Do you dread the task of wrapping holiday presents every year? Are you guilty of cutting corners—literally and figuratively—when you wrap? Join the club! Wrapping gifts is an art form that takes practice to perfect, but there are several ways you can instantly improve your wrapping skills, no master class necessary.
We chatted with Toronto-based gift stylist Corrina vanGerwen, whose job is literally to wrap presents perfectly, and she was kind enough to share her pro tips on creating awe-inducing holiday packages. She passed along pointers on her favorite materials, techniques, and special finishing touches, and we can already tell our gifts are going to look better than ever this year.
Here’s everything you need to know about picking wrapping paper, executing proper technique, embellishing gifts, and more.
As with any craft, you’ll have an easier time creating a beautiful gift if you start out with high-quality materials, and according to our expert, a roll of mid-weight wrapping paper is a must-have.
“When selecting wrapping paper, look for something right in the middle weight-wise,” says vanGerwen. “Too thick and it’ll be hard to fold around corners; too thin and it will likely tear.” And as eye-catching as glittery wrapping paper may be, vanGerwen recommends skipping it. “Be wary of any paper with glitter on it. Tape doesn’t stick well to it.”
Her go-to place for quality wrapping materials is Canada-based shop The Paper Place: “They have stunning Japanese chiyogami paper, which is a little pricey for larger gifts, but divine for small, special packages.” She also has good things to say about Minted and Paper Source, and personally, I’ve always had great luck with wrapping paper from Target.
Once you’re armed with your wrapping paper, scissors, ribbon, and tape, it’s time to get to work. Here are vanGerwen’s top tips for an Insta-worthy present:
1. Measure Your Paper
There’s such a thing as too much wrapping paper—and too little. “Paper should be large enough to wrap around the box with a little bit of overlap, plus enough overhang on either side to cover the ends of the box,” explains vanGerwen. “Too much paper gets in the way and you end up with wrinkles and bulges; too little paper and, well, you can’t cover your box.”
2. Wrap It Tight!
For best results, make sure your wrapping paper is tight around the package. “You just have to be confident and pull tightly. This is where quality paper is important so it doesn’t tear around the corners.” Personally, I find it helpful to tape the inner edge of the paper to the package so you can pull it taut as you wrap the paper around.
3. Fold Exposed Edges
If you did a hack job when cutting the wrapping paper off the roll, you’ll definitely want to hide those rough edges. “Fold over exposed edges of paper,” says vanGerwen. “This hides crooked cuts for a cleaner look.”
4. Keep It Crisp
Just like your French fries, the edges of your packages should be crisp. Our gift stylist recommends using your fingernail to create sharp, defined creases, but there are other tricks, as well. “If you have trouble getting a straight line, place a ruler on the paper and fold over it.”
5. Hide the Tape
If you want to get really extra about your wrapping, you’re going to need some double-sided tape in your arsenal. This allows you to hide it inside, resulting in a super neat appearance.
However, depending on what paper you use, double-sided tape might not stick well: “Note that double-sided tape won’t stick to some papers,” says vanGerwen, “in which case you should test both clear tape as well as invisible tape to find which one shows less.”
Once your package is wrapped, it’s time to decorate. “So they don’t fray, cut fabric ribbons on an angle using sharp scissors,” recommends vanGerwen. Not great with ribbon? Try using washi tape to give your package a little extra pizazz—no bow needed.
You can also dress up packages using small, festive items. “My go-to embellishments at Christmas are bells, ornaments, and greenery. Candy and sweets are fun too,” she says. You can either tie these into your bow, tuck them under the ribbon, or simply tape them down.
Okay, but what about those awkwardly-shaped items that you just don’t know what to do with? “Just put it in a box or gift bag; there’s no need to frustrate yourself by trying to get paper around a weird shape.”
If you’re anything like me, you probably keep gift bags from holidays past, and while this is a great way to be eco-friendly, vanGerwen says you should make sure supplies are still in good shape—otherwise they’ll just look messy. “Avoid torn tissue, wrinkled ribbons, and worn out gift bags.”
Shipping Presents Like A Pro
If you’re foregoing in-person present exchanges this year, you can keep the holiday spirit alive by shipping stunning gifts to your loved ones. Naturally, the key here is careful packaging. After you wrap the gift, nestle it into a box filled with packing peanuts, shredded paper, or bubble wrap. Personally, I like to reuse materials that come in packages from my online shopping habit.
“Make sure you have enough padding so things don’t shift around too much,” explains vanGerwen. “So your bows don’t get smooshed, use cord instead or tie the ribbon in a knot instead of a bow.”
She also says it can be fun to add a noisemaker into the box—such as a bell or loose candy—that will rattle around as the box is handled. It will certainly get your giftee excited to open the package!
What are your best tips for a well-wrapped present? Share them with us below!
This article originally appeared on December 5, 2018. We’re re-running it because gifting season is nearly upon us.