How to decorate a Christmas tree like a professional
Make your tree sparkle this festive season with our handy tips. Learn how to decorate a Christmas tree like an expert
Decorating your Christmas tree is an essential part of the festivities. Even if you keep the rest of your decorating to a minimum, getting the tree right helps to get everyone in the mood for a celebration.
In our expert guide, we’ll show you how to decorate your Christmas tree like a pro, how to make sure your tree stays fresh and even when to take it down.
You’ll learn how to cover your tree with glittering fairy lights, dress it with ribbons and even how to choose the perfect colour scheme.
Short of space? We’ve found some fun Christmas tree alternatives to brighten your home throughout the holidays.
Read on to learn how to decorate a Christmas tree that’ll impress your friends and family this December.
Follow the links below to jump to a section:
- Christmas tree themes
- Christmas tree decorating tips
- Christmas tree decorating ideas
- How to fluff a Christmas tree
- How to put lights on a Christmas tree
- How to put ribbon on a Christmas tree
- What is a flocked Christmas tree?
- DIY Christmas tree alternatives
- How to keep cats out of a Christmas tree
- How long does a Christmas tree last?
- How to make a real Christmas tree last longer
- When to take down a Christmas tree
- How to recycle a Christmas tree
How to decorate a Christmas tree like a pro
Picking the perfect Christmas tree theme can help to tie all of your decorations together, and could even inspire the rest of your festive home decor!
Simply Christmas magazine editor Vicki Atkinson says: “Finding a Christmas tree theme you love will make the decorating process a lot easier. You’ll be able to choose decorations to suit your theme and make sure that everything matches perfectly.
“The inspiration for your theme could be anything from a treasured heirloom ornament that’s been passed down through the family to an image you’ve spotted on Pinterest.
“Follow your creative instincts to make a tree that’s uniquely yours. Try asking your family for their opinions so everyone feels involved.”
If you’re struggling to find a scheme, try thinking about colour combinations that you love. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:
- Red and green (a classic combo! Add a dash of tartan for extra cosiness)
- Blue and silver
- Red and gold
- Green and silver
- Metallic bronze and gold
- Frosty white
- Monochrome (black and white)
- Pastel colours
Now you’re ready to start decorating your Christmas tree! Before you begin, take a look at these Christmas tree decorating tips to make your fir look fabulous:
1. Decorate in the right order
Adding the decorations in a certain order will make the whole process much easier.
Start with shaping the branches, then put the lights on followed by tinsel, ribbons or garlands. Finally, cover the tree with your choice of Christmas ornaments.
2. Mix and match your bauble sizes
If your baubles are all the same size, then your tree will look too uniform. Use a variety of bauble sizes and try to spread them out so that the tree looks balanced.
Adam Mason, co-founder of www.thechristmascreators.co.uk, says: “Baubles should be added last, and you want to purchase them in sets (3, 6 or 12) for a little consistency. When hanging, go for a ‘Z’ shape and aim to have the larger baubles towards the centre of the tree, helping to add depth, and the smaller ones closer to the edge of the branches.
“Be sure to place any delicate baubles close to the top, so they’re least likely to get damaged, and hang your favourite and most prized baubles at the end so you can ensure they take pride of place.”
3. Fill gaps to make your tree look fuller
Sparsely decorated Christmas trees can look bare, so take the time to fill in any gaps. Artificial foliage, such as sprays of berries, can be used to make your tree appear fuller while adding a splash of colour.
Want to make your tree look spectacular this festive season, but aren’t sure where to begin? We’ve put together a roundup of stunning Christmas tree ideas to help your tree look its best this winter.
Whether you want to give your tree an incredible rainbow colour scheme, choose a nautical theme or go for a more traditional look, there’s something for everyone.
Before you decorate your tree, take the time to shape the leaves so they don’t look crushed. Fluffing your Christmas tree boughs will give your tree a truly professional finish and provide a good foundation for all of your Christmas ornaments.
Christmas tree delivery and installation specialist Petar Ivanov says: “This may be a time-consuming task, but it’ll be worth it in the end. Fluffing the branches will make the tree look fuller and more natural.
