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
Content Director

Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property and gardens since 1990, working her way around the interiors departments of women's magazines before switching to interiors-only titles in the mid-nineties. She was Associate Editor on Ideal Home, and Launch Editor of 4Homes magazine, before moving into digital in 2007, launching Channel 4's flagship website, In 2018, Lucy took on the role of Global Editor in Chief for, taking the site from a small magazine add-on to a global success. She was asked to repeat that success at Homes & Gardens, where she also took on the editorship of the magazine. Today, Lucy works as Content Director across Homes & Gardens, Woman & Home, Ideal Home and Real Homes.