From rolled art prints to framed paintings and photographs, pack and ship artwork with attention to detail to help avoid damaging delicate fine art.
You finally found it – the perfect piece of art for your home. It fits your space perfectly, but the question is: how do you get it home? Or, as a gallery owner, you’ve connected a buyer to an artist with a unique style and sold the piece. Your job is done. Well, almost.
Here are 10 steps to help you ship a painting, print or framed art safely.
As the buyer or the seller, now it’s up to you to ship the artwork so it arrives in perfect condition. Follow these 10 steps to help safely ship a painting, art print or framed piece.
1. Measure your artwork.
Measure the length, width and height of your artwork in order to select an appropriately sized box or shipping tube.
Need to determine shipping costs? Weigh the artwork, then calculate its dimensional weight. Compare this figure with the actual weight; your billable weight is the greater of the two. (Your UPS® shipping system – WorldShip®, UPS CampusShip® or ups.com – will determine the dimensional weight for you after you’ve provided the pertinent information.)
2. Select an appropriate shipping container.
Ship unframed artwork that’s larger than 48-by-48 inches, and framed pieces that are larger than 18-by-24 inches, in a wooden crate. Build a customized crate, or take your artwork to a nearby The UPS Store® location for professional packing backed by the Pack & Ship Guarantee.
Ship smaller works of art in a new, double-wall corrugated box that will minimize movement and offer adequate space for padding. Add 6 inches to each figure from Step 1 to allow for cushioning. Mirror or picture boxes that are well suited for framed and mounted artwork are available in a variety of sizes.
Whatever you do, don’t re-use a box. Not only will a recycled box provide less protection, it looks unprofessional.
Ship unmounted artwork that may be rolled up without damage in a sturdy shipping tube that’s at least 4 inches longer than the shortest side of your flat artwork. Allow for 4 to 5 inches of padding on each side of the rolled art.
3. Prepare your work surface.
Be gentle with your new piece of art. Pad your work surface with a protective material like cardboard, foam, bubble wrap or cloth to avoid scrapes and scuffs.
4. Cover unframed artwork with glassine paper.
Wrap canvases completely in acid-free, archival-quality glassine paper to help protect against dust and moisture. Ensure that the paper covers all sides and edges of the art, and then secure it with acid-free artist tape.
If you’re going to roll your painting, protect it with glassine paper. First, place it atop two sheets of glassine paper that are at least 2 inches larger than the artwork on all four sides. Place paper-based art (drawings, photographs, prints, watercolors) face up on the glassine. Position fabric-based works (canvas, linen) face down before rolling to help avoid cracking or breaking.
Shipping multiple pieces in a tube? Place a sheet of glassine paper between each work before rolling. Layer the art from largest to smallest, and make sure every piece is facing the same direction (face up or face down). Keep the roll secure with a strip of artist tape.
5. Protect glass or acrylic on framed artwork.
Tape four strips of artist tape or painters tape to the surface of glass or acrylic in a star pattern (two X shapes that overlap in the center). Alternately, wrap a glass-covered painting tightly with cling film. That way, if the glass breaks, either method will help prevent pieces from coming loose and ripping or puncturing the art.
6. Protect the corners.
The corners are especially susceptible to damage. Protect framed- and unframed mounted art with cardboard corner protectors. Secure the triangle pieces to all four corners with artist tape.
7. Wrap your artwork in bubble wrap.
Protect the surface of the painting by wrapping all pieces in two to three layers of bubble wrap. Place the smooth side against the art with the bubbles facing outward to avoid potential impressions.
Make sure all surfaces are completely covered with at least 2 inches of bubbles, including edges and corners. Tape all seams of the bubble wrap with packing tape to provide a barrier against moisture.
For rolled artwork, make sure you wrap the painting with at least one layer of bubble wrap, sealed with tape, before placing it in the mailing tube.
8. Sandwich your wrapped artwork between foam boards.
Position your bubble-wrapped artwork between two pieces of foam board that are at least 1/2-inch thick for an added layer of protection. Tape the boards together with packing tape to create a “sandwich.”
Note: Don’t tape your boards together too tightly as excessive pressure may damage the surface of the art.
9. Fill voids in your shipping container with additional bubble wrap.
When shipping artwork, movement and friction are the enemy. Don’t skimp on the padding at the top and bottom of the box or tube, as these areas are especially vulnerable.
Depending on the size of your shipping container, you may either wrap your foam board “sandwich” with additional layers of bubble wrap, or pad any space remaining in your box with bubbles.
Avoid packing peanuts, which can settle into the bottom of the box and leave the top edges of the art exposed.
10. Seal your container with heavy-duty, high-quality packing tape.
Cover all seams on the top and bottom of the box or tube completely with strong, pressure-sensitive poly tape that’s at least 2 inches wide. Apply additional vertical strips of tape across the sealed flaps for reinforcement.
Do not use duct tape or other household tapes to seal the container. Tape that is not designed for packaging may not be sturdy enough for transportation. It also gives your package an unprofessional appearance.
Items you will need:
- Tape measure
- Shipping scale (optional)
- Double-wall corrugated picture/mirror box or sturdy shipping tube
- Glassine paper
- Artist tape or painters tape
- Cling film (optional)
- Cardboard corner protectors
- Bubble wrap
- Foam boards
- Pressure-sensitive packing tape
Double-check drying times
Some types of paint seem dry when they’re not. Always check drying times and make sure that your painting is completely dry before shipping it.
Rolled or framed?
You may save on shipping costs if you ship rolled artwork to a framer or art handler to be stretched and framed at the destination.
If you’re shipping mounted photography or other high-gloss art, wear dustless nitrile or cotton art handling gloves to prevent fingerprints or other potential blemishes.
Ship a sculpture that’s more than 12 inches tall or weighs more than 5 pounds in a custom wooden crate. Ensure that your sculpture falls within your carrier’s weight and size limits. For additional help, see Related Resources below.
The UPS Store: Pack and Ship Artwork
SAATCHI ART: Artwork Packaging Guidelines
Arnoff Moving: How to Pack a Sculpture for Shipping
Red Dot Blog: Marketing Advice for Artists