Have you ever looked at your Christmas tree after you have spent hours decorating it and it just doesn’t look quite right? If so, I have good news! There’s actually an easy-to-repeat formula for decorating a Christmas tree that helps make sure your tree looks beautiful.
The secret is to decorate in layers. Follow these easy steps to learn how to decorate a Christmas tree and you should have yours spruced up in no time.
Click Next to get started!
Step 1: Decide On A Theme
This post may contain affiliate links. We make a small commission if you buy the products from these links (at no extra cost to you). As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. But we only recommend products we would use ourselves. For more information, click here to see our disclosures.
Deciding on a theme for your Christmas tree helps narrow down the vast selection of decorations that are available. This will make it much easier to decide what will look good together.
Your theme can be pretty much anything you want it to be.
Take a look at some of the pictures below to get some inspiration and click here to see even more creative Christmas tree theme ideas (with product sources).
You can go with a fairly monochromatic color scheme like this silver and white tree from onemoretimeevents.com. Using a metallic like silver or gold with white makes it easy to create this kind of elegant look.
Try a two-color scheme like this teal and lime green tree from centsationalgirl.com.
Go with a really colorful option like this ombre-colored tree from inspiredbycharm.com.
If you (or your kids) have a collection or interest, you can use that for inspiration, too. Take a look at the Dr. Seuss tree (above) from apopofpretty.com (I would have loved this when I was a kid!) She even has a link to the instructions for making some of the decorations.
If you love candy, how about this fun Candyland tree from razchristmas.blogspot.com?
If you are going to be having a New Year’s Eve party, you can use your party theme for inspiration (and get some of your party decor done in the process). Last year one of my trees was decked out in peacock-inspired colors in preparation for the Mardi Gras party I threw for New Year’s Eve. I’ll be using this tree as the example for the steps on how to decorate your tree.
A Few Tips
One other thing I should mention before going to the next step…I am not in the “less is more” school of Christmas tree decorating, so I have a lot of ornaments on my tree. You can choose to use a lot fewer than this depending on the look you like!
As you can see tree decorating can be in pretty much any style or color you want…so just choose something you love and go with it!
Theme Tip #1: You don’t have to use every decoration you own on your tree every year. Giving some of them “a break” because they don’t go with your chosen theme will make them seem “new and fresh” the next time you use them.
Theme Tip #2: Unless you have a really large tree, or really like a lot of decorations on your tree, you probably won’t need to do every one of the steps listed. Pick the ones that make the most sense with your theme.
Theme Tip #3: If you really can’t decide what theme to use, picking colors that match the decor in your room will always look good.
Now on to the fun part…click next to find out how to decorate a beautiful Christmas tree.
Step 2: “Fluff” Your Tree
If you have an artificial tree that’s been in a box, you will probably need to re-arrange the branches a bit. Try to fill in any large gaps and straighten out any of the ends that are bend at unnatural angles.
My black Christmas tree is fairly narrow (fits in the space I have) and doesn’t have that many branches…so it usually comes out of the box with a lot of “holes” between the branches.
If you have a real tree, you might need to trim off some branches or cut back any ends that are sticking out too far.
Step 3: String Lots of Lights
If you have a Christmas tree that comes with the lights already on it, you may be able to skip this step. But if the tree didn’t come with a LOT of lights on it, you probably will want to add some more to get the best look. In my case, I would normally add more lights to this tree, but I have some ornaments with lights to add to it later on in the process.
Generally I like to stick with one color of light (and for me it’s usually white) because it gives a more cohesive look. But if you are going for a bold color scheme, multi-color lights can work, too (as long as they go with your theme).
Having the lights turned on while you are decorating the rest of the tree will let you see how they look with the rest of the decor as you’re going.
Lighting Tip: When you’re adding lights, try not to have all of them on the ends of the branches. Having some of the strands going further into the tree will provide back lighting that will make your ornaments stand out more.
Step 4: Add Garlands And Ribbon (Horizontal Layer)
Any garland or bead strings you have should go on the tree next.
I like to use ribbon for this purpose.
Try to choose translucent ribbon that has a bit of shine…it will reflect the lights and add some interesting reflections.
