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!