1. 3M United States
  2. Particles
  3. All Articles
  4. How choosing the right tape can help you put the thought back in gift wrapping
particles - where science matters
  • How choosing the right tape can help you put the thought back in gift wrapping

    By Kelly Hall, 3M Storyteller and Monica Hanson, 3M Videographer

    Child opening a present on Christmas

    • From the wrapping paper to the bow and even the tape, gift wrapping can be a chore or an art. We all know that whether you love it or hate it, wrapping gifts can involve a lot of time and effort.

      But, all that tedious work can be worth it when you see the expression of awe, surprise, excitement and even happy tears on your loved one’s face when they tear through the wrapping to see your thoughtful gift inside.

    • Steve June shows us what Scotch® GiftWrap Tape backing looks like
      Steve June shows us what Scotch® GiftWrap Tape backing looks like

      That’s what Steve June, Ph.D., product development specialist at 3M, is thinking about as he’s working behind the scenes, using science that you probably don’t notice to perfect your tape. He explains that it’s all about going the extra mile.

      “It’s really cool to be a part of somebody’s valued experience like gift giving,” says Steve. “When you give a gift to somebody, you’re showing that you care about them. As part of that, gift wrapping is really a way of showing a little extra amount of care.”

      Steve and other 3M scientists want you to be able to focus more on the sentiment of giving and less on the process of gift wrapping. To help make the process seamless, they went to the lab to create a solution: Scotch® GiftWrap Tape.

      It was created because the scientists found that, while serving other purposes, the finishes of existing tapes were too glossy or too matte to disappear into wrapping paper.

      “If you use matte tape on gift-wrap paper, it will hold your paper down and keep your gift closed, but you will be able to see it, because it’s got that frosty finish. The same would happen with transparent tape. It will hold your paper down, but you’ll be able to see that glossiness and reflection coming off,” says Steve. “We wanted to develop a tape specifically for wrapping gifts.”

      That meant designing a tape that would stay on securely without interfering with your wrapping paper.

    • Steve June demonstrates how different tapes look when applied to gift-wrapping paper.
      A look at different tapes applied to gift-wrapping paper

      How it works: melting, mixing and stretching

      You might not realize how much technology is involved in creating this type of tape. “When people think about tape, we think of it as just that sticky thing that we use when we need it,” says Steve. “It’s amazing to me how much engineering and science goes into something that so many people think of as a day-to-day activity.”

      So, what exactly does all this science entail? When it comes to customizing a tape specific to gift-wrapping needs, scientists are exploring layers of technology. All tapes are composed of a number of key components. The two most important are the backing, which is the film, and the adhesive.


      Scotch® GiftWrap Tape has a polypropylene backing that’s made through an extrusion process. Let’s break that down. The process involves scientists melting and mixing together pieces of plastic. Then, they push those pieces through a die, which then forms into a thin sheet.

      Steve says, “That sheet is then stretched, and the stretching gives us just the right balance of toughness so that the tape will hold your gift-wrapped package together without being too tough.”

    • Quotation: It’s amazing to me how much engineering and science goes into something that so many people think of as a day-to-day activity. – Steve June

      A disappearing act

      While the 3M scientists realize that tape is critical in holding our gifts together, they don’t want their hard work to be seen.

      “We don’t want it to take away from all the effort that goes into planning how you wrap your gifts,” says Steve. “When you’re spending all the time and emotional investment in wrapping a gift for a loved one, you don’t want the tape to be a distraction. You want the tape to hold the pretty wrapping paper in place.”

      The solution? Scientists built a component into the backing of the tape just to give it a satin finish, allowing it to disappear on most gift-wrap papers. It has a slight sheen to it. “It’s not a matte-disappearing type of finish, and also not a glossy finish, but just the right amount of satin for your gift wrap,” says Steve.

      The end result is less distraction for both the gift giver and the gift receiver.

      Adhesive: A sticky balance

      For Steve, the experience of opening a gift also comes into play with the adhesive attached to the tape. To strike the right balance of stickiness, scientists are careful about the amount of adhesive they put on the tape’s backing.

      “We want it to be sticky enough to hold down the wrapping paper so that your kids can’t sneak in and see what you got them,” says Steve. “On the other hand, you don’t want it to immediately tear when applied to paper. You also don’t want it to get stuck all over your fingers while you’re working with it.”

      To achieve that balance, the tape’s film is coated with a water-based adhesive.

      “We very carefully control the amount of adhesive that we put on the backing,” says Steve. He explains that when his team coats the tape, they control the speed and then the amount of adhesive that’s going down very carefully.

      That way, you’ll have just the right amount of stick that you’ll need to be able to successfully check wrapping presents off of your to-do list.

    • Photo of family wrapping gifts for the holidays

      A deeper meaning that sticks

      Acting on his passion for science, Steve’s work with tape allows him to realize the gratifying emotions one can experience when curiosity meets innovation.

      “By having a tape that gives you the best results by making it so that you don’t spend all that energy only to be dissatisfied with the final outcome, you can be proud of your gift-wrapping job and proud to show that you care.”

      And it’s that little bit of care that will make all the difference.

    Steve June unrolls tape

    Learn more about the fundamentals of wrapping gifts, why it’s important to choose the right tape and how the different layers of tape can influence your paint job.