Dollar Store Craft Hack – Custom Coffee Mugs

I love homemade presents, and I especially love it when my kids can get in on the action. If there are any coffee, tea or cocoa lovers in your life, hand painted coffee mugs are the gift to give. It’s inexpensive, but it means a lot. When you drink from these, the love warms your heart even more than the coffee in the cup!
I made two mugs and two bowls, to make a nice little breakfast set. This technique is great because it works with any sort of dish: mugs, plate, bowls, butter dishes, whatever! As long as it’s a ceramic dish (not glass or plastic), this will work. So make a plate for giving cookies, an entire breakfast set… whatever you want!

Dollar Store Hack: Custom Coffee Mugs InstructionsPrepping the pattern for the custom Dollar Store Mug

  1. Create your design. I’m still working on my hand-lettering skills, and I’m much better at designing graphics on my computer, so I opted to design a pattern to stencil on. If the kids are doing it, let them freehand it. They usually don’t have the patience for stenciling and tracing. Make sure your design will fit on the side of your mug. If you’re freehanding it, you can skip to step 3.
  2. Transfer the design. I love the pencil-transfer method. Color the back of the design heavily with pencil. Then, tape it in place on the mug with the penciled side down. Trace the pattern. I like to trace the thick letters thicker so that I know when to really emphasize it and when to keep it simple. Some people prefer to just do a simple trace and accent it later. Either way, when you remove the pattern, the faint pencil lines will remain for you to trace.
  3. Decorate the dish. Now is the artistic part. Using oil based Sharpies, trace the pattern onto the mug. If you’re not tracing, freehand draw on the mug with the oil-based Sharpies. The oil-based Sharpies last much longer and are much more durable when it comes to washing that regular Sharpies. I highly recommend getting a couple medium point markers for nice, fat strokes and at least one Extra-Fine Point Oil Based Sharpie Paint Pen in Black, for detailed text. I kept it simple with just Silver and Gold Medium Point Oil Based Sharpie Paint Pens, but if the kids are doing it, I recommend more color. The Medium Point Assorted Colors set is a great place to start. If you’re doing this for the holidays, the Medium Point Oil Based Sharpie Paint Pens in Ice Colors is a great color palette to work with. (Side note: my daughter made me a mug using the regular Sharpies, and we both loved it so much… but it faded so quickly, just with regular use and gentle hand washing. It really broke her heart when it faded, so use Oil Based Sharpies!)
  4. final product of the dollar store painted mugs
    The final product! It’s a great motto…

    Bake the dish. I played around with different baking times and temperatures when I’ve done this project before, and there’s a tricky medium between “baked long and hot enough that it’s durable” and “baked so long the color fades.” The longer and hotter it bakes, the more durable it is, but the heat also fades colors. I found that 300° for 2 hours is a good middle ground. I place all of my dishes on a couple of cookie sheets so that I wouldn’t have to handle the super hot dishes when they came out.

  5. Let them cool. Before you use them or wash them, let them cool at room temperature for a long time. If you put them in cold water, you’ll shock them and they’ll break, so just let them cool on their own.
  6. Hand wash only! Even with the more durable oil based Sharpies, you’ll still want to be gentle with the final product. Hand washing will help the paint last longer and keep your beautiful dishes lasting longer.

These mugs are great to take to work. They remind you of something important to you (a personal mantra, your child’s artwork, etc.) and chances are you’ll be hand washing them at work instead of accidentally throwing them into the dishwasher when you’re distracted by a toddler hanging off of you… or trying to climb in.

So what is your mug mantra? Share with us below!
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Chryssy is the owner of, a site dedicated to helping parents make the most of life. She lives in Green Bay with her husband, five-year-old daughter, and one-year-old son.
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3 Responses

  1. These are so amazing! I’ve been looking for a way to make some affordable and safe gifts this year. Especially considering the pandemic, I think custom mugs would be the perfect personalized gift, because the gift receivers can also thoroughly wash the gift before using them.

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