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 Twenty


pie bin wrap

Round Wrap in Pie-Bin Bottoms

Sculpture from the Everyday

Pies from our Whole Foods come in marvelous molded-plastic containers. Put the bottom halves from two of them together and you have a strange round device that resembles some kind of off-road tire, or perhaps the base form of a dark space ship.

Those two pieces of black plastic are glued together inside using 1-inch-long pieces of popsickle sticks. They are hot-glued into little slots conveniently located around the molded shape of the pie-bin bottoms. I next made the feet for this wrap using four lids from aerosol deodorants.

I glued a sequence of bottle caps. Their detailed design and printing enriches the design by bringing a finer level of detail to the wrap.

It took a while to figure out what to put in that central, flat circular space. I finally decided to use my own photography. I made a circular crop of a photo I took last week while hiking in the Comb Ridge of southern Utah. I added a black “inner glow” in Photoshop. I printed it, cut it out and glued it into the circular recess.

In order to spare the recipient the potential anxiety of having to destroy such a curious sculpture, I cut out the circular recess on the back side and made it into an access door closed with simple tape fixtures.

Easy: This wrap takes a bit more time, tools, and some fabrication skills.

car sun screen wrap

Silver Sun-shade Wrap

One Last Use for an Old Friend

I was headed out to the dumpster to throw out the trash before beginning my early-morning work session. As I put a worn automobile-windshield sunshade into the dumpster, I felt that twinge of wrapper’s inspiration that keeps so many things from entering the trash stream.

Back in the studio I knocked out this prototype wrap. A deep blue ribbon covered up a big crease in the silver mylar. A thin yellow ribbon provided the necessary graphic complexity. And last of all I took a silver plastic cosmetic-product cap that was sitting on my drawing table. I had saved it for months and had even tested it on numerous wraps. It had never made the cut until today.

The sunscreen is lined with foam beneath its silver mylar. That gives the finished package a very comfortable “hand.”

Contrast: Contrast of texture.

Easy: moderately easy.


aspen log wedding wrap

Wedding Wrap with Aspen Legs

Rustic Elegance

I had the task of wrapping a wedding gift for a wedding on the mountain in Vail, Colorado. Having hiked more than once on the Berrypicker Trail, which climbs from the east end of town to the top of Lionshead wandering through numerous groves of very tall aspens, I was moved to start my wrap by digging through my collection of aspen blocks. I found four 1/4-round pieces and put them aside.

Next I wrapped the gift in layers of white paper. I did not have any paper with the qualities of luxurious wedding-dress fabrics, so I relied on the trim to bring that element into the wrap. I used various solid color ribbons: dark purple, dark green, white. I also had one large clean paper doily from a supermarket cake.

Next I cut the round shoulders into the aspen logs, and sanded down their milled surfaces. The curved surfaces I left with their natural, streaked exteriors intact as found. Then I airbrushed magenta and green directly into the wood. I glued them onto the white paper wrap. I cut some aspen twigs and glued them in as beams between the legs, under the wrap.

I glued on the orange ribbons and that was all it took for things to look close to complete. I added a purple bow on top. I took a piece of abalone shell, signed the wedding couple’s names, and those of the donor (Linda and me), and glued this quasi-gem into the center of the bow.

The wrap was done, a spirited combination of references to wedding custom and to the setting of the actual event.

Contrast: Contrast of textures and materials. Conceptual contrast between wedding materials and rustic addition.

Easy: Difficult.

tissue gift bag

Gift Bag Improv

Haste Making Waste Useful

The wrap artist is not immediately drawn to the gift bag. It can seem like cheating. But one has to admit the colossal practicality of the gift bag. It is just so quick.

I needed to use one recently because of two reasons: my studio was a mess and I had run out of time to carve out a wrapping space. But using a giftbag does not necessarily mean abandoning the the wrap artist’s improvisational mission.

I removed the long rectangular boxed gift from it’s shopping bag. I took two sheets of tissue paper that had been wrapped around the bouquet of flowers I was also giving.

Placing the tissue at an angle, with the box at the bottom, I rolled the gift quickly into a very loose and open column, which both revealed the two colors of the tissue and created gradations as the tissues made contact and then parted ways. I stuffed this assembly into the bag.

The angle wrap created a quasi-floral form which offered up canyons into which I immediately wanted to plant with something stick-like and colorful. Amid the clutter on my larger drawing table I saw a packet of colorful chenille “pipe cleaners” left over from a thanksgiving turkey-craft session I conducted sometime in the previous century.

