The ubiquitous canvas tote bag can be a great canvas for your screen printing!

Screen printing tote bags can be an easy and effective way to give your business’s sales a boost.

The Appeal of Reusable Tote Bags

Why are tote bags such a good opportunity for screen printers? They’re everywhere. Tote bags are popular promotional items for many different kinds of businesses and organizations because of their affordability and practicality. There’s a large market for custom bags, and this market is growing all the time. Grocery stores, libraries and farmers’ markets are only a few potential customers for screen printed tote bags. Tote bags offer a large printable area and high visibility, so they’re a great opportunity for you to show off your screen printing work.

The appeal of tote bags doesn’t only lie in their usefulness and affordability, but also in their environmental benefits. As more and more people strive to improve their environmental impact, reusable tote bags have gained traction as an alternative to disposable paper and plastic shopping bags. Some areas have even banned certain types of disposable bags in an effort to reduce waste. Today’s eco-conscious society means the reusable tote bag is here to stay.

Tips for Screen Printing on Tote Bags

Getting started screen printing on canvas tote bags is relatively straightforward. Many garment suppliers offer tote bags in addition to clothing, so you probably won’t need to go to any trouble finding a special supplier – just order from your existing t-shirt provider. The screen printing process on tote bags is basically the same as printing on shirts. However, bags made from thicker canvas materials can pose some challenges.


Canvas tote bags can have a rough texture that makes it hard to print fine details. Using less intricate artwork with a lower mesh count screen can provide better results. Because plastisol ink sits on top of the material, this coarse texture can cause problems with plastisol adhesion. If you choose to use plastisol, it might be a good idea to thin your ink and use a bonding additive to ensure it properly adheres to the bag. Water-based inks may be a better choice, as they penetrate the material itself and can result in longer-lasting prints. With a tote bag, the hand feel is not as big of a concern as with a shirt so, if necessary, it’s okay to lay down more ink to get vibrant prints. Keep in mind that the appeal of tote bags often lies in their environmental friendliness, so it’s a good idea to use environmentally friendly inks for printing to enhance the bags’ marketability towards eco-conscious customers.


Depending on the size of your bags, they may not fit over a regular adult shirt pallet. If that’s the case, a youth shirt pallet may be able to double as a tote bag pallet. If you’re unable to fit the bags around the bracket of your pallets, you can always lay them on top. In order to prevent ink from bleeding through to the other side, create a simple cardboard insert to hold the bags open. Use spray adhesive on the insert to keep it in place inside the bag, and on the pallet to keep the bag in place. Be careful as tote bags are prone to shifting around on the pallet, their rough texture making it difficult for the pallet adhesive to grip the material.


Because tote bags come in a variety of weaves, weights and finishes, it’s important to do thorough test printing before you move on to production. This will help you catch any potential challenges without wasting unnecessary materials. And because tote bags are heavier than most shirts and may require a thicker layer of ink, curing requirements may differ greatly from t-shirts. As with any new substrate, make sure you test your tote bags to find the right cure time and temperature.

With a little experimentation and creativity, you can make tote bags a valuable addition to your lineup of custom screen printed products. They’re so practical and available in so many varieties that the opportunities for marketing them are virtually endless. Screen printing tote bags is a cheap and easy way to attract new customers and give your existing customers an eye-catching new item with which to promote their clubs and businesses.

For more information on expanding your screen printing offerings, check out this blog:

Grow Your Screen Printing Business by Expanding Your Product Line

And for more on environmentally-friendly screen printing, explore:

A Screen Printer’s Guide to Environmentally-Friendly Apparel

How to Make Your Screen Printing Shop More Environmentally Friendly