Permanent Apparently Doesn’t Mean Forever – Sharpies Fade

Regular readers know that we’re big fans of Sharpies – I even carry a Sharpie mini on my keychain – so it was with some disappointment that we recently came across a blog post explaining how transient that supposedly permanent ink can be. Although after carrying out some more research we found that regular Sharpies are indeed notorious for fading but not all Sharpies fade easily. They have brought out an extreme fade-resistant marker and also their oil-based paint markers are very resilient, making them ideal for surfaces such as wood and ceramic mugs.

1. Sharpies Can Fade

Shellie Lewis wrote on her art blog that she discovered work she had done years ago as a student had faded from crisp black to a sickly green-brown. She was surprised and curious enough that she went straight to the company for more information.

I spoke with Beth at Newell Rubbermaid Office Products [800-346-3278] the parent company of Sharpie markers in Oak Brook, Illinois.  She advised me that Sharpies are alcohol based and are not archival in any way. The same is true for the oil-based Sharpie paint pens; those will rapidly decay and discolor also.

Unfortunately, Shellie’s experience seems to be the norm. Scrapbookers have also discovered that Sharpies aren’t made for preserving memories. And, as Shellie lamented in her post, apparently sports memorabilia collectors have had the same problems with Sharpie autographs (which is a shame, since many celebs and athletes use Sharpies).

One common complaint is that as the Sharpie ink fades, it develops an ugly yellowish ‘halo’ around it.

Azizah, over at Gourmet Pens, also received a shock earlier this year when she was seeking advice on the best pens or markers for signing wedding guestbooks. A commenter pointed out to her that Sharpies fade over time, estimating they can become illegible in as little as five years.

That’s really too bad because Sharpies are so versatile and available in such a wide range of colors – at least 40 – that they would otherwise seem perfect for…well, everything. Guess the lesson here is that if you are creating something for the relatively short-term, feel free to use Sharpies. But if you want it to last a lifetime, look for something a little more permanent.

2. Sharpie Extreme Fade Resistant Markers

Sharpie Extreme Fade Resitant Marker V1

Since first writing, this post Sharpie has now brought out the Sharpie Extreme Fade Resistant Marker. It has a very strong durable tip with quick-drying ink. Sharpie says that it is extremely resistant to wet and dry outdoor elements as well as UV light from the sun. They have excellent reviews on Amazon with over 850 people giving them a 5-star rating so they could be well worth taking a look at.

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

3. Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Markers

Sharpie Oil Based Paint Marker

Compared to normal Sharpie their oil-based paint markers are a lot more resilient to fading and work on a lot of surfaces such as glass metal pottery plastic rubber stone and wood.

Again, they are highly rated on Amazon with nearly a 5-star rating by over 3,000 reviewers. From the reviews, it seems that they are excellent for using on Wood. With a lot of people drawing designs on mugs and some are even baking them in the oven to make them even more permanent.

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

4. Sharpie Frequently Asked Questions

We have done a roundup of some of the most frequently asked questions about Sharpie Markers. Please bear in mind that we don’t make them and created this list to help people with some general advice.

It is up to you how you act on it and we cannot be held responsible for any outcome. If you are unsure of anything or need more detailed/specific advice, then please contact Sharpie Customer Services.

How to Prevent Sharpie From Fading?

Unless you are using Sharpie Extreme Fade Resistant Markers then Sharpies like nearly all other alcohol/ based markers will fade over time. Keeping them out of direct sunlight can slow this down to some extent.

Is there a Non-Fading Sharpie Marker?

Absolutely The Sharpie Extreme Fade Resistant Marker is extremely resistant to wet and dry outdoor elements as well as UV light from the sun.

Do Sharpies Fade in the Sun?

Yes, they are an alcohol-based marker and like all alcohol-based markers, they fade quite quickly when exposed to sunlight.

Do Sharpies Fade Over Time?

Yes, their ink is not of archival quality therefore they will fade over time.

Will Sharpie Fade on a Shirt?

Yes, Sharpies will fade on a shirt if you want to write on a shirt use a proper fabric marker it will last longer. Don’t wash your shirt if you can help it and if you really must turn it inside out and use cold water.

Will Sharpie Fade on Fabric?

Yes, it is the same advice as for a shirt. use a proper fabric marker it will last longer. Don’t wash your shirt if you can help it and if you really must turn it inside out and use cold water.

Will Sharpies Fade on Wood?

