Anybody can learn to wrap like a pro, said Carol Stavrakakis, owner of The Jade Tree gift shop.
"I had to practice," she said. "I had to get the cheap ribbon out, and newspapers."
* Box it. Wrapping almost always looks better if the gift is in a box -- especially if the gift has an odd shape.
If you're wrapping clothing, line the inside of the box with tissue paper, said Janith Wright, owner of Clifton's in Ogden. If you don't want the item to wrinkle or crease, it can help to fold the item around tissue as well, so it's inside of the folds.
And, by all means, remember to remove the price sticker and any residue it leaves. "I always save the price tag until after I've wrapped it, so I can make sure I took it off," Stavrakakis said. "There's nothing tackier than getting a present with the price tag on it."
* Buy quality ribbon and paper. "You need paper that isn't going to rip easily," said Stavrakakis.
But beware, there are wrapping papers too thick to fold easily, said Bill King, a co-owner of Rainbow Gardens. These create bulky spots.
* Choose patterns and colors wisely. Stavrakakis doesn't buy dozens of different wrapping papers, but a few versatile rolls.
"I try to find something I can put lots of different colored bows on, so I don't get bored," she said.
For example, she has a foil Christmas paper with red, dark green and light green print, and a silver wrap that's good for Christmas and weddings, as well as men's birthday gifts.
"You have to get something that will look good on a small box, as well as a large one, so you can't have too big of a pattern," she said.
* Make cuts clean and straight. If your cut edges look ripped, ragged or crooked, it won't look good. King likes to use paper with a strong pattern, or even lines, to make it easier to cut straight and center the gift on the paper.
If you don't have a nice edges, fold the edges of the paper under so they don't show. Some people prefer folded edges no matter what.
* Keep paper taut, not loose.
"You want to hold the box in place, then pull the paper as tight as you can," said Jenny King Francl, King's sister and co-owner of Rainbow Gardens. "You want to pull it tight, so you're not going to have extra bulging on the sides."
* Use just enough tape. You want enough tape for the paper to stay flat, but not so much that it looks gobby, said Francl. It's a bit more difficult, but you can hide all tape by using double-sided tape.
* Fold opposite sides together. When closing the ends of a package, fold in the left and right sides first, and then the top and bottom, said King. If you fold in a circular direction, such as right side, bottom, left side and then top, you're likely to have bulges.
* Sharpen folds. "After I get through, I always run my fingers along the edges to get a good, clean edge," said King.
* Tie it up. Instead of stick-on bows, Stavrakakis likes to finish packages with big, beautiful loops of satin or wire-edged ribbons. The easy way to make a bow is to wrap a piece of ribbon around the gift and tie it on top the way you'd tie your shoelace. Then take two more lengths of ribbon (at the same time, stacked together) and tie them shoelace-style around the first bow. Do it again, if you want a fuller bow, then fan out the ribbon loops.
It takes more yards of thin ribbon to make a big bow, than if you use wider ribbon. If you like a thin ribbon, mix it into a bow with wide ribbon, said Stavrakakis.
* Get creative. If you can't afford, or don't like, fabric ribbons, get creative with regular wrapping ribbon.
Sometimes, wrappers at Rainbow Gardens use two colors of this ribbon, and roll them into loops that are held together with a staple.
"We do a really easy, quick bow," said Francl. "It's like a figure eight."
* Go big. Gift baskets are often too large, and round, to wrap. Set them on a sheet of cellophane, pull the clear wrap up and tie on top with a large bow, wrappers say.
If a gift is really big, don't bother with paper or cellophane -- just make it look good with a really big bow, said Francl.