Personalize a Reusable Grocery Bag with Photos

In an effort to become more earth friendly, I have finally jumped on the bag wagon- the reusable grocery bag wagon that is. While reusable grocery bags are great for the environment, I’ll admit they’re not so attractive. Most of the reusable bags I’ve seen are brown, green, or black with a store logo printed on each side. I know the appearance of the bag is not what really matters, but if you’re looking for a fun craft project that will surely catch the eyes of other grocery shoppers, personalizing your reusable grocery bags is a fabulous idea. So gather up all those reusable grocery bags you have stashed in the trunk of your car and let’s get started.

Personalize a boring grocery bag with your own photos
Personalize a boring grocery bag with your own photos

Step 1: Gather Supplies

You will need the following supplies to complete this project:

  • Reusable grocery tote bag
  • Iron-on fabric transfer paper
  • Digital photos
  • Computer and ink jet printer
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Pillowcase
  • Embellishments (optional)

The transfer paper can be purchased at most craft stores. The package I purchased contained five sheets and cost $9.99 at Michael's craft store. If you’re using a bag that’s a dark color or you’re trying to cover up a store logo, select fabric transfer paper that is specifically for dark fabrics. I chose to use Wilton’s Easy Image paper for dark fabrics. Other than the transfer paper, I had all of these supplies on hand. Hopefully you do too.

Step 2: Select Photos

The hardest part of this project is choosing which photos to use. Look through your digital photos and choose two that make you smile (one photo for each side of the bag). Select photos of family members, pets, friends, or even landscapes. I chose a picture of my son.

Measure the space you want to cover on your bag before printing your photo. My bag had a big logo on the front measuring approximately 6x4 inches. I wanted to completely cover that logo. I opened my photo in photo shop and adjusted the size to fit my bag. You may be able to use half a sheet of paper instead of a whole sheet if the area you want to cover is relatively small. Save the other half sheet for the other side of the bag.

Use photo editing software to make creative enhancements to your photo if you’d like. If you’re using a black bag, a black and white photo would look classy. If you’re using a brown bag, try a sepia photo. Play around with different photo effects. I chose a pink bag and changed my photo to sepia.  It's also perfectly fine to leave your photo exactly how it is. Either way, it’s going to look fantastic!

This is the photo I chose for my bag.  It brings back memories of a fun day at the state fair with my kids.
This is the photo I chose for my bag. It brings back memories of a fun day at the state fair with my kids.

Step 3: Print Photos

When you’re ready to print your photos onto the transfer paper, follow the instructions that came with the transfer paper.  Instructions differ, depending on whether you’re using paper designed for light fabric or dark fabric.  Since I used dark fabric paper, I did not need to print the image in reverse (mirrored).  When using light fabric paper, the image must be reversed before printing.  This may not be a big deal unless there is text somewhere in the photo.

Make sure to print a test page on regular paper before printing on the transfer paper.  The instructions that came with my paper directed me to load the paper in the printer so the photo would be printed on the unlined side.  Only load one sheet at a time.  When your paper is loaded according to the instructions, hit print. 

Make sure to load the paper correctly.  Print on the side without the line.
Make sure to load the paper correctly. Print on the side without the line.
I probably could have saved some transfer paper by adjusting the margins instead of printing in the center of the page.  Oh well...live and learn!
I probably could have saved some transfer paper by adjusting the margins instead of printing in the center of the page. Oh well...live and learn!

Step 4: Transfer the Photo with an Iron

Follow the instructions included with the transfer paper for the correct ironing steps. Once again, this may differ depending on whether you’re using paper for dark fabrics or light fabrics. The following instructions are specifically for the dark fabric paper since that’s what I used for my project.

First, cut out the printed image to the desired shape and size. Preheat your iron to the “synthetic” setting. Using an iron that is too hot will melt a synthetic grocery bag, so be careful. If the bag you are using is cotton or polyester, set your iron accordingly. Also, make sure the steam setting is turned off.

Do not use your ironing board when ironing the image onto the bag. The surface you’re ironing on must be hard, smooth, and heat resistant. I chose to lay a pillow case on the kitchen counter for this step. Make sure the pillow case is pre-ironed with no wrinkles. Smooth out the pillow case on the counter or other hard surface.

I placed a cotton pillowcase on the kitchen counter and heated the iron to the "synthetic" setting
I placed a cotton pillowcase on the kitchen counter and heated the iron to the "synthetic" setting

Next, peel the film layer off the back of the paper. Place the image on the bag with the printed side up. Make sure the image is centered and covers any logos already on the bag. Place the parchment paper (this comes with the transfer paper) over the photo, making sure it covers the entire photo.  The iron should only come into contact with the parchment paper, not the actual photo.

Be careful when peeling the paper off the back of the photo
Be careful when peeling the paper off the back of the photo
Place the peeled off photo onto the bag, making sure to cover the logo and keep it centered and straight
Place the peeled off photo onto the bag, making sure to cover the logo and keep it centered and straight
Place the parchment paper over the photo
Place the parchment paper over the photo

When the iron has reached the desired heat setting, place the iron on the upper left corner of the photo and hold it firmly for 20 seconds. Gently lift the iron up off the photo and place it firmly on the upper right corner of the photo for 20 seconds. Make sure you don’t drag the iron across the photo when moving to the next section of the photo. Just lift it up and set it down. Repeat the ironing in 20 second intervals until the entire photo has been ironed. Make sure the edges and corners are ironed too.

