Adding Heat Transfer Vinyl on a Canvas Bag (2021)

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Inside: Step by Step Tutorial for adding heat transfer vinyl on a canvas bag; for Silhouette Cameo or Cricut machines; easy craft with no sewing required!

I’m all about being eco-conscious and creating less waste. So, I’ve started carrying canvas tote bags tucked into my purse when we go on family outings – and it’s helped SO MUCH!

Today, I’m sharing how to add heat transfer vinyl on a canvas bag so you can customize you eco-friendly shopping totes to fit your style and your budget!

How to get vinyl to stick to canvas

I have to admit that I was a little bit nervous about learning how to do this craft. Heat Transfer vinyl, otherwise known as HTV, is not the easiest to work with, but with practice and patience, you can absolutely get great results.

Using a hot iron to stick htv to canvas

Heat transfer vinyl feels like regular vinyl with the exception of a paper backing that you peel off. That is what will help your vinyl stick to your canvas fabric while you are ironing it on.

Note: it is the HEAT that makes it permanently stick to the canvas. Heat transfer vinyl is not a decal or a sticker.

If you use this method, you will not be able to easily remove the vinyl transfer from your tote or your canvas bag.

This method is effectively a permanent way to put a vinyl transfer on your fabric – and so you don’t want to make mistakes! (Trust me, I found out the hard way!)

Choosing a style for your Heat Transfer Vinyl Pattern

I have a couple cute canvas bags I’ve been given as gifts, but I wanted a few more with cheeky sayings on them that I could bring to the grocery store or the mall.

I shopped in the Silhouette Shop for a new font and then designed these two sayings myself.

Step-by-Step for Adding Heat Transfer Vinyl on a Canvas Tote Bag
Yield: 2 totes

Step-by-Step for Adding Heat Transfer Vinyl on a Canvas Tote Bag

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: $15

Instructions for adding heat transfer vinyl patterns and appliqués to plain canvas tote bags; uses a Silhouette Cameo or a Cricut machine.


  • Hot iron
  • Ironing Board
  • Old Towel


  1. First things first you’ll need to open Silhouette Design Studio software and set up your design. I purchased two different designs from the store for 99 cents each (Super easy because it just hooks up to your PayPal).
  2. Then you’ll want to iron out any creases in your tote bags. I also recommend using some spray starch just to get them nice and crisp (plus, smells so good!)
  3. Now the heat transfer vinyl I had was 12″x9″, so I simply sized my design based on that. Mine ended up being about 11″x8.5 just to be safe.
  4. Don’t forget! If you are doing text, you must MIRROR your image before cutting otherwise your words will be backwards! You'll need to do this in your Silhouette Studio software.
  5. To mirror, just right click your image and click ‘Flip Horizontal’ in the menu and you’re all set. Using heat transfer vinyl for the first time took a bit of figuring out. It’s a bit more stretchy than normal vinyl and the recommended settings didn’t work well for me. You need to feed your material into the machine with the shiny plastic side DOWN. This way the blade will only cut the actual transfer and not the backing.
  6. I ended up setting my material thickness to 10, my blade to 3 and I used my 12×12 Silhouette Cameo cutting mat.
  7. If this is your first time using heat transfer, just be patient and try out some different settings until you see your blade cut through. Now you just peel away the excess vinyl leaving your design on the backing.
  8. Grab your tote and place your design where you want it to be, cover it with a thin tea towel and go over it with a hot iron for 30-45 seconds. Your design should have transferred! If not, just put the towel back down and reapply the hot iron with a bit more pressure.


If you do not have a Silhouette Cameo - a Cricut machine will do the same job!

Did you make this project?

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Maybe one day, I’ll be brave enough to get my sewing machine out and actually sew a tote bag to customize. But for now, these store bought ones are just fine!

Adding Heat Transfer Vinyl on a Canvas Bag
Adding Heat Transfer Vinyl on a Canvas Bag –

I have a couple other simple ‘new sew’ tutorials, they are holiday themed, but could easily be turned into something fresh and fun for summer or spring. I have these snowflake pillows that are basically my take on a simple pom-pom. Can you tell that I love textiles, but don’t love to sew??

DIY Typography Table with a Silhouette Cameo

I’ve also used my Silhouette Cameo and vinyl transfer to create some neat home decor pieces. I did this coffee table using regular transfer vinyl (not heated) and it turned out so amazing!

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