Gift Wrapping Paper:
What You Need to Know

Gift wrapping paper or other materials are the
foundation garments for your well-dressed gift!
Here's what you need to know.

Caution! Creative gift wrapping is habit forming and can lead to the compulsive purchase of beautiful gift wraps and embellishments!

Enough gift wrapping paper to fill a closet.Diane and I have collected enough gift wrapping materials to pretty much fill a closet (each!). We've discovered which wraps work for a given project, which are great for almost any project, and which don't seem to work at all. Plus, we'll offer ideas for what to do when a wrap WON'T do.

Here are pointers for recognizing high quality gift wrapping paper, and selecting an appropriate design for the task at hand. Then the links will take you to details about specific papers, and alternatives to gift wrap.

About Price and Quality

The old saying that "you get what you pay for" is very true for gift wrapping paper. Nicer papers cost more; and if rolls of high and low quality gift wraps are priced the same, there's almost certainly less paper on the higher quality roll. So be sure to compare quantities, in square inches/feet/centimeters, as well as quality and prices.

Here are some characteristics to look for in gift wrapping paper:

  • Quality gift wrap is sturdy enough to resist tearing, but not too thick to make a crisp fold. Inexpensive papers are often thin and easily torn by rough spots in product packaging, or even the corners of an ordinary gift box.

  • Quality gift wrapping papers (including white) are opaque.
    Gift wrapping paper with poor opacity reveals images beneath.You can usually see on the unopened roll if the opacity is poor: if you can make out the underlying design through the top layer, the paper will not conceal print or images on your gift box. There is less show-through with dark colors and/or overall designs, and sometimes a colored tissue-paper liner will obscure the show-through. Otherwise, cheap gift wrap is best used on solid-colored boxes.

  • Quality gift wrapping paper allows the removal of tape without tearing the paper or lifting off the design. You can correct taping mistakes, plus the paper remains in good condition for re-use. Look for gift wrap with a smooth, glossy finish. Metallic paper and foil gift wrap usually allow careful tape removal, too, as do many textured wraps and art papers.

  • Quality printing is a must, with consistently even ink coverage and tight registration (the design and colors line up properly, without gaps or overlapping). Some brands of wrapping paper (Hallmark for one) have a grid on the reverse side, a very handy guide for measuring and cutting the paper in a straight line.

Which Design Will Look the Best?

Here you are with a well-chosen gift, ready to make it a well-dressed gift. You have a variety of gift wrapping paper on hand, with really nice designs. Now you're considering which to choose for this particular gift. Well...

Pick a design that fits the box. Large patterns are perfect for large boxes, but they can overpower small boxes. Much of the impact is lost when the design spills over the edges of the box. Small boxes look their best wearing solid colored wraps, or papers with small, overall designs (e.g., paisley or narrow stripes).

Gift wrapping paper - stripes make a square on the end of the box.Directional patterns. Any box looks good wearing stripes! They form a nice rectangle at the ends of a box, and striking geometric patterns where folds meet in a swirl atop a round or hexagonal box.

Try orienting the gift box at various angles on the paper to find an interesting look. With up-and-down designs, be sure to point the top of the gift box toward the top of the pattern.

Consider a theme. A pattern depicting something your recipient especially likes (dogs, roses) or collects (rare stamps, antique dolls) will be a hit. Or, choose his/her favorite color... or a pattern that fits the occasion (a village scene for a housewarming gift), or one that hints at the gift inside (a lighthouse design for a nautical gift).

Consider any decorations you plan to use, and choose a coordinating gift wrapping paper. Ornate package decorations can be highlighted nicely by solid-colored gift papers. Or, the pattern can be enhanced by a decoration that matches an element of the design (e.g., a sprig of real daisies on a daisy-design paper).

Your Inventory of Gift Papers

Just as you keep the kitchen stocked with basic ingredients like flour and spices, it's a good idea to keep some basic gift wrapping papers on hand. Note: A good excuse to indulge the compulsion mentioned above!

Stripes, plaids and solid colors are versatile and not too cutesy or feminine for men's gifts. Kids (adults, too) usually enjoy animal prints. Solid colors are fine for any recipient or occasion.

Tip for opening a roll of gift wrap paper:

Opening a roll of gift wrapping paper: Reinforce plastic wrapper with tape.
Run a piece of tape around the unopened roll, a few inches from one Slip plastic back onto tube for storage; tape prevents splitting.end. Open the roll at that end, split the wrapper down to the tape and slide out the roll (or peel the wrapper down over itself). The tape prevents the wrapper from splitting all the way down the roll. As you use the gift wrap, the plastic covering slips back more easily onto the roll and keeps your wrapping paper from unwinding and getting wrinkled or soiled in storage.

Many creative gift wrapping projects begin with a foundation of plain white or neutral colored paper, and you'll be glad to have a nice big roll ready when inspiration strikes. Choose the most opaque paper you can find, so underlying images on the gift won't show through. Glossy is good, too.

A big roll of kraft paper, kids' easel refill, or newsprint is less expensive but suitable for layered disguises and other crafty gift decorations, where poor opacity or slight imperfections won't matter. You can find these papers in crafts supply stores and toy stores. Or, pick up a roll of white shelf paper in a housewares department or hardware store.

Also very useful for the well-dressed gift are papers with patterns depicting grass, bricks, sky, lace, wood and other interesting backgrounds. They can be found in art supply stores ... Dick Blick carries a nice assortment. You can often find similar designs on rolls of shelf or drawer liners, including plastic "Contact" paper with a self-stick backing.

You might also collect magazine pictures with good background designs, such as the grassy lawn in a fertilizer ad. A small piece may be all you need to get the idea across. Gift Wrapping Ideas for Boxes may spark your imagination!

Now let's take a closer look at specific wrapping materials:

Foil Gift Wrap and its Metallic Cousins offers information about foil wraps and metallic/mirrorized "Mylar"-type wraps, and tips for working with them.

Gift Wrapping Tissue is indispensable for lining gift containers, cushioning fragile gifts, and creating disguises for your well-dressed gifts.

Cellophane Wrap and Its Look-Alikes examines real cellophane and transparent plastic film wraps, with ideas for using them. They're not just for gift baskets.

Creative Gift Wrap Ideas explores homemade gift wrap and unexpected wrapping materials that might not occur to you. Use them for oversized or oddly-shaped gifts, or just for fun.

Wrapping a Large Gift presents gift wrapping techniques for gifts that are too large for your wrapping paper, plus ideas for gift presentations when wrapping it is not the best solution.

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