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How to Stencil on Fabric Canvas Tote Bags

Posted by Mary McCulloch on

All of my tote bags are hand stenciled and can be customized. I use 100% cotton canvas tote bags. The best way to stencil on fabric is to use acrylic paints with a textile medium added. You can find the paints and textile medium online or in your local arts and crafts store. Tote bags can also be found online or in your local craft stores.

I start by ironing the bag to remove all the wrinkles. You can pre-wash the bags if preferred, but I don’t do that. Just be careful because if they aren’t prewashed, they may shrink. I recommend spot washing the finished bags, or wash in cold water, gentle cycle and never put them in the dryer.

Decide on what you want to stencil and where you want it on the bag. Do you want the stencil centered in the middle, on the front, on the back, or both? Once you decide where to put the stencil, tape it with masking tape to the bag so it doesn’t move while painting. If you have a layered stencil, mark the bag with a pencil with two dots so you can line up each layer accordingly.

Mix your paint with textile medium to thin the paint somewhat and make it adhere more to the fabric. You can use 2 parts textile medium and 5 parts paint. A small amount of paint, about the size of a nickel would need about 3 drops of medium. Mix it well.

Dip your brush in the paint and use a paper towel to wipe most of the paint off of the brush. You just want a light layer painted onto the fabric. Use a circular motion to paint. It should go on very lightly. If you want it darker, repeat. Continue with the entire stencil. Let dry 24 hours.

After 24 hours, heat set the stenciled area by placing a towel on the stencil and iron on top of the towel without steam. This will soften the stenciled area. You can also purchase an acrylic sealer that you can spray on the bag as well, which is also found in your local craft store.

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