What Are Water Soluble Markers? All You Need to Know!

Written by Laura Walker / Fact checked by Leilani Carroll

what are water soluble markers

If you have used water-soluble markers before, you know that they are versatile writing tools, ideal for writing on fabric for quilting, embroidering, and more. But are you aware of what makes them different and how they actually work?

In this blog post, we will answer, “What are water soluble markers?” and provide you with all the essentials. We will additionally touch on how you can use these markers and what choices you have when scouring the market. Read on!

All About Water Soluble Markers

How are Water Soluble Markers Different? How Do They Work?

What’s unique about water-soluble markers lies in the pigments, which are composed of powders, oils or water, and possibly, other coloring dyes.

The pigments of water-soluble markers reside in water-based mediums (hence, the name). They can separate or dissolve when coming into contact with water, regardless of whether they have dried.

And because of this, they can be “washed” from a surface, like fabric or the skin. For this reason, water-soluble markers are often also called “washable markers.”

Moreover, due to its water-based pigments, you can reactivate these markers with water, adding color or making them darker, even after it is dried. You can more easily blend them without worrying about them bleeding through the paper, too.

In contrast, the pigments of non-water soluble markers are in non-water-based mediums. These cannot run loose when exposed to water and thus, are deemed “waterproof.”

Other differences include:

  • Price: Water soluble markers are not as expensive. They are considered more disposable because of this.
  • Surface Compatibility: Water-soluble markers do not work on non-porous surfaces.

What Are Water Soluble Markers Used for?

Despite their washable nature, these markers can still be used to make a mark! Some of the most common uses of water soluble markers are:

  • Sketching guides for embroidery or quilt projects
  • Mapping out templates for sewing and beadwork
  • Employing wet media techniques
  • Creating temporary decorative projects
  • Chromatography

Now, let’s look at each in detail!

1. Sketching Guides for Embroidery or Quilt Projects


A key part of embroidery and quilting is guides. These are essentially lines and marks you make at the start of the project to know where and how you will be working later.

  • For Embroidery Projects: You would have to sketch out what you want on your piece of fabric. Besides for sketching, water soluble markers can be used to draw embroidery beadwork guides as well.
  • For Quilting Projects: You would have to measure fabric scraps and note down guides for cutting them into certain sizes. You might also use washable markers on clothes to mark where pieces of fabrics would overlap for sewing.

2. Mapping Out Templates for Sewing and Beadwork


Sewing involves many other steps, including marking up all the specific placements of things (fabrics, buttons, beads, etc.) and creating guides (for cutting, folding, etc.).

To create the guide, you need a drawing tool visible on fabric but not permanent. The answer? Water soluble markers! In this case, they might also be called washable markers for fabrics.

With these, you are free to make any marks on the fabrics you are working with to make sewing easier. So, if you are preparing materials for a sewing project, make sure you do not forget your water soluble embroidery marker!

3. Employing Wet Media Techniques


You can create stunning artwork using wet media techniques with water soluble markers. These can include (but are not limited to):

  • Using watercolor as a background wash
  • Blending markers for gradient or ombre effects

Water soluble markers can be used wet-on-wet or wet-on-dry, making them extremely versatile. With a pack of basic colors, you can create dozens of different masterpieces.

If you are a hobbyist or amateur, practicing regularly with these water-based markers can take you to the advanced level. And if you are already a professional, you can engage in projects and continue to further hone your skills.

4. Creating Temporary Decorative Projects


Water-soluble markers are ideal for temporary decorative projects, like designing your own shirt or other clothing items. That is why there are so many water soluble markers for fabrics in the market!

These markers come in various sizes and colors, so you can unleash your creativity and decorate your shirt, dress, pants, or whatever it might be, to your heart’s desires.

Most kids would love to do this; no matter if they are doing it alone or with you or with a friend. A lot of teachers actually make this an activity in school. They would tie it in with their lessons, for instance. I remember making a shirt about the water cycle in 5th grade!

After having a fun time with the washable fabric markers, you can launder it in the washing machine and renew it for a second life!

5. Chromatography


Water soluble markers are often the go-to options for Chromatography. Their ink molecules can be dissolved and carried up the string of paper through capillary action. Other markers, like permanent markers cannot do this because their ink does not break down upon water exposure.

6. Pros & Cons

  • More affordable
  • Easier to blend
  • Less messy
  • Versatile uses
  • Does not bleed through paper if used properly
  • Paper problems like curling, piling, and tearing happens easily
  • Strokes are clearer once the ink dries
  • Does not work on non-porous surfaces

How to Remove Water Soluble Markers?


There are a few different methods that you can try:

If you are working with fabric:

  • Soak it in cold water overnight
  • Spray it with water and blot it with some cotton balls
  • Swabbing the marker ink with water and drawing the color out slowly

Related: 7 Simple Steps to Use Fabric Markers on T-shirts

If you are working with paper:

  • Rub the marker ink gently with some rubbing alcohol via a cotton ball

How to Tell If a Marker is Water Soluble?


It is difficult to tell between a water soluble marker and insoluble one at a glance. If there is no clear label, you would have to test the markers.

Simply swatch it, then run a wet brush over it or dip it in water to see if the ink runs. If it does, you have a water soluble marker.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What types of markers are water soluble?

Markers that are water-based are water soluble. In the market, these might go by other names, like water soluble fabric pens, washable pens, etc.

Are Crayola markers water soluble?

Yes, they are! Crayola markers are water-based. So, they are soluble in water.

What popular brands of water soluble markers are there?

A few well-known water soluble markers and pens are:

  • Wrights Water soluble marking pens
  • CLOVER water soluble markers
  • Sewline air erasable fabric pen


By now, you should have a good idea of, “What are water soluble markers?” These markers have water-based pigments that dissolve and run loose when in contact with water. This enables them to be “washable.” They are great for various purposes: drawing guides for sewing, quilting, and embroidering. These markers can be used for artworks and chromatography as well.

Hopefully, this blog post has been informative and interesting. Do you have any other questions about water soluble markers? If yes, reach out to us in the comments below. We welcome follow- up thoughts, too.

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