The world’s most-famous gift-wrap artist gets real about the gift wrapping mistakes many people make.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated December 03, 2019
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Gift wrapping seems simple—at least until the final, ribbon-wrapped products look nothing like the crisply wrapped gifts in store windows and perfectly arranged Instagram shots. Even if you have the basics of gift wrapping down (here’s how to wrap a present, if not), there are little tweaks that turn wrapped gifts from ho-hum to photo-ready.

Alton DuLaney, the world’s most famous gift-wrap artist, knows all the gift wrapping tricks and strategies to getting that crisp, neat wrapped look—and he shared the common mistakes he sees people making. Avoid these pitfalls for presents that look professionally garnished, no matter what’s inside them.

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1

A flat, open wrapping area allows for the leverage needed for crisper folds—and it means you won’t be bumping into walls or scattered toys as you’re reaching for the tape.

Courtesy of CVS

2

Jumping up every 30 seconds for scissors or another roll of tape will throw off your concentration and add a ton of time to the gift wrapping process. Get everything you need—tape, ribbon, scissors, wrapping paper, gift labels (or a label maker to make custom gift labels)—and put it within arm’s reach before you start working. If you need to pick up a few supplies, CVS sells everything your gift-wrap station needs (and you can pick it all up in a single trip, too). By getting everything ready before you start wrapping, you ensure your folds will be crisper and you’ll be finished in half the time.

3

Dull scissors won’t cut wrapping paper cleanly; instead of a long, clear cut, you’ll find yourself having to laboriously snip off pieces of wrapping paper (and getting a straight cut will be nearly impossible). Sharpen scissors before you start or, better yet, set aside a good pair just for gift wrapping.

4

Wrapping paper with glitter or foil accents will dull scissors—no matter how sharp they are at the start—and make it difficult to get clean, crisp cuts of paper and ribbon. Instead, grab two pairs of scissors: one for the wrapping paper and one for the ribbon. DuLaney ties a scrap of ribbon around the ribbon-only scissors so he doesn't mix them up while he’s wrapping.

5

Standard clear tapes—or, gasp, colored tapes—will stand out amateurishly on gift wrap. DuLaney uses Scotch Gift Wrap Tape ($17 for six rolls; amazon.com) for its satin finish. “It just blends right in, seamlessly, with the paper,” he says.

6

The wrapping paper should just cover the item being wrapped—any excess, especially at the short ends of the box, should be trimmed off. “You want enough to not quite go over the edge of the box,” DuLaney says.

Otherwise, the wrapped gift will have bulges where the extra paper is folded up. DuLaney uses his hand to measure the box’s height and then determine how much paper he needs on either end.

7

When you begin to wrap your gift, place it upside down on the paper. “That way, all your seaming is going to take place on the bottom of the package,” DuLaney says. “You’re not showing your seaming on the top of the package.”

8

“Sometimes the box is part of the gift,” DuLaney says. Taping wrapping paper to the box could damage it. It also hurts the unwrapping experience. Ideally, DuLaney says, “the paper should just fall away.”

9

It’s difficult to fold a crisp, neat line against a surface that dips or gives. “You don’t want the box to give too much as you’re pressing against it,” DuLaney says. Fill gift boxes with tissue paper or another filler to firm up the surface, or select smaller boxes that are just large enough for the gift inside.

10

Inexpensive wrapping paper is easy on the wallet, sure, but it can easily rip or crinkle during the gift wrapping process. Heavy artisanal or luxury wrapping papers can also be difficult to work with, as they’re difficult to fold or crease. Look for a mid-range option, or be prepared to wrestle a bit with thicker papers.

11

When tying ribbon around a wrapped gift (or any item), start at the top and keep any twists there. “A lot of people do the criss-cross on the bottom of the package,” DuLaney says. This adds a lump to the bottom of the package, preventing it from sitting flat. Instead, wrap the ribbon—starting at the top of the gift—around the box and cross it over itself there, leaving only flat lines of ribbon on the bottom.