Custom Designing Tote Bags: Your Guide to Screen Printing, Heat Transfer & Embroidery

Personalized tote bags are perfect for promoting a business, using as party favors for a special event and an assortment of other purposes. With our custom screen printing services, it has never been easier to add words, photos or logos to promotional tote bags. You can also personalize your bags at home with different methods of DIY heat transfer printing, hand-stitched embroidery and embroidered heat transfer patches. Let's break down each method for creating printed bags so you can choose the right match for your personalized tote bags. 

Custom Screen Printing

paint color swatches


Screen printing transfers a design onto fabric using up to five colors. First, you create and submit an image of the artwork that you would like displayed on your personalized tote bags. For example, logos are popular for companies looking to create promotional tote bags to hand out at trade shows and events as a way to spread brand awareness for their business. We make it easy to create printed tote bags with low wholesale prices and a simple screen printing service; all you need to do is send us your design and we’ll create a virtual sample to send to you for approval or alterations. Upon approval, the design will be arranged using separate screens for each color.

The Process of Screen Printing

A technical process creates an elaborate stencil that will be used to apply the color to the product during the pressing stage. Each of the screens is arranged to create the final image and ink is applied to the stencil to press onto the fabric, one color at a time. Our screen printing services allow for printing on one or both sides of the bag, and printing is charged per side. As always, the more printed bags that you order on, the more money you save.

Custom Heat Transfer Printing – What is Heat Transfer?

Another option for creating personalized tote bags is heat transfer printing. Heat transfer printing methods apply custom designs to fabric through a process involving heat and pressure. There are two main types of heat transfer printing: Vinyl Heat Transfer, and Digital Print Heat Transfer.

Vinyl Heat Transfer: How it Works

cutting vinyl for heat transfer printing


The process of vinyl heat transfer involves cutting a desired shape or design from a sheet or roll of colored vinyl. The color of the vinyl will ultimately be the color of the design. This initial cut-out is then cleaned up using “pick tools” to get rid of any excess vinyl so that only the clear-cut shape of your design is left. You can learn about different ways to cut your design here. If you plan to use the vinyl heat transfer method on a larger scale (in bulk) you may want to look into vinyl cutting machines. These machines cut vinyl sheets neatly and cleanly so that you don't have to take the time to go back in and clean up your vinyl design by hand. This is a great investment for at home DIY artists, making vinyl heat transfer a much easier and streamlined process that allows you to create all types of designs and turn your hobby into a business you can run from home! Many BagzDepot customers shop with us in bulk and decorate their totes at home to then sell on Etsy. 

Once your vinyl design is finalized, it will be placed on the item being printed. This will work with virtually any type of fabric you want to use. Finally, a heat press (a household iron or heat press machine) is used to transfer each individual vinyl color in the design onto the product being printed.

If you want to go the DIY route, you can do heat transfer vinyl at home with an iron by following along with this helpful DIY tutorial. If you’re really serious, you can invest in a heat press for heat transfer vinyl. Here’s a handy how-to guide on how to use a heat press with heat transfer vinyl. If you’re not sure whether you want to go the iron or heat press route, here’s an informative video that covers everything you need to know about heat presses versus home irons. You can also buy vinyl heat transfers on Etsy like these fun glitter vinyl iron-on appliques and apply them yourself at home! 

Note: if you’re cutting your own vinyl and performing this process from start to finish at home, one disadvantage to consider is that this process can be time consuming. Each piece of vinyl in the design needs to be cut precisely, so depending on the size and complexity of your design "weeding" and cleaning up the vinyl so you end up with clean lines and edges can take time. Another disadvantage to vinyl heat transfer is that you are somewhat limited in terms of color variety - it’s certainly possible to use more than one color, but you will need to layer solid colors to achieve a multi-color design, adding time to the process.

Digital Print Heat Transfer

Digital transfer printing is, unsurprisingly, an almost entirely digital process. A design is either scanned or created on a computer, and then printed using a solvent, eco-solvent, or latex printer (a desktop printer will not do the job) which creates a custom transfer. This transfer is typically made of a printed polyurethane (PU) film. The transfer is then applied to the desired product using a heat press. Digital printing works optimally with most tote bag fabrics, making it a great option for designing and creating unique printed bags. 

Pros & Cons of Digital Print Heat Transfer

One great benefit to digital transfer printing is its ability to render photo-realistic quality images with unlimited color options. So, if you’re looking to print a photo or a particularly detailed image/logo, this is probably the best option for you. It’s also very easy to digitally alter the dimensions or colors of your image if you need to make changes as you go, as opposed to the process of vinyl heat transfer printing which only allows you one chance to get your image right before you transfer it.

A disadvantage to digital print heat transfer is that you can’t print these transfers on just any material or fabric, typically they adhere best to polyester, cotton, canvas, and poly/cotton blends, so you’ll want to stick to these fabrics when you're digital heat transfer printing. BagzDepot offers them all at affordable wholesale prices, to the public! 

custom tote bag printing

Embroidered Iron-On Heat Transfer Patches & Hand Stitched Embroidery

junior ranger embroidered iron on patch

Embroidery heat transfer patches are a great option for customizing your bags - it's budget friendly and you can do this entirely on your own at home. Simply pick out your patches online or in a store near you, and iron them right onto your tote bags. You can also make custom embroidered patches on your own. There are plenty of awesome embroidered patches available on, like these fun diamond patches or these animal themed patches

Hand-stitched embroidery is another fun, creative option for personalizing your tote bags. Whether you’re a beginner or you’re experienced with embroidery, our blank tote bags are a wonderful canvas for you to get creative and make your own masterpiece! You can find inspiration and tutorials on our Pinterest board for making your own custom embroidery designs. 

handmade custom embroidery

Shop BagzDepot for Blank Canvas Tote Bags & Create Your Masterpiece! 

multi color blank tote bags


Have fun with screen printing, heat transfer, and embroidery, whether it’s to design promotional tote bags or to enjoy the fun of crafting your own custom personalized bags at home. Shop wholesale totes in bulk at and be sure to use our custom screen print services to promote your brand or business!