Making Gift Wraps and Tags

Gift Wraps and Tags Made by You
Most of the time I am a do-it-yourselfer. But for a while, I depended on store-bought wrapping paper. That all changed. Once the “bought” wrapping paper ran just as I was wrapping some gift books. What to do?

I cut open a large paper bag, and used it to wrap the book (with the plain side of the bag on the outside); hand printed a rhyme (using an alphabet stencil) and tied up the package with raffia. It was a personal statement and it looked wonderful!

Now I have the pleasure of tailoring the wrap to the recipient. I keep a few basic supplies on hand to create wrappings:
large brown paper grocery bags
a pad of graph paper (good for small boxes)
a large-size pad of recycled newsprint
tissue wrapping paper
a spool of paper ribbon that curls
a package of raffia
extraordinary ribbon saved from packages people have given me
3 felt tip marking pens (2 colors and black), with fine and medium tips
gold and silver marking pens
bottles of gold and silver acrylic paint
The rest is serendipity — like an impromptu stew. If you have a few sequins, pieces of wrapped candy, extra photographs, figure out how to add them to the piece. To get started, here are a few suggestions.


Sponge Print (My current favorite. It looks great and takes only minutes to do.)

Recycled newsprint or tissue paper, gold and silver acrylic paint (or any 2 colors you choose), a small bowl of water, a natural sponge, glitter or a glitter glue pen (optional)

Dampen the sponge, dip into one color and dab it all over the paper. Allow the paint to dry. Dip a clean sponge into the second color and again dab it over the other paint and patches of white paper.

Wrap the package. If the wrapping looks bland, dab a few globs of glitter glue on the paper, and spread them around with your finger or q-tip.

Graph Paper Surprises (Good for small boxes. I don’t have the patience to do this for larger ones.) This is time-consuming but doesn’t require too much attention. Perfect to do while watching Oprah!

Graph paper and 2 or 3 marking pens with medium points.

Establish a pattern for coloring in the graph paper. Try a checkerboard (see the gold and white design). Or make up bands for your own design (see the green and red design). Try using bands of different sizes (e.g., 5 squares-wide alternating with 3-squares wide). If you’re using a small box, don’t make the bands wider than 5 or 6 squares because you won’t be able to see many repetitions on the top of the box. To see some interesting paintings by Barbara de Ruiz, click here.

“Found” Containers

  • Tupperware (preferably found in a flea market). Fill with trail mix, granola, cookies, candied ginger or other goodies. To wrap, stencil some words or sponge print a paper bag. Put the Tupperware container into the bag, and fold down the top of the bag to create a flap. Fasten with a staple.
  • Flowerpot. Suggested fillers: packets of seeds, bulbs that can be forced in winter, a gift certificate to the recipient’s favorite nursery, a pair of gardening gloves, or a spade and trowel. Wrap with a sponge print or the newspaper’s gardening page and tie with a bright ribbon. Make a gift tag from an old seed packet or create a collage made from pictures from a seed catalog.
  • Oblong basket. Fill with a loaf cake, envelopes of pre-mixed spices or dehydrated soups, jars of homemade spices or jelly. Wrap with a clear plastic wrap or cellophane. Include a recipe related to the contents on the gift tag and maybe sell a few.


Pure fun to do–sheer “improv.”

For backing, use a stiff paper–poster board, watercolor paper, packing tags, cardboard, or the smooth back of corrugated paper.

For designs, marking pens, bought or handmade stamps, old photographs, used greeting cards, press-on lettering, sequins, pasta in the shape of letters….anything goes!

Collage (either pictures, letters or a combination of them), hand stamping, calligraphy, freehand drawing, stenciling, Place a design on both the front and back of the gift tag so it can be seen from both sides. See also this article about Timmenmans Daugherty’s Weird Gardens.

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