How to Package a Painting and Artwork

How to Package a Painting and Artwork

12th Dec 2023

The thought of sending a piece of artwork through the postal system can be quite daunting - placing it in a shipping box and hoping for the best is often not enough to protect your valuables. The key lies in bespoke packaging, ensuring that your treasured artwork arrives at its destination in pristine condition.

In this guide, we’ll walk through the essential steps of wrapping with bubble wrap, securing with packing tape and safeguarding with sturdy cardboard corner protectors.

Mastering packaging techniques is crucial in the art business to ensure artworks are shipped with care and professionalism.

Understanding the Basics of Artwork Packing Materials

Selecting the right packaging materials is crucial for ensuring the artwork's protection during shipment. This involves understanding the variety of materials and methods that will safeguard your pieces, starting with the essential packing materials like glassine paper for moisture protection, bubble wrap for cushioning, foam boards for rigidity, and shipping tubes for rolled artworks. Bubble wrap, in particular, plays a vital role in cushioning your pieces against shocks and vibrations during transit, providing a protective layer that can absorb impacts and prevent scratches.

Next on your packing checklist should be a robust shipping box. You need one that can withstand the journey’s rigours without buckling under pressure. The box should be sized appropriately for your artwork, allowing for enough room to accommodate a generous layer of bubble wrap and other cushioning materials without being too spacious to let the artwork shift inside.

Packing tape is another critical component. Opt for a high-quality shipping tape that will hold firm, sealing your package securely. It’s the final guard that stands between your artwork and the elements outside.

For those transporting unframed paintings or delicate works, cardboard corner protectors provide an additional level of security, shielding the vulnerable edges from knocks and dents that can occur when shipping artwork.

Preparing Your Artwork for Shipping Artwork

Before you begin wrapping and boxing, preparing your artwork is a critical first step. This preparation is about ensuring that the artwork remains in impeccable condition throughout its journey.

Start with a clean, dry workspace large enough to accommodate the size of your artwork. Ensure that the painting or artwork is completely dry and free from any materials that could smudge or stick to its surface. For unframed paintings, particularly, remove any dust or debris gently with a soft brush or a clean, lint-free cloth. This step helps prevent any particles from becoming trapped under the packing materials, which could potentially cause damage.

If you're shipping a canvas, consider protecting the painted surface with a sheet of acid-free glassine paper. This smooth and glossy paper acts as a barrier against moisture and fingerprints and doesn’t stick to the paint surface. Secure the paper around the painting with artist tape, which is designed to be removed without leaving residue.

Once the artwork is clean and covered, if necessary, it's time to think about the edges and corners. If your piece is an unframed painting, apply cardboard corner protectors to each corner. These protectors are crucial as they provide a shield against bumps and drops that could otherwise dent the artwork's edges.

For added safety, especially with works on paper or other delicate materials, you might consider mounting the piece on a rigid board, slightly larger than the artwork itself. This board will add structural support, reducing the risk of bending or folding.

Packing the Artwork

The process of packing the artwork is where meticulousness turns into assurance. After your artwork is prepped, lay out your materials: a layer of bubble wrap, packing tape, and the shipping box you’ve selected. Now, follow these steps to secure your artwork:

  1. Bubble wrapping: lay the bubble wrap flat on your work area with the bubble side facing up. Place your artwork face down on top of the bubble wrap. If the piece is framed with glass, apply a piece of tape over the glass to prevent shattering. Wrap the bubble wrap around the artwork, ensuring that it is completely covered with at least two layers for optimal protection. The bubbles should be in direct contact with your artwork, providing a cushion to absorb any potential impacts. It's crucial to select a sturdy cardboard box that hasn't been used before to ensure the artwork's safety.
  2. Securing with tape: once your artwork is snugly wrapped in bubble wrap, use your packing tape to secure the wrapping. Don’t skimp on the tape; make sure all edges and seams of the bubble wrap are sealed. This not only keeps the wrap in place but also helps prevent any moisture from seeping through.
  3. Cardboard slipcase (optional): for added protection, especially with unframed artwork, you can create a cardboard slipcase by cutting pieces of cardboard to size and taping them together, creating a flat envelope that snugly fits around the bubble-wrapped piece. This step adds an extra layer of defence against punctures or pressure points.
  4. Boxing up: now, gently place the bubble-wrapped artwork into the shipping box. For additional protection, consider using an outer box and make sure to tape all seams of the outer box securely to prevent moisture damage. If there’s extra space, fill it with packing peanuts to prevent the artwork from shifting during transport. The goal is to prevent any movement inside the box during transport. Movement equals risk, so eliminate it as much as possible.
  5. Final padding: before sealing the box, add a final layer of bubble wrap on top for good measure. This ensures that, when the box is closed, the content is snugly sandwiched between layers of protection, further reducing the risk of damage.

With the artwork securely packed in the shipping box, you’re nearly ready to send your masterpiece on its journey. The box should now be resistant to the rigours of transit, with the artwork nestled safely inside, awaiting its arrival to delight its next viewer.

