PVC Frame Lighted Gift Boxes

Who doesn't like gifts? Especially very, very big gifts! This DIY Christmas idea takes what we already love about Christmas presents under the tree and showcases them as very large lighted gift boxes for your front yard. It's a large outdoor display of Christmas spirit that evokes the time honored tradition of both receiving and giving gifts, which makes this a great DIY Christmas project

Level: Advanced

Time: 4+ hours

By Frank Skinner | Updated Aug 24, 2021

Materials and Tools Needed for PVC Lighted Gift Boxes

TIP: While a utility knife or simple saw can cut PVC, we highly recommend you buy a ratcheting PVC pipe cutter, which most local hardware stores carry for about $20. It's a huge time saver when you have to cut a lot of PVC pipes to different lengths, which this project requires.

Making Outdoor Christmas Lighted Gift Boxes

For our DIY idea we wanted to make a scene using three gift boxes. We created:

  1. a giant 4 ft. by 4ft. present
  2. a medium 2.5 ft. by 2.5 ft. present
  3. a rectangular-shaped gift that was 3 ft. long by 1.5 ft. wide and 1 ft. thick

TIP: You can make lit gift boxes pretty big but for practical reasons we kept our largest box to 4 ft. because most bolts of fabric at fabric stores can be found in this size or smaller, which makes the large presents much easier to wrap. If you make larger boxes you'll have to account for seams, which could entail sewing your fabric together. We wanted to avoid sewing and that's why our largest box was 4ft.

Assembling the Frame

The steps below are specific to the 2.5' box, however the process is similar for all box sizes.

  1. Cut 12 pieces of " PVC pipe to approximately 2 ft. long.
  2. Next make two sets of squares using your pipes and your 3-way corner connectors.
  3. We used a 3-way connector with a threaded adapter to create the corners of all our boxes. These connectors add another 4" to 5" inches of length, which made these 2.5 ft. boxes.
  4. Why is the adapter needed? Many 3-way connectors have two openings that pipes can easily slide into while the third opening is threaded. Most people don't use PVC to make cube shapes! The threaded opening is meant for other fittings to channel water through but the pipes cannot slide over the threads -- hence the need for a little adapter that will screw into the threaded end of your 3-way and leave you a clean opening to then slide your third pipe into. 3-way adapters with no threading are sold, but these are less common fittings in most hardware stores.
  5. Once you have two squares made, connect them together with your four remaining pipes to create a cube shape.
  6. Place one square on the ground and then insert your four remaining pipes vertically into each corner. It should look like a box with no top when you are done.
  7. Then, place your other square on top, inserting the pipes into their corresponding holes.

TIP: You DO NOT have to glue your pipes together. We want our lighted gift boxes to store easily and being able to disassemble these boxes when we're done will make them much easier to store year round. A giant box takes up a lot of room, but disassembled these large DIY Christmas presents take up very little space at all. If you need to make your frame stronger, simply press the pipes together more firmly.

Adding Christmas Lights

Once your frame is assembled it's time to add LED mini lights. We strongly recommend using LED wide-angle mini lights because they are cool to the touch and won't harm any fabric. They are also extremely bright, which will light the interior of your box well.

Color TIP: Use light colors similar to your fabric. If you have a mostly red fabric gift box, use red lights. If you have mostly green fabric use green lights. If you use white lights with colored fabric it will wash the color out.

How many lights? For a 2.5 ft. box you only need one to two strings of LED mini lights if the strands have at least 70 lights. For our 4 ft. box we used four LED strings. For our 3x1.5 ft. box we used two strings.

  1. Start by leaving about 4" of the male plug exposed at the bottom of your frame near a corner.
  2. You can secure this part of your light string with a zip tie.
  3. Your lights will be wrapped within the interior of the box so the 4" that remains outside your box will make it easier for you to connect it with an extension cord.
  4. For the best interior lighting of your gift boxes use an "X" pattern.
  5. Start at the bottom corner and wrap the lights around the opposite catty corner pipe at slight angle.
  6. Keep wrapping around these two pipes leaving about 3" of spacing between each wrap as you wrap up the pipes.
  7. When you fill up a side, continue your lights to remaining open pipes and then repeat the wrap process.
  8. When you are done, your lights should look like an "X" shape within the box.

Wrap Your Lighted Gift Box with Fabric

Once your frame is complete, give it a quick measure before you cut your fabric just to be safe.

