Wednesday, June 12, 2019

How to Stencil - Make a cute stenciled fabric tote!

Learn how to stencil with an easy DIY project - stenciled fabric totes. Dress up a plain bag with fabric paint and stencils.

How to Stencil on fabric

My girls LOVE to craft - with summer break here, they now have plenty of time for it. The first thing we made were these fun stenciled bags.  You can never have too many bags. Am I right?

This project is part of the Inspire My Creativity link party. The theme this month is stencils. So make sure to scroll all the way to the bottom to see everyone's stenciling projects.

How to Stencil - make a cute stenciled fabric tote!

Stenciling on Fabric

This is not the first time we've painted canvas bags. Several years ago my daughter made some for her siblings for Christmas. If you're interested in sewing your own bags, try making a ruffled scripture bag, or make a bag from an old jumper. If you need a small bag, try this DIY Tote.

Another fun painting project for teens and tweens is painting shoes. Check out my full tutorial!


This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy for details. Products were provided to my by Plaid Crafts. 

↓↓ Watch the video - click here ↓↓

Supplies Needed for Stenciling on Fabric

supplies needed for fabric stenciling project

Stenciling on Fabric

These recommendations are based on using the Fabric Creations Soft Fabric Ink. If using another type of fabric paint, be sure to check the guidelines for that product.

Use fabric paint

My 11 year old started off with the pineapple stencil and some fabric paint. She chose yellow and green for the pineapple and bright pink for the sunglasses.  My 9 year old used the unicorn stencil, choosing pink, purple and white as her colors.

Fabric paint is specially formulated to adhere to fabric and withstand washing. 
It is best to pre-wash your fabric (I didn't realize we needed to do this, so we didn't.)
Be sure to have a piece of cardboard to place between layers of fabric, so the paint doesn't bleed through. These canvas bags were sturdy enough that no paint leaked through, but a thinner fabric would definitely need a barrier between layers.

Tape down the stencil

We quickly learned that to keep the stencil from moving around, we needed to secure it to the fabric. We grabbed some painters tape (any tape would work though) and taped it in place. 

Watch the Canvas Tote Stenciling Video!

paint for stenciling

Choose the appropriate sized brush

Since this stencil has fairly small openings, we opted to use the smallest stenciling brush. This allowed for better control for those small sections. We washed the brush out with water each time we switched colors. 

For larger stencils, using a bigger brush will speed up the stenciling process.

Lightly dab the paint 

It's best to stencil using a small amount of paint. Dip the brush into the paint and then dab it off before applying it to the stencil. If you use too much paint, then it is much easier for the paint to get underneath the stencil, ruining those crisp lines you are going for. 

The kids did ok with this, but there were spots that the paint seeped under the stencil merging their design a bit. 

It's also helpful to hold the stencil down firmly with your fingers while applying the paint.

Let paint dry completely

The paint will be dry to the touch fairly quickly, but it is best to wait about 24 hours before heat setting and using the item.

pineapple stenciled fabric tote

Heat set the paint

To ensure that the fabric paint adheres properly to the fabric it needs to be heat set. This means that you will use an hot iron to set the paint. Set the iron on the setting appropriate for the fabric you're using. 

Make sure the iron is on the dry setting (no steam). Grab a pressing cloth, or a scrap of fabric and place it over the paint. Press each section of paint for 30 seconds and move on to the next section.

Can I wash my painted fabric?

Yes - hand washing in cold water is recommended. Be sure to wait at least 72 hours for the paint to fully cure before washing.

stenciling tips

Tips for Stenciling

Tip #1 - Use painters tape to keep stencil in place.

We started out just holding the stencil in place as we painted. We found it much easier to tape the edges of the stencil in place. We still had to hold down the stencil as we painted to help prevent extra paint from getting under the stencil.

use tape to keep stencil in place

Tip #2 - Practice on a piece of scrap paper.

This is especially important if you've never stenciled before. You can learn how much paint you need to use and how to avoid getting the paint underneath the stencil.

Tip #3 - Use a small amount of paint

Using a small amount of paint is key when stenciling. Too much paint makes it very likely that paint will seep underneath the stencil, ruining the design.

Also dab the paint on with an up and down motion instead of brushing it on. The brushing motion can sweep paint underneath the stencil, while the up and down motion will prevent that from happening.
dab a small amount of paint on the stencil

Tip #4 - Wipe off the back of the stencil between uses.

No matter how careful you are, a little paint under the edges of the stencil is inevitable. Before moving that stencil to the next area of your project, it is important to wipe off any excess paint.

Place the stencil upside down on a paper towel, with a damp paper towel carefully wipe off any paint on the underside of the stencil.

wipe off the back of the stencil between uses

↓↓ Watch the video - click here ↓↓

More Stenciling Projects


  1. These would be so fun to make with kids this Summer! I love finding crafts my kids can enjoy and making things they will actually use. Who can't use another bag? These turned out so darling!

  2. These are so cute!! They look so great with the bright colors.

  3. Those stencils are adorable! I love the multiple colors on the bags! Darling!