A lot of the time I feel like I’m just a bit behind the trends, but when it comes to kraft paper gift wrapping I was way ahead. I’ve been using this stuff to wrap gifts for years. My draw to it was not so much the “brown paper packages tied up in strings,” but more for the stark industrial look. In fact, the earliest packages also utilized duct tape. But today I’m going to share some of my customizations with you that you can use this holiday season for your gift wrapping needs. Some require more time and talent than others, but there should be something here for everyone.
Why do I like brown kraft paper for gift wrap?
- It’s cheap. Ten yards of this at 30 inches wide cost me $5.49 at Target. That much paper goes a long way. In fact, I didn’t even open the roll I bought. I had enough from two leftover rolls to wrap my gifts this year.
- It’s durable. While I fundamentally know how to wrap gifts (I’ve gone so far some years as to use a T-square and X-Acto knife to accurately cut and measure my paper), even then I often have problems ripping and tearing through the too thin wrapping paper.
- It’s environmentally friendly…more or less. It’s made from 100% post consumer waste, though admittedly the greenest option would be to not wrap gifts at all. No dyes, inks, or bleaching go into this product unless you find some other than brown.
- It’s a blank canvas to do whatever you want! And since it’s durable it stands up to a wide variety of media and adhesives.
A couple notes first. Satin or gloss tape? It’s your choice, but honestly I use a big strip of clear packing tape on the back. Your standard transparent tape might be strong enough, but it might not. On the sides I tend to do something a little unique though.
I glue the flaps down with a few drops of glue and secure them with some light tack tape while they dry. Use enough glue that it sticks, but not so much that it soaks through the paper. The tape I’m using here is artist’s drafting tape and is made to be removable. Even if it does take a little bit of the brown kraft paper with it when you remove it, the paper is the same color throughout and no one is likely to know there was ever tape there. In lieu of tape you could just flip it on it’s end and do one end at a time.
So without further ado, here are some of my custom wrap jobs this year.
The Lyrical Package
Easy. Get a marker or two and write out the lyrics to your favorite Christmas carol. If you’ve got a big box you can do all the sides. This is a small package so there isn’t much to it. For this I broke up the lyrics with the “To” and “From” tag and if you notice the end lyrics aren’t really lyrics at all, but a commentary on figgy pudding. Feel free to come up with your own commentary or lyrical twist. You might want to practice on a similarly sized piece of paper first to know how much space your words are going to take up.
A Note Of Caution: I was wise here to test out the marker on some scrap kraft paper first. I wasn’t sure this was going to work at first, but then when I saw how the marker dried I was satisfied. Here I used Lime Green and standard red Sharpie markers. I feel like a darker green might be too dark on this paper. I’d originally planned to use some Sharpie paint markers, but the oil based markers I have do not seem to work very well at all. Sharpie used to make some Poster Paint pens, but I didn’t find any at the stores I went to and didn’t have time to order them. The Sharpie Poster Paint pens have a much more opaque ink and really pop off the paper.
The Clip Art Cut Out
For this package I used an image of a Dove and cut it out of some handmade paper I had laying around. I hand lettered the package with pastels. In hindsight I might have practiced the “PEACE” on a scrap piece first to test the layout as the last letter is closer to the bottom edge than I would like. Of course you may not have sheets of handmade paper on hand, so here is an alternative.
Take your stock art/clip art silhouette and put it in your favorite image editing program. Oh, you don’t have an image editing program. That’s cool, you can just throw it in Word. Seriously, I’m giving you permission to just use MS Word. To give the dove a little interest, throw some words on the screen. Here I’ve repeated the lyrics to “Oh, Holy Night.” I set the ink color to about 50% gray because I didn’t feel like hooking up my inkjet printer. Light colors will work best I think. Bring the image into Word (Insert > Photo > Picture From File) [Note: Your version of Word might not be like mine, but you definitely have this option somewhere] With the picture file in Word right-click on it and select “Format Picture.” In the window that comes up you want to select Layout and then select the option to put the image behind the text. It might be easier to resize the image to the size you want first and then change the layout. For my purposes I setup the page to landscape mode before I got started to get a nice big dove.
Cardstock is best for this project if you have some, but standard printer paper can work too. It might be wise to do a test print on cheap paper first to see if you like the text color you’ve selected.
When you cut out the dove you’re going to break the rules of cutting a bit and cut inside the line instead of outside. You don’t want the outline showing. Attack the paper at different angles as you cut it out instead of trying to cut it all out at once.
Once cut out, turn the dove over on a sheet of newspaper and use a wrinkle free glue stick to cover the entire back side. For best results you’re going to want to apply the glue stick to the package as well, though it doesn’t have to be as completely covered as the dove (or whatever image you choose).
And this can be done with other clip art images too, especially if you have different colors of paper to print on. Holly, wreaths, candles, reindeer, whatever! Be creative!
Like the dove? Don’t want to do your own Google Image search for one? You can have it! Just right click the picture below and select “Save Link To Disk.” I drew it up in Illustrator real quick just for this purpose. It’s a PNG image file with a transparent background that should work with most modern computers and programs.
The Duct Tape Ribbon and Bow
Like most guys, I am a fan of duct tape. You can do a lot of things with it. While I have been known to cover an entire package in duct tape, this requires a gentler touch.
Take your kraft paper wrapped box and run two lengths around it. The bow is actually constructed from four separate pieces. I tried to tie a bow using duct tape (with two long pieces taped against each other to make a duct tape ribbon), but it didn’t work out very well. So instead I took four pieces, two for bows and two for tails, and just taped them together at a central point. It’s not super pretty, but I think that’s part of the charm. The bow is then affixed to the box with, what else, duct tape. This gift is for my grandfather who operated a hardware store for twenty some years so I feel it’s appropriate, but I’m sure any of the Mr. Fix-It’s in your life will get a kick out of it.
The Illustrated Package
Okay, these might take a little bit of drawing talent, but you can certainly keep it much simpler than this. In past years I have used paint, but that is messy and not very forgiving. This year I used some nice pastels that have been neglected for a while. My biggest problem with using pastels is reminding myself to keep it simple. The snow man was just going to be a snowman, but then I had to add it a bit of sky and a bit of snow on the ground. The simpler you keep it, the less likely the recipient is going to say, “Oh, I must keep this piece of art so that I can put it in a box and someone else will have to throw it away someday.”
Similarly, this tree was just going to be a tree. Then I said, lets add some snow to the branches. Let’s make it at sunrise. Oh, sunrise didn’t turn out quite right, lets turn the sky black, add some stars, and hint at the sunrise just above the horizon.
I’ve got a couple more gifts to customize yet and I might whip out the colored pencils for one. I’ll be sure to post updates if I think of something else clever, but I think you get the idea.
So what do you think? Are you up to the task? Do you see yourself using any of these suggestions this holiday season? What are you doing to make your gifts stand out from the crowd?