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Using Fabric Markers and Paints for Small Eyes

detail of applique dinosaur face with shiny black eye

For years I’ve been recommending fabric markers and paints as an option for people who don’t want to applique small eyes, but I’ve never recommended a particular brand.

Until now.

On a recent trip to Joann’s I grabbed one of every black fabric marker and paint they carried. Then I brought them home and tested them out on some dinosaur quilt blocks.

First, let’s talk about the markers. That’s definitely the easiest option for eyes.

Dinosaur eye made with a Tulip fabric marker - recommended by Shiny Happy World

Of all the brands I tested, I liked this Tulip fine-tip marker the best.

Tulip fabric marker - recommended by Shiny Happy World

It has a bullet tip, which is nice. I used the fine tip to outline the eye, and then filled in the center using the broader side of the tip. It took two coats (I let it dry between coats) to get the really opaque coverage I wanted – but that wasn’t a problem. Here’s a close-up of the finished eye.

Dinosaur eye made with a Tulip fabric marker - recommended by Shiny Happy World

Nice tip. No bleeding. Good coverage.

Now – what if you want to get a little fancy with a 3D eye?

Applique Dinosaur eye made with Scribbles fabric paint - recommended by Shiny Happy World

About a year ago I got an email from a customer telling me she had done her eyes using fabric paint, and I’ve been wanting to test that out ever since. I think she had used a puff paint, but I wanted to try the shiny finish, thinking that would add a nice spark of life to the eyes.

I tested out several brands and this one from Scribbles was my favorite.

Scribbles fabric paint - recommended by Shiny Happy World

The black was truly black, not just dark grey. It had a nice shine on it after it dried, and the bottle has a VERY fine tip which made it easier to control. It does take a little skill to use these squeeze bottles – I recommend practicing on some paper before you try it on your almost-finished blocks.

Here’s a close-up of a finished eye.

Dinosaur eye made with Scribbles fabric paint - recommended by Shiny Happy World

A couple of things to note. . .

This finishes to a nice smooth dome – but be aware that the dome is a lot taller when the paint is wet. It will compact down as it dries.

I tried – and was unable – to pick off the eye after it was dry. Just a little testing for kids who like to pick at textures like this. 🙂

You won’t be able to iron over the applique after you apply the paint – your iron will melt it. So you need to fuse down all the applique pieces, then outline stitch, then paint the eyes. You could possibly paint the eyes before outlining, but some of the edges of the dinosaur heads are pretty close to the eyes and I was afraid the rubbery eyes would grab at my presser foot and keep things from flowing smoothly.

Yes – it’s more than a little nerve-wracking to add paint to an otherwise finished block. I wasn’t joking about practicing on paper first. It took me a few eyes to get a feel for how it squeezes out of the bottle.

So there you go – my favorite fabric markers and paints perfect for small eyes if you don’t want to do tiny applique. 🙂

There’s a round-up of all my different ways to do the eyes here.

And you can find that dinosaur quilt pattern here. 🙂

Here are links to all the posts showing how to applique with fusible adhesive – my favorite method. It’s fast and easy and (with the right materials) it holds up beautifully to rough use and repeated washing.

Here are links to special posts about eyes.

Here are links to some extra fun things you can do with your applique.

Other Applique Methods

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Move on to the lessons about outline stitching.

Happy quilting!