How To

The (Surprisingly Easy) Secret to Wrapping Perfect Presents

Double-sided tape, pinched edges and other tricks to make you the best wrapper in the game.

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen December 7, 2016

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You, too, can learn how to wrap presents this nicely.

I am a little obsessive about gift wrapping, despite any previously published humorous articles to the contrary. Like most of my shallower qualities, I attribute it to my Lebanese heritage. We're a showy people who take the social etiquette of gift-giving seriously, and presentation is a major part of that. Think of it like food: It doesn't matter how delicious take-out in styrofoam containers is, it's never going to impress in the same way a gorgeously plated entrée can.

Luckily it's not that hard to upgrade from stuffing presents into bags with tissue paper to wrapping a gorgeous gift. To learn the secret, I attended a private class at Paper Source in Highland Village, where gift-wrapping is treated as an art, to learn how to achieve the brand's signature flawless wrap. To get us started, the store laid out a trio of wrapping paper sections cut generously to fit boxed gifts provided by Clinique. You want the smallest sides to be the ones where the flaps are folded together, so we placed our boxes sideways (in elementary school we'd call it "hot dog style") with the bottom side up, and arranged the paper with its longest side vertical ("hamburger style"). 

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Since I'm referring to the sides of the box as bottom, top, etc., I'll use directionals to distinguish which side of my workspace I'm referring to, for lack of a better idea and to hopefully add some clarity. So the next step is to pull the paper up around the south side of the box (a.k.a. the side nearest you) until it exactly aligns with the northern edge of the box. Pull the paper taut and pinch a crease in the paper along the southern edge of the box, then let it go—I know, it feels wrong, but trust the system. Next, pull the paper around the northern edge of the box, crease it once it's taut, and hold it in place.

Now apply a piece of double-sided tape on the inside of the southern edge of the paper, pull it over the box and the opposite side of the wrapping paper—the creases should help you find the exact spot—and tape it to the other (northern) side of the paper—the paper should now be taut around the gift without any tape that's either visible or touching the box.

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Now you can nudge the box east or west until there's just enough extra paper on the side to cover about 2/3 of the exposed side. Fold the paper down over the top and crease, then fold and crease the northern and southern edges into triangles. On the opposite open end, trim extra length from the paper—an easy way to do this is to measure how much you'll need to cover about 2/3 of the side using your fingers, and then cut off the rest. Then repeat the folds from the first east/west side.

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Take small strips of the double-sided tape and apply them to the north/south triangles on each edge, then affix them to the extra paper folded down from the top of the box—again, it's neither visible nor touching the actual present within. Finally pull the paper sticking out from the bottom of the box over the east edge (don't forget to pinch-crease the edge) to complete the eastern side. For true perfection, you can even fold down the tip of the paper so that its edge falls exactly in the middle of the side. Add another piece of double-sided tape, and to the same on the other side. Pinch-crease any remaining edges to give a precise look.

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Okay, there's one more step to a truly exceptional wrapped gift: ribbon. Also known as my nemesis. Apparently I've been overcomplicating it for my entire life. Place the box with the side that you want the bow on facing up. Leave about six inches of ribbon loose on the side, and wrap the ribbon around the box length-wise, until it comes back around to the top. Pick the spot where you want your bow, and pull both side of the ribbon around each other  in a 90-degree angle. Leave your extra loose ribbon alone, and wrap the longer side around the remaining (shorter) side of the box.

If your loose ribbon is on the left of the ribbon intersection (like mine is) pull the active side of the ribbon under on the right (as shown). Now that they are on opposite quadrants of the original intersection, all you have to do is tie the ribbon like you'd tie your shoe —first laying down a knot to secure tightly, then making a bow. (Note: gift tags can be slipped on between the knot and the bow, and will look fabulous.) The straighter you can keep the ribbon, the prettier your bow will be—undo and repeat until you're satisfied that you have created the Platonic ideal of a bow. 

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From here, all that's left is to present your lucky loved ones with your masterfully wrapped gifts, and watch their faces light up. Even if there's a peach candle inside, they can't help but be impressed.

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