When I was younger, I could get away with terrible gift wrapping skills because no one expected me to know any better. The mere fact that I was young and even thought to get someone a gift bought me some leeway even though my gifts looked like they were wrapped by a drunk chimpanzee.
As time goes by, horrible gift wrapping skills seems to be associated with a lack of sophistication. This may seem unfair, but it’s the world we live in. If you still panic when it comes time to decorate your gifts, breathe deep and work your way through this gift wrapping guide. I promise, your gifts will soon look as classy as can be.
Why learn to wrap gifts well?
Why do we feel the need to artfully wrap a gift when we know all that hard work will be discarded within a few seconds? I can answer that with just three words: It displays thoughtfulness.
When you deliver an elegantly wrapped gift to a loved one, it says something about the thought and effort you are willing to invest. It sets the tone for discovering what’s inside and elicits a smile right from the beginning.
Tools that make the job easier
Before we dive into the mechanics of how to wrap a gift, let’s go over a few items that will make the task easier.
- Good scissors that are sharp will make life easier.
- A rotary cutter can be used as an alternative to scissors. A rotary cutter, cutting mat and a ruler make for nicely cut wrapping paper.
- Clear tape is a prerequisite for gift wrapping. To take your gift wrapping to the next level, include double sided tape in your supplies.
- Instead of hiding your tape, some situations call for flaunting it. Decorative tape can add some pizazz when the situation calls for it.
- A tape dispenser will keep things civil when simultaneously trying to manage folds and flaps without cussing up a storm.
- Using a clear ruler allows you to see patterns in the paper while marking or making cuts.
How to wrap a rectangular gift
Let’s look at how to wrap a basic rectangular box. Before we do that, I’m going to give you some free advice. If your gift is unusually shaped, make life easier on yourself and find a rectangular box for it. A skateboard in a box is much easier to wrap than one without a box.
- Always wrap your presents on a surface that is clean, flat and hard. This rule disqualifies the bed or carpet as a place to work. Trust me, dirt particles or cat hair stuck in your tape will not send the right message.
- Roll out some wrapping paper and place the box face down in it. Wrapping with the box upside down ensures that there are no seams on the top.
- Roll the box on the paper over its face, side, back and remaining side to estimate how much wrapping paper you will need.
- Check to be sure that there is enough paper to cover the top and bottom sides that were not rolled along the paper.
- Cut your wrapping paper and set the roll aside.
- Envelop your box in a tidy “tunnel” of wrapping paper. Place a piece of tape to hold this together.
- One of the tricks to a nice looking gift is using just enough paper to get the job done. Avoid excessive overlaps as these will contribute to a disheveled look.
- Before you tape down any edge, fold one inch of it under itself. This will ensure that any visible edge is straight and crisp looking.
- Now, you need to deal with the top and bottom of your paper “tunnel”. Fold the two smallest edges inward so they rest on the box. Crease the resulting folds. For clarity, look at frame 3 of the attached infographic.
- Fold one of the long edges up, followed by the opposite edge. Remember to fold one inch of paper under itself on any edge that will be visible.
- Turn your box around and repeat steps nine and ten to finish the opposite end of the box.
- Before adding ribbons or bows, run your thumb and forefinger along each edge of the gift. This will give each fold a defined look.
To see a video on basic rectangular gift wrapping, check out this video from MonkeySee. Christina Crawford will run you through the process step by step.
Wrap a gift diagonally
If standard gift wrapping seems boring, diagonal wrapping may be what you are looking for. As diagonal wrapping is more complex than standard, it’s best learned from a video with verbal instructions each step of the way. Check out this video by BeatTheBush.
Embellishing a gift
Often enough, it’s the small things that make a gift look nice. Depending on the person it is for and the underlying wrapping paper used, the gift can call for an accent here and there or a whole pile of frillys. You decide.
The right kind of ribbon can finish off a wrapping job perfectly. While there are tons of ways to make a bow, check out this infographic for a fast way to tie a bow into any ribbon.
