Using Cellophane Wrap
and Its Polymer Look-Alikes

Cellophane wrap and transparent polymer
wraps add sparkle to gift presentations.
And they're not just for gift baskets.

Poly-, Cello - What's the Difference?

"Cellophane" (like "Kleenex" and "Band-Aid") is a trademark that has come to describe any item like itself, regardless of composition or brand name.
Cellophane ("cello" for short) was patented in 1908 in Switzerland, and was first manufactured in the U.S. by DuPont in the 1920s.

Real cellophane is made from natural cellulose (wood fiber), and is thin, transparent and tough. It is nontoxic and resistant to moisture, grease, and bacteria, and so is approved by the FDA for food packaging. Cellophane wrap is available in wide rolls, as well as bags designed for wrapping gift baskets.

Poly wrap colors are less vibrant than those of cellophane wrap.Similar transparent wraps are made from petroleum-based polymers such as polypropylene. These materials share the above characteristics of cellophane, including approval as food packaging.

But there are a few noteworthy differences between cellophane wrap and polypropylene film. Cellophane takes on richer, more saturated colors than the poly wrap pictured. Unlike polypropylene, cellophane can retain a crumpled shape for gift presentations where a crinkle effect is desired. Best of all, cellophane is 100% biodegradable.

Polypropylene film is less expensive than cello wrap. It can be printed with colorful designs, or it may have an iridescent finish. Poly film is also available as shrink wrap. But polymers are not biodegradable.

Misnomers: Polypropylene wrap with a metallic and/or mirror finish is often called Mylar - but "Mylar" is another one of those names - it's a DuPont trademark that has gone generic. (More about metallic gift wrap).

Also, Diane has a similar iridescent wrap called "holographic tissue paper," but it's not tissue paper (though it is extremely thin) - it's a polymer wrap. Here's a source for nice, wide iridescent wrap.

What Good is See-Through Gift Wrap?

A cellophane wrap and tissue combo nicely tops off a gift bag.
Well, cellophane or polymer wraps can be used creatively in gift bag wrapping. A loose tissue-cello mix works well for padding, and the combined textures are interesting as well as colorful at the top of the gift bag.

Cellophane wrap and poly wrap are great for wrapping a gift basket because they come in extra-wide widths - typically 36".

Clearly, though (pardon the pun), transparent wrap doesn't conceal the gift inside, so the surprise element is sacrificed when a poly or cellophane wrap is used alone. This may be desirable for a fragile gift like a plant, to alert everyone that the gift must be treated with care, or for gifts containing perishables, that need to be opened immediately and/or refrigerated.

A dark colored cellophane wrap will reveal less detail about the contents than a light color will. You'll see that the gift is a plant, for example, but maybe not which kind of plant or what color the flowers. But you'll need a double layer of poly wrap to brighten the color and increase opacity. Red cellophane wrap turns blue tissue purple.The pink polymer wrap in the photos on this page looks bright red on the roll!

A better way to conceal the contents is to line the transparent wrap with colored tissue paper or perhaps a very lightweight fabric. Experiment with colors (one or two layers of light colored cello over a dark or bright lining) to create interesting effects. The liner preserves your surprise, while the cello adds sparkle.

Here's another idea for see-through gift wrap: use one or more layers to make stained-glass windows in boxes or gift bags. To dress up a plain white bag for Valentines Day: cut a heart shaped hole in the side of the bag, then fasten bright red cellophane on the inside, over the hole. Surround the gift inside with red tissue paper to make your red window even brighter.

Cellophane wrap and its poly look-alikes can enhance many elements of a gift wrapping project - gift bags, boxes and tags, bows and package decorations, or costumes and disguises for the well-dressed gift.

Turn your imagination loose
with cellophane gift wrapping, and your gifts
will look richer and more colorful!

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Logo photo by Jane M. Sawyer, courtesy of morguefile.
Other photos courtesy of Libby Graphics, all rights reserved.