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“Separate each one of them until as much space as you can is covered and every gap is hidden. A properly shaped tree is a beautiful one! Remember to protect your hands from any scrapes by wearing gloves and long sleeves.”
When decorating a Christmas tree, always put the lights on first before hanging your ornaments. This will help you to get the placement of the lights right the first time. It’ll stop them from becoming tangled up with any other Christmas tree decorations such as tinsel or garlands too.
“Before putting the lights on your tree, plug them in to check that they still work,” says Simply Christmas editor Vicki Atkinson.
“There’s nothing more frustrating than discovering that your lights are broken after you’ve finished decorating your tree. It’s better to find out before you begin so you have the chance to replace any broken bulbs.”
Wind your lights around the tree, starting at the bottom and working your way up. Step back and look at how the lights are distributed on the tree: do they look even? Are they clustered together more at the top or the bottom of the Christmas tree?
Keep adjusting the lights until you’re happy with how they’re arranged, then you’re ready to deck your Christmas tree tinsel, garlands or ribbons.
Learn how to put lights on a Christmas tree with Gathered’s guide.
If you’re looking for a more sophisticated alternative to tinsel, ribbon is the perfect option. It’s more subtle than tinsel and there’s a huge variety of colours and fabrics to choose from.
There are a few different ways to decorate your Christmas tree with ribbons. Try these ideas this Christmas:
- Wind a long ribbon around your Christmas tree in the same way you would drape tinsel. Be careful not to pull it too tight – keep it loose and flowing.
- Tie bows to the end of the branches. This is a very traditional look and it’ll stop your decorations sliding off the branches.
- Use bigger ribbons for a bold maximalist look.
- Cut V shapes into the end to make your ribbons look more professional.
- Put the ribbons on vertically. Instead of wrapping the ribbon around the tree, drape them so they run vertically from the top of the tree to the bottom.
- Push the ribbon back towards the trunk in some places so that it looks more natural.
- Use bobby pins (hair clips) to attach the ends of the ribbons to the tree.
Once you’ve finished adding ribbon to your Christmas tree, it’s time to fill in all of the gaps with your favourite ornaments. Learn how to put ribbon on a Christmas tree with Gathered.
Flocked Christmas trees have a layer of thick fake snow applied to mimic the effect of heavy snowfall.
You can also buy frosted Christmas trees, which have a lighter dusting of fake snow.
The artificial snow can fall off your tree over time and real trees with flocking or frosting will only last for 2-4 weeks. If you have an artificial flocked or frosted tree, it will look icy for longer if you store it properly.
Not everyone has the floor space or budget for a big Christmas tree, but there are plenty of imaginative ways to bring an alternative Christmas tree into your home.
“Alternative Christmas trees are a fantastic option if you’re not a fan of traditional festive decor and you’re in the mood for an exciting new craft project,” says Vicki Atkinson, editor of Simply Christmas Magazine.
“DIY Christmas trees can give any space a contemporary vibe and the possibilities are endless. Many of them can be made using craft supplies that you may already have in your home.”
Explore Gathered’s DIY Christmas tree alternatives for lots of crafty inspiration.
If you have a cat, you’ll know how irresistible they find Christmas trees. They treat it as an indoor climbing frame covered in lots of toys (baubles).
An adventurous cat can wreck your carefully decorated tree and ruin your hard work. So, how do you keep cats out of a Christmas tree?
The experts at Pets at Home recommend using citrus peel or an orange spray to keep playful cats away from your tree, as they don’t like the smell. Fortunately, oranges are a classic festive fragrance and won’t make your home smell unpleasant.
They also suggest wrapping the base of your tree in tinfoil because cats don’t like how it feels on their paws.
How to make a Christmas wreath
Welcome visitors into your home with a handmade wreath – they’re much easier to make than you might think and it’s a fun festive activity to enjoy with friends and family.
Learn how to make a Christmas wreath with Gathered’s simple tutorial.
