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DIY Re-Usable Gift Boxes from Cardboard

Making your own gift boxes is fast and easy, and you may never need to buy gift wrap again. This project turns your scrap into beautiful, re-usable gift boxes for any occasion.

If you’re like a lot of people, you are ordering a lot of your holiday presents online, which means you are getting gifts, but also getting free boxes and packing material. This project upcycles scrap cardboard and paper into beautiful gift boxes that can be used over and over. I’m a sucker for all kinds of containers, and love making these boxes to store all kinds of trinkets and nonsense.

Why Make Your Own Gift Boxes?

If you don’t usually make your own gift boxes, here are some reasons to give this craft a try:

  • Reduces waste. If you are in the habit of buying gift wrap (which also often comes with a plastic sleeve), and tossing your shipping boxes and packing material in the recycle bin, this project is a creative way to reuse those materials instead, and avoid buying new products that enter the waste stream.
  • Boxes are beautiful and reusable. You can choose to make a gift box that can be reused year after year, or even make a beautiful box that can be used all the time for attractive storage. The container itself becomes part of the gift.
  • Express yourself. Making your own gift boxes (or anything, really) is a chance to express your own creativity and personality. The act of crafting is good for the brain, posing new kinds of spatial and motor challenges, and learning new skills. Your gift box can express your own personality, and can also be customized to the preferences of the recipient, showing your love and affection for them.

In other words, if you don’t normally craft during the holidays, this is a great DIY project to begin with, and it couldn’t be easier.

How to Make Reusable Gift Boxes from Cardboard

To make your own gift boxes, you will need:

  • Cardboard
  • A box cutter or scissors
  • Glue or a hot glue gun
  • Decorative paper, paints, washi tape, etc.
  • A right angle (optional)
  • Misc craft supplies like a ruler, pencil, compass, painter’s tape, etc as needed

To make your own re-usable cardboard gift boxes, follow these steps (and watch the timelapse video below for a visual demonstration):

  • Cut a piece of cardboard the size and shape of your box base. If you are making a box the specific size and shape of a gift, allow a little extra room on all sides. You may be covering the inside of the box with a layer of paper, and it’s nice to leave enough space to pad the gift itself with tissue paper. Leaving a 1/2 inch or 1 cm margin all around is usually a good choice.
  • Trace and cut a second piece of cardboard (or two) to match the first. Because the base will support the sides, it needs to be at least two layers of cardboard thick. Three layers of cardboard is better, because it gives you more stability to support the sides. It also makes the finished box sturdier and easier to re-use.
  • Glue the base layers together. Whether you have cut two or three pieces of cardboard to form the base, glue them together. Set a book or something flat on them to hold them flat while they dry.
  • Cut a long strip of cardboard to form the sides. I usually start by cutting a long piece of cardboard that is as wide as I want the sides to be high, and long enough to go completely around the base. In other words, if I want the sides to be 6 inches high, I might cut a piece of cardboard that is 24 inches long and 6 inches wide. Leave a little excess on the long side in case you need it.
  • Form the long side strip into the shape of the sides of your box.
    • If the box will be round, wrap the side piece of cardboard around something round (a water bottle, a rolling pin, etc) to create the curve. Creating a smooth curve at this stage will help you later.
    • If the box will be square, make sharp creases in the side cardboard at every corner. Measure where each corner will be, then score and fold the cardboard into nice sharp creases. This will help you later.
  • Wrap the side strip around the base and measure for length. Using the base as your reference point, wrap your side piece of cardboard around the base and make sure it goes all the way around. Trim any excess. If your side piece is too short, set it aside for the moment and create a new side piece that is long enough to go completely around the base.
  • Attach the side piece to the base. I use a hot glue gun for this part, because it’s important that the bottom of the sides lines up exactly with the bottom of the base, and I don’t want the pieces to move once I’ve attached them, and I don’t want to wait for glue to dry. If you are using regular glue, consider using painter’s tape to hold the pieces in place while they dry.
    • You will notice that I also used a small right angle to make sure my sides are vertical as I attach them. While this isn’t strictly necessary, the thinner your base is, the more likely that you will attach the sides at an off angle. Most people will forgive some irregularity in a handmade craft project, but making sure the sides are vertical is nice.
  • Cut a second side piece. Making a second side layer adds more stability and sturdiness to the finished box. Cut a second side strip that is as wide as the first, but a bit longer because the box has a slightly larger diameter for the second layer.
    • If you have a strip that was too short the first time, you can use it here for the second side layer, and simply patch an extra piece of cardboard in to complete the second layer of the side.
  • Form the side shape. As above, curve or crease your second side piece to match up with the finished box shape.
  • Attach the second side layer. As above, wrap your second side layer around the first, making sure the bottom lines up evenly and you completely surround the box. Glue it into place.
  • Turn your box upside down onto a sheet of cardboard, and trace around the top. Tracing around the top is the best way to make sure your lid will fit nicely. Draw about a 1/4 inch margin around all sides of the top, so it goes on and comes off easily.
  • Cut out your top piece. Using the traced shape with a margin, cut out cardboard to form the top of the lid.
  • Cut out the lid side. Cut a long strip of cardboard to form the sides of the lid.
  • Form the lid side. Curve or crease the long side piece as you did with the base.
  • Test the fit. It’s always a good idea to tape your lid side to the lid top, and then test how well it fits on your box. It should fit loosely at this stage, because you will be covering these surfaces with paper, which will tighten the fit. You don’t want an overly-tight lid, so looser is better.
  • Glue the lid side piece to the lid top piece. Just like with the base, make sure the edges line up evenly to form a flat top.
  • Cover your box in paper. Make a milk-like combination of glue and water, and use it to cover your box in paper. You can use decorative paper and cover all sides and surfaces of your gift box. You may also prefer to use simple craft paper, and then paint or draw on the box. This layer of paper covers over any irregularities (tape marks, printing, labels, etc) on your cardboard, and makes the box smooth and sturdy.
  • Decorate your box. Finish by decorating your box. You may add ribbon or washi tape, paint or glitter, etc. Personalize it to your heart’s content. You may also want to add a knob or handle for lifting the lid: this isn’t usually necessary for a gift box, but if the box will be used throughout the year, a knob is helpful.

Here is a time-lapse video of making the box following this process:

(I started on the base before I remembered to record, so the beginning is a bit rushed)

This craft project has so much potential. Once you know how to make your own DIY gift box, you can make your own storage boxes of all sizes and shapes. Consider making boxes for your craft supplies, trinkets and accessories, papers and documents, and more.

Note that if you cover the box with self-adhesive contact paper, it will become more water-resistant and easier to clean, so that would be a better storage solution for kitchens, bathrooms, and kid or pet items.

Make your own DIY gift box, folks! It only takes about an hour using hot glue, and it’s a fun and useful craft project.

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