DIY Backpack Decorating Ideas to Make Your Bag Stand Out 

 September 30, 2023

By  Keith Terrell

In a world of mass production and homogeneity, it's exciting to accentuate the ordinary with a little creative flair. Imagine standing at a crowded airport carousel only to see seven different people picking up a backpack identical to yours. Or imagine walking into a school library and finding a twin of your backpack on every other table. But what if you could turn your gear into a unique piece that's just yours? 

There are many creative ways to decorate a backpack, e.g. with iron-on patches or sewn-on appliqués, with pins or key rings, with fabric paint or permanent markers, with decorative tape or buttons, with sewn- on ribbons or patches with your own design, and much more.

So let's dive into the vivid world of patches, paint, stitches, and stencils. This could be just  the fashion revolution you've been searching for. In this post, we'll be exploring some fun-filled, captivating DIY ideas to give your backpacks a makeover they truly deserve!

Unique DIY Ideas for Backpack Decoration

Personalizing your backpack can give it a unique touch and make it stand out from the rest. One way to make your backpack stand out is with creative and eye-catching decorations. Here are some DIY ideas to inspire your creativity.

  • Create a patchwork design: Sewing patches onto your backpack is an easy way to add personality and color to your backpack. You can choose from a variety of patches, such as embroidered patches, patches with funny phrases or logos, or even different patterned fabrics. Sew them together to create a patchwork design that represents your style.
  • Experiment with hand painting: If you love painting, why not show off your skills on your backpack? Use fabric paints or markers to paint your favorite designs or patterns on it. Whether you choose floral patterns or abstract shapes, you can create a unique piece of art that represents you.
  • Add tassels and fringes: Adding tassels or fringes is another simple way to make your backpack stand out from the crowd. Although some may find them too flashy, they add movement and texture when used sparingly. Choose tassels of different sizes and lengths for more dimension.
  • Create your own pin/button collection: It's fun to create your own pins or buttons to add a personal touch to your bag. There are many pins and badges available on the internet that are very popular, similar to tie-dye kits, but make sure you only include the appropriate message.

With endless possibilities for customization, do-it-yourself backpack decorating techniques offer more than just an opportunity for creativity; they give everyone, regardless of skill level, the chance to transform something ordinary into something extraordinary.

Artwork and Pictures

Another way to decorate backpacks is to use artwork and pictures. From painting quotes to gluing pictures and stickers, there are many ways to embellish your backpack with personal art.

  • Use vinyl stickers: The use of vinyl stickers is popular for decorating laptops and is now becoming more popular for backpacks. You can choose from a variety of designs, including fun illustrations or 3D patterns for an illusionistic effect.
  • Collect memorable photos or postcards: Another way to personalize your backpack is to collect photos or postcards that bring back memories. Get creative and think outside the box. Use Polaroid photos like those from Fujifilm Instax film cameras as they aren't too noticeable due to their small size.
  • Painted quotes or song lyrics: If you love quotes or song lyrics, this assignment is for you. If needed, use stencils to paint your favorite quote, verse, or song lyric on the bag to add an inspirational touch.
  • Embroidery designs that complement the bag: Embroidering fabrics or patches with unique and funky designs such as flowers, characters, and abstract shapes mixed with complementary will make the design stand out against the base color of your bag.

Artwork and pictures offer endless possibilities to personalize backpacks and turn them from ordinary backpacks into personalized statement accessories.

Crafty Embellishments

One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to decorate your backpack is to craft embellishments. These decorative pieces can vary in size, shape, and texture, and allow you to create a unique and eye-catching design that reflects your personality.

An example of a popular embellishment is iron-on patches. These patches come in a variety of designs, from cute cartoon characters to fancy slogans or band logos, so it’s easy to find a patch that suits you. You can easily attach the patch to your backpack with an iron or sew it on for extra durability.

Another popular embellishment option is buttons. You can buy buttons at most craft stores, thrift shops, or online shops. The variety of designs available gives you endless possibilities to customize your backpack. A pro tip is to arrange the buttons in different patterns or shapes on the backpack before sewing them on to make it more visually interesting.

Similar to a piece of jewelry added to an outfit, you can use embellishments to add small accents that enhance the overall look of your backpack. Charms, beads, and ribbons can also be used as handcrafted embellishments to add texture and depth to your backpack's design.

Remember to keep a balance when choosing embellishments for your backpack. Too many embellishments could make your bag look cluttered and overwhelming.

Key Takeaway

Adding ornate embellishments such as patches, buttons, charms, beads, and ribbons is an inexpensive way to customize and embellish your backpack. When choosing the different embellishments, make sure to keep the design balanced and avoid making the backpack look  cluttered.

Personalized Zippers and Accessories

Another way to add a personal touch to your backpack is with custom zippers and accessories. These things are often overlooked but can have a big impact on the overall look of your backpack.

One example of a personalized accessory is keychains. By designing or buying a keychain with your name or initials, you can easily identify your backpack as yours while giving it an extra visual appeal.

Another option for personalized accessories are luggage tags. They are usually used for travel bags but can also be attached to backpacks and are another way to personalize your bag. However, some might argue that luggage tags on backpacks can lead to potential security risks as they give out personal information to strangers.

Personalized zipper pulls are another creative way to add a unique touch to your backpack. You can easily buy or create custom zipper pulls with your favorite colors, designs, or even images. This simple addition will make your backpack stand out from the rest while adding functionality by making the zippers easier to open and close.

Just like using handcrafted embellishments, it's important to choose personalized zippers and accessories that complement the overall design of your backpack. Don’t overdo it and remember that sometimes less is more.

