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How to ship artworks

Aug 16, 2016 by Anneke Verschuren

Photo of How to ship artworks

Packaging your painting for shipping

There are many websites and online video instructions with Art-packaging tutorials. We have outlined our guidelines for you below. It is important to follow these guidelines when you are preparing your artwork for shipping to avoid any damaging during shipping, which will not only lead to disappointed customers but will also cause extra costs. 

Should an artwork arrive damaged due to poor packaging procedures, we will deem the shipment non insurable and ArtHit will hold the sender responsible for the damages. We will work with the buyer to have the artwork shipped back for a full refund.

Guidelines:

Tubes

Drawings, watercolors, silkscreen prints that can be rolled up. Canvas that is up to 200 x 200 cm (79 x 79 inch) may be taken off its stretchers, rolled, and shipped in a heavy duty mailing tube.

Cardboard box

Paintings up to 120 cm (48 inch) at any side and drawings, screen-prints or watercolors that cannot be rolled.

Wooden crate

For paintings that are larger than 120 cm at any one side cm (48 inch) or any particularly valuable or fragile pieces, we recommend using a custom made wooden crate instead of a cardboard box.

Always make sure that your painting is completely dry before packaging it for shipment. Sometimes paint can appear dry when it’s not. Our insurance will not cover damage to paintings as a result of shipping before the paint was completely dry.

1. Tubes

Material needed:

Tube sizes for safely shipping artwork: 

Your tube should always be 10 cm/4 inches longer than the shortest side of your artwork. The widthof the tube depends on the diameter of your works when rolled: the tube will need to be at least 4-6 inches wide. Aim for your tube to be 4-5 inches wider than the diameter of your rolled works. You can buy tubes at packaging material stores or at local courier agents. Alternatively use a PVC pipe.

Step 1

Lay out 2-3 layers of smooth, acid free archival paper. Archival paper should always be acid-free. Cut the paper to be at least 5 cm/2 inches larger than your work on all sides. You can overlap multiple sheets of the paper to make sure that the full area of the piece is covered.

Step 2

Lay out your work on the archival paper.

If you are shipping artworks on paper, then place your piece with the image side face-up on your archival paper so that the image is facing you and the back of the paper is against the surface. By placing these face-up on the paper, you will be rolling them “face in”.

Works on fabric-based materials (canvas, linen, etc.) should be placed face-down on the archival paper: the painted part should be directly touching the glassine.

Step 3

Roll the paper-covered artwork face out (paint side outward) around the smaller tube to provide inner support. Do not roll too tightly as this can damage the painting

Roll the paper-covered artwork face out
Roll the paper-covered artwork face out

Step 4

When you tape the roll closed with your artist tape, fold over one end of the tape to create a tab for easy removal.

Step 5

Lay out your bubble wrap. Lay the end of your bubble wrap bubble-side down on your surface. Place your roll of works on top of the bubble wrap and begin rolling. Once you have enough wrapping around your roll to fit tightly in the tube, you can cut the bubble wrap.

Fold the extra bubble wrap you left at the top & bottom of the roll and tape them closed to create extra cushioning on the top/bottom of your package. Lastly, tape along the length-wise edge of the bubble wrap so that you seal the whole package closed.

Step 6

Slide your roll inside your tube. It should be close-fitting enough that it doesn’t move when you bang the package, but shouldn’t be too tight as well, you should be able to slide an open hand in the tube to remover the work.

Step 7

Seal your tube with the cap. Cross the tape over the top and edges in an asterisk formation. Then wrap the tape around the sides so that the tape can’t be easily peeled up. Never use tape alone to seal your tube.

Step 8

Tape the shipping label to the package. Write “FRAGILE” in large capital letters on the package or use a FRAGILE sticker.

2. Paintings in a cardboard box

Material needed:

Step 1: Sizing

Determine which outer box you are going to use. General rule of thumb is that you want to find a box that gives a minimum clearance of about 5 cm/2 inch all the way around the artwork.

Most of the freight companies will only cover damage in packaging that gives you this 5 cm/2 inch buffer.

Step 2

Wrap the painting in glassine paper or acid-free archival paper like you would pack a present.

