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Can you color Christmas lights with a Sharpie?

Christmas lights are a beloved holiday decoration that add festive cheer to homes during the Christmas season. Many people like to get creative with their Christmas lights and find unique ways to display them. One idea that has gained popularity in recent years is coloring Christmas lights with Sharpie markers to create custom designs and patterns.

Can You Use Sharpie on Christmas Lights?

The short answer is yes, you can use Sharpie permanent markers to color and decorate basic Christmas light bulbs. Sharpie ink adheres well to the surface of smooth glass or plastic light bulbs, allowing you to draw designs, patterns, names, shapes, and more. The ink will not wash off or fade over time so your customized bulbs will last for many seasons.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind when using Sharpie on Christmas lights:

  • Choose basic incandescent C7 or C9 size bulbs. The larger smooth surface gives you more space for drawing.
  • Make sure bulbs are clean and dry first. Remove any dirt or oils so the Sharpie ink adheres.
  • Shake the Sharpie first and test on an inconspicuous spot. Make sure ink adheres before drawing your full design.
  • Use original standard point Sharpie markers. The fine point may not work as well on curved surfaces.
  • Gently hand wash bulbs after coloring if needed. Avoid high pressure sprays which could smear ink.

As long as you prep the bulbs properly and use the right markers, you should not have any problem coloring Christmas lights with Sharpie pens. The permanent ink will allow your designs to last for many holidays to come.

What Kinds of Designs Can You Draw?

The possibilities are endless when it comes to decorating Christmas lights with Sharpie! Here are some fun ideas to spark your creativity:

  • Names or initials – Personalize lights with names of family members, pets, your family name, etc.
  • Holiday shapes – Draw Christmas trees, snowflakes, stars, bells, ornaments, etc.
  • Seasonal designs – Candy canes, poinsettias, holly leaves, snowmen, Santa hats
  • Cartoon characters – Fun designs like Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, Peppa Pig for a kids’ themed tree
  • Sports team logos – Show your team spirit with team names, mascots, or logos
  • Custom messages – Write words or phrases like “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Holidays”, “Peace on Earth”
  • Abstract patterns or shapes – Dots, stripes, squiggles, spirals, argyle, checkerboard

Get creative with mixes of patterns, words, and colors for a custom look. Add fun details like facial expressions on characters or seasonal elements like Santa’s reindeer and sleigh.

Can You Use Other Permanent Markers?

Sharpie markers work best for coloring Christmas lights because of their versatile fine point tips and opaque, long-lasting ink. However, you can use other brands of permanent markers as well:

  • Bic Mark-It – Similar fine point permanent markers suitable for detailed Christmas light designs.
  • Crayola Broad Line – The bold tip is good for filling in larger areas with color.
  • Mr. Sketch Scented – For a festive cinnamon or pine scented Christmas light display.
  • Bling Paint Pens – Add some shimmer with metallic or glitter paint pens on lights.

The most important factors are a permanent, opaque ink that adheres well to smooth surfaces. Test any markers on a spare bulb first before decorating an entire string of lights. Adding a clear acrylic spray sealer can help the colors last longer with any brand of permanent marker.

What Colors of Sharpie Should You Use?

Color Good For…
Classic Colors Traditional holiday hues like red, green, gold, silver
Bold Colors Vibrant shades like magenta, turquoise, orange, neon
Metallic Colors Adding shimmer and shine with gold, silver, etc.
Multicolor Packs Variety for all your design ideas

Sharpie markers come in a huge array of colors giving you many options for your customized Christmas lights. Stick with classic reds, greens, and other holiday hues if you want a traditional look. Or get creative with eye-catching neons, glitters, and metallics for a fun, festive display.

Tips for Successfully Coloring Lights with Sharpie

Here are some useful tips to follow for best results when using Sharpie on Christmas lights:

  • Prep the bulbs – Wipe down with rubbing alcohol to remove dirt and oils so ink adheres better.
  • Work in a well-lit area – You’ll need good visibility for the detailed work.
  • Draw designs before inserting bulbs – It’s easier to color lying flat before hanging up.
  • Let ink dry thoroughly before handling – Avoid smudging for at least 5 minutes after coloring.
  • Spray with sealant – An acrylic clear coat will protect your designs.
  • Test one bulb first – Evaluate ink adhesion before decorating the whole string.

