DIY Christmas tree ideas that look as good as the real thing - it's time to think outside the festive box

Whether it’s due to time, budget, space – or because you want a second tree moment – there are plenty of DIY Christmas tree ideas that you can try

(Image credit: Future PLC / Maxwell Attenborough)

Christmas is a great time to get crafting, and what better moment to steal the Christmas show, than with a DIY Christmas tree idea? Whether that’s big and showy, or small and special, a DIY Christmas decor idea can make your festive look complete. 

Gathering fresh foliage is an easy place to start – large branches of pine or fur in a sturdy vase can quickly become a tree in your hallway, while a few smaller springs tied with ribbon can look like a mini tree on a guest’s bedside table. 

Feeling artistic? Chalk pens can transform a window or French doors into a winter wonderland forest, or why not take over that blackboard usually reserved for household notes? Polystyrene cones are easy to cover in felt or Christmas-print fabric, while handmade paper ones can boost a display of a few ceramic ones. 

You can even arrange your Christmas cards in a tree shape, using pretty masking tape to hold them in place. The options are endless, so we've rounded up some of the best DIY Christmas tree ideas.

DIY Christmas tree ideas

Looking for an alternative Christmas tree idea? There are plenty of ways you can DIY-ing a tree from either found items around your home or garden, making it a budget-friendly Christmas decorating idea.

Try these DIY Christmas tree ideas…

1. Take a string of fairy lights

White christmas lights on a wall

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

‘This idea uses just one string of fairy lights,’ says Lucy Kirk, Creative and Photography Manager at Lights4fun. Use a length of string to create an outline of a triangle on your wall, then place Command hooks (available on Amazon) or nails at each corner to secure. Use this as a guide, placing a hook either side of the string to secure the length of lights in place. Working from the top, zig-zag your way down, hooking the fairy lights in place. 

‘For more of a minimalistic and contemporary look, make the lights taught and neat, or alternatively loosen the string of lights for a more relaxed, draped aesthetic. Connectable fairy lights will enable you to perfectly tailor the size of your alternative Christmas tree,’ says Lucy, ‘and finish with an Osby star at the top.’

2. Make a card tree

Branches in vase with cards

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Stuck for an idea to display your Christmas cards? What about a twig tree that you can peg cards on to – two ideas in one. First, take a heavy vase (the last you want is it toppling over), then add lengths of willow or foraged branches from your garden. Try to get a nice shape, with branches of differing heights. Clip-on cards with mini pegs, like these ones from Hobbycraft.

Alternatively, why not dress the twigs with bows of ribbon and work the Christmas tree ribbon trend into your Christmas décor?

3. Draw your own tree

Paper on glass pane door

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Take a roll of brown craft paper and unroll a length (you want enough so you have a ‘roll’ of several layers to hang). Using a Sharpie, draw on your own Christmas tree design – you could even ask the kids to help. Then thread a length of strip through the roll to hang.

‘This is a great idea if you already have a kraft paper memo roll hanging in your kitchen,’ says Heather Young, Editor in Chief, Ideal Home. ‘You could even ask Christmas guests to sign your tree as a memory of who visited your house over the festive period.’

4. Fill your own tree stand

Gold tiered Christmas tree

(Image credit: Ella James)

This three-tier stand from Ella James is ideal for Christmas treats, but it also makes a great table-top tree decoration. Try a bold Christmas bauble display idea and fill each layer with different-sized or coloured baubles, adding a star to the top. 

You can also make your own version, stacking cake stands on top of each other (you can always use a little BluTac to secure it), adding decorations and a mini tree to the top.

5. Layer up a handmade tree

Grey felt christmas tree

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Start with a polystyrene or dry foam cone, that you can pick up from Hobbycraft and grey felt. Cut the felt into small triangles – you want around 8-10 to go around the base, gradually using less. Starting at the base, pin each felt triangle to the cone, overlapping with the next. Once you reach the top, use a hot glue gun to secure the final layer, before pushing in a decorative star attached to a cocktail stick.

For a stylish display, group a few felt trees on a large platter, adding foliage and pine cones.

6. Use a ladder as a tree


(Image credit: Future PLC)

‘Alterative DIY trees can be as simple as using fallen tree branches in a tall vase and hanging decorations of them,’ says Charlie Murray, Partner & Seasonal Buyer at John Lewis. ‘My favourite is the “ladder” tree where you hang all your decorations and lights from a small A-frame ladder.’

Ladder trees also make great Advent displays, with envelopes or little boxes, numbered 1-24, tied to the rungs.

7. Go mini with a potted tree


(Image credit: Future PLC)

A potted real small Christmas tree idea makes a great alternative to a larger version, and can be dressed with as much care and love – why not try a new Christmas tree trend for a different look to your main tree?

Pop your potted tree in a lined basket (it will still need watering once indoors), then add paper lanterns and decorations. Choose lightweight ones to avoid the smaller, more fragile branches drooping.

8.Turn garlands into a tree

White ladder Christmas tree with garland

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

Wind garlands vertically around a painted ladder, to create a narrow tree-like moment that’s perfect for lighting and hanging a few baubles on. This arrangement is perfect for small space Christmas decorating ideas too as it fits almost flush against the wall (you might want to secure the ladder with a few sticky cup hooks). 

Add piles of presents to its base, along with LED star lights and candles for maximum twinkle.


What can I make for a Christmas tree?

Of course, a made tree looks even more special with some hand-made decorations. Here you can get really creative, with paper decorations the most easiest to make. Think back to the snowflakes you would have made as a child, and vary the size to suit tour tree. 

Ribbon bows and garlands can add instant wow, while hand-painted ceramic baubles are a lovely tradition to start each year (you can add the year you painted them subtly to each design).

Fairly confident with a sewing needle? Felt decorations are quick and easy to make, with cookie cutters ideal for cutting out gingerbread men and stars.

How do you make a cheap Christmas tree look good?

‘Firstly, make sure you preen the branches and fronds out as much as possible to ensure a fuller look and fill it with more fairy lights than you think you need,’ says Ali Attenborough, stylist. ‘Then dressing it with as many creative or feature decorations as possible to ensure your tree looks loved.’

‘Any Christmas tree, big or small, will bring a touch of magic to your home and create a beautiful display for the festive season. Simply add twinkling lights along with your favourite seasonal decorations and baubles,’ says Lucy Kirk at Lights4fun.

Now all that's left is to flex your creativity and see what DIY Christmas tree idea you take on this year.

Jennifer Morgan

Jennifer Morgan is an award-winning editor, writer and stylist, with over 25 years’ experience writing, styling and editing home interest magazines. Jennifer was the deputy editor of Ideal Home from 2008-2010, before launching Ideal Home’s sister title, Style at Home in 2010. Jennifer went on to launch several craft magazines and websites, before going freelance in 2016, with a client list that includes John Lewis, Dunlem and Nordic House. Today, she writes for Ideal Home, Real Homes, Waitrose, Woman & Home, Sainsbury’s Magazine and Homes & Gardens. But it was during lockdown that Jennifer realised her dream of publishing her own magazine – Simply Scandi.