Gift Wrapping Tips For Every Type of Gift (You’re Welcome)

(Graphic: Helen Jane Hearn/TueNight)

Growing up, my mom and I had the best agreement a person with a love for wrapping could hope for: I wrapped ALL the presents and, in return, not only did I get to know what everyone was getting but my mom would also indulge my every wrapping-supply whim.  For me, wrapping presents always starts with the theme. Yes, that’s right…THE THEME.

I’m pretty sure it all started when I was about 13 when she dared to suggest I use the — gasp — leftover paper that had been sitting in the wrapping bin for, like, the last 100 years. And, in true teenage fashion, I’m sure I gave her that look that only teens can give that said, No Way. Mom then decided my wrapping skills were worth a few extra rolls of new paper.

Each year, I chose a set of colors and/or design attributes — a theme. Some years, it would be the classic red and green or silver and gold or a delightful plaid. I would gather my supplies, turn on a Christmas movie and wrap for hours trying to come up with new ways to decorate each package. I wrapped each gift meticulously, as if it was the only one. I’d display the gifts under the tree, wondering to myself if it was possible to call the rest of the family and tell them the acceptable wrapping theme that they should try to coordinate with. Ok, I never went that far.

(All photos: Lindsay El Tabsh/TueNight)

Gift-Wrapping Tips 101

From my years of gift-wrapping trial and error, I’ve developed a few time-worn tips:

1. Pick your theme early for maximum planning time. This year, I’m going with gold, white and black.

2. Use tape – lots and lots of tape. Get a really great tape dispenser that will allow you to dispense of the needed tape with one hand.

3. Get creative. If something is too awkward to wrap, break from traditional wrapping styles to make it easier.

4. Quality matters. I’m not saying buy the most expensive of everything because, really, I bargain shop for my supplies all the time, but decent quality paper will be much easier to work with than that nearly-tissue-paper paper they sell at discount stores.

5. Once you give the gift away, let it go. It can be hard to watch someone unwrap your beautiful gifts, but as they ooh and ahh over the beautiful paper and the intricate design it makes the moment even more special.

Step-by-Step — The Basics


1. Gather your supplies and your gifts and clear off a good spot to get wrapping.


2. Pick out the item you want to wrap, and lay it on the paper. Cut the paper around the gift, leaving enough room to wrap the entire item easily. I say “easily” because if you try to get too conservative with the paper, you can really make wrapping difficult or sloppy-looking. For something flat, like a DVD case, I like to leave an extra wide edge on each end (top and bottom) for a cleaner fold.


3. Fold the paper over and secure it on the back (I’ve used black tape to clearly show the tape-age).


4. After you have taped down the first end, fold the edge of the other side to give it a clean straight line.Secure the other edge to the paper. Try to get it as close to the far edge as possible for a cleaner looking back – this is especially applicable to larger boxes where you won’t be folding the sides onto the back of the package.


5. Fold the sides. (On a thinner box, like a DVD, you will fold each corner into a point as pictured.) On a larger box with the bottom facing up, first push the paper from your top down flat on the box and then fold in the sides.


6. Fold the bottom flap up and secure it with – you guessed it – tape! Repeat for the opposite side.


And there you have it… a beautifully wrapped present! Or as I like to think of it, a canvas for all your ribbons and bows.

Now Let’s Decorate!

Here’s an outline of how to achieve some of my favorite wrapped looks:

For Tiny Boxes — The Mini


For small boxes, I love to use a wide ribbon and big fat bows that take up nearly the whole box. It gives those little boxes that might otherwise be ignored something to be proud of.

1. Cut and tape down a length of wide ribbon that fits around the box length-wise.

2. Repeat step 1 for the width of the box so that the ribbons cross on the top.

3. Grab a giant bow, and stick it on top!

For Oddly Shaped Gifts: The Simple Bow


This look is great for odd shaped gifts or gifts with a busy wrapping paper.

1. Cut and tape down a length of wide ribbon that fits around the box length-wise.

2. Repeat step 1 for the width of the box so that the ribbons cross on the top.

3. Cut a length of ribbon, then fold it at a point at the top so that the top of the ribbon makes a “V” shape and tape it so it is inverted at the cross of the ribbon and cut the ends at an angle.

