Give a Plain Tote Major Pops of Color With DIY Stencils

Got more canvas tote bags than you know what to do with? Rather than let them pile up in the closet, give 'em new life with a stencil and paint.

Stenciled Tote Bag

Level: Easy

What You Need

  • Plain tote bag (buy one or sew your own )
  • Fabric paint
  • Cutting mat
  • Triangle ruler
  • Scissors
  • Acetate sheet
  • Sharpie
  • X-ACTO knife
  • Scrap cardboard
  • Painter's tape or masking tape
  • Paint brush


1. Draw the Stencils

Place a triangle ruler onto the top third of the acetate sheet. Hold it in place with one hand and trace the perimeter with a Sharpie. Move the ruler to the middle of the sheet, then trace the inside opening of the triangle.

You can stick with these two shapes, or trace others onto the acetate paper as well in additional sizes.

2. Cut Them Out

Once you have the stencils drawn, place the acetate sheet on a cutting mat. Cut the shapes out with an X-ACTO knife. Remove the triangle pieces, leaving holes in the acetate sheet.

Use scissors to cut the sheet into sections, so there's only one triangle cut-out per stencil.

3. Paint

Slide a piece of scrap cardboard into the tote bag — this will prevent the fabric paint from bleeding into the other side of the bag.

Position your first stencil in your desired place on the bag, then tape it down. Apply paint to the stencil's triangle opening. Remove the template from the bag. You have your first print!

Pro Tip

If you prefer, you can lay out various stencils before painting to give you a better sense of your finished design.

4. Keep Going

Continue painting with your stencils, creating whatever design you like to make the perfect tote.

Find Your Next Project

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Beth Galvin

February 20, 2020
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Give a Plain Tote Major Pops of Color With DIY Stencils