How to decorate wrapping paper

Give your gifts a personal touch by decorating wrapping paper yourself. Here, we look into how to marble giftwrap

Decorate Christmas wrapping paper
(Image credit: Philip Volkers/Compton Marbling)

If you love the idea of personalizing Christmas gifts and you have some time before the holidays, decorating wrapping paper is a wonderful craft to indulge in. 

Of course, you can keep it simple, doodling or adding stickers to plain paper, but we love the idea of creating our own marbled wrapping paper and gift tags for Christmas gifts that become Christmas decor ideas in their own right.

How to decorate wrapping paper

We asked Alex Lewis of Compton Marbling to show us how it can be done. Compton Marbling has been making hand-marbled paper and related products since the 1970s.

You will need:

  • Selection of paint colors (acrylic or gouache)
  • Uncoated paper/gift tags
  • A tray to work in – a large roasting tin or cat litter tray are ideal
  • Gloves to protect hands

To make the size:

  • Warm water
  • Carrageenan powder
  • Blender
  • Tray/container to hold the liquid

To make the mordant for your paper:

  • Alum
  • Freshly boiled water
  • Sponge
  • Plastic sleeve and board (to keep the paper moist and flat)

Carrageenan powder, alum and a beautiful selection of marbled papers and products are available from Compton Marbling.

How to prepare the size

Measure 14g of carrageenan powder to 2ltr of warm water and blend on max for a couple of minutes. Make sure there are no small lumps in the mixture. Pour into your tray and leave for minimum 8 hours.

How to prepare the mordant for your paper

Measure 25g of alum crystals and mix in a heatproof container with 1/2 pint of boiling water, stir until dissolved. When cool, use the sponge to coat one side of your paper. Store under plastic and a board until required. They should remain damp until use.

1. Mix the paints

Marbling and decorating wrapping paper

(Image credit: Philip Volkers/Compton Marbling)

Mix your paints (acrylic or gouache), with water to the consistency of single cream. You may have to add a few drops of very diluted dish soap to help the paints spread on the surface of the size.

Apply the paints over the surface of the size by flicking the brush. Swirl or comb the surface to create the desired pattern. 

2. Dip then dry the wrapping paper

Decorating wrapping paper

(Image credit: Philip Volkers/Compton Marbling)

Carefully lay the coated paper or gift tag (mordant side down) on to the surface. Use strips of newspaper to cover any paint left around the edges.

 Lift your paper (or tags/ribbon) and gently rinse, then hang to dry. Flatten under heavy books once dry.

Decorating wrapping paper

(Image credit: Philip Volkers/Compton Marbling)

Tips for decorating marbled wrapping paper

  • Use a colored paper to enhance your design, just make sure it is uncoated paper.
  • If you use gift tags then remove the string and replace when dry with a ribbon to co-ordinate with your colors. 
  • Use opened paperclips to hook the tags out of the size and then to hang them to dry.
Lucy Searle
Lucy Searle

My first job was writing a DIY column for a magazine for the over 50s (which seemed a long way off back then). I then moved to a DIY magazine as deputy ed, then freelanced my way around the homes departments of most women's magazines on the market before working on Your Home and Family Circle magazines as homes editor. From there, I went to Ideal Home magazine as associate editor, then launched 4Homes magazine for Channel 4, then the Channel 4 4Homes website before going back to freelancing and running a social media business (you can see where I had kids from the freelancing gaps!). I was tempted back to the world of big business by the chance to work with the great team at, where I was Global Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years, taking it from a small website to a global entity. I've now handed the reins of the website to our American managing editor, while I take on a new challenge as Editor-in-Chief of Homes & Gardens.