10 Best Tote Bag Printing Methods Compared [Pros & Cons]

Written by José Max Lin
Last updated
May 18, 2022

As one of the most popular forms of advertising, choosing the correct printing methods for your custom tote bags would be an excellent way to get your brand or message out there. Tote bags are practical, reusable, and can be used for various purposes, ideal for promoting your business. Here are a few things to consider when considering good tote bag printing methods for your next marketing campaign.

One of the most important things to consider when printing on tote bags is your method. Different methods are available, and each has its benefits and drawbacks. Here are a few of the most popular printing for tote bags.

1. Screen printing

How does it work?

It was probably made with screen printing if you've had a printed tote bag for years, and it still looks great. This method, also known as silk screen printing, is a relatively simple process that involves creating a stencil (or template) of your design and then printing it onto the tote bags using printing screens made of nylon mesh and steel frame. For every design, screen printing works on separate screens for each color.

Who is it for?

Screen printing is one of the most popular printing methods, as it guarantees great design replication. Although of its great print results, it is not suitable for all kinds of tote bag printing. In theory, it allows up to 6 different colors for design, but this method is just recommended for printing within 2 colors in mass production.

Pros:

  • High quality
  • Durable and long-lasting print
  • Cost-effective for bulk printing
  • Fast for block printing style

Cons:

  • Not good for complex designs (3 or more colors)
  • Cost-intensive for preparing screens
  • Complicated for small bulk orders
  • Lack of accuracy in chromatography

From Lawson Screen & Digital Products, Inc

2. Direct to garment (DTG)

How does it work?

Direct to garment printing, or DTG printing, is one of the newest digital printing methods that is becoming increasingly popular in the printing industry. It involves printing the design directly onto the custom tote bag fabric using special inks and printers. It is similar to the inkjet printer, where you insert the tote bag, and the printer applies the ink on it and outputs highly realistic results, especially with complex designs.

Who is it for?

Unlike other methods, the production cycle of DTG printing is very short, and little preparation is needed, so you can also start creating designs from home. It also creates less waste, making it a more sustainable method for top-notch printing.

Additionally, consider that designing a dark final product won't look too good, and designs should be completely opaque for better practices.

Pros:

  • High-quality prints
  • Easy to use
  • Good for complex designs
  • Eco-friendly

Cons:

  • Not good with transparency designs and dark fabrics
  • Less durable designs
  • Slow for large volume productions

From Mark Ramos Designs

3. Heat transfer

How does it work?

Heat transfer printing, or heat press printing, is another popular digital printing method for leather tote bags. It involves iron and a transfer paper using heat and pressure. The heat of the iron melts the paper's plastic lining, transferring the ink from the paper to your canvas tote bag. It's a one-time deal.

Who is it for?

As it is suitable for small volumes of custom tote bags, you can use the full spectrum of colors for excellent outcomes. However, heat transfer printing works better on fabrics with high heat sensitivity.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • High-quality reproductions
  • Economical for small quantities
  • Suitable for unlimited colors and patterns

Cons:

  • Longer time for printing
  • Not suitable for low heat sensitivity fabrics
  • You can not reuse the iron
  • The fabric becomes stiff
  • High filming costs (calculated by printing area)

From Stahls' TV

4. Sublimation

How does it work?

Sublimation printing, or dye sublimation printing, is much like heat transfer printing. It involves printing onto a special paper and then transferring the design onto custom tote bags (usually polyester fabrics or a polyester mix). Similarly to heat transfer, it uses heat and pressure to turn a substance from a solid state to a gas state. The ink is heated until it disintegrates into the fabric itself.

Who is it for?

Sublimation printing allows full-color, photo-quality prints that will not crack or peel over time. It gives a natural feel and lasts longer than some other methods in the industry, but at the same time, the process costs more. As sublimation is essentially a dye process, the fabric for your custom tote bags must be white or light-colored for best results.

Are sublimation and heat transfer the same thing?

Compared to other digital fabric printing methods, like heat transfer, which adds a layer to the fabric, the sublimation transfers the ink onto the fabric, making part of the tote bags.

Pros:

  • Highly durable and long-lasting
  • High-quality with a natural feel
  • Low startup cost
  • Suitable for unlimited colors and patterns

Cons:

  • Not recommended for darker materials
  • Only for polyester or polyester mix fabrics
  • Time-consuming for larger scale

From Leslie Irene

5. Embroidery

How does it work?

Technology has improved the quality of life. Instead of stitching your design onto the tote bag using thread by yourself, now is simpler with embroidery digitizing. This process converts your artwork into a digital printing file, allowing the embroidery machines to understand the needle's path.

Who is it for?

If you are looking for fine finishes using custom embroidery designs in your tote bags, embroidery digitizing will be a great option. It gives a hand embroidery look in a short time as you automate it.

