Ideas for Decorating Canvas Tote Bags

Updated April 17, 2017

Tote bags are useful, easily customisable accessories. Given out often to teachers and book lovers, they are also great ways to market books, companies or products. They're also being more widely used in place of traditional plastic or paper grocery bags. If you love canvas tote bags, or are looking for a fun, easy and useful craft project to do yourself or with a group, there are plenty of ways to decorate them that express your own style.


Canvas bags lend themselves naturally to being covered in patches. Patches can be either sewn on or ironed on. You can apply one patch or display a collection of patches. These can be craft patches, merit patches or badges or souvenirs from concerts, environmental events or political rallies. See the Resources section for a collection of patches.

Fabric Paint and Markers

Fabric paint and fabric pens or markers are probably the most common way to decorate canvas tote bags. Fabric paints can be applied with a brush using free-form or stencils. They also come in squeeze tubes, like puff paints, that can be applied directly from the tube. Fabric pens and markers are ideal for writing messages, names, logos or quotes onto your bag. You can also use them to trace out stencils.


Those who love to stitch can apply needlepoint, cross-stitch and embroidery techniques to their canvas tote bags. Simply place the canvas tote bag inside of the embroidery hoop as the backing for your stitches. See the Resources section for tips and instructions on how to embroider a bag.

Iron-on transfers

Iron-on transfers are the fastest way to decorate a canvas tote bag. All you need to do is iron them into place. You can find a large selection of iron-on transfers at your craft store, or you can purchase iron-on transfer paper and print your own image or photograph onto it. This is a great solution for those who want bags featuring their kids or pets.

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