I began tucking them in the folds. It took a bit of arranging to get them looking good. And they did tend to rearrange themselves. But I was still ready in time for the breakfast presentation. Haste makes waste useful.

Contrast: Contrast of color and texture

Easy: Easy.

revelation of the gift

Thinking Outside the Box

A Breakthrough Wrap

I went to a wrapping session at Florence Crittenton High School, which serves young single mom’s.

The stuffed animals were not in boxes. A volunteer offered me a tattered old box. It was small. Though I could have squeezed this giraffe into the box, my own child mind balked at the brutality of such stuffing. So I cut half-moon holes into the flaps of the box and enclosed the giraffe with the head happily emerging.

I then wrapped the box in a simple suit of red holiday paper, using a central folded-edge band to cover the join. I also made a collar to help the giraffe keep its chin up, to enhance it’s sculptural spirit.

I have played with exposing the gift in some semi-transparent wraps, but this is the first time I have let the gift out of the bag. It felt like a breakthrough wrap, a revelation to me and to the eventual recipient.

Plus the giraffe was clearly so eager to meet its new child, an idea perfectly in keeping with the spirit of Christmas.

Contrast: contrast of expectations: aren't you supposed to hid the gift?

Easy: moderately easy.

red dress band wrap




Cube-box Band Wrap

Many of my band wraps have been on flat boxes or envelopes. I decided to try a variation on a small cube-shaped box.

I used pages from a magazine. And instead of working with thin bands exclusively, I began wrapping with two whole pages.

I laid the box on top of one page, folding one end and then the other just as you would fold the ends of a normal, one-piece wrap. Of course, there are only three flaps in this kind of end fold, not the usual four.

When you are done, the box will now have an empty, wrapless area all around the middle of the box. To cover that naked area, I cut one magazine page in half and made two wide bands. I folded their edges, creating the typical slightly-puffy edge of the wrapper’s band. I glued them in place.

Now the wrap was completely covered. The base was ready. I could begin the fun part of making the collage of layered imagery. I made a series of thin bands and layered them along the edges of the first, wide band. In no time I had an intriguing and engaging wrap.

Contrast: Contrast of materials, textures, light and dark.

Easy: moderately easy.

Scrap wrap




Scrap Wrap

For my first wrap of the holiday season I thought I would cleave close to one of the core principles of wrap art: comfortable recycling.

The wrap consists of rectangles of wrapping-paper scraps, accumulated over many seasons. I take the rectangles and make a small folded edge on all four sides. I then glue them onto the gift box.

Since none of the fragments were very large, I began the wrap by placing two thin rectangles along the center line of the gift box. I then built up the pattern of the other scraps. True to the wrap-artist principle call “messy back stage” the scraps curve around to the back, but do not cover the back side of the wrap.

I made a bow out of scraps. The result is wrap that takes its look from the very pile of presents that will soon be its natural environment. When used within a family tradition of giving it also has an archival quality, summarizing as it does many years of wrapping paper, and thus touching various tones of memory.

Easy: moderately easy.






Snowy Mountains

Fast Complexity

Christmas was in two days. Time for simple wraps. I wrapped another person's fed-exed gift in solid green paper. I cut strips of white foam from a food take-out box and sliced them into mountains. Hot glue holds them on the wrap. I added one piece of red ribbon, and a small name tag.

Contrast: contrast of flat vs. dimensional. Big green vs. little red.

Easy: yes.

blue box band wrap

Elegant Band Wrap

Reusable Wrap Art

Many of my band wraps have been composed loosely, with an emphasis on layered diagonals. I wanted to try out a more strict composition, relying on the traditional 90-degree composition of ribbon wrapping. I chose to do this on a very well-made dark-blue box from a notable fashion company. Because the box was made of thick cardboard, I saw the opportunity to apply my bands only on the lid, allowing the collage to stay intact even as the recipient opened the box. I made a variety of bands by cutting up magazines into strips and folding their edges. I applied only three, choosing them for their chiaroscuro qualities. After I had glued on the three bands, I realized I should have applied a horizontal band, in the style of ribbon wrapping. I slipped gold ribbon under the three bands and glue it in place. I placed the gift in the box after wrapping.

Contrast: light vs. dark. Flat vs. illusion.

Easy: yes.

notecardsNotecards by John Boak— Drawings of Colorado & Utah