Guide to Selecting Decorating Materials

When it comes to decorating your backpack, choosing the right materials is crucial. You should make sure that the materials you use not only look good but are also durable enough to withstand the daily wear and tear. Here are some factors to consider when choosing decorative materials.

  • Durability of the material: The first thing you should consider is the durability of the material you are going to use. Materials such as leather, vinyl, and canvas are usually stronger and more durable than fabrics such as cotton or silk. When choosing decorative materials, make sure they can withstand frequent use and movement.
  • Budget: Another factor to consider is your budget. While some decorations are expensive, others can be quite affordable. For instance, pins and patches can be found for a few dollars, while rhinestones or Swarovski crystals can cost more. Remember that a higher price does not always mean better quality.
  • Style & Design: The style and design of your backpack should also play a role in the choice of material. If you have a simple bag without a lot of intricate details, feel free to use bold, bright colors or prints that contrast with the neutral color of your backpack. However, if your bag already has a lot of details or patterns, it's best to choose decorations that complement or enhance these elements.
  • Compatibility: Compatibility with different materials must also be considered in the selection. Different fabrics require special adhesives or application techniques. It's important that you choose decorations that match the fabric of your backpack so that they stick well.

Now that we've discussed tips for choosing decorative materials, let's move on to choosing colors and patterns.

Color and Pattern Selection

The colors and patterns you choose to decorate your backpack can bring your bag to life. Here are some tips on how to choose the best color and pattern for your backpack.

  • Color selection: When it comes to choosing colors, it's always a safe bet to keep it simple. The contrast between the background fabric and the decorative color choice is a real eye-catcher. A monochromatic addition can also work as long as you choose a shade that complements the overall look of your backpack.
  • Pattern selection: Patterns can be fun and fancy when used correctly, but they also have their pitfalls. Make sure your decor doesn't clash with the material or design of your bag. The more intricate or complex the pattern you choose, the safer it is to use fewer decorative accents to create balance.
  • Trends/Styles: It's worth looking at popular colors or current fashion trends to find inspiration or ideas for the patterns or colorways you want on your backpack. Take time to explore different themes but avoid anything that is too trendy or you risk leaving the fashion period too soon.
  • Work atmosphere: Personalization varies according to style and intention when redesigning a backpack when it comes to bags outside of school bags in the workplace. In such environments, subtle colors may be better than gaudy tones that can be intrusive or distract colleagues from important tasks required of them.

Overall, there are many factors to consider when choosing materials, colors, and patterns to decorate your backpack. By following these tips during your creative process, you can be sure to create a unique and eye-catching backpack design that best represents your personal style and taste.

Applying Style and Theme to Your Backpack

Your backpack is not just a bag used to carry your belongings from one place to another. It represents your style and personality. Decorating your backpack with certain motifs will make it even more unique and stand out.

One idea to consider when designing your backpack is to match it to your outfit. For example, if you prefer to wear bohemian-inspired clothes, you can decorate your backpack with feathers, fringes, and floral patterns. This way, your backpack will always match your outfit perfectly, no matter what you're wearing.

Another great theme you can try is a travel-inspired design. You can add patches from places you've visited or want to travel to in the future. These patches will make your backpack look more adventurous and unique, and people will recognize that you're someone who loves experiencing new things.

Sports fans can also incorporate their favorite teams into their backpacks by adding team colors or logos. This is an excellent way to show team spirit and at the same time create something that you carry with you every day.

If you choose a more abstract theme, you can add inspirational quotes or artwork to the surface of the backpack using fabric paints or markers. These unique statements will serve as a source of inspiration every time you see them.

For instance, I have this friend who's crazy about the phases of the moon. She would cover her notebook pages with sketches of each phase in black ink; it was like a moon diary. When she decided to decorate her school bag, she painted the same phases on the front pocket of her bag with glow-in-the-dark fabric paint! From then on, whenever she went for a walk outside at night —especially when there were no street lights around, she was praised by others for her glowing moon backpack—.

Let’s now look at the finishing touches you can use to make your backpack stand out even more.

Finishing Touches for a Stand-out Backpack

Adding the finishing touches to the decoration of your backpack can complete your design and give it a polished look. An important aspect to consider when decorating is durability. The last thing you want is for your backpack decoration to peel off after just a few uses or washes.

One finishing touch to consider is the use of metallic embellishments to add some shine and texture. Such embellishments can be easily sewn onto the backpack or bought as iron-on appliques at craft stores.

Another idea for finishing touches are homemade tassels or pom poms made of yarn. They are simple and fun, and the bright colors draw attention to your bag, making it unique and distinctive

If you prefer a more subtle decoration, you can add small accents like buttons or patches on the pocket flap. This way, the design won't scream “Look at me!” but subtly enhances the overall look of your bag.

An excellent example of how subtle touches can make all the difference when decorating a backpack came from one of my colleagues. She had a plain black canvas backpack that she had owned for years without washing it once. ITo revamp her solid design bag without attracting too much attention, she gathered a few strings in various hues and hung them to form three little fluffy tassels connected by a keyholder ring on the zipper. The result was amazing: it's practical, chic, and minimalist at the same time!

Some may argue that they don't need a finishing touch because they're happy with the basic design and color scheme of their backpack. However, if you decide to customize it, you can make your backpack more unique so that it's easily recognizable among the others and doesn't get accidentally picked up by someone else. Adding a personal touch or theme also enhances the user experience—and that's always a positive factor! Lastly, it's fun to be creative while taking a break from your usual tasks.

About the author

Keith is a one bag traveler and the owner of Backpacks Global. His go to backpack is the Osprey FarPoint 40.

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