There's a reason why promotional tote bags have stuck around for years and years. They work!

Other popular promotional items include pens, USB sticks, food, hats, and other apparel. But, if you really want to promote your business, you might want to consider something that'll get a lot more traffic. 

Over 30% of Americans own a promotional bag and, best of all, they're one of the most affordable promotional products out there on the market today.

As we continue to dwell into a digital society where pens and pads are less and less usable, tote bags remain useful (both for business and for pleasure). 

So, if you're wondering how to design a tote bag that will get your business noticed in grocery stores, office buildings, and beachside soirées, we've got you covered.

We'll give you the lowdown on how to create the bags yourself, how to design them, and how to effectively promote your business, starting today. 

How to Make a Canvas Tote

Just in case you really want to start from scratch, let's begin with how to sew your own canvas tote. We'll walk you through the tools required and each successive step. 

Required Tools

First things first. Before you sit down at the drawing board, there are a few necessary tools of the trade. They are: 

  • Sewing machine
  • Pins
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Seam Ripper


As for the canvas material, if you secure about 3.5 feet, you'll be in good shape. You can actually make two bags with this much material. 

So, the first cut you make should be 33"x31". This will create the entire outer shell of your bag. Then, you'll want to fold this piece in half, making it 16.5"x15.5". Make sure you place the fold at the bottom. 

That's the bag. When it's time to consider the straps, two 23" straps will do. You can use strips from your canvas material or create an entirely new look with two 23" leather straps. 

Sewing the Top Fold

With your material folded in half, you'll then want to take the top portion, fold it down one inch from the edge, and pin it. This creates stability when it's time to secure the straps. 

Start stitching along this fold, approximately 3/16 of an inch from the edge. Double stitch where you begin and end, removing the pins as you go. 

Sewing the Sides

With your top fold secured, it's time to bring the sides together. Take your pins, secure the sides, and sew. Again, be sure to leave approximately 3/16 of an inch from the edge. 

Sewing the Handles

Next up, it's time to attach the handles. Measure in about 4in from each side and, lining up with the 1in fold on the top of the bag, you can pin each strap to its designated location. 

When you're ready to sew the strap in, sew around the edge, making a square. Then, sew from each corner, creating an X-stitch. In the end, it should look like a box with an X inside. 

How to Design Your Tote

With your tote in hand, how will you dress it up? Let's discuss how to implement all your pretty little creations. There are a few different avenues that'll help you create your masterpiece. 

Spray Dye + Painter's Tape

You can use spray dye to create just about any shape under the sun. But, the best way to work with spray dye is to use painter's tape. What you'll do is cover up the areas that you don't want to spray with painters' tape. 

For a speckled look to your design, hold the spray can further away from the bag. For a denser tone, hold it close as you spray. Once you've sprayed everything that needs spraying, you can remove the tape and let your artwork dry overnight.

Spray Dye + Freezer Paper

Painter's tape allows you to create crisp lines and sharp edges when spraying on new designs. But, another way to get creative is to use freezer paper. What you'll do here is lay your tote flat and cut out two pieces of freezer paper that are the size of the front of the tote. 

You'll place one sheet inside the bag (to protect the interior from bleeding from the paint) and one sheet on top of the outside of the bag (shiny side face down). Sketch or trace your design on the outer sheet, lay it flat, and then spray away! 


If you're more interested in an inspirational quote or a Bible quote, then you might want to opt for stamps. This will require letter stamps and fabric paint. 

You may want to make use of a fabric crayon to indicate where your letters should begin and end because all you'll do now is brush the fabric paint onto the stamps and stamp your quote onto the tote! Once the paint is dry, people will have an inspirational beauty to sling over their shoulders. 

Iron-On Vinyl

Iron-on vinyls are a great way to create any shape under the sun and secure it onto a tote. What's required here is the iron-on vinyl itself, a sheet of paper, an iron, and the tote.

Trace or draw your design onto the sheet of paper. Then, trace that onto the backside of the vinyl and cut along those lines. From there, you'll simply iron the design onto the tote, wait for it to cool, and then present it to the world! 

Iron-On Transfer Paper

This, too, is simple, easy, and fun. You can buy iron-on transfer paper at your local office supply store. This allows you to up the ante on your design work because, now, you can print off the computer. 

Create your design using Microsoft Word, Photoshop, or some other imaging program. Or, if you're artistic, you can scan your artwork into the computer and go that route. 

One key element of this process is to make sure you flip the design on your computer before printing. You must print out the mirror image of your design in order to iron it onto the bag. 

Once it's printed, you'll cut out the design and iron it onto the bag. Be sure to press hard and wait about three minutes before removing the transfer paper. Then, voilà!

Why do Custom Totes Work?

Whether you sew from scratch, buy pre-made totes in bulk, use spray dye, stamps, or iron-ons, you're doing yourself a favor on many levels. 

As you can see, the supplies required to make custom totes are nominal. This creates a low-cost option as you invite others to promote your business and wear your tote all around town. 

With a creative design, or a memorable logo design, you're also hitting the trifecta of marketable traits. Tote bags are functional, portable, and visual.

People (mainly women) can use them on an everyday basis to carry essential items or go to the grocery store. So, in one day, your tote bag can get a lot of mileage and be seen by a lot of onlookers. 

Finally, you can let the research speak for itself. One in two people say they own a promotional bag and routinely carry it around. That's huge! With a beautiful design, you're opening a wave of doors for people to stop the tote carrier and say, "That's so cute. Where did you find that?" 

Then, the person can either tout your store where you sell all kinds of goodies, including customized tote bags. Or, they can tout your business which gave them this free tote when they purchased your products. 

Start Making Canvas Totes Today

And there you have it! You can teach yourself how to design and sell (or give away) canvas totes today. It's a fun and engaging process that will allow you to showcase your artistry while promoting some sort of ideal, including your beloved business. 

Here at BagzDepot, we can remove the sewing process from your drawing board and leave the creative graphic design work to you. That's the fun part anyway, isn't it? Our wholesale tote bags start as low as $0.79 and come in a multitude of styles. 

You can start with a polypropylene bag for $0.79 or consider a wholesale canvas tote with a gusseted bottom for $1.44. We also have zippered options, heavy-duty tri-color options, polyester options that are equally durable, and more. 

With fun color options and fabric weight options, there's no limit to your rainbow of options. A non-woven large tote bag in red will only cost you $0.84. That's 50 blank canvases for only $42. Imagine a pretty pink heart ironed onto the front of that, perhaps with a romantic quote stamped on.

Come shop with us today. Feel free to add all the gussets and zippers to your heart's content. Don't forget to consider a classic beach bag or burlap tote as all these design options start to ruminate in your mind. We look forward to shopping with you today!