The Process of Packaging Paintings

Whether I’m in my element or trying something new, I’m very rarely nervous in the studio. While painting, I get into the flow. I’m usually energized and curious, open to experimentation and/or peacefully plugging along. When it comes to shipping my paintings, however, it has taken some practice to get comfortable. Shipping artwork entails various steps, all with the main goal of ensuring that the work reaches the collector in a safe and timely fashion. In this blog post, I share my process of packaging paintings from the logistical steps to the emotional rollercoaster of letting a painting go!

Although packaging artworks has been an aspect of a few of my former jobs, I needed a refresher when I decided to launch my web shop. I started looking for packaging and shipping resources and quickly found a helpful and straight forward video by Agora Gallery. I watched this and other videos carefully and well before a sale. This helped me build the confidence that, when the time came, I would be ready to ship my artworks to their new homes. From there, I gathered the materials I would need from the art supply store Schleiper, here in Brussels. Below is a list of materials I keep on hand for packaging my paintings.

*The Materials:

  • Glassine paper
  • Artist’s tape
  • Packing tape
  • Bubble wrap
  • Cardboard corners
  • Pieces of cardboard or foamboard
  • Shipping boxes
  • Scissors & exacto knife
  • Ruler & measuring tape
  • Pencil & marker

When the day arrived that I sold a painting that required shipping, I knew I had to set aside a good amount of time to package this fragile and meaningful-to-me (and now owned by someone else!) artwork.

**The Steps:

1. Clear and cushion your surface. Whether small or large in size, I package my paintings on the floor so that I can spread out all of my materials and have an abundance of space. Before I begin, I sweep and/or vacuum the surface (a good excuse for cleaning). Then, I lay down a large piece of clean foam and/or cardboard to provide a cushion for my painting.  

2. Wrap artwork in glassine paper using artist’s tape. Glassine paper is an acid-free archival quality paper. This material is gentle against the paint and is the first layer of protection for the painting. I use artist’s tape for this step—a tape that is easy to remove and will not leave residue on your painting—even though I try not to attach the tape to the canvas surface. Use the glassine paper and artist’s tape to wrap your artwork like a gift.

3. Wrap artwork in bubble wrap using packing tape. Different resources suggest different amounts of bubble wrap to protect artwork. I’ve found that I am happy with the protection that a generous couple of inches of bubble wrap (all around the artwork) provides. To secure the bubble wrap, use strong packing tape. In the photo below, I’ve added an extra step of cushioning the artwork between foamboard – I explain my use of foamboard in the following steps.

4. Add and secure cardboard corners to your artwork (especially important for framed artworks). I use cardboard corners on both framed and unframed paintings. Framed paintings require this extra layer of protection as the corners are especially vulnerable to impact in the shipping process. Cardboard corners are available in art supply stores, or you can make your own. This video by StateoftheART was extremely helpful for making my own cardboard corners.

5. Sandwich-wrap artwork between cardboard or foamboard pieces. Foamboard is a material and packaging step that I added to my process when I was packaging a painting I sold through Saatchi Art. Sandwiching the artwork between two sturdy foamboard pieces adds an extra layer of protection, helping to absorb weight that may be imposed upon the artwork during shipping.

6. Insert artwork into a sturdy cardboard box. Finding boxes has been a challenge for my larger works. I have been making boxes out of larger cardboard pieces but this is time-consuming and so I continue to look for larger boxes that would fit my works. In addition to using foamboard, another tip/requirement I picked up from Saatchi Art is to always use the “H-taping” method. When closing and securing your cardboard box, use strong packing tape over the corners and along the opening sides of the box (the long piece of tape along the side and the two pieces of tape at either corner creates an “H”-like shape).

The first artwork I sent out of the country was nerve-wracking. As soon as I scheduled the pick-up with the delivery company, the clock began ticking. I was concerned about having all the right materials and packaging my work safely and professionally. My perfectionism reared its head by zooming in on details like how consistent my tape-job was. Packaging my first painting for international shipping took hours as I made my own box, weighed, measured, cut and recut cardboard pieces, and added more layers of bubble wrap and tape than necessary. When the courier came to pick up the painting, I both couldn’t wait to have it out of the door and felt a little emotional saying goodbye.

With practice, packaging my paintings for shipping is getting easier. Trusting that they will get to their destination safely comes from having seen this happen successfully. Having high standards in terms of getting the work to the collector safely is of utmost importance. While the presentation is important, bubble wrap and foamboard can only look so good!

While I especially like to hand-deliver my paintings, to meet collectors, and sometimes even see where the paintings will be hung, I’m thrilled that my artwork is now in a few European countries, including The Netherlands and France, and in Canada. By including a greeting card and my business card (along with a Certificate of Authenticity) with my shipped paintings, I’ve found ways to add a personal touch to delivery. When someone connects with my work and brings it into their home, the very important element of artmaking is achieved: sharing.

Thanks for reading!

* These are the materials I most often use for shipping. This list is not exhaustive – sometimes I use brown paper to add an extra layer over the glassine and bubble wrap, for example. This list is based on the needs of my paintings, which are acrylic paintings on stretched canvas. I continue to research best packaging methods and advise the consultation of a few different resources to decide what is best for you, if you’re an artist shipping your work. Finally, galleries may have their own in-house guidelines for packing that they ask the artist to respect or artworks may be packaged by representing galleries.

** These are my standard go-to packaging steps. I may adjust the steps depending on the size and fragility of the work. My paintings do not come framed with glass. As the Agora Gallery video (linked above) explains, extra safety measures are required to protect glass during the shipping process. Make sure to follow the packaging steps required of your specific artwork.

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