Sealing and Labelling

Now that your artwork is securely wrapped and placed within the shipping box, it’s time to ensure that it remains intact through its transit journey. Sealing and labelling are the final, critical steps before your artwork begins its travels:

  1. Sealing the box: use your packing tape to seal the box along all its edges and seams. Start with the centre seam, laying down the tape evenly and smoothing out any air bubbles to ensure a firm hold. Continue with the box's edges, reinforcing the places more susceptible to tearing. Proper sealing is essential as it not only keeps the artwork contained but also strengthens the box, preventing accidental openings.
  2. Reinforcing corners and edges: for added peace of mind, consider adding extra strips of tape across the box corners and edges. These are the high-stress areas during handling and shipping, and reinforcing them can provide additional security against the rigours of transport.
  3. Labelling the package: once the box is sealed, it’s time to label it. Use a permanent marker to write "Fragile – Handle with Care" on multiple sides of the box. This alerts handlers to the precious cargo inside. Additionally, include a label with the destination address and a return address in case of delivery issues. It’s best to place these labels on the box's largest surface and cover them with clear tape to protect against any weather or handling that could smudge the ink.
  4. Attaching documentation: if required, attach any necessary shipping documentation provided by your shipping company in a visible area on the package. Make sure this is securely attached and protected, as it will be essential for the shipping process.

By carefully sealing and labelling your package, you communicate the importance of the content inside and provide clear instructions for handling. These final touches underscore the care you’ve taken at every step of the packaging process, helping to ensure that your artwork arrives safely at its destination.

Choosing the Right Shipping Company

Once your artwork is packaged securely, the next decisive step is choosing a shipping company that aligns with your needs. This choice can significantly influence the safety of your artwork and the shipping costs involved.

To select the most suitable courier, consider the following:

  1. Specialisation in artwork, shipping art, and shipping paintings: look for a shipping company with a proven track record of handling artwork, especially experienced in shipping art and shipping paintings. These companies will understand the importance of careful planning, packing, and the selection of the right shipping carriers to transport art safely. Their expertise in choosing the appropriate packing materials and shipping boxes is crucial for the safe delivery of delicate and valuable artwork.
  2. Insurance and liability: ensure that the shipping company offers insurance options to protect against loss or damage. Understanding their liability and insurance policies can offer peace of mind that your artwork is covered financially in unforeseen circumstances.
  3. Service options: evaluate the range of services offered. Does the company provide door-to-door delivery? Can they offer temperature control for sensitive pieces? Assess their ability to meet the specific needs of your shipment.
  4. Reputation and reliability: research customer reviews and testimonials. A company’s reputation for reliability and careful handling is crucial. In the art world, word-of-mouth recommendations are often a testament to a company’s quality.
  5. Shipping costs: while you want the best care for your artwork, it’s also important to consider shipping costs. Get quotes from multiple companies and compare their prices along with the services they offer. Be wary of prices that seem too good to be true; they often are.
  6. Tracking and support: a reliable shipping company should offer detailed tracking services and customer support. Being able to monitor your shipment provides reassurance and helps you keep your buyers or receivers informed.
  7. Customs and international shipping: if you’re shipping internationally, consider a company’s experience with customs and international regulations. They should be able to navigate these smoothly to prevent delays or issues.

Final Checks and Shipping Costs

Before your artwork is dispatched, conducting final checks is crucial to ensure that everything is in order. Here’s a checklist to guide you through this last stage:

  1. Inspect the packaging: re-examine the sealed shipping box for any signs of damage or weak points. Confirm that it’s sealed securely with packing tape and that the ‘Fragile’ and address labels are visible and firmly attached.
  2. Review the contents list: if you’ve included a contents list or instructions inside the box, check that this information is complete and accurate. This step is particularly important for international shipments, which may require a detailed inventory for customs.
  3. Documentation: double-check that all the necessary shipping and customs documentation is filled out correctly and attached to the package. Any discrepancies can lead to delays or additional charges.
  4. Photographic records: it’s a good practice to take photos of your artwork and its packaging at different stages. These images can serve as evidence of the condition in which the artwork was sent, which can be useful in case of a dispute or insurance claim.

After confirming that your package is ready for transit, it’s time to consider the shipping costs:

  1. Weight and dimensions: the cost of shipping is typically based on the size and weight of the package. Ensure that you have measured and weighed the final packaged artwork accurately to get the correct shipping quote.
  2. Distance and speed: the shipping destination and how quickly the package needs to arrive will influence the cost. Expedited shipping options are available if the artwork needs to arrive by a specific date, but these services will come at a premium.
  3. Insurance: opting for insurance may increase the upfront cost, but it provides protection against loss or damage. The peace of mind that comes with insuring your artwork is often worth the extra expense.
  4. Additional services: services such as signature confirmation, tracking, and special handling will add to the cost but can significantly enhance the security and delivery assurance of your shipment.

Ensuring shipping paintings safely involves selecting the right shipping box that is sturdy, slightly larger than the painting for cushioning, and possibly double-walled or custom-made for added protection. This, along with careful packaging and correct documentation, is essential for the safe delivery of your artwork.

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