All of Our Smartest Gift-Wrapping Tips and Techniques
Your shopping is done, and something has been purchased for everyone on your list. But those objects aren't presents until they're wrapped up right: Slip them into boxes topped with sprigs of greenery, tie them with a great big bow, or hide jewels and other treasures inside cardboard containers disguised as lumps of coal. Sometimes gift boxes, like our charming bird-topped birch logs, become keepsakes all their own. But even just a bit of patterned or textured paper, thoughtfully folded, can transform any plain package into a truly sweet surprise.
In addition to gift wrap, you'll need a variety of other tools and materials. Our editors' picks will help you get professional-quality results. A self-healing cutting mat is essential when using a rotary cutter or a utility knife, as this mat protects surfaces, keeps blades from dulling, and resists wear. Double-sided tape: Indispensable for wrapping, this tape stays put and out of sight. A clear quilting ruler makes it easy to center patterns on paper or lines on a sheet of labels; the grid lets you double-check alignment. A rotary cutter can be used with a ruler to get quick, even cuts; swap out the blades to create decorative pinked and wavy edges. A T-square is a drafter's tool, available in 24- and 36-inch sizes, that helps make straight cuts across wide swaths of paper. Consider a bucket caddy (like the one pictured here) to corral all of your supplies on the go.
Have a lot of gifts to give this year? Assign each family member a different color paper, and you won't even need gift tags. This is a fun way for everyone to identify his or her presents. If you don't have enough material to color-code, try choosing a palette to unify the gifts you wrap—then vary the materials; everything you give will have your signature for the season.
For a pile of gifts that's elegant but fun, mix prints and textures. Loosen up your ribbons, too. Go extra-wide and gauzy, or skinny and sparkly—the more billowy, the better.
Shop Now: Paper Source Gold Flecks on Cream Handmade Paper, $7, papersource.com. Paper Source Quilted Gold Dots on Cream Handmade Paper, $7, papersource.com. Dick Blick Nepalese Collection Lotka Paper Packs, $11 for 12 sheets, dickblick.com.
Cover round boxes with marbled paper, and lucky recipients get chic organizers they can put to good use and proudly display. Tucking more presents inside is purely optional: A nested set this striking holds its own on opening day.
Shop Now: Factory Direct Craft Paper-Mache Round Box Set, $14 for 7, factorydirectcraft.com. Hollander's Marbled Papers, in assorted patterns, starting from $4.50 per sheet for 22" by 30", hollanders.com. M&J Trimming Velvet Ribbon, 5/8", in Dark Green, $1.75 per yd., mjtrim.com. Mod Podge Matte, $2 for 2 oz., michaels.com.
Fold with Furoshiki
For the friend whose dinner parties you never miss, give a plain linen journal (for jotting down memorable menus and recipes) and a couple of tea towels an artistic upgrade. We used craft paint and painters' tape to add stripes, and freehanded dashes and X's. The clever conclusion: Bundle them up shibori-style: Place folded towels atop the notebook in the middle of an open towel. Fold top and bottom edges of the towel over items. Flip the bundle over, pull the ends snug, and knot.
Crepe Paper Wrapping
Flexible, forgiving, and just a few dollars per extra-long roll, crepe paper is the versatile and enthusiastic wunderkind of gift wrapping. Pick up some eye-catching colors like tomato, fuchsia, and emerald; throw in a fun metallic; then use our ideas to creatively package any shape to your heart's delight.
Wield your sharpest scissors, and an illustrated poster can enliven every package under your tree. Neatly cut out pretty flora and fauna, then paste them directly onto petite boxes or cylinders (see our butterfly, snake, and pansy). Another artful option: Glue them onto card stock to keep the edges from curling, then tuck them under ribbon as tags, or tape them on top, letting them extend just beyond the edges.
Desk supplies join forces fashionably when they're dressed in a matching pattern. Trace the exteriors of a journal and pencil case on paper, then tack on an extra inch. Brush adhesive onto the items and adhere the paper, tightly wrapping the excess around the edges to make clean corners.
