I'm going to quickly talk through how to make your own exquisitely customized gift box for an unusually shaped gift, using the 3D modeling software Blender and a preview version* of 123D Make. No more tape. No more bulges. No more unsightly wrinkles in the wrapping paper. Ugh, just thinking about it makes me shudder.
Ahem. Let's get started, shall we?
*Please note that at the time of writing, the publicly available version of 123D Make does not include the paneling feature that will be used in this Instructable. However, it is scheduled to be included in an update within the next month or two.
Step 1: Convert your gift into a 3D model
If you're completely comfortable with using 3D modeling software and you're wrapping a relatively simple shape (a cube, for example), this will be very straightforward. If you've got something a little more complex in mind, you'll have to get out a tape measure and try to design a rough approximation of your gift in 3D. Sorry. I warned you it was going to be hard.
I'm not going to go into much detail for this step because (a) there are far better resources out there for learning how to model in 3D, (b) I don't know what you're planning to wrap and (c) I'm really not that experienced, so you'd probably be better off listening to someone who knows exactly what they're talking about.
However, I can offer two fantastic shortcuts for creating a 3D model of your gift...
Step 2: Two fantastic shortcuts for creating a 3D model of your gift
2) Sidestep the whole problem by choosing a gift that started out as a 3D model. For example, your gift could be something that you've had 3D printed or something that you've sliced and laser-cut using 123D Make. This way, you'll have an exact model of your gift before you even have the gift itself. Clever, no?
Obviously, I went for the easy second option and wrapped a wooden "hand bowl" (click here for more about that project) which started its life as a 3D model in Blender before being converted into plywood slices using 123D Make.
Step 3: Model your packaging around your gift
How you do this will depend on the shape of the gift, but I recommend starting with a simple cube in Blender.
Re-size the cube so that it becomes a cuboid sitting around the base of your gift, then extrude its upper surface to create another four vertices above the original eight. Re-size and re-position these vertices so that they still contain the gift, then repeat the process of extruding and re-sizing to build up and angular gift box.
Switch regularly between the transparent and opaque object views (default key: Z) to check that the gift is not protruding through the walls of the box at any point.
It's up to you how complex you make your box, but remember that the more convoluted you make it, the longer it will take to assemble.
Once you've modeled your box, export it as an STL file.
Step 4: Convert into a net using 123D Make
While you're using this software you can select "View parts layout" at any time to see exactly what your final jigsaw puzzle of a gift box will look like. If it's looking intimidatingly complex, you can go back and simplify your model slightly. If you're happy with the results, then output it as an EPS vector file.
Step 5: Cut out the pieces
I strongly recommend using a laser cutter to cut out all of the pieces, but if you accidentally left your laser cutter at home then you could always print out templates and use those to cut your card by hand with a craft knife. Please be careful, as hand-cutting elaborate card patterns inevitably leads to sore fingers, tired eyes and irreparable mental instability. As always, there are various services online (e.g. Ponoko) which will laser-cut card and send it to you by mail.
Step 6: Fold as appropriate
Step 7: Lace the pieces together
Step 8: Admire your box
Step 9: Entomb your gift
If not, I'm dreadfully sorry. Return to Step 1 and try again or just buy gift wrap.
Step 10: Lace up the last seams
In theory, you could tie the knots from the inside, but this would make the box quite hard to open for anyone except yourself, who would now be trapped inside the box.
Step 11: Present your gift