5 Easy Steps to Acheive a Professional Looking Christmas Tree!

Victorian TreeCredit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bsuter/2140138946/A beautiful Christmas tree is the centerpiece of holiday decorating. While holiday lights and life-sized snow globes on the lawn enchant passersby, it is the Christmas tree in your living room that you and your family gather around to celebrate. If you have dreamed about having a tree that looks like it just stepped out of the pages of a magazine but never imagined you could pull it off on your own, I am going to let you in on a little secret: there is an easy method that professional holiday decorators use and you can imitate any professionally decorated Christmas tree in five easy steps!

  1. Prep your tree
  2. Light your tree
  3. Add your ornaments
  4. Finish with bows and tree topper
  5. Add a tree skirt

First you need to decide whether you will have a live or an artificial tree. Here we will discuss artificial trees, but you can apply these directions to natural trees. The next thing to consider is the theme, or style, you want. There are many styles to choose from, and their popularity changes from year to year. Here are some sample themes and color schemes:

  • Traditional - red, green and gold
  • Victorian - burgundy and gold
  • Santa - red and white
  • Art Deco - red, purple and gold
  • Winter Wonderland -white, silver and blue

Once you decide on a theme you will need to gather your decorations. There are so many ornaments to choose from, but for any of the themes selected you would use ornaments that fall into these categories:

  • millimeter balls and glass or plastic ball ornaments
  • themed ornaments
  • floral or fruit picks, pine cones, branches, berries and sprays
  • bows
  • tree topper
  • tree skirt (optional)

Let's look at each of these categories.

Millimeter Balls and Glass or Plastic Ball OrnamentsOrnament(114247)Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonpratt/2346586057/

These are the "basic" ornaments around which the rest of the theme is built upon. Millimeter balls are the glass or plastic (popularly referred to today as "shatter proof") ornaments in different sizes. Professional tree decorators refer to these ornaments as "millimeter balls" because they come in different sizes and are sized by millimeters: 25mm, 50mm, 60mm, 80mm, 100mm, 120mm and so on. For a basic professionally decorated tree, you will need several sizes of ornaments.

For starters, you need clusters of three 25mm wired glass ornaments. They are sold in boxes of 72 pieces and are wound together by the dozen. Just break up the bunches and rewind three balls together for your "cluster". You will need about 24 clusters for a 7 1/2 tall tree. What color? Choose one of the colors of your theme,  and make all of your clusters in the same color for a cohesive look.

Next, you want to get glass or plastic ball ornaments in several sizes. Choose three sizes to start with, say 80mm, 100mm, and 120mm. These can be in several colors, but you should stick to one color per size. You will need about twelve ball ornaments for each linear foot of tree (total for all sizes). So a 7-1/2 foot tree would use about 90 ball ornaments. For added interest you can vary the shape of these ornaments as well. You can use round, tear-drop, or finials. For a truly professional look, use one color per size/style selected.

Themed Ornaments

After you have selected your ball ornaments, it's time to choose the themed ornaments. These are the ornaments that liven up your tree. For a traditional theme, these are the hand blown glass ornaments, the icicles and the angels, for example. For a Santa tree, they are the Santa ornaments, the mini stockings and the elf ornaments. You get the idea.  Choose three or five different styles (another trick that decorators use is to work in odd numbers) for a total of about twelve ornaments per linear foot.

Floral or Fruit Picks, Pine Cones, Branches, Berries and Sprays

Next are the filler ornaments, either floral picks, fruit ornaments, artificial flowers, floral stems, floral sprays or pine cones. You can purchase floral picks from a floral supply store. These are clusters of pine, pine cones and different ornaments pre-gathered onto a "pick". They don't need any wire or hooks to attach them to the branches. In place of picks, or in conjunction with, you can use pine cones. Use floral wire to attach pine cones to the branches. Once wired, you can use them year after year. Just don't snip the wire off when taking down the tree. Artificial fruit - apples, pomegranates, pears - go well with a variety of themes. Artificial flowers can be bought by the bunch at dollar stores and cut apart to use individually. Usually no wire is needed to attach flowers to the branches. You can use a variety of stems on  you tree, such as gold branches, glittered twigs, berries and leaves. If you choose to use floral stems, you will need about three dozen. Floral sprays (a floral industry term for several types of floral elements on a stem) can also be used.

