— Martin Harrison contributed with this report.

Online spending is expected to reach £11.5 billion this Christmas – a 28.8% increase on 2009 – and total Christmas sales are forecast to hit £68.7 billion — an increase of £860 million.

That’s a large sum no matter how you look at it, but when you consider the economic climate, an expensive Christmas just seems unnecessary.

We all know how daunting Christmas shopping can be, but when the total figure is that steep it makes you wonder if your heart and wallet are in the right place.

Buying gifts is hard enough for people you know well never mind for your new girlfriend who you’ve been seeing for two months. It’s too harsh to suggest not buying a gift and too creepy to buy an expensive one.

The dilemma is that you want to get your family, best mate, girlfriend or boyfriend something really special, but haven’t got the finance to afford half-decent. Self made presents are on the rise and not only are they lighter on your bank account but they are heavier on sentiment compared to a CD, box of chocolates or perfume.

There are a million different things you create that involve sentiment and thought, but here’s a step-by-step guide for an idea that is particularly impressive. The present is art themed, and artistic gifts are ideal for a number of reasons. Not only do they make you appear sophisticated and cultured, but art is universally loved so all you have to do is account for taste.

The Canvas Collage
This canvas appears complicated but only because its theme is very imposing and the display is hectic. It’s up to you what you put on a canvas, all I’m going to do is give you some tips on how to make it look more creative.

To create this inspired masterpiece you are going to need the following:

  • A plain canvas. Wilkinsons sell them in packs for under £5. Great value for money and it means you can make another art canvas for someone else on your Christmas list.
  • Scissors or craft scalpel.
  • Spray mount glue makes it easier, but normal stick glue would work.
  • Magazines, cloth, newspapers, tinfoil for decoration and gap filling.
  • Images that are relevant to the gift receivers taste.

For example this piece has a strong fashion theme; its quirky, edgy and powerful just like the fashion it is intended to represent.

The possibilities for this self made gift idea are endless. If you were to do a football collage for example, you would use cut out images of famous players, awards, stadiums, balls, shoes, scores or team colours. You can get the images from magazines or newspapers or even by just printing them off the internet.

You don’t need to follow my instructions if you have a brilliant idea of what to make, these are just some beginners tips.

  • Cut the images out according to figure. Sticking square bits of paper with something on them isn’t as impressive as cutting around the outline. This also allows you to have more space on your canvas.
  • Once you have all your cut out images to one side, carefully begin gluing the images one by one and allocating them onto different points on the canvas. They don’t have to be in any order, it’s up to your artistic judgement to sort them.
  • Though I would recommend you don’t place them directly opposite each other, try thinking outside the box by overlapping some images so they do more than just connect.
  • Once you are satisfied that all your images are in the right place, fill the gaps on the canvas with different material and colours to make it more interesting and arty. Try not to go overboard though, there is a fine line between artistic and just plain ghastly so choose your colours and materials wisely.
  • Alternate materials. On the example canvas there is tinfoil, newspaper, black lace and plain paper that’s been coloured in.
  • For a collage canvas, your aim is to fill up the entire canvas with images and material in a way that blends and stands out, but at the same time isn’t an eyesore.

This can sound difficult and admittedly artistic talent does help. However that doesn’t mean anyone without a degree in art can attempt this. All you need is some ideas, effort and an eye for what looks good.

You can draw onto the canvas, spray paint, paint, shade and even have objects glued onto it for a 3-D effect. The possibilities are endless and the person receiving the gift will immediately recognise all the effort you put into it.

Now think to yourself of the canvas you could create and now think about that pricey bath salt set you had in mind, or that t-shirt with a funny limerick you saw in a shop window. The thought may count, but extra thought can make a gift priceless.