Take your time coloring to get clean, consistent results. Apply ink gently but firmly and keep extra wipes handy for any smudges. If needed, re-trace designs after hanging bulbs to touch up any areas missed. Following these tips will ensure your Sharpie-decorated Christmas lights look fantastic!

Should You Seal Sharpie on Christmas Lights?

While Sharpie ink is permanent, over time it can fade or become more prone to scratching or smearing, especially in outdoor weather conditions. For the best long-lasting protection of your designs, it is recommended to apply a sealant spray after coloring the lights.

There are a couple options that work well:

  • Acrylic clear coat spray – Gives good coverage and a crystal clear glossy finish.
  • Clear enamel spray – Provides a durable, weather-resistant coating.

Avoid sealants like varnish or polyurethane, as they can react poorly with the Sharpie ink. Spray down your decorated bulbs with light coats, then allow them to fully dry hanging or lying flat before assembling your display. The sealant will help the colors pop and extend the life of your personalized Christmas light designs.

Can You Use Sharpie on LED Christmas Lights?

LED Christmas light bulbs have a slightly different surface than traditional incandescent lights, so coloring them requires some adjustments. Here are some tips for using Sharpie on LED bulbs:

  • Look for “frosted” style LEDs – The etched glossy surface holds marker best.
  • Wipe down with alcohol and rough up slightly – This helps the ink adhere better.
  • Use original Sharpie – The fine point gets into etched grooves.
  • Try gel pens for more vivid color
  • Use sealant spray to protect finish
  • Heat set with hair dryer if needed

The ink may not show as brightly or adhere as well on LED bulbs. Take your time and allow proper drying to get the best results. Testing your technique on spare LED bulbs first is highly recommended before decorating an entire string.

What Other Supplies Do You Need?

Here are some other handy supplies to have on hand for coloring Christmas lights with Sharpie:

  • Rubbing alcohol and lint-free cloths
  • Paper towels or wipes for wiping ink smears
  • Newspaper or drop cloth to avoid stains
  • Gloves to avoid ink on hands
  • Small piece of cardboard to insert in bulbs while coloring
  • Masking tape to secure cord while coloring bulbs
  • Sealant spray and old box to spray in
  • Extra bulbs in case of any mistakes

Prepping your workspace and having all needed supplies ready will make the Sharpie Christmas light decorating process go smoothly without any mess or headaches!

Inspirational Ideas

Need some inspirational photos or videos to spark ideas for your own Sharpie decorated Christmas lights? Here are some great sources of inspiration:

  • Pinterest – search for “Sharpie Christmas lights” to see thousands of ideas
  • Instagram – check hashtags like #SharpieChristmasLights or #CustomChristmasLights
  • Etsy – many examples of hand-decorated bulbs for sale
  • YouTube – find tutorials on techniques and see designs up-close
  • Blogs like DesignMom, Wit & Delight, A Beautiful Mess

Spend some time browsing photos and videos of the creative ways others have used Sharpies to transform Christmas lights. Pick out your favorite designs, color combinations, and themes to recreate on your own bulbs. Get your creative juices flowing!

Troubleshooting Issues

Issue Solution
Ink smearing or wiping off
  • Ensure bulb surface is clean before coloring
  • Make sure ink is completely dry before handling
  • Seal painted bulbs with an acrylic spray
Ink not adhering well to surface
  • Clean bulbs well with alcohol first
  • Gently roughen smooth plastic surfaces
  • Test ink adhesion on one bulb before doing whole string
Colors fading over time
  • Apply acrylic sealant spray over finished bulbs
  • Avoid excessive humidity and direct sun exposure
  • Re-trace faded designs with Sharpie as needed

If you take care in your surface prep and technique, Sharpie Christmas lights should give you many seasons of enjoyment before requiring any touch-ups. But if you do run into any issues with smearing, adhesion, or fading, try the troubleshooting tips above to get your customized bulbs looking bright and lively again!


Decorating Christmas lights with Sharpie markers is an easy, fun way to create customized, festive displays. The opaque permanent ink adheres beautifully to add personality and charm to any lights. Plan your designs, prep your bulbs, and take your time coloring for the best results. Add sealant spray at the end for extra longevity. With some creativity and the right techniques, you can craft personalized Christmas lights your family will adore for holidays to come. So grab those Sharpies and start coloring for a handmade holiday light display that shines bright with spirit and style!