10 Gift Wrapping Tips from 'Wrap Battle' Judge Carson Kressley

WRAP BATTLE S01E03 Still - Publicity - H 2019
Christopher Willard/Freeform

Ditch the bags and tissue paper and opt for a hand-wrapped gift with toppers such as pine cones, rubber ducks or ornaments.

Carson Kressley knows that presentation is everything — the fashion expert and RuPaul's Drag Race judge is now lending his eye for style to Freeform's holiday show Wrap Battle as a judge.

"I do think that being a styling expert is pretty similar. Great design is great design, whether it's a room or an outfit or in this case a holiday gift," Kressley tells The Hollywood Reporter. "It's the thought that counts, but it's also the presentation that counts. Anything done by hand feels warmer and more special when it's given to somebody." 

Here, Kressley gives 10 tips for upping your gift wrapping game this holiday season.

1. Start with a great pair of scissors. 

Though Kressley says you don't need a giant room in your house just for gift wrapping, you should create a little kit to store in a drawer or the like. Inside, keep a pair of paper-only scissors.

"So many people, myself included, use my scissors for, like, cutting up chicken and then clipping some branches off a tree in the yard. And then I go to wrap paper and I wonder why when I cut it, the [pair of] scissors doesn't work," he says. 

2. Only wrap with double-stick tape. 

"That's something that all the pros use," Kressley says. "It just makes such a difference because you're not going to have any glossy exterior tape showing and all of your seams are going to look really quite professional." 

3. Avoid the basic gift bag with tissue paper. 

"Presentation is really important, and if you just start throwing things in a bag, it looks like you've just thrown some things in a bag. There are ways to elevate that with beautiful tissue papers but ... it's not always the most impactful," he explains.

An item placed in a box and wrapped with paper will be best, but if you like a bag look, try a makeshift basket instead. For example, tuck a gift inside a cookie jar to give "two gifts in one" or use a tote bag that's wrapped with beautiful ribbon at the handle.

4. Splurge on high-quality paper.

If you quickly wrap a gift in the parking lot at Walgreens, the recipient can tell. Kressley says inexpensive-looking paper, like the lightweight kind from the drugstore, is a no-no. He tries to keep a variety of papers on hand and buys five or six rolls at once to stock up: "I personally have great luck finding good-looking, sturdy paper at places like Home Goods. I just got a bounty of Martha Stewart paper, which is amazing," Kressley says. 

5. Venture beyond holiday-specific colors.

Go beyond green and red with blue and silver for winter. Or break all the holiday color schemes by opting for a "super chic" hot pink gift with a gold metallic ribbon or Japanese-printed paper with natural a raffia ribbon.

"I'm always delighted when I get something that's not wrapped in traditional holiday colors. It just needs to be festive," he says. "Those are the gifts that really stand out — ones that don't use the traditional color story." 

6. Don't use those store-bought plastic bows. 

The plastic bows never look as nice as real ribbon that's been tied into a bow or a knot, he says. It's crucial to start with the right material, so look for actual fabric ribbon at places like Costco, Marshalls and Target. "If you start with nice materials, the execution doesn't have to be absolutely perfect. It will still look better than a store-bought bow," Kressley says. 

7. Add a gift topper to make it stand out. 

"Think of it like you're creating an outfit," he explains. The paper is the main component of the outfit, followed by accessories like the ribbon and the topper. Kressley suggests toppers including ornaments, horseshoes, feathers, rubber ducks and pieces of greenery from the backyard — "that's really like the accessory like the earrings and the bag to the outfit." Use a glue gun to adhere.

8. Make your own tags.

You can do much better than pre-made gift tags. Buy mailing tags from Staples and — in your best penmanship — write on them with a metallic marker: "It can look more expensive and a little more thoughtful."

For a personalized touch, purchase a rubber stamp at the craft store and create your own monogrammed, custom gift tags. Alternatively, you can use a wax seal like some contestants on Wrap Battle.

9. Consider wrapping all gifts the same. 

If you're investing a lot of time into finding the perfect materials for a creative presentation, it may save time to choose one winning concept as your theme of the year and wrap all your gifts the same way. "Have a signature paper and a signature ribbon and trim that you use on all of your gifts," Kressley suggests. Buy such supplies in bulk. 

10. Remember that eco-friendly can be elevated.

Please a Shailene Woodley or a Leonardo DiCaprio with an eco-friendly wrapping job, because after all, "you can't go wrong with nature's color palette," says Kressley. Use recycled brown craft paper (the same material as paper grocery bags) to wrap gifts. "It has a great warmth to it. I can tie it with something really simple like some cooking twine. And then for a topper, instead of going to a store and buying some plastic pine bough, use the real thing," he says. Another option: snip some fresh magnolia or cedar from the yard for a fragrant topper. For those living in a city without access to such plants, go to a Christmas tree lot and ask for scraps that have been trimmed.