How to Package Your Artwork

When shipping your art, the worst thing you want to happen is for it to arrive at a gallery or to a customer in shambles. Good packing will almost always get your work to its intended destination in great condition. However, it's important to note that no matter how well you pack your piece, sometimes this gets handled the wrong way by the shipping company.

So, you might ask, “Why bother with packaging my work properly when there's a good chance the shipper will screw it up?” Well, packing your work safely does give it a good chance of arriving in a pristine condition. Customers and galleries can tell whether the fault was with the shipping company or with the artists' way of packing.

This post will tackle the packing of framed canvases and rolled canvases.

Chris Perrett , Coast Cliff Evening

Chris Perrett, Coast Cliff Evening

Packing a Framed Canvas

  • When shipping artwork, make sure movement is minimised within the box. To achieve this you need to get a box that fits your artwork. Start by measuring the dimensions of your piece – length, width and height. Then, add six inches to each figure. The result is the ideal size of your shipping box. You can check with different shippers to see if they have this kind of box available.
  •  If you choose to assemble your own package, make sure to use a double wall corrugated box. Secure the bottom of the box using the H taping method: apply tape across all seams along both sides, as well as the middle. For added security, apply strips of tape in lines perpendicular to the length of your box and space them four inches apart.

If packing framed canvases with glass, apply blue painters tape in a criss-cross pattern over the glass. However, do not do this if the glass has a UV coating as this will damage it.

When you're shipping an oil-based painting, cover or wrap the canvas with a sheet of glassine paper to protect it from moisture and dust.

The next step you should do is to cushion your artwork against damage. Here's how:

  • On a piece of corrugated board, trace the outer edge of the frame
  • Cut the traced portion and place it on top of the frame
  • Use folded sheets of half-inch thick bubble pack to tightly fill the gap between the board and the glass.
  • Attach the corrugated board to the backside of the frame with blue painters tape.
  • Use three inches of bubble pack to wrap the length of your artwork. This would be roughly six loops using material that is half-inch thick.
  •  Trim the extra material if the bubble pack exceeds the edges of your piece.
  • Cover the unwrapped ends by folding and layering bubble pack – accordion style – until it is three inches thick.
  • Apply tape to the segments.
  • Insert artwork into box. Center it then fill the extra space with bubble wrap. Some would suggest loose fill peanuts, but they don't really work with paintings. They'll do fine with sculptures, however.
  • Seal the box using the H-taping method.

Packing a Rolled Canvas

Your artwork can be rolled and shipped in a heavy duty mailing tube around 8” and 12” diameter. Here's how to pack rolled canvases safely:

  • Before you even attempt to roll your canvas, make sure that it is completely dry.
  • Put your piece in between two layers of acid free archival paper or glassine paper. Ensure that the paper covers your work in its entirety.
  • Use a second tube with a much smaller diameter for inner support. Roll your piece – paint side outward – around the smaller tube. Keep in mind to not do this tightly because you can damage the painting.
  • For padding and sealing out moisture, roll a layer of bubble wrap around the artwork. Seal this with tape.
  • Insert the tube into the mailing tube.
  • Fill the extra space with bubble wrap, but make sure that it doesn't crush your painting.
  • Place the caps on then seal with packing tape.

A Note on Packing Tape

Make sure to use tape that is of good quality. It's easy to be tempted about buying one that is cheaper, but the tendency is that these don't stick. This can have disastrous results when you ship your artwork. So, make sure to buy the best tape you can afford.

Another Note on Using the FRAGILE Marker

There are times when shippers just don't care about a package marked as FRAGILE because they get immune to it. However, marking your packaged artwork with such lets your customers know that you care and that you exerted a lot of effort it ensuring your piece arrives safely.

Good packing shows that you care about your artwork. Yes, atrocious things may happen while it is in transit and at the hands of the shipping company. But at least, you'll feel confident knowing that you did all you could to secure your artwork.