This is the kind of tote that makes us look for excuses to leave the house/show it off.

This is the kind of tote that makes us look for excuses to leave the house, just so we can show it off.

Do you love collages? Do you have books, papers, candy, chapstick, and other stuff that you need/want to carry around with you during the day? You’re in luck: You can have all these things at once! With this DIY, I’m going to show you how to use the photo transfer method to put a collage onto a tote bag.

What you’ll need:

  • A tote bag, or another cloth item you want to transfer a collage onto! (Tip: Don’t choose anything with stretchy fabric—your design will be stiff and therefore won’t stretch with the fabric.)
  • Magazine clippings and other flat collage materials
  • A glue stick
  • A laser printer (I borrowed the one at my local UPS Store.)
  • Gel medium (You can find gel medium in the paint section of most craft stores. I used this one.)
  • A paint brush
  • A cup of water


How to do it:

Step One


Make a collage with magazine clippings, then glue it all together with a glue stick.

Step Two


Make a copy of your collage using a laser printer. Most at-home printers are ink-jet, which sadly won’t work for this method of photo transfer. Luckily, most printing services will be able to make a laser copy for you for about 50 cents.

Note: It is possible to do a photo transfer with just magazine clippings, as they are laser printed. However, I’ve found that trying to transfer an entire collage (multiple layers of paper) doesn’t work very well—it’s incredibly tedious to transfer each collage element, and it doesn’t produce a clean transfer overall. When you get the collage printed, you’re essentially flattening it all on one sheet of paper, which makes the process much easier!

Step Three


Lay your tote bag (or other cloth object) on a flat surface, smooth it out, and start painting a layer of gel medium on the area where you want your collage to go. I chose to put mine smack in the middle of my tote bag! The layer of gel medium should be thick enough to amply cover the fabric, but not too thick. Try to avoid any big clumps, and be swift! You don’t want the gel medium to dry before you do the transfer.

Step Four


Place the laser-printed collage face down on the layer of gel medium, and smooooooth it out! Be sure that the whole piece of paper makes contact with the fabric.

Step Five

Let the gel medium dry!

Step Six


Now: The fun part. Dip a paintbrush in water, then brush the water over the back of the collage. Rub the wet paper off the bag. It might take a minute to get the first clump of paper off, but don’t give up! Rub alllll the paper off the fabric. You should be able to see a transfer of your collage peeking through!

You may need to re-wet the surface a few times in order to get all the paper off. This can be tedious—the bigger the collage, the more paper you’ll have to rub off, so be aware of this when choosing what size collage to make! Also: Bits of the transfer will rub off. It’s OK. This mostly happened around the edges of the collage for me, but I think it gives it a cool, distressed look.

Leave your bag out to dry, there you go! Your beautiful collage is ready to be toted around. ♦