Woman with cotton tote

5 Fun Ways to Decorate Blank Totes

When it comes to decorating blank apparel, it seems like t-shirts get all the love. There are countless ways to customize t-shirts and turn them into one-of-a-kind creations, so it only makes sense that they are the star of so many DIY projects. If you are looking for something else to decorate, though, you can’t go wrong with a tote bag. Blank totes are inexpensive, and they are a great canvas for expressing your creativity. Here are just a few of our favorite fun ways to decorate blank totes.

Get Out Your Vinyl Cutter

If you have a Cricut (or a similar vinyl cutting machine), your options for decorating a tote bag are endless. Start with a durable canvas tote that can stand up to the heat from an iron. Next, decide what kind of design you would like to create. You can draw up your own design using your vinyl cutter’s software, or you can purchase a premade design file. Load your cutting machine with iron-on vinyl, cut and apply to your tote. Easy peasy!

On a side note, if you don’t have a vinyl cutter, you can still use iron-on vinyl to decorate your bag. You’ll just need to cut out your designs yourself. Draw out your design on the non-shiny side of the vinyl using a non-permanent marker and then carefully cut out.

Tote bag mockupPrint Your Own Iron-On Transfers

If you want a specific design and don’t have a vinyl cutter, printing your own iron-on transfer is a great solution. Most office supply and many craft stores sell iron-on transfer paper that you can use in your regular inkjet printer. There are even different options that allow you to create transfers for both light- and dark-colored totes.

Print out any design you would like and then put the transfer on your tote bag with the design down. Leave the backing paper in place and iron. The heat transfers the design to your bag. Once the design has been transferred, carefully peel up the backing paper to remove.

Doodle with Fabric Markers

Fabric markers are great. They come in a rainbow of colors, and they are perfect for customizing just about any type of material. They are also super easy to use, making them ideal for doing arts and crafts projects with your kids.

Choose what colors you would like to use and start doodling! If you would like to sketch out your design first, you can do so lightly with a pencil. This will give you a bit of a guideline for when you actually use the marker.

If you want to make a fun tote that your kids can decorate over and over, draw out a design using a permanent black fabric marker. Use your child’s favorite coloring book for inspiration! Then, let the kiddos color the design using washable markers. When you wash it, the colors will disappear but the outline will remain.

Blank ToteEmbroider a Fun Design

Embroidery and cross-stitch are back in a big way! These hobbies aren’t just for your grandma anymore. In fact, garments bearing embroidered and cross-stitched designs are all the rage on the fashion runways. Embrace the trend for yourself by embroidering a fun design on a tote bag. Whether you stitch a few simple flowers or you want to do something a bit more in-depth, a tote bag is the perfect place to show off your needlework skills.

Canvas tote bags even work well for counted cross-stitch! Just transfer the pattern to the bag using a washable fabric marker and get to work. No matter what kind of design you stitch in, you’ll be left with a bag that is truly one-of-a-kind. A hand-embroidered tote makes a great gift, too!

Dip Dye in Your Favorite Color

When it comes to customizing a tote bag, it doesn’t get much easier than dip dying! All you’ll need is a blank tote bag, some dye in your favorite color and your kitchen sink (or a basin in which to put the dye).

Fill your sink or basin with hot water and some of your dye. Quickly dip your bag in the solution. You can dip the entire bag or just about three-fourths of the way up from the bottom. Dip again but leave it in a bit longer and don’t submerge as much of the bag. Repeat one more time, but only dip the very bottom. The entire process should only take about five minutes.

When you’re finished, rinse the entire bag and then hang to dry. When it’s dry, you’ll have a totally unique bag that only took you a few minutes to customize!