Packing and shipping paintings

Another artist from the UK posted some tips recently on packing and shipping paintings and I thought I’d add some thoughts about how my own work reaches its destination. 

All paintings require extensive packing to avoid damage during shipping. Even though you can have USPS mark fragile on your box, you are still responsible for getting it to your patron, unharmed. In the past I would have wooden crates made to ship my work for exhibits, but this has become extremely costly.

There are packing companies who will use heavy duty cardboard and packing materials that are a fraction of the cost of using wooden crates. I would use a company like Navis Pack & Ship for my very large works. Prices can run as high as $1100 for a 70″x60″ painting that is being shipped to Australia or Europe. 

But for smaller work you can pack and ship safely yourself. The post office will supply flat rate boxes that they deliver to your door and for heavier small work, this is a good value. For small, lightweight paintings you may be able to use recycled boxes or even padded envelopes that will be more cost effective.

In either case I first use Talas silicone paper to wrap most of my paintings. That way, they’re protected from sticking to any surface. I learned this the hard way, when a small painting I had sold, stuck to the glassine paper in which I’d wrapped it during shipping. Although the painting was a year old, there was a still tacky area. 

After the silicone, I bubble wrap the painting, and using a sharp X-acto knife, I cut 3/16″ foamcore pieces slightly larger than the painting’s dimensions, taped together so the bubble-wrapped painting is held inside that sandwich. Then usually because my work is medium to large, I’ll have to cut my own box. Recycled plastic bags work for packing those air spaces inside the box, too.
Note: I would not use bubble wrap next to any painting unless it’s more than a few years old and I’m not shipping in hot weather.

Substitute foamcore for the cardboard in this photo from another good site on packing art….

I started ordering packaging materials in bulk last year; Uline has good prices on cardboard boxes and Royalty Mailers here in the US is good for large rolls of bubble wrap, they will ship free. It would be great to hear from anyone who knows where to buy ‘green’ plastic or recycled bubble wrap. At this point I haven’t yet found a source.

After the wrapped painting goes into the box, I tape it down securely with wide packing tape. (get boxes of 6 rolls from Royal Mailers)

I should have taken a photo of my last shipment, which included a handmade cut-down box for a largish painting going to Canada. The finished box was 40″ x 30″ x 3″ and weighed just under 12 lbs, but this is still considered large by post office standards.

I insure all my paintings for full value and try to use Delivery Confirmation on anything that is domestic. Unless you ship Global Express or  buy a certificate of mailing,  you won’t be able to track international packages. There are some size limitations on international shipping via USPS. Make sure you’re aware of their restrictions.

Happy painting and shipping!

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2 Responses to Packing and shipping paintings

  1. This is great information — definitely bookmarking — thanks for the shopping resources. You can also ask for the “trash” at your local frame store — one of the only places which receives goods (matboard, foamcore) in large, flat, painting-sized boxes.

  2. Thanks for this post. It’s always good to know other sources for materials. A friend of mine uses a company called Craters and Freighters to ship her larger paintings. I know it’s expensive. Don’t know how it compares to Navis Pack and Ship, but might be worth checking out.

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