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7 1/2 Practical Tips on How to Safely Package and Ship a Painting

So, you’ve finished your latest artistic masterpiece and someone has purchased it. . . the only catch is, they happen to live a long ways away. So now what?

Truly valuable paintings should be shipped by an expert art moving company; however, most of our artwork (despite how much it means to us) does not require this type of shipping. Instead, it’s up to us, the artists, to package and mail the artwork ourselves.

Obviously, shipping your artwork can be a stressful process, no matter how well you package it. The following tips will, hopefully, alleviate some of that stress.

Tip #1. Let it dry first!

For pity’s sake, allow your painting to completely dry before you ship it! You worked so hard on it and it has even been purchased already (although, in my opinion, it is wise to let the painting dry completely before offering it for sale!) so why would you want to put a wet painting in a box and have your customer find that it has been smudged upon arrival?

And remember, oil paints take an outrageous time to dry completely—where I live, it can take upwards of six months! Even though the top layers may be dry to the touch, underlying layers may not be.

Tip #2. Frame it or roll it.

If your painting has already been stretched, it’s almost always better to ship it framed inside a box rather than just as a raw canvas. The frame will act as a stabilizer to help make sure nothing comes in contact with the surface of the painting. However shipping a frame is not always possible (or desired by the buyer.)

On the other hand, if your painting is not stretched, you’re in luck: it will be much easier to ship your painting. After making sure it is completely dry, roll it around the outside of a cardboard tube with the paint-side in. Then, wrap this in bubble wrap and proceed to place into a large mailing tube.

Tip #2.5. Protect the frame with corner guards.

If your painting is stretched and framed, you may want to consider used cardboard corner guards to protect the—you guessed it—corners of the frame.

Tip #3. If you use bubble wrap, be careful.

Bubble wrap is a lovely thing, and is usually a person’s best friend when it comes to shipping valuable items . . . unless that item is a painting.

Bubble wrap can turn into your worst enemy if it touches the surface of your painting, due to a possible reaction between the plastic and the paint. If anything needs to touch the actual paint at all, make sure it is acid-free paper.

Tip #4. Avoid packing peanuts.

Personally, I avoid packing peanuts like the plague. They cause static and if broken, they can create many, many little bits of foam which stick to your painting.

Only used these if you have previously wrapped your painting in acid-free paper first—packing peanuts should never be your sole form of packing material!

Tip #5. Send it fast and first class!

Assuming that your client is paying for the shipping of the piece (as they should) you should always ship the artwork either two-day or overnight.

This is simply because the less people handling your painting, the better. A lot of terrible things can happen to a poor painting if it is passed from hand to hand by a shipping company.

Tip #6. Save your receipt and insure the painting.

Be absolutely sure you have a receipt for the painting’s full value from your customer—then insure it for the full value. If you do not have a receipt from your customer, the only insurance you will be able to get is for the cost of your materials.

Tip #7. Include a “thank you” note.

This isn’t really a shipping tip, but it’s good advice nonetheless. When you are packaging your painting, consider including a short note of appreciation inside the box. Just a simple “Thank you for purchasing ______. I hope you enjoy your new work of art” will suffice.

And of course, if your note happens to have your website address, newsletter list, and other business information (or even a few business cards for that customer to pass along to their friends) so be it. : )

For further reading, check out Zach Risso’s blog, The Capital A.

As a young art entrepreneur, I can remember being on a sales call where I was asked to estimate my final price without having designed the project yet. I tried to explain to the interior designer that such a request was nearly impossible, since I hadn't even sat down and sketched out possible designs. . . the best I could do was ballpark a range, and even at that, I would need to adjust for. . . read more

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