Step 3

Take four square pieces of glassine or acid-free paper (you may adjust the size of the squares to better fit the size of your work) and fold each in half diagonally to create a triangle, then fold in half again to create a triangle pocket. Place one pocket onto each corner of the painting.

Step 4

Taping only onto the paper corners, fix the wrapped painting to a sheet of foam board (or two-ply cardboard) the same size or slightly larger than the painting.

Step 5

Wrap the glassine-covered artwork with plastic sheeting/poly wrap. Use tape to seal all areas where water can enter.

Step 6

Wrap the entire work with two layers of bubble wrap for a protective padding. Use tape to secure it. The bubbles should be at the outside.

Step 7

Place cardboard corner protectors on the corners of the wrapped artwork.

Step 8

Place the wrapped artwork between 2 pieces of foam board that are at least 1 cm/0.5-inch thickness, forming a sandwich. The borders of the foam board sheets should extend 5-8 cm/2-3 inches beyond all edges of the bubble-wrapped artwork. Use tape to bind the foam board sandwich together. Be certain the sides are taped down firmly to ensure that the artwork doesn’t shift around within. Take care not to apply too much pressure to the surface of your artwork.

Take care not to apply too much pressure to the surface of your artwork
Take care not to apply too much pressure to the surface of your artwork

Step 9

Place the foam board-covered painting into a cardboard box with approximately 5 cm/ 2 inches of space on all sides. Fill the empty space with enough bubble wrap or wadded/shredded white paper to ensure that the artwork doesn’t shift during transit.

Step 10

Use the H-taping method to seal the box. The H-taping method involves using long strips of packing tape to completely seal the opening flaps of the box. Use one long strip of tape over the horizontal opening between the two flaps, and two strips over the vertical sides of the flaps, forming an “H.” Apply additional vertical strips of tape as needed across the sealed flaps for added reinforcement.

Step 11

Tape the shipping label to the package. Write “FRAGILE” in large capital letters on the package or use a FRAGILE sticker. Also, write “PLEASE KEEP UPRIGHT. DO NOT LAY FLAT.”

3. Paintings in a wooden crate

Material needed:

Step 1 

Measure your pre-wrapped artwork (wrapped according to the instructions in “paintings in a carbon box”). Use these measurements to calculate the dimensions of your plywood pieces for the frame of your crate. Keep in mind that you will add the foam board lining to your crate, so accommodate for this. The extra space will be filled with bubble wrap and shredded paper.

Step 2

Cut four pieces of plywood according to the dimensions you took in step 1 in order to build a frame with an opening that can snugly fit your wrapped work. Remember to account for the thickness of the plywood when measuring length and height, and cut accordingly. The top piece of the frame should sit on and extend over the top edges of the side pieces, as it must be easily removable. This piece will act as the crate’s lid, to be unscrewed by the collector.

Step 3

Begin building the frame by assembling 3 of the plywood strips together with screws and wood glue, leaving the top piece off for now.

Step 4

Line the frame with strips of foam board, securing them on with glue. Wait for it to dry before finishing the packing process.

Step 5

Cut two sheets of plywood to the same dimensions of the assembled frame. These will be the front and back panels of your crate.

Step 6

Secure one sheet to the back of the frame using wood glue and screws.

Step 7

Place your artwork inside and seal the crate around it. Lay a piece of foam board (the same size as the frame) inside the open crate, and place your artwork on top. There should be no room for movement inside.

Place your artwork inside and seal the crate around it.
Place your artwork inside and seal the crate around it.

Step 8

Cover your artwork with another layer of foam board. Place the other sheet of Masonite board on top of the frame, securing with wood glue and screws. Do your best to ensure that the crate is air and moisture tight.

Step 9

Clearly indicate which panel is the removable lid by writing “UNSCREW THIS SIDE ONLY”so the collector knows which panel to remove.

Step 10

Affix the shipping label to the outside. Use a heavy black felt tip pen, write “FRAGILE” in large capital letters on the crate or box or use a FRAGILE sticker. Also write “PLEASE KEEP UPRIGHT. DO NOT LAY FLAT.”

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