Blank Canvas Tutorials: Photo Transfer Tote

Photography on the final images is by Liz Daly, a San Francisco based photographer

Hey guys! I’m back with another blank canvas tutorial. This is a series where we experiment with all kinds of fun ways to decorate a canvas tote. So far we’ve made a pool tote, neon polka dot tote, and book tote. Today we’re making an image transfer tote. Have you ever done an image transfer onto fabric before? It was my first time and I’ll definitely be trying it again. So cool!

Keep reading for the full tutorial on making this photo transfer tote!

I used this Liquitex Gloss. It works for a lot of photo transfer projects. I found an image in an old vintage Sunday Post magazine we had. I knew that the end result would be kind of worn looking so I wanted something that looked vintage to begin with. Everything is reversed when you do an image transfer to I had to do a little work on the text so it wouldn’t be reversed-I scanned it in and then printed it out. When I used printer paper, as opposed to magazine paper, the transfer didn’t work as well, FYI.

1. Cut out your image from a magazine. You can also use an image. Just don’t print it with a home ink jet printer, it won’t work as well. Take it to a copy shop and get it copied there- but not photo paper!

2. Brush generously with the liquitex gloss until it’s full saturated

3. Place it face down on the canvas bag so the back of the picture is facing you

4. Let it dry overnight. Then working in sections, spray it with water and start brushing/rubbing it until the outer layer comes off and the image starts to come through below. It’s messy, but keep going. I ended up using the end of a foam brush to get a good hard rub.

5. It will look kind of worn when it’s done but that’s part of the look! Some of the image will come off but don’t stress, it’ll look cool and worn when it’s done. Just don’t expect it be to be perfect! It’ll be a little messy and some of the ink rub off onto the edges of the bag so I did a little scrubbing around the edges of the image with a soapy rag afterwards. That helped a lot.

You can cover it with another coat to seal it but I didn’t really find it necessary.


Might be awesome to do this with a cotton t-shirt aswell instead of the canvas bag. Would it work?

Citrasolv….I’ve tried that and never get a good result. Even with good pressure when I’m rubbing the image, it still is super light. And I mean its a workout when im trying to rub/transfer the image, so i know its not lack of user muscle. Thinking its just not a good copy but I’ve tried several copy places around town with same results. ???

SO ADORABLE!!! Great DYI – I found you through “A Cup of Jo” – thanks for sharing! Totally going to PIN this for later!

oh I think this one is my favorite so far! what’s the website where you ordered these blank totes from? I’d love to make a bunch for DIY gifts!

Thanks for sharing! – Mary

Did you have to put any kind of finish on top? Wondering if it will flake/peel off with minimal use???

So I didn’t do a final coat (because I forgot-whoops!) and it has been totally fine. Not flaking off at all. Although it’s probably a good idea to do it

Would it work to do this on a t-shirt? And then, would it be washable?

this is uber cool…love the end result. When you’re rubbing the dried image off with the foam brush (step 4) are you using a dried brush and just sort of peeling away the dried paper? (assume yes). I can’t wait to try this. The image you selected was just perfect for this look…so vintage. Great job.

oh my goodness, thank you for pointing that out! I forget to mention that you spray it with water before rubbing it. Just added it into the directions now!

Looks like so much fun! And the result is great. I need to give this a try some time soon. Thanks for the tutorial!

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