Printing on Tote Bags with Marsha Valk Lesson Plan


  • Students Will Be Able To design their own patterns for a tote bag
  • SWBAT demonstrate the ability to use Gelli Arts® plates in a creative way


  • How can you print on a tote bag?
  • What sort of patterning can you apply to a tote bag?


  • Gelli Arts® Mini printing plates (round, square, triangle)
  • Brayer
  • Cotton tote bag
  • Fabric spray paint
  • Acrylic paint
  • Fabric medium
  • Fabric marker
  • Sharpie
  • Stencils and masks
  • Cardboard panel (fits in tote bag)
  • Plastic bag
  • Acrylic stamping block


Preparations: Before you start printing, the cotton tote bag needs to be washed and ironed. The paint will grab onto the cotton fibers better when all sizing is washed out.

Find a cardboard panel that you can place inside the tote bag whilst you are working on it. Slip the cardboard into a plastic bag before you place it inside the tote.
The panel will help keep the fabric straight and it will prevent the paint from seeping through to the other side of the bag. The plastic bag will prevent the paint from soaking the cardboard as well as prevent the fabric from sticking to the cardboard, making it easier to remove the panel once the paint is dry.

Also, check the instructions on the paints you are planning to use. Some fabric paints just need to dry for a set amount of hours before they are permanent, others need to be heat set in order to become permanent and washable.

Step 1: Create a background layer for the Gelli® Print using fabric spray paints and a stencil. The spray paint will soak the fabric, so let it dry before you proceed to the next step. (I found the stencil in the craft section of a dollar store.)

Step 2: Mix your paints when using acrylic paint and fabric medium. I used Liquitex Fabric Medium and I mixed one part fabric medium to one part acrylic paint which was recommended on the package.

Step 3: Choose a Gelli Arts® Mini to stamp with. I used the 3” square mini plate because I wanted to create a checkered pattern. Mount it onto an acrylic stamping block.
Apply fabric paint to the Mini Plate with a brayer, place a mask on the fabric and stamp over it.
Repeat until you are happy with the design!

Step 4: My animal masks had little eyes, mouths and noses that didn’t transfer onto the fabric, so I first drew them in with a Sharpie and then I traced them with 3D fabric paint. You can of course use a fabric marker instead of the Sharpie.
3D fabric paint needs to dry flat for a long time before it’s set. Make sure that it’s completely dry before you turn the tote bag over to work on the other side or before you remove the cardboard sheet.

Step 5: Let the paint dry for the hours stated on the instructions on the package. Heat set if needed.

Step 6: Take your new bag out for a spin! Or create another one because this tote bag will be a cool gift too!

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