Packaging Guidelines

What Packaging Materials Do I Use?

The safety of your artwork depends greatly upon the type and quality of your packaging materials. Below are some DOs and DON'Ts regarding what packaging materials you should and should not use.  To download our complete Packaging Guidelines (which also includes information on the common causes of artwork damage, the proper packing materials, links to additional resources, and more) click the link in the Attachments section below.

 

USE the following:

Bubble wrap

An adequate amount of bubble wrap will provide a surprising amount of protection by distributing pressure and impact across a wide area. Bubble wrap does two important jobs: 1) cushions the art in the event of impact 2) fills empty space, preventing unwanted movement within your packaging. For these reasons, bubble wrap should be your padding and filler of choice.

 

High quality packing tape

Always buy good quality packing tape! Here’s why:

Sturdy tape ensures your outer package remains shut throughout transit.

When wrapping your artwork, high quality tape ensures fully sealed seams, keeping damaging moisture out.

High quality tape is easier to separate from the roll and usually comes with a more efficient dispenser, making it faster to apply 

Don’t use low quality packing tape because:

It’s more difficult to apply, adding more time and effort to the packing process.

It’s not very sturdy and is prone to breakage during shipping

Low quality tape may not be adequately adhesive, so may not provide good moisture protection.

You’ll need to use more of it to get the job done

Acid-Free Archival Paper (Glassine)

Acid-free (archival quality) paper is an absolute necessity when wrapping artwork for both shipping and storage. Archival quality materials are pH neutral (i.e. between 7 and 8.5) and will therefore have no chemical interaction with any objects it contacts. Though other types of archival paper are available, we highly recommend that you buy glassine. It’s readily available by the roll from most art supply, craft, or frame stores.

 

Foam Board

A sturdy support is necessary for safe packaging and storage of all flat artworks. Foam board (also called foamcore) is ideal for this purpose and you can find it at most art supply, craft, or frame stores. Foam board comes in varying degrees of thickness (depending on the amount of protection needed for your work), and can typically be purchased individually or in bulk. We recommend you use foam board of at least ½” thickness. Archival quality foam board is also available from some manufacturers and it should be used if it will come into direct contact with the artwork.

 

Cardboard corner protectors

Corners of flat artworks are especially vulnerable to shipping damage, that’s why we require artists to use cardboard corner protectors. You can buy corner protectors ready made at many art supply, moving supply, or frame stores, or you can construct them yourself. A quick search on Google will lead you to online resources offering instructions on how to make them.

 

PVC pipe or heavy duty mailing tube

Shipping tubes can be easily bent during transit. That is why it is best for you to seek the strongest possible shipping tubes. If you are using cardboard tubes, we advise that you use a series of 3 tubes in total (2 internal tubes, 1 external tube). We encourage for you to use a PVC pipe if your artwork is especially large. PVC (plastic) pipes are commonly used for plumbing and can be found at your local hardware store. Keep in mind you will need to create the end caps as these are not intended for shipping. PVC pipes have proven to be extremely secure and durable.

 

IMPORTANT: If you’re concerned about spending money on quality packing supplies, always bear in mind that buying cheap packing materials could end up costing you more if your artwork gets damaged.

 

DON’T use the following:

Styrofoam peanuts

DON’T use foam packing peanuts. They're a hassle for those who have to unpack and re-pack artwork. They also settle during shipping and don't provide good protection.

Second-hand filler (newspaper, magazine pages, plastic bags, etc.) 

Do NOT use scraps of newspaper, magazine pages, or plastic market bags to package your artworks. These materials don’t provide adequate protection and they may also leave an unfavorable impression on the collector who has bought your work.

 

Non-archival quality tissue paper for wrapping artwork

DON’T wrap your artwork in non-archival tissue paper. Remember that anything that comes into direct contact with the work must be archival quality (i.e. acid-free, pH neutral). BUT, you may use wadded non-archival tissue paper as filler for empty space within the box or crate in the absence of bubble wrap (our preferred filler). Note that when we refer to tissue paper, we DO NOT mean FACIAL tissue paper (such as Kleenex). Facial tissue is for blowing your nose, never for packaging artwork!

