all the repinnings that I’ve seen on Pinterest, I was pretty disappointed that this didn’t work very well.

OK, maybe, just maybe, if I had let it set for longer (24 hours, a week, a month), it would work better. But I kind of doubt it. I’d  rather get some of the Pebeo Porcelaine or Vitrea paints that work quite nicely baking at 350°F for 30 minutes. I’ve tried all kinds of washing techniques, including the dishwasher, and have no degradation in the quality of the decoration.

Of course, if you’re making something purely decorative, like a lamp or plate to hang on the wall, then go ahead and use the Sharpies, particularly if the item doesn’t need to be washed. I’d recommend that silver Sharpie! But if you’re making something more useful than decorative, particularly if used near food or drink surfaces, you may want to consider that, while Sharpies have the AP Non Toxic Seal, they are not FDA approved for food, and the MSDS specifically says, “Do not ingest.” And as with any non-toxic decorative materials (like polymer clay, the Pebeo paints, and many other materials), it should be applied to the decorative areas but not the surfaces that come in contact with food. There’s a lot of non-toxic — even edible! —  stuff that exists that I wouldn’t want to ingest if I can avoid it, like apple seeds, stems on green beans, or sand on spinach. In my humble opinion, I’ll add little bits of permanent marker pigment to that list!

[Note: I have continued my research, and I have found some inexpensive, readily available media to permanently embellish glass can ceramics. Read about it here.]

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25 Comments to “Sharpies on Ceramics”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this experiment.
    I’m currently doing my own experiments with the same project.
    Testing different heating temperatures and lengths and also different set times (leaving it alone after it comes out of the oven).
    I have no shame in giving my experiments as gifts and asking family and friends to be a part of my experiment (aka letting me know how the dishes hold up), so I’m hoping to find something that might work.

    But seriously, this helped me a lot. I now have the incentive to try a couple different marker types, so that’s helpful. :)

  2. Yeah I too was super disappointed. I just tried this last night with sharpies of various colours. I baked for 30 min and 350 deg and they colours rubbed off, then 30 more min at 350–still rubbing off and lastly 45 min at 375 and still…no dice. I found many of the colours changed a ton:bright lime green to olive, dark purple to lavender/grey, bright yellow to mustard. The red rubbed off the easiest and the fuchsia stayed on the longest. I did one just black fat sharpie and that worked best but still rubbed off. Oh Well!

    • i used lime green too and it changed to an olive green..but i drew flowers so it still looked fine since it was leaves… but all my other colors pretty much stayed the same

  3. I hope you don’t mind that I Pinned this! :) I, being a Pinner, was interested in the Sharpie on ceramic but also doubted it. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jami — I don’t mind at all that you Pinned this! I’ve dabbled in making glass beads and fusing small glass projects, and I just don’t see a way to make Sharpies (or much of anything, really) stick to glass even when heated to a rather low 350F (glass kilns and torches only begin to work their magic at over 900F!). The lone exception is Pebeo Vitrea and Porcelaine paints (both made by the same company) that are specifically made for glass and baked in a home oven. I’ve had WONDERFUL luck with them. And they stay true to their colors (that is disappointing, isn’t it, Angeli?!). I used to be able to get them at Michael’s/AC Moore; not sure if they still carry them. They’re easily available online.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with me, and for sharing my experience via Pinterest!

  4. i tried this and the sharpie came off too… so i touched up the spots where the sharpie came off and baked it again for like an hour and it still comes off… i was wondering if i covered it in clear nail polish it would protect it? I also thought about some of that spray on clear coating (kinda like clear spray paint) but one of the dishes i made goes in the oven, and im not sure if it would be flammable even though it would be dry….dont wanna explode the house lol

    • With my experiments I’m finding that for regular sharpies, the best results come from letting it be for 24 hours THEN baking. That’s left quite a few of my projects pretty dishwasher safe. Black, Silver, and Gold are the only colors that don’t change while baking, in my experience.
      For better results, the black oil based sharpie stays on better after letting it set for 24 hours and then baking.
      Gold and silver oil-based sharpies were completely flawless after just sitting for 24 hours. I put them on the bottom shelf of the dishwasher and they came out completely flawless.

      I still have a lot more experiments to do, but so far, these results have been consistent.

    • Mstar, it depends on what you want to do with your creation. Covering it in clear nail polish will protect it, and may or may not stick better than the Sharpie. You can also try a clear polyurethane, varnish, or other kind of spray coating, but it will likely change the texture or look of the glass. I don’t know that I’d bake any of that unless the product label specifically states you can do so, as you don’t know what kinds of toxins you may release. The act of heating some kinds of paints may wrinkle or buckle them, too — though the toxins (or at the very least, terrible smells) have me more worried than the possibility of ruining my hard work.

      • yea thats why i was scared to do the spray… but my aunt said said there are some types that are ok and actually made for crafts that your going to bake… she said to just read the label carefully

  5. Hi Friends, How have you cleaned the items to be drawn on? To get rid of any grease (fingers prints, etc) I will try Goo-be-gone today. But, turpentine, methyl alcohol, lighter fluid, paint thinner, isopropyl alcohol, might work also. Experimenting today!! :)

  6. I am trying out a project that the kids draw on tile and than I want to tile it using grout. I was thinking wipe grout of tile will remove and smear image. Have you tried using poxy on tiles to seal it? Do you think this work?

