how to design a tote bag

How to Design a Tote Bag

Tote Bags are versatile and can be used to carry groceries, lunch, books, and more. Totes are an easy addition and obvious choice to add to any merch selection you’re selling. As more and more people switch out single-use plastic bags for reusable bags, totes are becoming an even more popular item for people to purchase. Let’s walk through how to design an awesome tote bag to add to your catalog of products. 

At Bonfire, we offer the Premium Tote Bag. This bag is constructed from 100% cotton canvas and can be offered in three colors: Natural, Black, and Navy. If you wish, you can print on both sides of the tote, and the printable area of the product is 6.5 in x 7.7 in. 

designing a tote bag in the Bonfire design tool.

Choose Your Design Direction

The first step of designing your tote bag is determining what type of design you want your tote to have on it. You will need to decide whether your tote will be created to stand alone, or if it will be sold alongside other products.

Creating a Custom Design

If you choose to only offer a tote bag, you can simply create a custom tote bag design and you’re ready to go! Make sure your design will be visible on the color or colors of the tote you plan on offering.

Adding custom designs to your tote bag.

Matching Your Tote with a Tee

If you are selling your tote bag alongside other custom merchandise, your design process can be simplified if you wish to match your tote bag with the same design as a t-shirt or other product you are already selling. This works really well if you are designing products for a special event, or just creating basic merch with your business or organization’s logo on it.

Match your tote bag design with your t-shirt design.

Complimentary Design to Match a Tee

If you are selling your tote as part of a collection of merchandise, you may decide to have slightly different designs on each item being sold, even if when together, you can tell they are part of the same collection. You can create complementary designs for each merch product by using the same fonts and graphics, but switching up their placement or swapping out language.

Created complementary designs across all your merch that use the same fonts and graphics.

Design Your Tote

You can design your next tote bag in the Bonfire design tool, or in a design program such as Illustrator. If you do choose to use an external program, you can upload your completed design file in either a  .AI, .EPS, .PNG ,. JPG. or .PDF file format. While vector images are preferable, they aren’t mandatory.  For best results, we recommend a resolution of at least 1500 x 1500 pixels. Also, make sure to upload photos or images without gradients to stay under our 8 color limit on each product side.

Custom tote bags being used for groceries.

Ready to Create Your Own Tote Bag?

Customize your new tote bag in our free design tool!

Tote Bag Design Trends

Once you know the general design direction you’re heading in, you can get started on creating the design for your tote bag. We have seen some tote bag design trends develop since the launch of tote bags a few years ago, so let’s explore some of the common trends in tote bag designs.


📚 Related Reading: 20 T-Shirt Design Trends for 2020


Minimalist Linework

Your tote bag design doesn’t have to be super complicated or colorful. These designs use thin linework and minimal text to create a stripped-down but refined look. This can be a nice option if you are designing these totes for a brand or event that also has a more minimalist look, or if you think your audience is more understated.

Tote bags with minimalist and thin linework designs.

Intricate Illustrations

On the opposite side of the spectrum, intricate, colorful designs are also popular. This is a great option if you already have an illustration from other products you’ve created, or if your brand has more design assets at the ready.

Tote bags with intricate illustrations.

Hint: If you are looking for a designer to create a more involved illustration to sell on a tote, check out Bonfire Studio. Our paid concierge design service will help you get an amazing design to use on your next tote bag. 

Black Design on Natural Tote

One simple trend we’ve seen on tote bags is designs being printed on the Natural Tote in Black ink. This high-contrast, yet neutral color pairing is attractive and sophisticated. We’ve seen this pairing most commonly used for floral designs and thin linework. 

Natural color tote bags that use black ink on their design.

Large Logos

Just as with t-shirts, offering a tote bag with the logo of your brand, business, or organization is a safe and often necessary product to have available. If you have never had a tote bag available, this is a great first option to provide. 

Tote bags with large brand logos.

Vertical Designs

The Bonfire Premium Tote Bag is a very vertical product. It is tall, and thus, tall, thin designs that mimic the printable area dimensions look really polished when printed on the bag. When orienting your design, keep in mind that the printable area of the tote is 6.5 in wide and 7.7 in. tall.  

Tote bags with vertical designs.

In many ways, designing a tote bag is not much different than designing a t-shirt on Bonfire. You can print designs on both sides of the product, use up to 8 ink colors in your design, and these high-quality products will be loved by your buyers. With these design guidelines and trends, you’ll surely end up with a tote bag that your community will love.

Ready to Create Your Own Tote Bag?

Customize your new tote bag in our free design tool!

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