Hold the iron on each section for about 20 seconds, making sure not to drag the iron when changing positions.  Lift it straight up and place it straight down on to the paper
Hold the iron on each section for about 20 seconds, making sure not to drag the iron when changing positions. Lift it straight up and place it straight down on to the paper

The paper I used gave two options for removing the parchment paper. For a matte finish on the photo, peel the parchment paper off while it’s still hot. For a glossy finish, wait at least two minutes for the parchment paper to cool, then peel it off in a smooth even motion.  I found that the parchment paper didn't get very warm using a synthetic setting on the iron.  I was able to remove the parchment paper immediately after ironing. 

Once the image is ironed on to the bag, you can jazz it up with embellisments.  If you don't want to add embellishments, you're done! 

If you're not adding embellishments, you're done!
If you're not adding embellishments, you're done!

Step 5: Add Embellishments

This step is optional, but it can be lots of fun. If you like the way the bag looks with just a photo, then you’re done! If you’d like to jazz up your photo a little, then consider adding some decorations to the outside edge of the photo. Ribbon, bows, sequins, pom pom balls, buttons, or beads can be added as a border around the photo using a hot glue gun or needle and thread. Be creative!

I used various buttons from around the house and hot glued them around the border of the photo.  I placed the pillowcase on the inside of the bag during this step because I wasn't sure how the bag would take the heat of the hot glue.
I used various buttons from around the house and hot glued them around the border of the photo. I placed the pillowcase on the inside of the bag during this step because I wasn't sure how the bag would take the heat of the hot glue.
Bag with photo and embellishments added
Bag with photo and embellishments added

Project Complete!

Make these personalized bags for yourself or as gifts for friends and family. A set of these grocery bags would make a great Christmas present for Grandparents who like to show off their grandchildren.

What a simple project-my bag took less than an hour to complete. Personalizing a reusable grocery bag is a fun and inexpensive project that results in something truly unique. Why carry a boring bag with a grocery store logo on it? Instead, personalize your bags with photos you love.

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Comments 18 comments

Debbie 8 years ago

How cute! What mom doesn't like a "cute" reminder of their little one's everywhere!


Mom 8 years ago

What a great idea!!! I have 3 bags to docorate and can hardly wait to see the finished projects!


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona Author

Thanks for reading, Mom and Debbie. It was a really fun project and I hope to complete some more bags soon. Glad you enjoyed the hub!


elyse 8 years ago

super cute! I only have one of those bags right now but this makes me want to run out and buy more.


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona Author

Elyse-I've seen the bags on sale for .99 each at several grocery stores pretty regularly, so it's a really affordable project. Have fun!


aMY 8 years ago

VERY CUTE! SAFEWAY JUST OPENED BY US AND THEY WERE GIVING AWAY FREE BAGS AS A PROMOTION. NOW I JUST NEED TO USE THE BAG! :)


DarleneMarie profile image

DarleneMarie 8 years ago from USA

Great Hub! Really great idea...especially gifts to family members. It is also a very nice way to personalize a grocery bag and a great band wagon to be on too!


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona Author

Amy-I have a hard time remembering my bags too...I tend to leave them in the car and not realize it until I'm in the check out line! Did you know most stores give you 5 cents off for every bag you bring? It's not much, but it adds up over time.

Darlenemarie-Thanks for reading. I always look forward to your comments :)


RGraf profile image

RGraf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

Really good idea. I've got to try this.


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona Author

Thanks for reading, RGraf :)


washingtonson profile image

washingtonson 8 years ago from Walhalla

Hi! I really love your Hub and have featured it on my blog!

you can see it here:

washingtonson.blogspot.com


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona Author

washingtonson-Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)


crazyin glenview 8 years ago

Shawna - so happy that I found your Hub. I have been warned by several bag manufactuers that the iron will melt their product and not to attempt this project. I am sure that using the synthetic setting will be fine! thanks a million for helping me decide what to do for all of the grandparents. We are using art work rather than pictures!


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona Author

Crazyin glenview- The synthetic setting was perfect for me. It didn't alter the integrity of the bag at all. Art work is a great idea! Have fun with your project :)


lorraine_helf@yahoo.com 7 years ago

I just love this idea! I am thinking about using it as a craft project for church teen camp this summer. Maybe do the picture taking and putting it on transfers ahead of time and letting them iron on and embellish. Any more ideas on what kind of pictures would be great for teens?? And what if you want to include words, phrases or scriptures? Thanks for sharing your creative idea.


shawna.wilson profile image

shawna.wilson 7 years ago from Arizona Author

Hi Lorraine-Thanks for your comment. Teens would probably like pictures of their friends the most. I'm not sure if you could take photos at youth group or anything beforehand and then use those on the bags.

As far as words/scriptures go, you could type them on the computer and choose a fun font, then just print them on to the paper. The transfer paper is white, so you'd have to cut around the letters if you didn't want a white background. You could put some kind of border around the words too, either with embellishments or just printed with the words on the computer. Does that make sense? Have fun!


Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 6 years ago from Central Oregon

These would make great Holiday gifts.


philipandrews188 profile image

philipandrews188 5 years ago

Great and cool hub! Thanks for posting.

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