A while back my daughter’s kindergarten teacher got in touch with me to ask me about decorating mugs in a way that would be permanent. She wanted her class to create a little gift for the grandma’s and grandpa’s coming to their school’s Grandparents’ Day celebration. She had purchased an inexpensive bulk set of white coffee mugs and needed to know the best marker or paint for the kids to use on them. If it was permanent, even better so that the grandparents could actually use their handmade treasures, even hand wash them with ease or put them in the dishwasher without fear of fading.
Being a long-time crafter and also a former craft editor, I get a lot of questions about craft techniques and don’t mind at all. Over the past 20 years, I’ve dabbled in just about every art or craft medium out there, and I’ve used a lot of diverse craft products and brands too. Through a mountain of failures, I’ve learned a great deal about the do’s and don’ts including time and money savers along the way.
However, adapting a permanent solution to something 5 and 6 year-olds could do in the classroom without the smelly fumes of chemicals or messiness of paints was a bit of a challenge. What did I do for research? Ha! Pinterest, of course! What else nowadays? And, voila…more craft tutorials on permanent marker Sharpie mugs than I can count, all of various methods, supplies and instructional quality.
After visiting craft blog after craft blog and reading good to mediocre instructions on this craft technique, I did some trial runs and experimenting of my own using oil based Sharpie brand markers and the cheapest of plain white ceramic mugs found at Wal-mart. Below is the formula that I found to work best after adding a few more tries to my mountain of failures – at least it is a nice view from the top with everything I’ve learned down below. Never be discouraged by or discount the failures in anything! It helps you get to the top of the mountain.
super cheap ceramic mugs (plain white or colored would work fine)
oil based Sharpie markers (regular old permanent markers don’t cut it on this one for durability)
soap, water, rubbing alcohol and paper towels
OIL SHARPIE MUG INSTRUCTIONS:
First clean your mugs well with soap scrubbing the surface to remove any residue. Just to be sure there’s no oily gunk left on there, use a bit of rubbing alcohol on it and wipe off with a paper towel until completely dry.
Then prime your oil based Sharpie markers by shaking them for a minute or so and writing on a scrap piece of paper. Press down over and over until the head of the marker is full of ink. The oil based Sharpie’s are made a bit differently than regular permanent markers with more of a floating head similar to paint pens.
Next draw with the oil based Sharpies and decorate until your heart’s content. I drew some Autumn themed images like the pumpkins and jack-o-lantern on one side of the mugs while my 6 year old drew little ghosts and pumpkins all over the mug, even onto the handle. You can draw anywhere you like on the exterior of the mug. Due to safety concerns of the Sharpie eventually chipping off, I don’t recommend drawing on the interior, but that’s entirely up to you.
Let the decorated mugs sit for at least a few hours for the oil marker to dry completely on the surface. This step is very important. Don’t skip it! Several of the many, many craft tutorials on using permanent markers on mugs that I read did not have this step. My first try at this, I put them immediately in the oven at a lower temperature and the oil based marker scratched off when I cleaned it with a semi-porous sponge so beware. Let the mugs sit to dry for a while before baking.
Place your decorated mugs in a cool oven and set to 425 degrees. Once the oven is heated, start your timer for 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, turn off your oven, but leave the mugs in there to cool off completely before removing them. I let mine sit in the oven overnight as I made them in the evening, but probably an hour or so of cooling time would be just fine, especially if you crack your oven door to let the hot air out faster.
Craft Tips for Decorating Mugs with Oil Based Sharpie Markers:
- Go ahead and get the cheapest mug you can find. As long as it isn’t cracked and in good quality, it really doesn’t matter the price tag on the mug. You could also use a ceramic cup, bowl or other ceramic item. It just needs to be ceramic in order to bake well in the oven.
- The hotter the oven the better. You have to remember that these items are ceramic and have already been fired once. I wouldn’t put your oven on the broiler setting, but heat isn’t going to hurt a decently made ceramic item. Be sure to put them in the oven cold though to lessen the risk of cracking.
- Rubbing alcohol recovers a multitude of mishaps. If you are decorating your lovely mug and have a woopsy, simply put a bit of rubbing alcohol on a paper towel, cotton ball or end of a Q-tip for small spots. Then gently rub off your mistaken drawing. Take a clean cotton ball and wipe away any excess alcohol and keep on going with your handiwork.
- Don’t be afraid to layer it on. I went over that jack-o-lantern design a few times with the oil based Sharpie to get clean lines and edges. I just let it dry a bit in between so I didn’t take off any sticky layers before applying new ones. Also, if you have already baked your mug and then some of the marker comes off after cleaning it, you can reapply and re-bake with no problems. The first time I tried this new DIY technique I baked the decorated mugs at a lower temperature of 350 degrees which didn’t fuse the oil based marker to the surface of the ceramic mug well. It rubbed off after washing it so I reapplied some layers of marker and baked it again. That same Sharpie mug went through the dishwasher this week with no wear or fading at all.
- Hand washing is great, but dishwasher is okay too. For the most part, I’ve hand washed my mugs over the past month since my daughter and I made them. I ordinarily just use them for morning coffee or afternoon tea, and they don’t need anything more than a rinse. My husband stuck one on the top shelf in the dishwasher this past weekend though and it came out perfectly, not a bit of scratched ink. I was kind of surprised actually and expected some chipping, but it was still good as the day we made them.
If you like this Fall themed craft idea, don’t forget to hit a share button at the bottom of this post to spread the word. This easy Autumn mugs DIY project using oil based Sharpies is a fun craft for many ages. My daughter’s kindergarten class enjoyed making their own versions for Grandparents’ day and I had a blast making these at home too!
Until next time,
Managing Editor at Indoor Outdoor Space