How to wrap presents creatively,
using fragments of paper and
miscellaneous items from around your house


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All you need are pieces of paper, tape, glue sticks, hot glue or double sided tape, and these three ideas.


Absorb these 3 ideas


You can use small fragments of paper.

You can use odd, non-wrapping materials, such as twigs, bottle caps or even colorful breakfast foods.


Focus on the front of the package.

The back of the package is backstage; it's ok to let it be messy.


Contrast of color.

Contrast of light and dark.

Contrast of texture or material.

Contrast of line (angled paper on rectangular boxes).


wrap art book

40 pages, 7"x7", full color, hardcover or paperback.

Gallery Eighteen


Bands on two-piece wrap

I began this wrap as a two-piece wrap. I chose the black shiny paper of shopping bag as the foundation. The gold polka dots were the second layer of the two-piece technique.

First I made a temporary placement of the gold paper so I would know the angle of the edge where two pieces join. Then I wrapped the thick black paper onto the top half of the gift.

The bands went on next, thin strips with soft, puffy folds along their edges. I left plenty of black paper to the left and right of the bands, which were now looking like a kind of “bow” in the evolving composition. I placed and fixed the gold polka-dot paper. At this point the bands became more of a flower arrangement sitting in the vase of gold paper.

The basic wrap was in place but the wrap was still not complete. I experimented with various kinds of ribbon, placing them in sympathy with the angles of the wrap, but crossing on top of all the wrapping components. As I analyzed the way the dimensional bands tucked into and under the round folded edge of the gold paper, it seemed a good idea to make one ribbon both cross over the two-piece border and another tuck under the bands, ironically enhancing the illusionistic space of this flat design by real dimensional means.

Contrast: Contrast in texture. Contrast of complex versus open areas.

Easy: This wrap takes a bit more time.

leaf wrap

Autumn Leaves Wrap

Startling by Repurposing the Ordinary

I was walking in the park when these huge leaves caught my eye. I brought them home. The gift box is wrapped in a piece of advertising. I chose a wristwatch image for its machined details, which contrast with the equally complex but organic details in the leaves. I also chose it because autumn leaves are a poignant symbol of the passage of time.

I had two leaves. One I wrapped around the gift, using hot glue to attach it. Then I glued the leaf-wrapped box to the other leaf. I chose this design to contrast with the rectangular form of the box with the normal shape of the unbent leaf.

This wrap is very easy to make. But it must be given soon after wrapping, since the leaves dry out rapidly. This effect, of course, adds to the symbolic power of this wrap, emphasizing the preciousness and brevity of the moment.

Contrast: Contrast in expectations: presents do not usually have leaf wraps. Contrast of natural and machine-made. Contrast of texture. Contrast of box with leaf-shape.

Easy: Yes, if you have large, fresh, flexible leaves.


dark band wrap

Dark Band Wrap

Crafty Elegance

Band-wrap collage produces improvised designs of rewarding complexity. While I do permit myself some level of choice in the printed materials I cut into strips to make the bands, I do not linger long on those choices. At this time of year I wrap faster and faster.

Thus the process of making band wraps allows me to become a captive viewer, as I feverishly pursue my craft, of the new hitherto unseen visual improvisation that is occurring in my studio.

Contrast: Contrast of visual textures.

Easy: Easy, but not as quick as one or two piece wrap.

car wrap

Car Wrap

Playful Sculpture

Toys are ubiquitous at Christmas. Why not a wrap that aspires to be a toy? Such are the thoughts a wrap artist may be driven to entertain on the 23rd of December.

I used a shiny blue mylar with built-in swirly pattern. The wheels are aerosol-can lids. I used pieces of corrugated box to make special gluing hardware whose job it was to make the lids attach to the thin and flexible mylar.

The windshield is made of soda-bottle scrap. Red chenille wires outline the windshield and passenger compartment, and make the steering wheel.

The bumpers, grill and headlights are made of fragments of a silvery shopping-bag paper.

The “C” on the hood is the present’s label.

Contrast: Contrast of expectations about what a wrapped gift can look like.

Easy: This is not that easy, but it is fun.

red shopping bag wrap

Recycled-shopping-bag Band Wrap

Amazing Paper has Power

Shopping bags offer some of the most amazing paper around, and it often gets discarded. I took a red one from our supply and cut it apart apart to wrap the thin box of this gift.

One half of the bag covered the gift. I sealed it on the back with hot glue. I then sealed both ends without trying to bend or fold the stiff paper. I snipped those glued ends to give them a precise and common edge. Then I folded them over onto the bag and glued them down.

