Screen Printing on Cooler Tote Bags : Teacher Appreciation Gift Idea

May 13, 2020 | Cricut Projects, Gift Ideas, Project Ideas, School, Screen Printing, Summer Fun, Teacher Appreciation, Vinyl Projects

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Screen printing insulated cooler tote bags make for a great gift. This year for teacher appreciation week, I made ice cream sundae kits with a “Just Add Ice Cream” tag.

This is such an easy DIY gift you can make in a basket, bag, or insulated tote. I used a blank insulated tote and added a little custom touch by screen printing with vinyl cut on my Cricut.

I’m excited to show you how to screen print with your Cricut or Silhouette to put your own design, logo, or quote on your tote bags.

teacher appreciation summer gift DIY idea cricut

DIY Screen Printing Supply List

cricut screen printing vinyl tote tutorial

Why is screen printing better than vinyl?

Screen printing is a great process for a number of reasons. I love the quality of screen printed items compared to iron-on vinyl.  But with a project like this, where I needed to make 6 gifts, screen printing was so much more economical and time saving!

I used one vinyl cut to make the same print on all 6 bags in a matter of minutes. I was able to use a scrap piece of vinyl, so this essentially cost nothing in vinyl.

If you have several shirts or totes to make, screen printing is a great way to make multiple items with only one piece of vinyl.

screen printing cooler totes lunch bags

How to Screen Print with Vinyl

Step 1: Cut your design on Oracal 651 vinyl.
Step 2: Transfer your vinyl to the screen. If you are having trouble getting your vinyl to stick to your screen, try this transfer tape.
Step 3: Use painter’s tape to cover any exposed areas of your screen, where you don’t want ink going through.
Step 4: Place the screen on top of your cooler, lining up the design in the spot you want to print.
Step 5: Squeegee ink over the screen and carefully lift the screen to reveal your printed design.
Step 6: Allow the ink to air dry for 2-5 days or speed up the drying process by using a heat gun or fan.
Step 7: Heat press the dry ink for 40 seconds at 360 degrees.
Step 8: Fill your bag with ice cream toppings and add the printable “Just Add Ice Cream” tag.

how to heat set press screen printing ink tote easypress

Watch this whole process in action in the video below.

For more details on the screen printing process using your Cricut or Silhouette, check out my “Complete Guide to Screen Printing with Craft Vinyl”  ebook.

just add ice cream tote bag gift idea teachers summer

Making an Ice Cream Sundae Kit

Once you have screen printed on your tote bags, it's time to assemble all of your ice cream sundae supplies. I filled my bags with sugar cones, gummy bears, Buncha Crunch, M&Ms, Marshmallows, and sprinkles.  I tied up the printable Just Add Ice Cream Printable Tags with an ice cream scoop.

For the tags, I used:

screen printing on tote bag tutorial how to

Tips for Screen Printing on Coolers

Screen printing on bulky items that don’t lie completely flat can be tricky. I have found the best way to screen print on these items is by adding a piece of scrap wood inside the tote. I recently shared tips about avoiding seams when screen printing on similar items.

On this blank cooler, I printed on the pocket, so sliding a piece of wood into the pocket worked perfectly.  This raised the surface just enough so that my screen was flush with the pocket area.

While white ink is usually tricky when screen printing on shirts (more tips on screen printing white ink). I found that white ink worked great on this blue tote. The thick texture of the white ink covered the tote surface nicely.  And since the tote isn’t likely to be washed frequently, it is not likely to have cracking issues like t-shirts.

teacher end of year gift idea DIY screen printing tote

Screen Printing on Cooler Totes Process Video


  1. I love these! Great idea and thanks for sharing. Where did you find the cute pink ice cream scoops?

    • I found them at Walmart. They were $0.88 each!

  2. I LOVE this idea! I, also, would like to know where you got the ice cream scoops from? Thanks for all your fabulous ideas!

    • I found them at Walmart. They were $0.88 each!


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I’m Jennifer, your go-to for all things vinyl screen printing. I offer both in-person and online classes to help you craft better quality shirts. This blog is full of screen printing inspiration to get your creative juices flowing. Roll up your sleeves and get ready to learn all about screen printing with vinyl!

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