A Cubic Feat
This aha-moment mosaic will give any party a photo finish. Arrange multiple 3-inch boxes in a tight square. Measure the total area of the lids, then cut patterned paper to the same specs. Lightly draw a grid with lines 3 inches apart on the back of the paper. Cut out the squares, keeping them in position, and glue them onto the lids. Tuck tiny favors inside, and push the boxes snugly together for a stunning send-off.
Shop Now: Factory Direct Craft Bulk Small Square Paper-Mache Boxes, $24 for 24 (or $2 each), factorydirectcraft.com. Hollander's Chiyogami Red Coral Flowers paper, 24" by 36", $19 a sheet, hollanders.com.
Plant Gift Bags
However pretty an amaryllis may be, nothing says "I got this for you at the grocery store" like a cellophane plant wrapper. To present a green gift—rosemary, orchid, paperwhite, mini boxwood—in a unique way, spray-paint a paper sack in a metallic shade. Let it dry, fold down a cuff at the top for contra , and drop the plant into your upcycled package to deliver it to a happy hostess or teacher.
Dye, Then Tie
It may be your holiday tradition to spend a small fortune on embellished ribbons. But these eye-catching double-dyed bows, made of inexpensive cotton twill (stiffened by ironing with a touch of starch to help them hold their shape), will have everyone wondering who gets to open that box.
To dip-dye ribbon, cut desired lengths of ribbon and soak them in water until saturated. Mix fabric dye in bowls according to package instructions (1 cup per color is enough for this project). Dip each ribbon in halfway, holding ribbon in the dye until the desired depth of color is achieved. (Keep in mind that color will look lighter when dry.) Lay ribbon flat on paper towel to dry until no longer dripping. Dampen opposite halves of ribbons again if they feel dry, then dip in dye of another color. Place ribbons on paper towels, keeping colors separate until dry. Iron ribbons and use spray starch, if desired, to help them retain their shape when tied in a bow.
Stream It Now
When you crisscross crepe-paper party decorations on plain packages, you get a kicky plaid motif that'll delight any recipient. But rest assured: If you can fold streamers, cut shapes along the edges, and layer them with skinnier strips, you can pull off one of these graphic glories.
Shop Now: Unique Industries Crepe-Paper Party Streamers, $2, walmart.com.
Ready to Roll
Brown paper mesh—aka the eco equivalent of bubble wrap—has lots of winning qualities. It’s flexible, durable, and recyclable. And with a pattern this pretty, why hide it inside boxes? Roll up a bottle of wine or olive oil in colored tissue paper, then in paper mesh, letting the color shine through; tie off the ends with colored raffia. You can also put this method to use for more than just cylindrical gifts. Stuff small goodies in a cardboard tube, or roll up clothing, to stump anyone trying to guess the contents.
Do the Wave
Designed to cushion basically anything and everything in transit, hardworking corrugated cardboard has an artistic side: Its fluted rows keep colored raffia in line brilliantly. Wrap a parcel in gold paper, then cut the cardboard to fit the top and center it there. Hold the loose end of a roll of raffia, and wrap the other around the box a few times, letting it settle into different grooves. Cut the raffia,
leaving a few extra inches, then tie the loose ends into a bow. Repeat with other hues.
Glossy magazines have something e-readers never will: crisp, saturated pages you can repurpose in this genius way. Flip through old issues and snip parts of images containing colors and patterns you like. Press clippings onto double-stick card stock, then cut out gift tags, decorative disks (punch a hole or two in each, and thread them on waxed twine), or postcard-size toppers. Using punches will save time, but you can freehand it with scissors. For extra style points, accessorize with colorful paper beads and tassels, made from the same stock.
Shop Now: DCWV Bright Adhesive Card Stock, 4 1/2" by 6 1/2", $9 for 48 sheets, dcwv.com.
It's a Wrap
For an extra-special presentation, we took plain paper, which you can buy in bulk, and made smaller pieces super-pretty with a little paint and an unexpected tag or bow. Pictured left: We thinned acrylic paint with water, then splattered gold dots with a narrow brush. Pictured top right: Spray-paint lines across each sheet, or go over some bands again for an ombré effect. Pictured bottom: Use gold acrylic paint and a brush to dab dashes or make stripes across the paper.
Shop Now: Martha Stewart Metallic Finish Spray Paint & Primer, in Yellow Gold, $8, michaels.com.