    • If you’re going to do something that will be grouted in, I’d strongly recommend getting the Pebeo products that are designed for tile. The designs should withstand the grouting. The Pebeo products are not that much more expensive, some of the products are as easy to use as markers, they bake in a home oven, and are very durable. I’ve used Pebeo and can recommend them; I think there may be other similar products, too.

      I’ve found some oil-based Sharpies, and I’m formulating a new test with them. If any make it past the other tests, I’ll definitely try grouting!

  7. mod podge……bake it and podge it……your best bet for sure

  8. DEFINITELY get something like the Pebeo if you’re wanting it to be actually permanent! I was an early “let’s try this” person on the pinning ceramics and sharpies… such a sad, sad thing! I’ve got porcelaine paint (pebeo made this before the pens) and…it works magnificently! Sharpies… not so much. I mean, not if you want it to look good for longer than one washing. Just like paint pens… easy to do, easy to destroy!

    If you’re making actual TILES, it might be simpler to go to a local pottery place (no, I don’t mean a big pottery shop mainstream thing like mad platter where they charge an arm and a leg… I mean someone who does pottery and ceramics. if you look around, many communities have a local artist who does studio work, not just premade items.) We make tiles for less than five dollars apiece, WITH the glazes meant for ceramics, Permanent unless broken, and no fiddling with redoing them because sharpies fail.

    • Ooohhh…I like the idea of finding a local potter/ceramicist for tiles! I’ll have to check into finding some. I think I’ll start with my local arts center, too, as they have some classes and will likely either teach me or know someone who can help.

      I agree about the paint-your-own pottery places. They are fun for a piece or two that is decorative, but I’ve found the low-fire glazes to not be terribly chip or crackle resistant. Mugs and things last about a year or so with average use. The holiday bowls and decorative items that I’ve done have held up very well — obviously with occasional use. Not sure I’d want to set tiles into a back splash or table using the paint-your-own glazes, as I think they’d end up chipping too easily. But using tiles made with a higher fire clay and glaze? That would make for maximum durability, suitable for permanently grouting into a project.

      The Pebeo projects that I’ve done have held up much, much better than the paint-your-own places — perhaps because the designs are smaller and not covering edges that chip and the areas aren’t large enough to craze or crack.

      Thanks for your comments!

  9. Put it on as high of heat as you can like 480 for 30 minutes. Works so much better, there is a youtube video about it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jxdyBlhQZg

    • Thanks, bullajabbar, for your link and tip. I’m still very skeptical that the difference between 350F and even 500F means much when trying to adhere anything to ceramics, particularly alcohol-based products. I do think one of her tips, the tip to get cheaply made mugs with very thin glazes, may work better, as the glaze may be rather porous and accept the pigments.

      • Do you think that having the item in the oven warm up and cool down with the oven makes a difference (besides making sure the item doesn’t break that is)?

      • I wish I could say that it would make a difference. It will definitely make a difference in not cracking the item, so I’d recommend that. But the ink? Not so much. The ink is such a thin layer that it will take on the air temperature quickly. I’d actually be afraid of burning it at very high temps, which can discolor or possibly change its texture.

        I still need to try the oil-based Sharpies. THAT should work much better than the alcohol-based (or whatever solvent they use) inks.

  10. I’ve been experimenting with black dollar store mugs and oil based metallic (silver and gold) Sharpies, with mixed results. When given 24 hours to allow the design to “set” prior to heating them up, placing them in a cold oven, heating up to 450degrees for 30 minutes and then allowing to cool fully in the oven, the designs seem remarkably sturdy. I’m giving mine as gifts, so I’m a little scared to try them in the dishwasher, but they definitely stand up to average dish washing (with a sponge). Unfortunately, however, every time I’ve tried this project, the gold fades to a dull pewter color. The silver sharpie held up beautifully, but the gold looks lack-luster. I’ve had to re-do them at different temps 3 times to try to get the gold to stay vibrant, with no luck. I think I’ll try the lowest temp I’ve seen recommended (350 degrees) and then coat the whole design with Mod Podge spray sealer.

    • Metallic on black sounds beautiful, Stephanie! I’d believe that the oil-based Sharpies would work MUCH better than the regular solvent-based Sharpies, with the exception of the high heat turning the gold a dull color. I’d almost try a very low oven (200F), for a longer time to set the oils in the paint and to keep the colors from changing. However, I’d be afraid that the Sharpies won’t adhere well enough to stand up through normal wear and tear for very long. Ceramic glazes are not porous, and most inexpensive oil-based media require a porous surface for long-term adhesion. Fine for a fun gift to last for a few months.

      One caution, though: I’m not sure I’d use a spray sealer on items that are used for eating or drinking. Most aren’t formulated for use near food (for that matter, neither are Sharpies). Perhaps if you masked off the top inch or so, but that might change the sheen on the mug.

      Good luck with your project. I really like the idea of the metallic inks on black!

  11. Hi y’all…I’ve done another test, this time with oil-based Sharpies and other media specially formulated for use on glass. Here’s my (long) post on the topic…and there’s good news!

  12. Hallo to all of you

    It seemsas this is the proper thing to use
    I live in South Africa and urgently looking for these products Could you be so kind and give me an address of a supplier in South Africa whom I can contact. Kind regards Angela

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