Ideas for Decorating Canvas Bags

Updated February 21, 2017

With the help of a few basic craft items, you can transform a basic canvas bag into a fashionable tote for books, groceries, art supplies, beach gear or make-up items. Enhancing an inexpensive tote bag with decorative items will instantly upgrade its appeal. Keep the personalised bag or give it as a thoughtful birthday or holiday gift.

Add a Pocket

Add more storage space to a basic canvas tote by creating handy pockets. Place the pockets on the inside of the bag to hold electronics or sunglasses, or to keep small personal items organised. Create the pocket on the outside of the bag for a decorative look. Use a patterned fabric scrap to make a charming pocket design; choose from floral, paisley, toile or gingham-patterned material depending on the look you are going for. Cut the fabric into a square and attach it to the bag using a needle and thread or a sewing machine. To further enhance the pocket, glue grosgrain ribbon around the perimeter.

Handprint Tote

Kids can decorate canvas tote bags using their handprints and paint. Fill the decorated bags with children's toys when heading to a park or picnic, or library books for easy transport. Brush kids' hands with vibrantly hued red, green, yellow and blue fabric paint. Kids can press their painted hands all over the canvas bags, creating personalised stamps. In addition to the handprints, kids can use heart, star, cat or dog shaped sponges and paint to transfer designs onto the bag. Use stencils to write the children's names or initials across the tops of the bags.

Beach Bag

Hand decorated beach bags make ideal summer birthday gifts. Homemade bags cost a fraction of designer versions and are personalised to reflect the recipient's interests. Start with a colourful canvas bag featuring an island-inspired hue such as turquoise, bright pink or lime green. Use fabric paint along with foam stamps or stencils to create tropical fish, seashell, seahorse and sand dollar patterns all over the bag. Glue plastic googly eyes onto the fish designs for a whimsical flair. Use hot glue to attach vibrant beach-inspired flat-backed beads to the bag's handle. Look for plastic beads featuring dolphin, shark or starfish shapes.

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About the Author

Elizabeth Arnold has written for a wide variety of publications and websites. Her experience includes writing travel features for "Recommend" magazine and packaging marketing copy for both Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Bros. consumer products. Recently, Arnold was a staff writer for "Special Events" magazine. Arnold studied English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.