 

Garbage bin bags

You don’t want your artwork associated with garbage, so DON’T use garbage bin bags to pack it. You want your collector to remain absolutely confident in their decision to purchase your work. Using items like garbage bin bags, second-hand filler, or other items not intended for shipping artwork will, more often than not, leave a bad impression on art collectors.

 

How Do I Package A Painting?

Please follow the instructions appropriate for your work. For complete instructions, download our complete Packaging Guidelines (which also includes information on the common causes of artwork damage, the proper packing materials, links to additional resources, and more)located at the bottom of this article.

All artworks that are 48 inches or above on any one side need to be packaged into a wood crate.

IMPORTANT: Always make certain that your painting is completely dry before packaging it for shipment. Sometimes paint can appear dry when it’s not. Since drying time depends on such factors as the type and brand of paint, the drying mediums used (if any), the paint colors, etc., you must research the correct drying time for the specific supplies you’ve used. Our insurance will NOT cover damage to paintings as a result of shipping before the paint was completely dry.

 

Paintings smaller than 48”x 48”

What you’ll need:

Glassine paper or acid-free archival tissue paper 

Plastic sheeting, poly wrap, or heavy plastic bag

Bubble wrap

Foam board at least ½” thick or two-ply cardboard

Packing tape

Cardboard corner protectors

Cardboard box

Step 1 – Wrap the painting in glassine paper or acid-free, archival tissue paper. Note that any material that comes into contact with the surface of the work should be archival quality. We advise that you avoid touching the painting’s surface with bare hands by wearing white cotton gloves or placing acid-free tissue paper between the work and your fingers when handling.

Step 2 –Take four (4) 8”x 8” square pieces of glassine paper or acid-free tissue 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 3 – Taping only onto the tissue paper corners, tape the wrapped painting to a sheet of foam board (or two-ply cardboard) the same size or slightly larger than the painting for a firm backing. 

Step 4 – To protect against moisture, wrap the glassine-covered artwork with plastic sheeting/poly wrap or put it inside a heavy plastic bag. Use tape to seal all areas where water can enter and cause damage.

 Step 5 – Wrap the entire work with two (2) layers of bubble wrap for a protective padding. Wrap it as you would a gift, using tape to secure it shut.

Step 6 – Place cardboard corner protectors on the corners of the wrapped artwork.

Step 7 – Place the wrapped artwork between 2 pieces of foam board that are at least ½” thickness (or two-ply cardboard), forming a “sandwich.”  Also, the borders of the foam board sheets should extend 2-3 inches beyondall edges of the bubble-wrapped artwork. Use packing 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.

IMPORTANT: Take care not to apply too much pressure to the surface of your artwork. Doing so could create indentations on the stretched canvas.

Step 8 – Place the foam board-covered painting into a cardboard box with approximately three (3) 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 9 – 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. Illustrations of this method are provided by different sources online. Just type “H-taping method” into the Google search box.

Step 10 – Affix the shipping label to the package and put clear tape over the label so it doesn’t get removed during shipment. Using a felt tip pen, write “FRAGILE” in large capital letters on the box, or use ready-made “FRAGILE” labels.


Paintings larger than 48”x48”

All artworks that are 48 inches or above on any one side need to be packaged into a wood crate.

 Note that in addition to these instructions, you’ll also be asked to refer to the instructions in the FAQ--"How do I pack work in a crate?"”

 What you’ll need:

  Glassine paper or acid-free archival tissue paper  

Plastic sheeting, poly wrap, or plastic bag

Bubble wrap

Foam board at least ½” thick or two-ply cardboard

Packing tape

Cardboard corner protectors

Custom-made wooden crate

 

Step 1 – Wrap the painting in glassine paper or acid-free archival tissue paper. Note that any material that comes into contact with the surface of the work should be archival quality. We advise that you avoid touching the painting’s surface with bare hands by wearing white cotton gloves or placing acid-free tissue paper between the work and your fingers when handling.

Step 2 –Take four (4) 8”x 8” square pieces of glassine paper or acid-free tissue 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 3 – Taping only onto the tissue paper corners, tape the wrapped painting to a sheet of foam board (or two-ply cardboard) the same size or slightly larger than the painting for a firm backing.  

