How to pack artworks for worldwide shipping
There are two packaging methods that keep paintings well protected: using bubble wrap and cardboard, or using custom-built wooden crates.
To pack unframed paintings
- Try not to directly touching the artwork. Use tissue paper or photography white cotton gloves.
- Wrap the piece in acid free tissue paper. For additional protection against moisture, wrap the artwork with plastic.
- Fold four pieces of acid-free tissue paper into triangles with one side open, then place the triangles on each corner of the work. These help secure the piece to a strong backing material.
- Taping only on the paper corners you just made, mount your wrapped piece with tape to sturdy cardboard or foamcore.
- Place a few layers of cardboard on both sides of the newly secured piece. Tape these pieces together.
- The final piece of the packaging is the outside cover. Take two pieces of corrugated cardboard, place the piece in between them and securely tape all sides. A mirror box can be used if you want more protection.
To pack framed paintings
- Find a box or build a crate that can fit the piece, with 3 inches of space available on all sides of the frame.
- Wrap you artwork with acid-free tissue paper.
- Wrap the piece in bubble wrap, ensuring adequate coverage on the corners since they are most susceptible to damage during transport.
- Place a layer of foam or your packaging material of choice in the box, creating a layer to rest the frame on.
- Pack all open areas surrounding the piece with packing material. The more snug the fit, the less the potential for damage.
For both methods, remember to properly insure the piece if necessary and to clearly mark the box as fragile.
To pack a sculpture for shipping
- Unroll the bubble wrap and place it around the upper half of the sculpture 2 times. Only wrap half of the sculpture at this time. Cut the bubble wrap and secure it with tape. Now overlap the top of the bubble wrap so it protects the top of the sculpture. Secure it with tape.
- Wrap the bubble wrap around the bottom half of the sculpture 2 times. Make sure to overlap the bubble wrap in the middle slightly. Cut the bubble wrap and secure it with tape down the side and around the middle where the 2 pieces overlap. Now overlap the bottom so it protects the bottom of the sculpture and secure it with tape.
- Fill the box up about 1/3 of the way with shredded paper. Make a hole in the middle of the shredded paper so you can set the sculpture down in the middle of it. Set the sculpture down in the shredded paper and fill the remainder of the box with shredded paper. Make sure you securely pack the shredded paper around the sculpture so no movement is possible during shipment.
- Tape the box closed, and put the address on the label. Affix the shipping label to the box and place some tape over the shipping label so it does not accidentally get pulled off during shipping.
Custom Wooden Crate
Use a custom wooden crate for artworks such as sculpture, large-sized paintings, and fragile items
- Place a sheet of acid-free tissue paper on top of the front of the painting (the painted part). This protects it from moisture and dust.
- Assemble the frame by screwing the hardwood strips together to fit the perimeter of your artwork, leaving the top strip unscrewed for now. The hardwood strips should be just wide enough to accommodate the depth of your artwork, plus a sheet of bubble wrap on each side. The frame should be large enough to easily place the artwork inside it, but not so large that the artwork won’t be secure during shipment.
- Make sure that the top piece of the frame fits over the top edges of the side strips. This piece will be unscrewed to remove the artwork once it arrives at its destination.
- Cut two sheets of masonite board to fit the front and back of the frame (including the top strip, which is not yet attached).
- Secure one sheet of masonite board to the back of the frame using wood glue and screws.
- Line the frame with a piece of bubble wrap and place your painting inside. There should not be any room for it to jiggle around inside the frame. Cover it with another sheet of bubble wrap (on top of the glassine paper).
- Place the other sheet of masonite board on top of the frame, securing well with wood glue and screws. It should be air tight so moisture cannot get inside.
- Mark the top board of the frame “OPEN HERE.” Screw it tightly into place on the frame.
- Mark the outside of the crate clearly with your name.
- Place FRAGILE stickers on the box.
Tips & Warnings
You can attach a handle to the top or side of the crate to make transport easier. Use a cabinet handle from the hardware store and screw it into place. Make sure the screws are large enough to fit very securely; you don’t want the handle to fall off while someone is using it to carry the crate. Don’t use packing peanuts or other loose packing materials. They’re a hassle for Buyers who have to unpack and re-pack artwork. They also settle during shipping, so they don’t provide good protection.