Long Distance Love Mugs

I will easily get behind any holiday that advocates for reminding important people in your life that you love them. Every time I hang up the phone or part ways with a dear friend I tell them I love them; residual effects of being raised in a loud, Italian-American family who are verbose with their feelings – both good and bad. But even if I remind friends on the regular how much they mean to me, the idea of reaffirming it on Valentine’s Day feels extra special.

With two of my dearest friends on opposite coasts – New York and California – and me, smack dab in the middle, I wanted to make a little care package for each to celebrate the day. While I knew I’d certainly put together some kind of baked good, I wanted to add something even more personal to the mix. I’ve had the tutorial for these mugs pinned for what feels like forever and thought they’d be perfect for a V-Day surprise. I love how these came out overall, though there are a few caveats I’ll get to in a bit. They’re super adorable and deliver the message that, despite the miles, we’re always connected.

The first step in creating a set of these mugs is figuring out how to align your states and the cities you’re each in. Imagine them outlined on the mugs, calculate about where you will place your hearts, and then decide on the layout. For example, if I had made California my left mug and Minnesota my right mug, my dashed line would have had to travel around the bulk of each state to connect and that would, in my opinion, look too busy. Once you have your sides situated, you’re ready to start drawing.

You may think you have to have awesome freehand skills for a craft like this, but you have infinite chances to get the shape of the state exactly as you want it before you finish in Sharpie. The shape is first done with a pencil eyeliner – keep the liquid for your cat-eyes, femmes! – making it easy to wipe off slip-ups. Of which there will, most likely, be many. Don’t fret though. You’ve got this! I practiced drawing the shapes of the states I needed a few times on paper and then with the eyeliner, wiping and re-doing as I went. Eventually, it becomes much more about learning how to control the softness of the eyeliner pencil and the pressure you apply. Just think: the state outline is only a jagged little shape and if you practice on paper first, you’ll figure out its edges and proportions in no time. Patience is key.

Once you have your eyeliner outline of the states complete, go over it with Sharpie. It might seem like the Sharpie isn’t cutting through the grease of the eyeliner completely and in some places that will be true. When your outline is complete, give it a few minutes to dry completely and then go in and wipe the eyeliner layer off with a paper towel. You want to make sure it is completely free of eyeliner. If you encounter some tough, extra smudgy spots, breathe a little hot breath onto it and buff. Now you can go over the Sharpie outline a second time to make it truly opaque and fill in spots where there might have been some skipping. I used a gold and red Sharpie that I had on hand to place the cities, though even a small black heart or asterisk would work if you only have one color. Design the remainder of the mug as you’d like. I couldn’t help adding some sass to the backside of the mug for my bestie in NYC.
Once all of your Sharpie work is complete, allow the mugs to set for at least 24 hours. This allows them to completely dry and set up to prepare for curing. When the 24 hours has passed, stand the mugs on a baking sheet and place them in a cold oven. Set the temp to 400° and allow them to bake for an hour. When time is up, turn the oven off and allow them to cool completely in the oven. This could take several hours, so you should plan to cure the mugs on a day when you’re ordering take-out for dinner. When you remove the mugs from the oven, allow them to sit another 24 hours. You may notice the Sharpie has faded slightly in some spots; my red turned nearly orange and the gold metallic lost a little luster. If this happens, don’t despair. We’ll fix it in just a moment.

But first: most tutorials I’ve read say you’re finished after you’ve let your mugs cool post-curing. Those same tutorials are littered with comments about how the Sharpie rubbed off as soon as they were washed. Not being able to bear the idea of my new mugs being destroyed, I riddled my brain trying to come up with a solution. Then it hit me: Mod Podge! When all else fails, Mod Podge Like a MotherFucker (MPLAMF)!

For those of you new to crafting or who haven’t encountered Mod Podge before, it is a glue, sealant, and finish that dries clear and, depending on the variety, glossy. It also doesn’t wash off with water. At least it hasn’t in my initial tests. It’s perfect for this project and helps seal the Sharpie to stay put. Perfect! Before you MPLAMF though, now’s the time to fix any fading that may have occurred or light spots you may have noticed on your mugs. I don’t suggest major repairs, like going over all of your lines, because you won’t be re-curing and I’m not certain if the Mod Podge is enough to seal the uncured Sharpie. If you notice, however, that the heart faded or you have a knick in a letter, fill it in now.

Ok, now we’re ready to MPLAMF! Take a thin, angled paint brush dipped lightly in Mod Podge (Gloss) and just follow the outline of your states, the dashed lines, cover the hearts, whatever you drew. You don’t need to completely cover the mug, though you certainly could. I find it really hard to get a smooth line with Mod Podge even with a foam brush, so I chose to simply paint the individual marks and not the whole side of the mug.

Can you see the Mod Podge on the finished product? If you look really close, yes, but it’s, essentially, the top coat to the mani! If it makes the design stay and doesn’t alter the finish, that’s more important to me. I did three thin coats, letting them dry to the touch between coats and then let them set another 24 hours. If the mugs are just going to be for show, used for holding pens and pencils on a desk (cute!), you can skip the Mod Podge altogether. But if you want to try and enjoy your favorite hot beverage out of them or share in tea time with your bestie across the miles, take the extra half hour and seal them. It’s important to note these mugs will never be dishwashable – even with the Mod Podge. You will always need to hand wash these gently. They might not last as long as your friendships, but this trick will definitely extend the life of your very fancy new mugs.


  1. Viktoria Neill says:

    Hi! I was thinking about making these for a Christmas gift. How well did the Mod Podge work? Were you able to put the mugs into the dishwasher without fading?


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