 Step 4 – To protect against moisture, wrap the glassine-covered artwork with plastic sheeting/poly wrap or put it inside a heavy plastic bag. Use tape to seal all areas where water can enter and cause damage.

Step 5 – Wrap the entire work with at least three (3) layers of bubble wrap for a protective padding. Use more if you believe your painting requires more protection (e.g. it has a raised surface). Wrap it as you would a gift, using tape to secure it shut.

Step 6 – Next, build a wooden crate and seal the work inside

 

Framed paintings

What you’ll need:

Glassine paper or acid-free archival tissue paper  

Plastic sheeting or poly wrap

Bubble wrap

Painters tape (if packing a glass frame)

Cardboard corner protectors

Packing tape

Foam board at least ½” thick

Shredded or wadded white paper

Very sturdy cardboard box if framed artwork is under 18”x24”

Custom wooden crate if framed artwork is larger than 18”x24”

 

Step 1 – Use a sturdy cardboard box or build a custom crate that will fit the framed painting plus approximately three (3) inches of space on all sides. (This extra space will accommodate the layers of bubble wrap to be added.)

Step 2 – If the frame has a protective glass or acrylic pane, remove it from the frame. If it does not, skip to step 4. Apply two pieces of painters tape diagonally across the glass/acrylic pane to form a large “X”. Should the glass break during shipment, the tape will help keep the broken pieces together.

Step 3 – Sandwich the glass/acrylic pane between two sheets of foam board approximately 2 inches larger than the glass on all sides. Firmly seal the foam board sandwich all around with packing tape, making sure that the glass/acrylic panel does not shift around within.

Step 4 – Wrap the painting in acid-free, archival tissue paper or glassine. Note that any material that will come into contact with the surface of the painted work should be archival quality.

Step 5 – To protect against moisture, wrap the artwork with plastic sheeting or poly wrap

Step 6 – Add cardboard corner protectors to the corners of the wrapped work. You can buy corner protectors ready made, or you can construct them yourself. Several online resources offer instructions on how to make them.

 Step 7 – Wrap the framed painting in three (3) layers of bubble wrap, using packing tape to secure it.

If your framed painting is larger than 18”x24”, you’ll need to build a wooden crate and seal the work inside.  

If your framed painting is under 18”x24”, proceed to Step 8 below.

 Step 8 – Sandwich the wrapped painting within two sheets of foam board and tape all the way around to secure it.

Step 9 – Place it inside a sturdy cardboard box. To minimize movement within the box, thoroughly fill any empty areas around the artwork with shredded paper. The more snug the fit, the less the potential for damage. Seal the box thoroughly with packing tape, reinforcing the corners.

Step 10 – Affix the shipping label to the package and put clear tape over the label so it doesn’t get removed during shipment. Using a felt tip pen, write “FRAGILE” in large capital letters on the package, or use ready-made “FRAGILE” labels.

 

Rolled canvas paintings

 

 Paintings on canvas up to 72”x72” may be taken off its stretchers, rolled, and shipped in a heavy duty mailing tube between 8” and 12” diameter, depending on the size of the canvas. Make absolutely certain that your painting is completely dry before attempting to roll it.

 What you’ll need:

Glassine paper or acid-free archival tissue paper 

Heavy duty mailing tube with plastic end caps no smaller than 8” in diameter and up to 12” (depending on the size of your canvas).

A second tube of smaller diameter for inner support. (You’ll roll your artwork around this tube and insert it inside the larger tube.)

Packing tape

Bubble wrap

 

Step 1 – Sandwich your canvas between two layers of acid free archival paper. Make sure that the canvas is completely covered by the paper.

Step 2 – Roll the paper-covered artwork—paint side outward—around the smaller tube to provide inner support. DO NOT roll too tightly as this can damage the painting!

Step 3 – Next, roll a layer of bubble wrap around the artwork for padding and to seal out moisture. Seal completely with tape.

 Step 4 – Place this tube within the outer mailing tube. Fill extra space at the ends with extra bubble wrap, but take care not to crush the edges of your painting. Place the end caps on and seal them shut with packing tape.

Step 10 – Affix the shipping label to the package and put clear tape over the label so it doesn’t get removed during shipment. Clearly mark the tube as “FRAGILE.”