The next required skill for expert ribbon handling is curling the ribbon. This can be done with scissors. Simply draw some curling ribbon across some opened scissors while applying pressure where the ribbon slides across the blade. The end result is a twirl of festive looking ribbon.
Some ribbons are fancier than others. You may consider using fancy velvet ribbon to embellish a gift wrapped in plain, white paper. The contrast is nice looking.
Rather than tying a ribbon on your gift parallel to the edges, try running a ribbon around two opposite corners and tying it off.
Ribbon isn’t the only thing you can use to tie up a gift. Try using some twine in place of fancy ribbon. While it sounds like a low-budget move, twine over parcel paper can look classy.
Would you like to add some confetti that won’t blow away in the wind? Use strips of double sided tape on your gift. Sprinkle confetti and press it into place. You can make confetti with a hole punch, scissors or get themed confetti from a party supplier.
Make cutout gift wrap
Transform plain wrapping paper into an intricate looking pattern by making gift wrap cutouts. You’ll need two contrasting colors of wrapping paper, a razor knife and a cutting mat.
- Wrap the gift in the first color.
- Partially wrap the gift in the second color with no tape. Crease all the edges as you go.
- Remove the second color and place it on a cutting mat.
- Print a cutout design and place the templates on the second paper. Use the creases to align your templates.
- Carefully trace the templates with a razor knife, cutting through both the templates and wrapping paper.
- Remove the templates and re-wrap the gift with the second color.
- Gently pull on each cutout to make it stand away from the gift a little. This will enhance the three dimensional look.
Tagging your gift with the recipient’s name is not only an opportunity to make sure it goes to the right person, but it also can provide some flair of its own.
- Find some printable gift tags on the internet, print them and cut them out yourself.
- Use an old playing card as a gift tag.
- Print a mini picture of the recipient on cardstock and use it in place of a written name tag.
- Go to your local hardware store and pick out any paint sample card you like. Use it for a gift tag.
Do something out of the ordinary
Besides getting the standard gift wrapping technique down, it’s a good idea to have an arsenal of unique moves in case the situation calls for it. Consider these “outer edge” gift wrapping ideas.
- Wrap a gift in a box made of Legos.
- Use old maps for wrapping paper.
- Use parts of an old sweater as a gift bag.
- Wrap in clear cellophane.
- Use fabric for wrapping paper.
In case of emergency
Sometimes things just don’t go as planned. I get that. If you find yourself staring at a pile of unwrapped gifts with very little time to spare, there are a few things you can do in a pinch.
- Get a decorative gift bag, and slip your gift inside. Gift bags can look classy or can be ordered with a certain theme. Don’t forget to gently crumple some gift tissue to stuff in the bag with your gift. It adds a bit of fast decoration and makes sure that your gift won’t roll around in the bag.
- Order a gift wrapping kit that comes with everything you need to quickly wrap your gift. It could be considered cheating but only if you get caught. Kits come with paper, ribbon and a bow that are all color coordinated. This can be our little secret.
If you have been paying attention, you should be able to handle your next gift wrapping session without heart palpitations. While there are many more gift wrapping ideas to be had, I’ll call it a day and leave you with a few tips and reminders to make your gifting occasions a bit easier.
- Whenever you are wrapping soft items that did not come in a box, start with a square piece of cardboard as a rigid backing. Wrapping the gift will be much easier with a solid structure to work over.
- If you are one of those people who wrap all your gifts before sitting down to make tags or cards, use some sticky notes to keep track of who gets what gift. If you’ve had to unwrap a few presents just to figure out which one belongs to who, you already understand.
- One of the best things you can do for your stress level is to start wrapping gifts earlier. I know that sounds simplistic, but that last minute rush makes it harder to get into the art of gift wrapping.
- Practice your new gift wrapping skills with some newspaper. With a little practice and confidence, you won’t mind buying thicker, more expensive wrapping paper.
- Don’t forget to remove the price tag on your gifts. Need I say more?
- If you run out of tape while doing some last minute gift wrapping and think that used bubble gum will not send the right message, try using a glue gun instead.