  1. Only 5 sides of your lit gift boxes require fabric. The bottom can be left open. The only exception would be if you plan to lean your present at an angle where the bottom would be showing. In that case you'll need to wrap all 6 sides of your frame.
  2. In our 2.5 ft. x 2.5 ft. example, we only need to wrap 5 sides and it was quite easy.
  3. Cut one piece of fabric 2.5 ft. by 10 ft. This is enough to start at one vertical pipe and wrap around the outside of the entire frame in one pass.
  4. Use little velcro strips or velcro dots to adhere the fabric to the frame at each vertical pipe.
  5. Cut the fabric slightly larger than you need, just in case you make a mistake. You can always trim it or tuck the ends into the frame.
  6. The last piece of fabric needed is simply a 2.5 ft. by 2.5 ft. piece that will be placed on top using more velcro dots or strips.

Finishing with Ribbon and Bows

Now that you have a wrapped shape consider adding a few finishing touches like ribbon or bows.

In our examples we chose green ribbons for the red gift boxes and red ribbons for the green gift boxes and then topped each with a bow.

These finishing touches will make your giant outdoor Christmas presents look great during the day and downright amazing at night!

TIP: If you want your ribbons to stand out a little better at night, consider back lighting them with string lights. For example, on our giant red gift box we wrapped the outside with a single strand of green mini lights and then placed a green ribbon on top of them to reinforce the color.

Other Structural Considerations

If you live in a climate with a lot of rain or snow we recommend adding crossbar to the top of your boxes. This can be easily done using a PVC T-connector and an extra pipe. If you add a bow to the top of your lit gift box it'll also keep it from sagging over time.

Giant Outdoor Present Placement

Outdoor gift boxes can go just about anywhere but we recommend placing them next to other natural objects like trees, bushes or within landscaped areas to give them a better sense of size to passersby.

We chose landscaped areas to place our DIY Christmas boxes that could be seen from the street. The setting included several trees and bushes as well. During the day, the giant Christmas presents look great and are clearly distinct as large gift boxes of varying size and proportion.

But...when it gets dark...these lit presents come alive and emit colorful glows that spill onto the trees, bushes and landscaping.

DIY outdoor Christmas decoration - lighted present created with pvc, fabric and string lights
PVC Frame Lighted Gift Box DIY
Giant outdoor lighted Christmas presents for the yard
Giant Lighted Christmas Presents at Night

Practical for Assembly and Storage

The nature of large outdoor DIY Christmas projects is that they can be difficult to store when the holidays are over. However, the hidden beauty of this project is that you can remove all the fabric, disassemble all the PVC pipes and literally store them flat on a shelf. They take up very little storage space!

What Does It Cost to Make These?

  1. The 2.5 ft. box was approximately $45.
  2. The 3 by 1.5 ft. box cost about $65.
  3. The 4 ft. box cost about $120.

PVC is very inexpensive and is great for frames like this. Cost will vary depending on how expensive your fabric and lights are and depending on how fancy you make your finishing decorations with ribbons and bows. The good news is there's a way to make giant outdoor lighted presents on a budget.

Can I Just Buy These Somewhere?

No. While some stores sell very small outdoor lit gift boxes they are typically only 12 inches and hard to make out from a distance. Professional decorators make giant Christmas presents but they can cost several thousand dollars and are likely not practical for most Christmas decorating enthusiasts. With a little DIY ingenuity and Christmas creativity you can create your own at a fraction of the cost.

How Long Did It Take to Make These?

About 7-8 hours. We started at 8 AM and had all three boxes done around 6 PM. The PVC pipe cutters save a lot of time and using velcro strips and dots helped to secure the fabric and adjust the fabric quickly.

Tips and Advice

  1. Have fun and make something you'd like to see!
  2. Even if you're not an artist, do a basic sketch for the scene you'd like to make and then calculate what you'll need to make it.
  3. Take a little extra time for pre-planning to buy the materials you want. Sometimes extra trips to the store are necessary but they can derail your progress. If you have everything you need, it makes projects like these much easier.
  4. Most fabric has some opacity to it but double check before you buy. How? If you have a cell phone with a flashlight function, simply hold it up to the fabric and see if the light shines through.
  5. If you're concerned about your fabric getting wet consider buying Christmas themed shower curtains to use as your gift wrap. From the road, nobody will know!

We had a great time doing this DIY Christmas project and highly recommend it to anyone who is interested. If you found this story helpful or interesting, please give us a Facebook Like, Tweet, Pin or share with your friends. Thank you!

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