DSCF0056_d.JPGCredit: http://mrg.bz/o3j7c0

Bows and a Tree Topper

Next, you may want to add bows for a really professional look. You can purchase bows pre-made, or you can make hand tied bows with wire edged ribbon. You will need about two dozen bows for a 7 1/2 foot tree. Use one type of ribbon for your bows - or several if the patterns are cohesive. Avoid mixing too many patterns or colors.

In addition to bows you will need a tree topper. A great big bow is the easiest elegant tree toppper. The ribbon should coordinate with the ribbon used on the bows. To make a big round tree topper bow, make two big flat-bottom bows and attached them together to make one big round bow.


After you have gathered all your ornaments you need to select your lights. Today, most artificial trees come pre-lit, so you can skip this step. If you have an older artificial tree, or a live tree, you will need about 100 lights per linear foot. Follow the manufacturers instructions on how many light sets to string together. A good rule of thumb is to not attach more than three strands of 100 lights together.  Most professional Christmas decorators stick with white lights. Sometimes colored lights fit well within a theme; however, it is better to stay away from multicolored lights as they tend to compete with the decorations and the tree ends up looking too busy.

Tree Skirt

The use of a tree skirt is optional, but it can really make your tree stand out. You can purchase a ready made tree skirt. Or, do what the professionals do: buy several yards of fabric and "drape" it under the tree. No sewing needed, just drape the fabric under the tree, folding the raw edges under.

Now you have all of your materials gathered. It's time to decorate!

Here are the five easy steps:

1. Prep your tree.

Preparation, like for most DIY projects, is key to a good end result. If your tree hasn't been properly prepared, the end result will not look as professional. Take the time to properly prepare your tree before decorating.

In the world of professional holiday decorating, preparing an artificial tree for decorating is called "fluffing". Set up your tree according to the manufacturer's instructions. However, before inserting each branch into the center pole, or for a hinged tree, as you unhinge each branch, take time to unfold each and every branch tip. They should be unfolded to look "natural". Take care to avoid the "bottle brush" look. Fluffing a tree as you set it up is easier than trying to fluff it after it is assembled.

2. Light your tree.

First, test  your lights before placing on the tree. Professionals often work with the lights plugged in and the room lights dimmed as they light the tree in order to get a better perspective on how the lights are being placed. This way you can avoid "holes" (areas without lights) as you are working. Always start lighting your tree at the bottom. Start in the back and leave a short length of lights to plug into the power strip. Wrap your lights up and down the branches, starting in the back. Wrap one branch at a time, along one side of a branch toward the front and back down the other side, then onto the next branch, working in a circular motion. When the bottom branches are done, move up to the next row and repeat, then the next, until you reach the top.

3. Add the ornaments.

Here is the single most important tip for a professional looking tree: use the diamond method to place ornaments. Here's how: Starting with the clusters of 25mm ornaments, attached one cluster to any branch. Place the second cluster about twelve inches below the first. Place the third cluster about six inches to the left of the center of the first two ornaments and place the last cluster directly opposite the third cluster on the right side. You now have a diamond shape. Continue placing ornament clusters around the tree in this fashion, covering all areas, up and down, front, back and sides.

Next, add the ball ornaments in the same way, placing them in the diamond pattern described above, filling the spaces between the clusters.  Finish placing all of the same type of ornament before proceeding to the next type. Last, add the theme ornaments in the same fashion.

Now begin to fill in empty spaces with the picks and stems. Start with the floral picks and place them between the ornaments, keeping the diamond pattern in mind as you go. Add fruit the same way, and pine cones if you are using any. Berries and other stems are added after all the other ornaments have been placed. The look best concentrated toward the top of the tree and diminishing toward the center.

4. Finish with bows and a tree toppper.

 Now you're ready to finish with bows. Place your bows in the same diamond pattern all around the tree, but spaced farther apart than the ornaments. Add the tree topper bow - attach to the tree with florist wire.

 5. Add a tree skirt.

Place a commercial tree skirt under your tree, or drape fabric as described above. Some nice fabrics to consider are lame, satin, velvet, holiday prints, or even burlap if you have a rustic themed tree.

You're done! Sit back, relax and enjoy!