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Back To School Gym Bag – Creating Fabric In Illustrator

Kiddo’s going back to school? What better way to show off their school pride than a new back to school bag with their school colors & monogram!

Pro Tip: Reach out to your school and ask for permission to use the actual school mascot and logo in your printed fabric! The following tutorial can be applied to almost any project you have a pattern for!

Lets Get Started!

First, you’ll need to decide on a sewing pattern to use. We fell in LOVE with The Chase Duffle from RLR Creations. It comes in several different sizes to suit your child’s individual needs and it includes a side pocket just for those stinky gym shoes.

Not 100% sure what you wanted you bag to look like? Sketch a few ideas out before diving in! Check out the mock ups we came up with 😀

Once you’ve chosen your pattern, you’ll need to cut & assemble the pattern pieces if you used a PDF. Make sure to skim over the instructions and see if there are any pattern pieces that weren’t provided in the PDF or envelope. Sometimes certain brands will list the dimensions of a pattern piece instead of providing the actual pattern piece. If that is the case you will probably want to draw these pieces out and label them appropriately.

When all the pieces are cut & laid out on your table, you will begin to separate the pieces into two piles: exterior pieces and everything else. The main goal here is to locate all the exterior pieces as these will be the only parts we print fabric for. For the lining we will be using plain cotton fabric. For this pattern we will only be printing fabric for the following pieces: (1) Side A Top, (1) Side B Bottom, (2) Main Panel.

Setting Up Illustrator & Pattern Pieces:

If using an image editing software you already own, when creating your workspace you want to mimic the dimensions of a yard of the fabric. Keep in mind that each fabric has a different fabric width, the width will vary based on which fabric you choose to work with. The height of your workspace will be 36″ for one yard or 72″ for two yards. We are using Basic Combed Cotton for this project which has a 54″width.

Settings for Image Editing Software:

  1. Width (of fabric) = 54″ Wide
  2. Height (Length of Fabric) 36″ for 1yd or 72″ for 2yd
  3. Color Mode – RGB
  4. 150 DPI, PPI, or Resolution

NOTE: Our printers are set to print at 150dpi, any other measurement in this box will result in your design uploading in a different size than what was set in your width and height box. 

We will be using Illustrator in this tutorial to show how you can use this or similar software’s to set up your designs. Once you open Illustrator, you will be asked for the setting to set up your New Document, use the setting previously shown and fill them in like shown below. Click Create when done.

Next, using the shape tools, you will draw out shapes to mimic your pattern pieces. The Main Panel for this duffel bag is 21″ by 11″. Recreate this panel by using the Rectangle Tool. This will allow you to draw or place your designs to an appropriate scale and allow for very defined placement.

Once this tool is selected, you want to click and drag a rectangle out to 21″ by 11″. This is the size of our Main Panel. You can see the little grey box below, this shows the size of your square as you enlarge the box. You can watch that counter until your square becomes the size you need. If that is too tedious, you can also use the Properties Menu and type in exactly what size you need.

The end panels were a bit trickier as they were almost a complete circle but with a flat end across the bottom. Measure the width and height of each panel.

To recreate this, we used the Ellipse tool to draw a perfect 9.25″ circle to match the width of our pattern piece. Then take the height measurement of you larger circle and draw a line this long. This will be a placement guide to show where to place the horizontal cut off line.



Pro Tip: You can take it a step further and and redraw the pattern with the Pen tool to recreate this shape without the extra guides.

Optional: Once we finished recreating the pattern pieces, we also drew in where contrasting panels and straps would lie on the fabric. We did this so that we wouldn’t accidentally place a design or name in a place where it would later be covered by a pocket or strap.


Designing your Fabric:

With the pattern pieces done, we can now go in and easily change the colors of the pieces, add words, Monograms, designs, decorative patterns, etc!

To change the color of each shape, select the Direct Select tool. Then click on the shape you would like the change the color on, a Properties menu will open on the right side of the screen with the option to adjust the Fill &/or Stroke color (stroke is the outline of the shape).


Use this method to color all you fabric pieces!

Now lets personalize it! What will you be using your bag for? The gym, a student, a weekender bag? This is going to be a gym bag for a grade school student, so the bag will be in school colors and have designs that shows off the sports they participate in!

To really see the bag and make sure it will coordinated will with our notions and contrasting fabric, we colored the straps and contrasting panel too! Really helps with the overall visualization of your project! We will be removing those before saving the final design.

We can start to add those extra images now to really personalize this project! Do you see how drawing our patterns, adding the straps and contrasting bottom panel (in black) helps with centering and sizing our added designs?


Note: Not an artist? unsure if you can draw in those added details to really personalize your project? That’s OK! There are ton’s of sites that offer free use designs or even more designs at a small fee per item or monthly membership cost. There are SO many premade designs created by talented artist at your disposal you just need to know what you look for (design wise). We personally use a site called for many free designs!  Just type into the search bar what you’re looking for and set the image style to Vector Graphics. EASY!

Almost Done! Now don’t forget to select the Direct Select tool and DELETE the straps and contrasting panels from you project! If you drew in the seam allowances like we did, make sure to also remove these lines. The lines were their as temporary guides and we don’t want those printed in the final design.

We recommend you save your designs as a PNG image, to do that in Illustrator you will need to go to…

  1. File
    1. Export
      1. Export As
        1. Choose PNG from the “Save as Type” drop down menu

Now you have your file to Upload to MyFabricDesigns and have printed on any of the 27 fabrics we have to offer! We recommend the Premium Cotton or Linen Cotton Blend. We really like the Linen Cotton Blend as it is a washable heavier weight fabric but make sure you keep in mind the this has a narrow printable width so this will need to be adjusted when creating your workspace to a 50″ width.

Finished Project!

We won’t go over how to assemble this bag because the RLR Creations has already done an amazing job creating detailed instructions with many photos and drawings. Check out all their patterns at .