Sharpie Coffee Mug Tutorial by Amanda May Photos

This year is the first year that I was a full time photographer during the Christmas season.  Which means this is the first year that I’ve had any time to put together a gift for some of my most helpful bride and grooms! So for every bride and groom that referred another bride and groom to me, I wanted to give a little Christmas Gift to show my thanks! I searched and searched and everything that I found was going to add up to about $50 and when you’re buying for 18 different couples that can get a little expensive.  So finally I found a way to give a wonderful, thoughtful, awesome gift without breaking my bank with the sharpie mugs! So I want to share with you guys the ways that I’ve found that best make the custom sharpie coffee mugs. I have read so many different tutorials all over the internet and have accumulated a list of all of the best ways below:

  1. I was serving 18 couples which means that I needed 36 coffee mugs. That is a lot of coffee mugs.  All of the other tutorials were saying they just bought cheapo ones from walmart or the dollar tree. I went to both and the walmart ones were $1.75 while the dollar tree didn’t have any white ones.  Walmart only had 10  in stock so it was looking like I was going to have to order online anyway so I started searching.  The mugs that came in large quantities were mostly from restaurant suppliers and I finally found one that would sell to me without registering my own restaurant. So I got a quantity of 36 coffee mugs for $42 from Food Service Warehouse! Only 1 was broken when it got to me and I was overall super happy with the experience with Food Service Warehouse!
  2. Next on the list was trying to figure out what utensil to write on the cups with. Some blogs said they just used regular ole’ sharpies from walmart, some said that they used oil based markers… but I found that the best way to do it was get the oil based sharpie.  The benefit of using sharpie brand is that they offer lots of variety… different colors, different sizes and they’re available at most arts and crafts stores so you don’t have to wait for them to be shipped to you! I got a ultra thin black sharpie to help me write the thin calligraphy lines and a thick one to fill in the fat part of the line from hobby lobby.  They’re very reasonably priced, $3.99 and $5.99 and I used the 40% off coupon from their website to save a couple bucks. I also bought another brand oil based marker from hobby lobby just to try it and I much prefer the sharpie! Sharpie Coffee Mug Tutorial by Amanda May Photos
  3. Now the application.  Before you start writing on the mugs, wipe them down with rubbing alcohol.  This just cleans the surface.  It doesn’t absolutely have to be done either… on a couple of the mugs I forgot to do this before I started on them and they still turned out fine, but it’s safer to just do it anyway.  After wiping down you can draw your design with pencil first.  This is genius.  Especially if you’re doing an intricate design. You can erase the pencil if you mess up or decide to do something else or you can take the alcohol and just wipe it off. Then it’s time to trace.  Trace your penciled outline with the sharpie marker.  You will have to shake the sharpie marker and press the tip down to get the oil ink to come to the surface initially but once you’ve done so it’s good to go.  My two sharpie markers, as pictured above lasted the entire 36 coffee mugs + my 2 trial ones before that, and I still have more ink left in them. In between mugs and sharpie use, lay the sharpies down on their side as their pictured above.  If you put them up and down with he tip facing down the ink can bleed out and if you put them with the tip facing up, the tip can dry out, so it’s best to store them laying down on their side while you’re not using them. If you are tracing with the sharpies and you mess up, don’t worry, some rubbing alcohol will take the the sharpie right off the mug’s surface as long as it hasn’t been baked yet! I couldn’t find any other cleaner that removed the ink either. I tried finger nail polish remover and some all purpose house cleaner and alcohol was the only thing that would remove it.
  4. Once you’ve gotten all of your mugs written on, you can take a wet paper towel with some soap and water and wash off the pencil that may be coming through from behind your inked design. The soap and water will not remove the sharpie and I scrubbed pretty hard with a paper towel and that ink did not budge at all!
  5. After they’ve dried the next step is to bake them.  With your oven off, place all of your mugs inside.  I just put mine directly on the racks and baked 18 the first time and 18 the second time.  Turn your oven to 425 degrees and let the oven heat up with the mugs inside.  Once heated let the mugs bake for 45 minutes then turn off the oven and let the mugs cool down as the oven cools down.  The cool down process can take forever because the mugs are ceramic and when they’ve been baked at 425 degrees for almost an hour, they take a long time to cool off.  So I just let mine sit in the oven for like 3-4 hours after turning the oven off and they were completely cooled by the end of that.  Afterwards, I hand washed the mugs with dish soap and a sponge and they were good to go! I did not try to put them in the dishwasher because the mugs themselves say to hand wash only.  I’m sure the dishwasher would start chipping away at the sharpie over time.

So that’s it! My sharpie mug tutorial is complete! Please leave me a little comment below if you found this tutorial helpful and are excited to do your own! I would also love a picture of your own mugs when you finish them if you want to tag me on instagram or shoot it directly to my email (

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Knoxville, TN wedding photographer

I'm Amanda May and I'm pretty stoked that you're here. I'm a three on the enneagram, a smiler when things get awkward, and I would love for you to get to know me more over on my about page.


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