Do Sharpies Bleed on Canvas?

It seems that everyone knows what a Sharpie pen is, but some might be unsure for the sake being fair. It's also called a permanent marker or alcohol marker. It's a type of felt tip pen that has a mixture of colored ink and slow-evaporating alcohols. 

The ink is usually a non-toxic dye that can be transferred onto any surface using this alcohol mixture. After it dries, the ink stays put unless it's removed with a solvent such as alcohol or acetone.A sharpie can be used on fabric or canvas since it can transfer its' ink.

Do Sharpies Bleed on Canvas? It doesn't bleed into the material because the amount of alcohol is tiny, but just enough to transfer ink. This is why a sharpie is ideal for drawing on so many objects, including paper, plastic, and even metal. I can honestly tell you that a sharpie doesn't bleed on canvas because I've done it before with great success.

As there are many different types of tips used for sharpies, you can choose from thick markers down to fine lines. It makes drawing your outlines more defined to paint on the canvas later with all kinds of paint. While some people might like to use a charcoal or graphite pencil, the sharpie is permanent once you draw onto the canvas. This makes it a little harder to remove if you make a mistake. But with a bit of alcohol, it can be removed.

You'll just need to lay your canvas down over some paper towels beforehand. Then you can gently rub out the ink using a paintbrush dipped in alcohol. The alcohol reactivates the ink, and it soaks thru the canvas, soaking into the paper towel afterward. Then you can use a blow drier to dry out the canvas.

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    Are Sharpie Pens Waterproof?

    You might want to know: do sharpies bleed on canvas? The answer depends on how waterproof they are. The good news is that the ink that's inside a sharpie doesn't mix with water, so it won't bleed. This is always the case using water-based paint. Not until you start using other paints that include solvents like turpentine used in oil paints can you see bleeding… This only happens if you're using mineral spirits mixed into your paints.

    Do Sharpies Bleed on Canvas
    Do Sharpies Bleed on Canvas?

    The effect won't ruin your canvas, though, because your paint pigment will cover any bleeding. It only starts to bleed if you're using too much solvent in your paint. In that case, your oil paint will be too thin to paint with anyway. Watercolor and acrylic paints won't make a sharpie pen bleed at all. In fact, the paint will most likely cover over the sharpie after a few strokes. This is why sharpie makes an excellent outline guide for creating your base colors.

    Even if you decide to add sharpie lines on top of the paint, it won't run or mix into previous layers. With that being said, you can relax more comfortably knowing that sharpie stays put after it dries. You can even use a sharpie on a canvas that has been coated with gesso. This is called priming and helps the fabric canvas appear smoother. When the gesso is dry, you can use a sharpie to sketch out your baselines. You won't see any kind of bleeding from this method since sharpies work well on rough or smooth surfaces.

    Unless you paint sharpie onto a paint that becomes liquefied, such as watercolor, it may bleed as a result. This is due to watercolor's nature and isn't as fixed to the canvas as acrylic paint will be. If you want to layer watercolors on top of each other and you're adding sharpie lines, you'll seal each layer. Use a UV resistant acrylic spray and lightly spray your painting. After that, you can go back and layer more watercolors on top with no bleeding.

    Are Sharpies Waterproof on Canvas?

    All sharpies used on any kind of canvas are waterproof, depending on the paint you're using. With standard acrylic colors, these air dry and are pretty hard to re-liquefy. Even if you draw tracing lines over the top of acrylic colors, a sharpie line won't run since its waterproof. But when you decide to use paints that can make sharpie turn back into a liquid, you have to be careful. Especially when solvents are used, that will make sharpies muddy colors or run.

    This most significant problem is using any kind of water-soluble paint that's dried is getting it wet again. If this paint isn't sealed before with a matte sealer, it can start to lift and mix with the next watercolor layer added. And if you've made correction lines using a sharpie over the matte sealer, it won't bleed. This is all due to your acrylic sealer that has fixed the previous layer, so it stays put.