4. Make a circle with a cut piece of ribbon and tape it down in the middle (so that it looks like an “8” on its side). Secure it at the top of the upside-down “V.”

For the Soft Gift: The Nest


This works when you have a small, soft gift or if you are in a rush but want something that looks fancy.

1. Using multiple colors of thin ribbon, cut four to five equal-length pieces.

2. Curl them using your scissors.

3. Tape them down in the center.

4. Tangle them a bit together so that they make a nest of ribbon.

For the Awkward Gift — The Fixer


Sometimes there are things just too awkward to wrap in a clean, crisp way. So my recommendation is to go the exact opposite direction. In this case, I had a few cars that my toddler has been begging for. But those little packages are often weird to try and wrap, so here’s what I did:

1. Open the toys and stick them in a small bucket.

2. Cut out a large square of paper and gather it at the top. Tie the paper with a length of ribbon.

3. Cut two more long pieces of ribbon and tie them around the knot of the ribbon on the package.

4. Curl all of the ribbon ends with the side of the scissors.

For the Long and Skinny Gift — The Candy


This is perfect for a gift that is long and skinny. Like I did with The Fixer, it’s best to embrace a weird-shaped gift instead of trying to hide it.

1. This one starts with the wrapping – make sure your paper is extra large in both height and width.

2. Place the item at one end and secure it with tape.

3. Roll the item to the other end and secure with tape again.

4. Cut two equal long lengths of ribbon.

5. Scrunch up the paper at the end of the item and secure the ribbon around the scrunched up part – the pre-scrunching will help prevent the paper from ripping when you tie the ribbon around it.

6. Repeat step 5 for the other end.

7. Curl the ribbons.

For the Large Gift — The Lux


This style is great for larger gifts.

1. Get a long length of satin ribbon.

2. Tie it tightly in a bow around the box – usually tape won’t work here so you’ll want to make sure it’s tied well.

3. Adjust the bow so that it’s facing the right direction and has no unnecessary lumps or wrinkles

4. Cut the ends of the ribbon at a diagonal, making sure to leave one end longer than the other

And a Few Showstoppers:

The Fancy


This look takes time, but the results are worth it. I recommend wrapping in this style for someone who will appreciate the effort, i.e. not a two-year-old.

1. Pick out one thin ribbon and one wide one.

2. Using the wide ribbon, measure out the length you need to fit around the box,

3. Using the length of the wide ribbon you just cut, measure out and cut two strips of the thinner ribbon,

4. Tape the wide ribbon down in the desired spot on the package.

5. Then tape down one end of the thinner strips evenly placed on top of the thicker ribbon.

6. Bring the thinner ribbons around and tape them so they line up with their starting point on the package

7. Cut three pieces of ribbon (one of the wide and two of the thinner ribbons) slightly shorter than the original pieces.

8. Curl the ribbons and tape them on the top of the box, then stick a bow in the middle.

The Asteroid


This style looks way fancier and more difficult than it is.

1. Cut a length of thin ribbon by wrapping it up and over each corner of the box three times.

2. Tape one end of the ribbon on the back side at one end (very lightly in case it needs to be adjusted) and wrap the ribbon around the opposite corner three times.


3. Before securing the other end of the ribbon, adjust the ribbon so it lays a consistent distance apart on the top.

4. Once you’re happy with the ribbon’s position, secure both ends with tape.

5. For the top of the package, cut three equal lengths of the ribbon.

6. Lightly curly them, and tape them down.

7. Secure a bow in the center and weave the ribbons through the bow.

The Weave


This style takes some time, but is worth the effort.

1. Grab two contrasting colors of thin ribbon.

2. Using the first ribbon, wrap it around the box four times lengthwise and cut.

3. Secure the ribbon on both ends so that it makes four even lines across the top of the box.

4. Using the contrasting color, repeat step 2 going widthwise.

5. Secure the ribbon at one end and weave it over and under the contrasting color ribbon on the top of the package that is already secured down.

6. Wrap the ribbon around to the front and weave it under and over the contrasting color.

7. Repeat step 6 two more times, making sure to alternate the weave of the ribbon.

8. Secure the ribbon in the back and even out the ribbons so that they are spaced close together and look uniform.

Happy Wrapping!

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One Response

  1. Frank

    I want cookies!


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