I’m gearing up for the 4th of July and looking for ways to celebrate in style! In a recent tutorial, I walked through how to sew a simple bag. Now, I’m sharing everything you need to know to begin painting a canvas bag.
My ultimate goal is to make a little matching seat cushion for my tote so I can watch the fireworks in style AND comfort. Who’s with me?!
Thank you to DecoArt for providing the paint, stencil and supplies for this project. This post also contains affiliate links. See my disclosures for details.
How to Paint a Canvas Tote Bag
You can sew your own canvas bag or buy it off the shelf. (No shame in store bought, my friend.) Either way, we’ll transform that plain vanilla bag into something gorgeous in as little as 15 minutes!
You’ll need only a few supplies for this simple project, and most can be reused. In fact, I plan to demonstrate another fun way to use this stencil in a future post. Stay tuned!
- Canvas tote bag (See my easy sew tote bag tutorial or buy one here)
- American Tribute stencil
- Dazzling Metallic red paint
- Pouncers or synthetic brushes
- Cardboard or wood to insert into tote
Steps to Make Hand Painted Canvas Bags
Here’s a quick video I created on how to make painted canvas bags with stencils. I have a few tips and tricks you’ll want to check out before you begin painting your canvas bags with acrylics.
Prepping Your Canvas Fabric
Since I sewed my tote bag from scratch using drop cloth, I prepped my fabric by bleaching it. You won’t typically do that with other canvas or duck fabrics.
Some experts recommend using gesso to “prime” your canvas fabric. Gesso works like any paint primer to help top layers of color “pop” and prevent mottling (blotchiness and unevenness in the paint).
If you’re looking to create a painted masterpiece on your canvas bag, you may want to include a layer of gesso. However, most of you crafters (like me) won’t need to take this step for a simple painted canvas bag.
Also, I opted not to iron my fabric before stenciling because I wanted a more weathered, rustic look. (I was going for Rebel Without a Cause, not James Bond.)
The most important part of prepping your fabric is inserting a piece of cardboard, hard plastic or wood inside your bag. This will help the paint adhere to the fabric and prevent bleeding through to the other side. See video for details.
What kind of paint do you use on a canvas bag?
I firmly believe the best paint for a canvas tote bag is permanent acrylic paint. The metallic paint I used for this tutorial is especially designed for fabric, so it’s both permanent and washable.
I love the fact my bag sparkles in the sun but doesn’t come off too blingy. I wanted a more rustic, Americana look for this particular project.
DecoArt makes other non-metallic fabric paints for a variety of uses if you’re wanting a more matte option. I plan to experiment with the Stylin’ line of acrylic paint in another post. That paint would’ve worked well for canvas fabric, too.
Since I have a boat load of acrylic paint already that isn’t made for fabric, I was excited to try this fabric painting medium when making my DIY farmhouse flour sack dish towels. The medium turns regular acrylic paint into fabric acrylic paint that is washable and permanent. Amazing!
More paint options for canvas bags
If you plan to get fancy and create a museum-worthy piece of art on your bag, consider these other paint options:
- Oil paint: good for blending colors but takes longer to dry and requires extra prep work (like gesso)
- Watercolors: great for an impressionist effect but not great for durability, since it will easily fade
I picked this American flag stencil knowing it would come in handy for Memorial Day and the 4th of July, but really, it works any time of year.
Wear a shamrock or pumpkin this time of year…you might invite strange looks. But no one will give you the stink eye for wearing a flag motif in May or June! I included this tote in my recent post on 4th of July decorating ideas.
This is actually my second time using an Americana Decor stencil design. I first stumbled upon the brand when I created my DIY stenciled table runner. (I used a brocade motif stencil for that project.)
I like the fact that I can use these stencils again and again. They come in handy for mass producing DIY gifts (like making painted tote bags for a bridal party) or for painting large areas like walls/furniture.
Tips for Stenciling
As I mentioned in my farmhouse table runner post, I find it helpful to practice stenciling a scrap piece of fabric first, especially if you’re a beginner.
Here are my other hot tips for applying stencil designs:
- Wet your pouncer or brush and squeeze out any excess moisture first.
- Start with small amounts of paint.
- Dab off excess paint onto a paper towel or napkin before applying.
- Apply paint with brush/pouncer in a vertical position, not angled.
- Complete one small area at a time before moving on. Use painter’s tape to cover any parts of the stencil you don’t want to paint.
- Rinse your stencil immediately after you’re done.
Other Painted Tote Bag Designs
For more canvas bag painting ideas, consider these other techniques:
- Geometric/mosaic tote bag using painter’s tape to block off shapes
- Stamped design using a fabric ink pad (see my DIY Wine Bag Tutorial)
- Monogram or initial design (I love this monogram bundle with frames and borders)
I hope you grow to love painting on canvas bags! For your convenience, I’ve included links below to shop this post.
Please leave a comment below telling me all about your project. I love hearing from you!
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