Real Christmas trees can stay looking great for several weeks with proper care.
It’s worth noting that some varieties of Christmas tree are more likely to drop their needles than others.
Choose hardy Christmas tree species that are described as “non-drop” or “non-needle drop”, as these will last longer and keep your tree looking healthier for longer. Look for hardy Christmas tree varieties such as Nordmann Firs, Sussex Firs and Fraser Firs.
Discover how to buy the best Christmas tree with this brilliant guide from the experts at Gardens Illustrated. They recommend avoiding trees that already have brown needles or branches that snap easily, as these won’t last.
Vicki Atkinson, editor of Simply Christmas magazine, says: “If you’re worried about needles getting everywhere, we’d recommend buying or making a Christmas tree skirt to put underneath your tree.
“This will make it easier to clean up the fallen needles – and it’ll make your presents look fantastic too.”
Real Christmas trees will stay fresh for longer if placed in water and if they’re in a room that isn’t draughty and doesn't get too hot.
Petar Ivanov, a Christmas tree delivery and installation specialist for Fantastic Services recommends purchasing a newly harvested tree from a farm and trimming the trunk to get rid of the sap.
“Submerge the tree in water as soon as possible,” he says. “And set the tree in a place where it will be shaded from the sun. Be sure to maintain the water level in the stand.”
Of course, the most sustainable option if you want a real Christmas tree is to buy one in a pot.
“Choosing a tree is a Christmas ritual, but I bought a ‘pot-grown’ tree at my local garden centre a few years ago and it’s still going strong,” says Veronica Peerless, commissioning content editor for Gardens Illustrated magazine.
“It’s a tree that has spent its whole life growing in a pot (i.e. it was not sawn off at the base like most trees on sale are). I keep it outside all year and bring it inside over Christmas. It’s an economical (and I think an eco-friendly) way of enjoying a real tree.
“Pot-grown trees get snapped up quite quickly, so it’s worth seeking one out early and keeping it outside until you want to bring it in – they're usually on sale from the end of October.”
If you do opt for a real Christmas tree, Veronica recommends not bringing it indoors too early: Aim to keep it inside for no more than 12 days, otherwise it will start to flag and drop its needles. And if you’ve gone for a cut tree, treat it like a bunch of flowers by putting it in a stand that contains water.”
Keep your tree looking its best with Gardens Illustrated’s how to care for your real Christmas tree guide.
The traditional day to take down a Christmas tree is Twelfth Night (6th January), as this marks the end of the 12 Days of Christmas.
However, you can take your tree down after New Year’s Day if it’s not looking its best.
If throwing your tree away at the end of the holidays feels wasteful, the good news is that there are lots of ways to recycle your Christmas tree.
Discover how to recycle a Christmas tree with Gathered’s guide.
How to decorate a Christmas tree like an expert
Now you’ve discovered everything you need to know to make your tree look truly sensational this Christmas.
Wrap your tree up with lights or ribbons, choose the colour scheme of your dreams and pick decorations that sparkle.
You’ve learned how to pick a real Christmas tree that will stay looking fresh throughout the holidays and how to keep it looking healthy.
Bored of traditional Christmas trees? If you want something more contemporary, pick one of our Christmas tree alternatives and start a new festive tradition.
How to make a stylish DIY tree topper
Twist and shape craft wires to make a magical DIY tree topper. Follow Gathered’s step-by-step tutorial to make your own – all your friends and family will want you to make one for them too.
Sarah Orme is a UK-based linocut printmaker, digital editor, feature writer and award-winning podcaster. She's been editing the sewing and art sections of Gathered.how – and before that our sister website calmmoment.com – for over 3 years. She’s the host of Gathered’s We’ve Made It podcast and A Calmer Life podcast. She’s a keen crafter and artist and loves creating DIY tutorials for Gathered. Sarah has previously written features for The Guardian, In The Moment Magazine, Project Calm Magazine, countryfile.com, radiotimes.com and yourhomestyle.uk. She enjoys designing her own unique lino prints and dreams of opening her own online shop. She shares her work @sarahormeprints
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