    It's kind of like layers of sediment that will wash away if they aren't glued to the canvas. A new watercolor that's dried doesn't have any kind of sticking power. Other than the pigment that's dried there. So any sharpie that goes on top can wash away quickly if it's not sealed first. I should also tell you that you should seal the watercolor first before spraying the acrylic sealer. The solvents inside the sealer might activate the sharpie and bleed accidentally.

    Oil paint is another problem that will affect sharpie too if you're using a solvent to smooth-out or thin your paints. This can be solved by using an acid-free varnish in between layers. It will not dilute or melt your sharpie, making it bleed on the canvas. Essentially this spray protects sharpies from bleeding using oil paint solvents. It also seals sharpie color onto the canvas, so it's more waterproof so-to-say. Here is a link to that sealer:

    Do Brush Pens Work on Canvas?

    In reality, two types of brush pens are sold to artists. There is what is called a brush pen, which is a water-based ink marker that has an extended tip. It's shaped like an artist's paintbrush and produced thin to thick lines. It depends on how hard you apply pressure to the pen.

    These come in all sorts of colors and can be used on a canvas that's been primed with gesso. There is a problem with this type of color since its water-soluble.

    This means it's not waterproof and will bleed easily if you use too much water to blend colors together. This can be solved by being careful using a real paintbrush dipped lightly in water. The brush tip shouldn't have more than one drop's worth or less in the brush hairs. This is good for blending techniques. Seal in-between dried layers using an acrylic matt spray for layering.

    The second type of brush pen is the Real Brush Pen, a water-based ink brush for artists. The advantage of this is that it can be used on dry canvas or dipped-in water to create watercolor effects.

    This tool's tip is made from nylon brush hairs, so it lasts longer than standard brushes. It's meant for those who are serious about painting using watercolor on paper of canvas.

    Because it works more like a paintbrush than a standard ink brush pen, it gives artists more painting freedom. It also comes in various kit colors that provide a wide range of vivid colors in each pack.

    This one unique type of brush pen comes in sets containing 48 or 96 various colors. These, too, can be sealed using an acrylic spray coating between layers after they dry. I highly recommend that your canvas is sealed with 2-layers of gesso before using it. Click here to visit Amazon.

    How to Draw Patterns with a Sharpie on Canvas

    Most artists will like to seal their canvas with a gesso's priming coat to seal out the fabric texture. Depending on the canvas's grade, you might have to seal it a couple of times before you have a smooth surface to paint on. It's always a matter of personal liking since some artists like a bit of texture.

    But make sure this layer is totally dry before doing any painting. My personal experience using a sharpie on canvas used no gesso at all and looked great.

    There was no bleeding effect, and the lines were sharp and defined. It was meant to look like an embroidered Hungarian wall hanging for our kitchen.

    The effect looked so stunning most friends who saw it thought it was an actual embroidered canvas. So sharpie will hold its' own even on raw canvas by itself. If you're going to do any patterns or outlines using a sharpie for this next part, please be advised.

    Be careful using sharpie lines next to each other, it can reactivate a neighboring color making it bleed. Pay attention to your lines and always start with a sharpie meant for thin tracing lines first.

    This way, you can always go back with a Q-tip and some alcohol to quickly rub it off. If your lines are supposed to be thick, use a thicker sharpie after putting down your baselines. You should always wait until each layer is dry before making a line darker.

    To seal off these sharpie lines, they aren't in danger if you paint with oil paint and use the Pebeo varnish spray. If you can find an acid-free varnish spray that won't ruin your sharpie colors or make them run, even better.

    This varnish spray can be very liberal -so you won't worry asking yourself: do sharpies bleed on canvas?' In an alternate case, you can use a light spray coat is Krylon Kamar Varnish. It also comes highly recommended for sealing alcohol-based inks too. 

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      Ian Walsh is the creator and author of and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

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