Note: This is different than the ribbon that you can add going down the tree…we will add that at a later step.
In both cases, you want the garlands and ribbon to be strung horizontally through the branches. And a lot of it should be pushed into the tree a bit so that it is not all on the edges of the branches. This will add some “bulk” to your tree so that there aren’t as many dark empty spaces.
Ribbon Tip: Wired ribbon is easier to use than regular ribbon because it holds it’s shape better. You can gently twist the wired ribbon to give it more shape…and if it’s shiny, the twists will reflect the light in an interesting way.
Step 5: Add “Stick” Ornaments
If you are using any ornaments like winterberry branches, long feathers, or anything else with a long stem that you stick into the tree, add them now.
Don’t worry if these look pretty out of place at this point in the process…once you add the rest of the decorations, they will blend right in!
Stick Ornament Tip: To make them look like they belong, the sticks of your ornaments should go in the same direction as the tree branches…as if they were another branch on the tree.
Step 6: Add Medium and Large Ball Ornaments
Ball ornaments are the standard round ornaments that you can get everywhere at this time of year. Using more than one size and different finishes of the same color will add interest.
On my peacock-inspired Christmas tree, I used gold and purple ball ornaments in both shiny and matte finishes, and 3 different sizes.
Start by hanging some of these ornaments further into the tree, closer to the trunk. Then go back around adding some on the outside branches. This will give your tree extra dimension.
Using hooks to hang these ornaments will make it easier to position them along the branches.
Ball Ornament Tip: Use inexpensive ball ornaments for the interior branches, and more expensive ones for the outside branches. Your tree will still look great, but won’t cost as much to decorate.
Step 7: Add Vertical Ribbon
If you want to have ribbon that starts at the top of the tree and works its way down to the bottom, add it now. Weave it into and out of the branches going down to make it look like it’s part of the tree.
Again, wired ribbon works best for this because it holds it’s shape (but if you have fallen in love with some non-wired ribbon, it doesn’t hurt to give it a try!)
I didn’t use this step on my Mardi Gras tree, but Kristen from ellaclaireinspired.com did with this Christmas tree in white, gold and red. She also gives some step-by-step instructions on how to create this look if you wanted to do something similar.
Ribbon Tip: You can get great wired ribbon without spending a lot of money at Costco. At the location by me, it is only available around Christmas so I always stock up as soon as I see it out on the shelf.
Step 8: Add “Special” Ornaments
If you have any special ornaments that you want to add to your tree, now is the time to put them on. By special, I mean ones that are specific to your theme or have special meaning to you.
Try to have some of these ornaments with different shapes and sizes to add some contrast with the round balls.
In my case, the chandeliers also have a flameless tealight candle which adds some more lighting to the tree.
Special Ornaments Tip: These are the ornaments that are going to make your tree special for you and your family. So if you’re going to splurge on one area of your Christmas tree decor, this is the one to do it in!
Step 9: Add Small Ornaments And Bells
We’re almost at the end…next up is adding any small ornaments, jingle bells or pine cones you have. Use these ornaments to fill in any spaces that look like they could use a little extra something.
In my tree, the little teal balls and jingle bells fill these spaces, and add some of the peacock blue color to the tree.
Small Ornaments Tip: If you want to add some extra sparkle to pine cones you collected from your yard, you can spray paint them with metallic paint, or glue on some glitter.
Step 10: Add The Finishing Touches
For the last step, add any ornaments that should be at the end of the branches…tie on bows, clip on birds or add some hanging icicles to finish off the look.
Some sparkly peacock ornaments are the finishing touch on my tree.
This is also the time to add the tree-topper…in my case some teal poinsettia flowers.
Finishing Touches Tips: You can make bows out of the same wired ribbon that you used in your tree decor. Cut some 2′ lengths of ribbon. Tie into a bow and then wrap the ends around a branch to keep them in place.
Step 11: Take a Step Back and Enjoy Your Tree
Take a step back and look at the tree. If you see any ornaments that look out of place or any bare spots that look too big, move the ornaments around a bit to fix the issue.
Then sit back and enjoy your beautiful Christmas tree!
This post was originally published on December 10, 2015 but was updated with new content on April 17, 2020.