Pros:

  • Extremely long-lasting
  • Color numbers do not affect the cost
  • High-quality look and feel
  • Short turnaround time
  • Effective for runs of any size

Cons:

  • More expensive than alternative personalization methods
  • Not suitable for gradients and subtle shades
  • Pantone cannot be matched exactly
  • Compromised to waterproof materials and very fine details
  • The file type depends on the embroidery machine

From Needlepointers

6. Foil printing

How does it work?

Foil printing, also known as foil stamping or metallic printing, is a printing technique that uses heat, pressure, and metallic paper (foil). The foil is available in various colors and can be printed on both light and dark-colored papers. However, it is a labor-intensive method that requires multiple runs to achieve multi-color designs.

Who is it for?

Foil printing can add a touch of luxury to your prints creating shiny designs on various materials. The most popular colors (gold and silver foils) are often used for invitations, business cards, and other high-end print products like promotional tote bags.

Pros:

  • Great for darker or colored materials
  • Luxurious feel

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Not suitable for designs that have already been applied by thermography

From Embellish By RNK

7. Embossing and Debossing

How does it work?

Embossing and debossing are similar printing techniques that involve creating either raised or recessed designs on different materials. The process uses a metal die to press an image into the material's surface.

Who is it for?

Embossing and debossing are often used for branding purposes, as they are excellent for creating a unique, high-end look and feel. They are commonly used on custom tote bags, business cards, invitations, and other printed materials for luxurious effects.

Pros:

  • Creates a unique, high-end look
  • It can be used on a variety of materials.

Cons:

  • More expensive than some other methods
  • Not suitable for designs with multiple colors or gradients

From VersatilityInPrint

8. UV printing

How does it work?

UV printing is a printing technique that uses ultraviolet light to cure inks and coatings on various materials. The inks are also durable and non-removable and will not fade over time.

Who is it for?

UV printing is utilized to print designs on personalized tote bags and materials with no waste drying system. Although it is not waterproof, it can be water-resistant.

Pros:

  • Eco-friendly (less VOC, odor, and heat)
  • Prints on a variety of materials
  • Sharp contrast and glossy coating
  • Fast printing process

Cons:

  • More expensive than some other methods
  • Not suitable for very large prints
  • Not waterproof
  • Higher cost for initial startup

From Emily -UV Flatbed Printer

9. Gravure Printing

How does it work?

Gravure printing, or rotogravure printing, is commonly used to create laminated canvas tote bags. It is an intaglio printing process where the printed image is carved into a metal plate. The recessed areas are filled with ink, and the excess is wiped off the surface, leaving only the ink in the recesses.

Who is it for?

Gravure printing is ideal for large print runs, as it is a very fast process. It is also perfect for custom tote bag designs that require high levels of detail and precision.

Pros:

  • Can print high levels of detail and precision
  • Produces durable prints
  • Very fast process
  • Great for large quantities

Cons:

  • More expensive than some other methods
  • Special care for the delicate plates
  • Not suitable for small print runs

From S & S Packaging Machines

10. Flock printing

How does it work?

Flock printing, also known as flocking, uses short fibers to create a raised design on a surface. This type of printing is an excellent way to add texture and dimension to your personalized tote bags, making them stand out from the crowd.

Who is it for?

Flock printing is often used on fabrics and other materials that can be easily damaged by other printing methods, such as those made of PVC or leather.

Pros:

  • Adds texture and dimension to your prints
  • Great for fabric and other delicate materials

Cons:

  • More expensive than some other methods
  • Not suitable for large print runs
  • The design may not be so precise

From apparelscience.com

How to choose the appropriate way of printing

There are many printing customization options available for tote bags. Depending on your budgets, designs, and the intended use of the tote bags, you will need to choose appropriate printing methods for your products.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the right method for your promotional tote bags:

  • Your Budget

The cost of printing will vary depending on the method you choose. Some printing methods, such as foil printing, are more expensive than others. If you have a limited budget, you may want to choose a less expensive printing.

  • The Design

The design of your tote bag will also play a role in choosing the right method for your tote bags. Some designs may not suit certain printings, such as those with multiple colors or gradients.

  • The Intended Use

The intended use of your tote bag will also affect your choice. If you plan on using the tote bag for promotional purposes, you'll want to choose one that will create a high-quality, long-lasting print.

  • The Printing Methods

Once you've considered your budget, design, and intended use, you can narrow your choices by considering the different printing methods available. Some of the most popular printings for tote bags include screen printing, digital printing, and heat transfer printing.

  • The Turnaround Time

The turnaround time is when it takes for the printing process to be completed. Depending on the method you choose, the turnaround time can vary. If you need your tote bags quickly, you'll want to choose one with a shorter turnaround time.

HANDBAGIO product specialist
José Max Lin
I am product specialist and content marketing specialist for Handbagio. If you want to wholesale vegan handbags or vegan related products, feel free to ask me any questions.
Connect with me
Reading:
10 Best Tote Bag Printing Methods Compared [Pros & Cons]

More from Handbagio:

magnifiercrossmenuchevron-down