Of course, rendered shopping bags do have their surface flaws. I had a major retailer’s elegant type crossing my wrap. Parallel to that was a crease from the lower edge of the bag. And last of all I had a neat round hole left over from the bag-handle strings.

So, I cut strips of red paper from the remaining bag fragment, and folded their edges over to make puffy wrapper’s bands. I cover the typography and the crease with two horizontal bands, gluing them to the back. I covered the bag handle hole at the top of the wrap with the third band. I placed it at an angle to make the wrap more dynamic.

I spent a bit of time looking for ribbons to add some complexity to the texture of the wrap. I settled on two pieces, a dark green horizontal to fulfill the Christmas color dyad, and then a red ribbon with a darker red velvet center and white dashes along the edge.

Contrast: only minor contrast in the green ribbon; this wrap luxuriates in the red paper.

Easy: pretty easy.

tinsel beard wrap

Tinsel Beard

I have always been challenged when it comes to tinsel. As a child I led the opposition to tinsel on the grounds that it was just too messy. But some friends recently bequeathed me their supply of tinsel. I vowed that I would make my peace with it by finding a way to incorporate it into wrapping.

If you like a neat and orderly wrapping table this is not the wrap for you. But, as you can see, I did find a way to apply used tinsel to a gift wrap.

First I wrapped the box in a piece of yellow paper that came from a direct-mail piece. Then I pulled out a batch of tinsel, applied a strip of hot glue along the top of the wrapped box. I then placed the top edge of the tinsel onto the hot glue. I took a small strip of scrap paper, applied glue to it and pressed down to fix the tinsel in place. I added more tinsel by this method.

Next I took a piece of red-foil paper, gave it one folded edge where it would overlay the tinsel, and wrapped it around the top of the box using both glue and tape. I shook out the wrap to get red of loose tinsel. Grabbing my scissors I gave the wrap a tonsorial trim. I folded some gold paper, rubbed on white dry-transfer letters for recipient initials.

Then I got out the shop vac and cleaned up the tinsel that littered my studio.This wrap is very dynamic and silly when handled.

Contrast: Contrast texture.

Easy: medium challenge.

hiliday lights wrap

Little Holiday Lights


A simple idea, it nonetheless took some time to get it to look right. I glued on a few of the lights with hot glue. The tiny switch and battery box are here hidden from view.

ontrast: Contrast of expectations about what a wrapped gift can look like

Easy: medium challenge.

pine cone wrap black

Pine-cone Christmas Wrap

I was hiking in the foothills and noticed small pine cones that resembled both little pineapples and Christmas trees. It seemed they might be useful for wraps. So I gathered a number of them over the course of the hike. My left cargo pocket was so full the cones began to poke my leg.

This morning I took the cones and cut them in half on my scroll saw. Then I fired up my airbrushes and gave them some quick coloring: green on the left and red on the right.

The next step was to determine what was the best background paper to show the cone-trees. I had imagined it would be plain white. But a large remaining piece of shiny black shopping bag turned out to be the best. I used hot glue to seal up the black paper, which is very thick, needs to be fixed firmly, and does not look particularly good with lots of tape.

I then glued on the cones. The resulting wrap has a subdued holiday look, with dimensional richness.

Contrast: Contrast of textures. Contrast of sculptural objects versus flat black surface.

Easy: Requires painting; otherwise easy.

tree shaped box wrap

Sliced-box Tree

With Wine-bottle Bumper

In keeping with my fascination for cubist ideas, I took a small flat box of long proportion and drew a line from one corner to its opposite corner. I then placed the box on the table of my scroll saw and cut the box in half. By rotating one of the halves and joining it to the other with two pieces of tape, applied to the pointiest ends, I had a box shaped like a christmas tree.

I wrapped the box with paper from a large marketing flyer that had lots of solid black areas. This kind of coated paper makes easy folds and creases.

Next I took one of those green-plastic web sleeves that they put on one's wine bottles to keep them from hurting each other, and trimmed it to wrap around the box. Its dimensional grid added symbolic pine branches, and, coincidentally, matched the angles of my sliced box.

Since the plastic was not large enough to cover the whole wrap, I was left with a triangle of space at the bottom. I added a patch of red metallic shopping-bag paper.

I thought the tree needed a star. I cut it from gold ribbon and mounted it on a small piece of twist-tie using hot

Contrast: Contrast of throwaway materials and playful gift result.

Easy: Some challenge.

notecardsNotecards by John Boak— Drawings of Colorado & Utah