How to Wrap a Present Like a Pro

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Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

The best gifts are the ones in which you put a lot of time and thought — gifts that feel personal to the recipient and align with their interests, goals, and hobbies. But those gifts can be tough to pick out! If you’re feeling like you want to make an ordinary gift feel special — or take an extraordinary gift to the next level — the key is in how you wrap it.

How you wrap a present can make even the most humble of gifts look lavish. And you don’t have to spend a ton of time or money on the task, either! The secret is in a few neat folds and an extra touch or two. “The best gifts make people feel seen, maybe because you noticed something your friend loves, or you attached a photo of a trip you took together,” says Jane Park, chief executive and founder at Tokki, a sustainable gift wrap company. 

Here, Park and two other gift wrapping experts share their tips on how to wrap a present like a pro.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

What You’ll Need to Wrap a Present

For a professional look, you’ll want to first organize your gift wrapping supplies. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • Double-sided tape
  • Wrapping paper
  • Sharp scissors (or consider using fabric scissors for your ribbon)
  • Ribbon
  • Gift boxes and/or tins
  • Gift tags
  • A selection of gift toppers
  • Permanent markers or paint pens — choose contrasting colors, or try metallic or glitter ink
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

How to Wrap a Present

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

1. Cut paper to the right size.

The first and most important step in wrapping a gift is cutting the paper to the right size, says Annabelle Borke, founder of Tinsel Town Gift Wrapping in Los Angeles.

“Too much excess paper and you will have a bit of a bunchy mess of paper on the sides when you try to fold them,” she explains. “Too little paper and you’ll end up with the ‘bald spot and patch’ scenario we all know too well.”

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

To cut the perfect amount of paper, Borke says the length of the wrapping paper should be long enough to cover the box entirely and overlap on itself by about an inch or two.

The width of the paper must be wide enough to come about three-quarters of the way up the side of the box when folded.

Her tip: Look for paper with gridlines to make cutting even easier.

Make sure to start with the right length of paper, but you can wait to cut the sides until later.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

2. Place the gift upside down on the paper

Begin with the gift upside down when wrapping so that the seam will be on the bottom, Borke says. Use double-sided tape to tape the first side down to the box securely about two inches in from the end. Don’t forget to use enough small pieces of tape to make it stay. 

For a polished look, back-fold cut edges to make sure your lines are clean and jagged cuts are hidden, says Borke.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

4. Pull the paper tight around the box.

Next, push the box into the paper while pulling at the loose end of the paper to ensure a tight fit — you don’t want there to be a gap between gift and gift wrap. Make a crease on the edge of the box near where you’ve taped.   

5. Fold and tape.

Fold the wrapping paper where your crease is. Use the crease to keep your fold straight, and tape down your folded edge. 

Next, apply double-sided tape to the folded edge. “Double-sided tape is the absolute standard for professional-looking gifts,” says Sara Smith, founder of Wrappily eco-friendly gift wrap. “Do not skimp here.”

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

6. Repeat for the other side.

Again, push the box into the paper and pull your loose end of paper to make sure everything is tight.  

Affix the edge with tape (bonus points for double-stick). It will overlap with the other part of the wrapping paper by about an inch.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

7. Cut any excess paper off the sides.

If you didn’t pre-cut your sides, now is the time. Make sure you have enough paper for it to come three-quarters of the way up the side of the box when folded.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

8. Start to fold the sides.

With the gift still upside down, use both hands to push the top flap down the side of the box. Make a crease.

Tape the flap down onto the side of the box. “Remember to push the paper all the way to the edges so that it doesn’t bunch up,” says Borke.

Fold the open sides of paper inward and make a crease where they’ll meet the edge of the box. Then, fold all the way in and secure with tape.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

9. Fold and tape the bottom edge.

You’ll have one open edge of paper left. Fold in the corners so that you create a point.

Fold the point upward and attach to the gift with tape.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

If you prefer a straight edge, you can do a slight fold in this point before taping, as shown above.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

10. Repeat for the other side.

For the open side of the box, repeat the steps outlined above. Double-sided can lend a helping hand for extra crisp edges.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

Next, Add a Ribbon

When it comes to cutting your ribbon for the finishing touch, using dull scissors can ruin your beautiful look.

To avoid having rough and frayed edges on your ribbon, use a pair of fabric or ribbon scissors, says Borke.

For more information on tying the perfect ribbon, see this tutorial on how to tie a bow on a present.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

Optional: Finish with a Topper

For a next-level look, gift wrapping experts suggest adding something unique to the top of your gifts. Think of sprigs of greens or flowers, or for little ones, think of tucking a giant lollipop or even a Barbie doll into the bow.

For the holidays, try a gold or colorful bauble ornament, a sprig of pine from the tree (or rosemary), a candy cane, a dried orange, a snowflake ornament, or even a small spatula. 

Finally, Add a Gift Tag

Lastly, the experts recommend using permanent markers or paint pens in contrasting colors (or try metallic or glitter ink) as well as fun stickers, seals, gift tags, washi tape, or even stamps and ink to personalize your gift.

How to Make Gifts Look Extra Special

For visual interest, reversible patterns are a “secret weapon,” says Smith. “Coordinating prints can be used together in countless ways for contrast on one box, and look extra impressive stacked in multi-boxed gifts.” 

She also recommends thinking of layers of colors and textures to create eye-grabbing gifts. “Between your wrapping elements of paper, ribbons, bows, toppers, and tags, look for ways to add contrasting layers of shiny, crinkly, soft and fuzzy, matte, fresh versus dried (as in sprigs of greens or flowers), rough and smooth,” she adds. 

For maximum impact, Smith says to add an element of surprise. “Instead of a boring old box, wrap your gift item in an unexpected vessel like a tin, something upcycled from the thrift store, or odd-shaped repurposed packaging,” she says. “Go bigger by completely disguising the gift item to look like something else entirely, or keep it simple with a big statement bow and unexpected gift topper.”

Want more wrapping ideas? Check out this tutorial for making gifts in plain paper look extra fancy.