Want to know which type of marker is best for outdoor plant tags? I tested several and found out which one will not fade or wear off in sun, rain, or snow.
If you want to reduce plastic waste, this tells how to remove marker from plant tags so you can reuse them.
The Best Marker for Long-Lasting Plant Tags
A while back I mentioned I was testing various markers (marker pens) for plant tags to find out which ones work best in outdoor garden conditions.
It’s now been over six months, and after exposure to all sorts of weather, I can already see which option is best.
Oil-Based Versus Water-Based
I tested two basic types of markers (water-based and oil-based) on these surfaces:
I put all the items in a container on the ground in the garden.
Fall and winter kindly did their thing and the tags were exposed to direct sun, rain, sleet, snow, leaves, and sitting water.
It’s been over six months and there is one clear winner: the oil-based paint marker. There are lots of brands and they come in all sorts of colors and tip sizes.
Marker Test Results
The oil-based marker (“Paint Marker” in the photo above) has kept its intensity while the water-based marker (“Sharpie” in the photo) has already faded.
I’m assuming the sun has the biggest effect, causing the water-based marker to fade quite a bit while the oil-based marker did fine.
The water-based Sharpie marker is still visible but that’s quite a change in this amount of time. One summer of direct sun and it may be hard to read.
The only test the water-based Sharpie passed was on ceramics, otherwise it faded significantly.
Related: Plant Tags That Last a Lifetime
Shop for Oil-Based Garden Markers
There are several brands of oil-based paint markers (also sometimes called ‘paint pens’).
These are the same markers that work nicely for stone painting.
- Oil-based (not water-based)
- The right tip size (I like extra fine)
The ones I’m currently using are:
- Jiffy Artline 400 with a 2.3mm tip. Check art supply stores or Amazon. I prefer a finer tip than that but couldn’t find one at the time. This brand is not always available on Amazon but any other oil-based marker should also work (see links below).
- Sharpie makes both water-based and oil-based markers so check the details to be sure you’re getting the right type.
Sharpie Ex*treme is oil
Sharpie Ex*treme is Fade Resistant | Amazon
These ones are all oil-based:
- Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Markers
- iBayam Paint Marker Pens
- Artiqo Oil Paint Markers
- Zeyar Art Paint Pens
Oil-based paint markers are sold as ‘permanent’ and ‘indelible’ but, good news, you can intentionally remove the marker from most surfaces including plastic plant tags and use them again. The fewer plastics we dispose of, the better.
I’ve tested numerous household products for removing markers and here’s what works:
Oil-based Paint Pens
- Mineral spirits
- Methyl hydrate – (also known as Methonal – see Wikipedia)
So, now the great marker question has been solved. If you want long-lasting plant tags that do not fade, go with an oil-based paint marker.
And make the tags last forever by removing the pen as needed for reuse.
25 Creative DIY Plant Tags & Markers shares lots of ways to use paint pens.
How To Make Plant Tags (Best Practical & Creative Options) has more ideas.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
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