Normal Sharpies will fade on wood as they are alcohol-based. The best markers for wood are paint markers and the Sharpie 37371PP Oil-Based Paint Markers are highly recommended for marking wooden surfaces.

How to Keep a Sharpie Autograph from Fading?

You can’t If you already have an autograph done with a normal Sharpie or another general-purpose marker. Your best bet for autographs is to use a paint marker and keep it out of the light.

How to Keep Sharpie from Fading on Skin?

Sharpies are not designed to leave a permanent mark on your skin so they can’t replace tattoos long term and I am not convinced that you should be using them in the first place. Once they start to fade and get a little fuzzy they take a bit of removing. Uni-Posca markers are non-toxic and can be removed quite easily. However, they have not been tested or approved against cosmetics or dermatology standards.

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Tony Bridges

As a seasoned journalist and freelance writer, I've spent over three decades telling stories and exploring the world through the written word. With a passion for writing instruments, I found my niche at The Pen Vibe, a blog that shares our collective fascination with pens, pencils, and other tools that have shaped the art of writing.

15 thoughts on “Permanent Apparently Doesn’t Mean Forever – Sharpies Fade”

  1. I’m an artist and have used sharpies for 20 years in my sketchbooks. If they are left closed ,not exposed to loughlin except when thumbing through the books, will they last? This is most discouraging. I thought permanent was just that. Permanent

  2. Wow , your freaking me out , i have collected over 3000 autogeaphs , signed with mostly sharpies ,from the 70s to today and not a one of them has faded thank God or ide be screwed 50 years of using Sharpies ….ive never put any of them in the sun ever , that would be dumb ….even the one`s that are not framed are still just as clear as ever …..i would not use anything else !!!

  3. We were marking aluminum parts with Blue sharpie. Worked great and lasted all day. We keep caps off because of the high usage.
    We just switched to black color and the sharpie only last a few hours.
    Is there a difference in chemistry to make it dry out faster?

    • I had a band sign An item that had plastic coating with a blue sharpie and it began fading within months despite being in a dark box. I’m guessing would’ve lasted longer on paper. So I’m sure there is it effect of the type of surface. Maybe I should’ve used metallic pens. But if you’re just using them at work, and they last for your short-term need, that’s good. But not good for collectibles.

  4. in the 1970s or so, weren’t Sharpies acetone-based? And our college geology lab found they wouldn’t fade when used to mark rocks.

    Or, am I mis-remembering?

    • Hi, I would not have thought so as Acetone evaporates quite quickly, it is difficult to get any specific information from manufacturers about their ink formulas.

      It is more likely to have been oil-based but if anybody knows the answer it would be great to hear from you.

  5. I have been using the basic Sharpie on plastic plant labels and found that some will fade out completely within a week , if we have rain.

    • Hi Barbara the only thing I can think of is to use a fixer such as what artists sometimes use to preserve chalk or charcoal drawings. I am no artist so I would recommend perhaps getting a small canvas and testing it to see what works.

  6. I have 100’s of plants labeled in Sharpie that have faded? Is there any way to read the tags? UV light? Anything?

  7. I was very upset that the wedding canvas signed by friends and family started to fade in less than a year (original blue and grey Sharpies). Happily, three years on, the groom is now my ex, so I guess the signatures just about outlived the marriage…

  8. I have used sharpies for years, let say roughly 25 or more, all my notes and doodles are with a black extra fine point sharpie, all of my sketch books, sharpies, they haven’t faded at all! Not one bit.

  9. Sharpies definitely fade. I’ve got a Rauschenberg suitcase (Hoarfrost series) from the 1970s with his name (no signature) and studio address written all over it in wide Sharpie. It’s been in the dark for the past 25 years and yet it’s almost completely unreadable. It’s just a quirky collectable, but at this point it’s just an old box.
    I’ve got some photo prints that I signed with Sakura Micros; after ten years they are fading badly. B&W toned sepia archivally washed photos:no sign of fading, most are also behind UV plex–but the writing and signatures are going away. (At least I’m still alive to resign them)
    All those Sharpie autographed baseballs are temporarily autographed.

  10. The over 20 year old Sharpie drawings had dramatic degradation in 5-6 years time. I’ve just had them and have been able to follow the decay of the ink over time. I called the Sharpie parent company because I wanted to make sure their current product, being marketed as art supplies, was not going to decay the same and learned that the product has not changed at all from two decades ago. They were very responsive to my inquiries and complaints and I am happy they refunded the money for the markers and paint markers.


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