Custom tote bags with custom, wrap-around artwork?
June 25, 2013 5:45 PM   Subscribe

I would like to have a batch of canvas tote-bags made with custom artwork, with the following design caveat: The logo/artwork wraps around each side of the bag. What specific companies can do this for small batches (50-100, max)?

A Google search quickly brings up companies that mass-produce tote bags labeled with a custom logo or artwork. However, these companies can only print on one side of the bag, where the artwork is centered on the face. This is not what I am looking for.

I am specifically looking for a vendor that can print each half of the artwork on both sides. (As a for instance, if I was printing a bicycle on the bag, the front-half of the bicycle would be on one side, while the back-half would be on the other, wrapped around on both sides — make sense?)

To clarify, I am looking for specific pointers to vendors who have the capacity to do this work. If you have links to Etsy or Craigslist (Seattle metro area) that's fine, but I would ask that you limit these links to specific vendors who can perform this task.
posted by Blazecock Pileon to Grab Bag (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Most tote bags I've seen have a seam on both ends. Will your artwork be okay printed over a seam? This company shows tote bags with wrapped printing. Maybe they can tell you who does their printing. Or, since your work will need to be done manually, is there an art school or community college with a print shop?
posted by theora55 at 8:05 PM on June 25, 2013

Former promotional product buyer here.

You will need a promotional product company that can do cut & sew work. This refers to the process whereby the manufacturer prints the design onto fabric, then cuts and sews it together, matching up the seams of your design. Traditional promotional products are sewn first, then printed after.

You should also look into sublimation. It is a type of printing that would be more accommodating to large, complex pieces of artwork that reach the edge of the product (as opposed to screen-printing).

Caution: Your quantities are low, so you may wind up with a fairly high production cost. These types of items are usually made much cheaper with large economies of scale, in print runs of 1000 - 10,000 units.
posted by Deodand at 9:46 PM on June 25, 2013

One option is instead of using two pieces of fabric stitched at the sides, you use one piece of fabric, stitched closed on the opposite side of the printing. You can still do stitching down the side with printing to give the bag structure and for aesthetic purposes, but it eliminates some of the difficulty with matching the image on two pieces of fabric. If you found a small batch designer you like, ask about this process.
posted by barnone at 5:15 AM on June 26, 2013

I have worked with Cavan Advertising to create custom bags. They weren't canvas bags, but the lengths they went to to get me exactly what I was looking for suggests they could probably do what you are asking, too.

In our case, I wanted those lightweight nylon shopping bags that you can stuff into a sack and carry around in your purse. At the time they didn't carry any nylon bags, so they sourced fabric and let us design the shape of the bag. They then produced a prototype and let us tinker with the design until we had exactly what we wanted. Initially they could only offer a vinyl screen print on one side of the bag, and we did a run of those but didn't really love the effect. Eventually they found someone who would let me custom design the actual fabric, produce it and then have another sub-contractor make the bags out of it. I would think that screen printing an image on canvas before it was made into a bag should be possible.

Caveat: our run was bigger than what you are looking for (I think 1,000 bags) and they still ended up costing us $5-7 each. They will do small batches for you, but whether the price will scale in a way that is palatable I can't say. I don't remember the name of the rep I worked with offhand, but if you're interested memail me and I can look through my files and find it for you.
posted by looli at 7:03 PM on July 4, 2013

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