Tips to to create your dream bag

As you’re probably aware, totes are a common sight on shoulders across London and the rest of the UK these days. A simple, versatile way to transport your stuff, it’s not hard to see why they’ve become so ubiquitous. They suit a smart get up as much as a dressed down look, something which has led to them being adopted by students and young professionals alike.

It was luxury designer Anya Hindmarch who was behind the first tote to become a talking point, creating a beige cloth bag printed with the words “I’m not a plastic bag” in cartoonish type. Combining appealing design with a slogan statement, it spoke to environmental awareness at a time years before sustainable fashion had taken off. They sold out instantaneously, and were soon being resold for ten times the price.

The success of Hindmarch’s design hints at another aspect of totes which has encouraged their popularity. Namely, they’re a way for people to signal something about their beliefs, or to display a sense of personality. In many cases, totes will be a way for people to show off their fandom for a band, organisation or particular brand. For this same reason, they’re a prime vehicle for promotion.

Thinking of creating a tote of your own? You might be envisioning the most common style that’s out there: a black design printed on a plain canvas tote. This can be wonderfully effective, but is also just one way of doing it. There are a world of possibilities, and here we’ve compiled the different options and decisions to think about while designing a tote.

How thick do you want your bag to be?

At ICON, we measure our bags in ounces. As a guide, five ounces is perfect if you want a light bag – perhaps one that you’re planning to give away as part of a promotion or at an event. If you’re after something a bit weightier, eight ounces is a good middle ground. And if you’re after a seriously hefty bag, then we recommend ten ounces.

Think about the ink

One pitfall of more ambitious tote bag designs is using a lot of ink. It can make the bag stiff and is best avoided. For this reason, we’d advise not to print block colours. Rather, we’d suggest trying to do more with less – or if you do want a block colour, think about using a coloured bag or, if you’re ordering a lot of units, getting a bespoke dye (more on this below). Below is a bespoke bag we created for Transferwise, with a bespoke dye, creating the striking diagonal split between blue and white.


Ready to print or bespoke?

Do you want a plain canvas tote, with a standard simple handle, or do you want something a bit different? If it’s the latter, then you might be best off getting a bespoke rather than ready to print. This would allow you to do things like put pockets on the inside, do edge to edge printing, and get bespoke dyes. Bespoke prints aren’t necessarily more expensive than ready to print, but the turnaround time is slower: ready to print is around seven days, whereas bespoke is four weeks.


A tote bag doesn’t have to mean plain canvas. We produce totes in an array of colours, and – like we said above – having dyed fabric can be a great way to use block colours without getting a funny effect with the ink. If you’re using a ready to print tote, this means choosing from a range of set colours. If you’re doing bespoke, then you can get a bespoke dye (like in the lovely Transferwise example above) – but this is only possible with orders over 3000.

Looking to create custom printed tote bags? Want to talk about how to bring your bespoke idea to life? At ICON Printing we can create deliver fast turnaround custom tote bag orders. Get a quote in 2 minutes online.