How to decorate a Christmas tree like a professional

Make your tree look magical with this step-by-step decorating tutorial

Presents wrapped in brown paper underneath a snowy artificial Christmas tree

If you’re looking to make your Christmas tree look as magical as the ones that appear in your favourite festive movies, you’ve come to the right place.

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Read on to discover everything you need to know about styling your Christmas tree to perfection!

How to decorate a Christmas tree

Choose your tree

Choosing the right tree for your space can be a pretty overwhelming task, so it might help if you first start by deciding on what sort of vibe you want your Christmas décor to have.

If you’re a lover of simple Scandi-style, for example, you might prefer the look of a stripped-back, sparse green tree, while those who favour luxurious Art Deco looks may rather go for something jewel-toned or dramatic. If you’re in a small flat or rented accommodation, mini tabletop trees will help you achieve a festive look without the need for extra storage space, while something more traditional might be more suited to a period property, whether it’s Victorian, Edwardian, Georgian or even Mid-Century modern.

Prelit tree with white baubles
Image by Cox & Cox

If you’re opting for a real tree, it’s worth doing some research into which type is right for your home specifically, as each will respond differently to different conditions. The needles on a Norway Spruce tree, for example, will drop soon after the tree is brought indoors, so it’s best purchased closer to Christmas. If you’re not sure about which tree is right for you, check out our guide on how to choose a real Christmas tree, or ask the seller to give you some advice.

Aspen Mountain Spruce Christmas Tree - Pre-Lit
Image by Cox & Cox

If you’ve chosen to buy an artificial tree this Christmas the choice can be equally, if not more, overwhelming than choosing one that’s real. While it’s tempting to follow the latest tree trends, it’s good to remember that you’ll likely have the same artificial tree for a good few years. If you don’t have a clear image of exactly what you want, we advise choosing the most natural looking green tree as you can always add ornaments, flocking spray, ribbon, picks and tinsel to keep your tree up to date with trends. If you’re in need of some inspiration, take a look at our round up of the best artificial Christmas trees here!

Top tip!

Remember, while the height of the tree is important, the width is another dimension that people often overlook. Get around this by taking a length of string to measure the space you want to fill – you can then take this with you to assess the size of trees you’re looking at in store!

A real Christmas tree next to a piano

Shape and tweak branches

When you get your tree home, place it in the spot you want it and carefully twist it at the base so that it’s facing the right way. You should aim to dress your tree from the angle you view it at, so this usually means turning the fullest part of the tree to face your seating or entryway.

Artificial Christmas Tree by a fireplace
Image by Next

If you’ve opted for a real tree, you’ll need to trim the plastic netting before you can angle it properly – avoid any temptation to do this outside prior to bringing it in, as the journey indoors can damage the tree (hello, doorways!). Don’t worry about clipping wayward branches – in fact, if you do have any bald spots, you can clip a branch or two from the back and then tie them to the trunk with some twine or floristry wire. Faux foliage (like ivy or sprigs of eucalyptus) can be used to beef up the shape too.

Flocked christmas tree
Image by Lights4Fun

If your tree is artificial, this is the time to do the most crucial step on the journey to achieving a perfectly natural looking tree – the sprucing! We’re all guilty of opening out the branches without any real thought as to how a natural tree would look, but it’s always good to make sure that you pull the branches out in different directions – some up, some to the side, some off at angles – to make your tree look as full and real as possible. Again, if your tree is still looking a little sparse, add some faux foliage or Christmas tree picks and sprays to fill in the gaps.

Christmas tree flocking

If you’re planning to add some spray snow, the time is now. Don’t do it after the decorations (and especially the lights!) have been put on – the spray can end up clogging the twinkle.

Pre-lit Snowy Christmas Tree
Image by M&S

You should also let the snow dry for 30 minutes before proceeding.

Christmas tree skirt

Achieving a professional looking tree is all in the details. Whether you’re decorating an artificial tree or a real one, there’s likely to be a period of a few weeks before any gifts are added, so hiding an untidy tree stand or unsightly wires is essential. Take a look at our pick of the best Christmas tree skirts here!

Rattan christmas tree skirt
Image by Cox & Cox

If you don’t have a Christmas tree skirt but still want to achieve a professional finish, you can drape a faux fur throw around the base of the tree or hide it with a stack of rustic logs. If you want to get even more creative, empty boxes wrapped up as Christmas parcels look amazing – plus, they can also be used to hide wires or plugs.

Christmas tree lights

Pre-lit trees are great for those who struggle to light their Christmas tree evenly, although admittedly, half the fun is detangling the fairy lights, right?!

Artificial Christmas Tree with brown paper packages underneath
Image by Next

If you don’t have a pre-lit tree, make sure that your string of fairy lights is long enough for your tree. For a perfect tree you need at least 5-10m per 5ft tree. Wind lights from the top to the bottom, draping over and under branches. Don’t forget to drape the lights near the trunk of the tree too – a professional Christmas tree will look lit from within, not just sparkly around the edges.

Add ornaments

We definitely don’t want anyone to throw away their treasured childhood decorations because they don’t fit the colour scheme, perfection is unique to us all! In general, though, sticking to a combination of two or three colours on your tree will help to tie each element together.

A real Christmas tree next to a piano
Image by Garden Trading

We recommend filling the inner branches with plain baubles and tree fillers – tinsel, beads, feather boas – of similar colours, and then placing your more decorative and sentimental ornaments on the outer branches.

Green Christmas Tree with
Image by Cox & Cox

Speaking of tree ornaments, there is a balance to be found when arranging the placement of your baubles. Try not to place too many large ornaments towards the top of your tree otherwise you may find it looks top-heavy, and try to put sparkly/metallic things near fairy light bulbs as they will sparkle and shimmer in the glow of the lights.

If you’re in need of theme inspiration, check out our round-up of this year’s best quirky Christmas tree decorations, and don’t forget to check out our guide to the best Christmas tree toppers on the market this year.

Finish with a personal touch

A beautiful tree is ultimately just a beautiful tree, but what makes it truly special is the decorations that you use – some can hold a lifetime of memories, some can make new memories. What makes it special is that it is your tree filled with things that make you smile and feel happy. Plus, don’t forget your pets (read how to pet proof your Christmas tree here) – they’re part of your house too, so get a special decoration just for them.

Artificial Christmas tree in a dining room
Image by Lights4Fun
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Personalised baubles can be found in many high-street and online stores, but to achieve the same impact at home for a fraction of the price, why not try making your own baubles at home? You can get as adventurous as you like (here’s how to make marble baubles and here’s how to make eucalyptus ones) but if you’re a novice crafter, try buying 25mm wide organza ribbon and following a YouTube tutorial for bows before dotting them around your tree – vintage but classic.