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How To Ship Artwork: Best Ways to Wrap & Package Paintings

Art dealers must contend with a lot of risk when transporting goods – delicate and fragile products, potentially valued in the millions, needing to arrive in pristine condition.

The situation is also risky for those moving house, who must get their favorite artwork between properties in one piece.

If it goes wrong, it isn’t as simple as just offering a refund or buying a replacement product. Art is often one-of-a-kind and priceless in its sentimental value.

That’s why our packaging experts are here to help. In this article, we’ll discuss how to properly package art ready for shipping, which tools and equipment are required, and what to avoid when wrapping and transporting artwork.

Art corner protector

How to Wrap a Painting for Shipping

Before shipping a painting, it should be wrapped carefully to withstand damage from impact or the environment.

When wrapping art, it’s essential to follow these rules:

  • Cover the art with glassine or acid-free paper as a protective underlayer.
  • Protect the corners of the painting with card or foam corner protectors to avoid damage during transit.
  • Place the wrapped painting between two foam boards to provide a rigid cover to prevent the piece from bending during transport.
  • Secure the painting with a protecting outer layer of bubble wrap and place it within a box of equal size.
  • Use packing tape to seal the box securely.

How to Package Your Art 
As well as understanding the best ways to ship a painting, it’s also essential to understand the fundamentals of art packaging. So, you’re never caught short if you need to move a valuable or sentimental piece.

Importance Of Protecting Your Art

Ripped Canvas
Transporting artwork safely and securely is vital to protecting its potentially priceless value and integrity.

Impact, vibrations, temperature fluctuations, and humidity are all risk factors to consider when shipping artwork – and failure to protect against them could see your beloved items damaged beyond repair.

Protecting art also demonstrates respect for the artist’s work and its cultural value. It instills confidence in buyers, galleries, and collectors – fostering a positive reputation for the artist and ensuring a thriving market.

Which Tools and Equipment Are Required?

Packaging Supplies for Art
Transporting art requires essential tools and equipment to help protect against environmental risks or poor handling. These items include:

  • Packing Materials: Acid-free paper, glassine, bubble wrap, foam, and cardboard sheets for wrapping, cushioning, and protecting the artwork are essential.
  • Sturdy Boxes: Strong, double-walled cardboard boxes in appropriate sizes to fit the artwork securely without room to move around.
  • Packing Tape: High-quality packing tape for securing boxes and wrapping materials.
  • Corner Protectors: Foam or cardboard corner protectors are essential for protecting the edges of the piece against impact during transit.
  • Dollies or Hand Trucks: Dollies or hand trucks are essential for transporting large, unwieldy – or overly heavy – artwork without injury to the worker, or damage to the art.
  • Climate Control Solutions: Climate control solutions are essential for protecting vulnerable artwork from environmental damage such as extreme temperatures and humidity.
  • Strapping and Tie-downs: Straps and tie-downs are essential for protecting artwork against damage from movement during transit.
  • Security Seals: Tamper-evident seals improve artwork security and ensure packaging integrity upon arrival.

What to Avoid When Wrapping Art 

Wrapped Painting
Wrapping art can be a delicate process; if not done effectively, it could result in loss or damage to expensive or beloved pieces. Below is a simple guide on what to avoid when wrapping art:

  • Direct Contact: When wrapping artwork, avoiding direct contact between the exterior wrapping and the painting is essential. This can cause the wrap to stick and potentially damage the surface of the painting. Instead, sandwich the paper between two sturdy pieces of cardboard or foam before wrapping.
  • Excessive Pressure: Avoid applying excessive pressure to the painting. Not only could this pierce the canvas or break the painting frame, but it also distorts the artwork itself.
  • Improper Fit: Avoid using boxes that are too small or too large for the artwork. Small boxes can apply unnecessary pressure to the painting, while large boxes leave too much room for the painting to move around during transit.
  • Avoid Low-Quality Materials: Avoid using low-quality or acidic packaging materials as, over time, these can lead to environmental damage that compromises the integrity of the painting.
  • Insufficient Protection: Don’t overlook protective materials. Ensure adequate padding, cushioning, and reinforcement. This safeguards the artwork from impact and vibrations that occur during transit.
  • Lack of Documentation: Ensure the artwork is properly documented before shipping. This ensures it can be correctly identified and tracked without needing to be removed from its packaging at the other end.

Best Ways to Ship a Painting
When shipping a painting, it’s important to ensure it arrives in perfect condition. Once the artwork is wrapped and secure, key shipping considerations remain to avoid damage in transit.

Below are several best practice tips to consider when shipping delicate artwork:

  • Cushioning and Protection: Use bubble wrap, foam, or paper void fill to provide cushioning around the painting within the box. This prevents excess movement and damage during transit. For extra protection, use pallet wrap or stretch film to seal the outside of the box and protect it from the elements.
  • Appropriate Labelling: Make sure the package is clearly labeled with a ‘fragile’ tag to indicate that the box’s contents need to be handled with care. This label should also contain additional handling instructions if necessary.
  • Insurance: Consider purchasing shipping insurance that protects against loss or damage during transit. While this may not be able to replace a one-off piece of art, it does provide peace of mind that you won’t be out of pocket.
  • Choose a Reliable Shipping Service: Conduct thorough research and use a reputable shipping carrier. It’s preferable to look for a history of handling delicate items and shipment tracking with delivery confirmation.
  • Temperature and Climate Control: If necessary, use specialist shipping services that provide temperature and climate control to protect the painting from extreme conditions.
  • Documentation: Take photographs of the painting before shipping and record the artwork's details, including its dimensions, condition, value, and distinguishable information. This proves the artwork’s condition before travel and any components that can be used to locate it if the worst happens.

Mailing Artwork

Mailing Art
When mailing artwork, it’s essential to follow these specific rules to ensure the integrity of your pieces:

  • Proper Packaging: use sturdy boxes, secure wrapping, and ample cushioning to protect the artwork.
  • Insurance: Shipping insurance is essential for peace of mind over valuable pieces during transit.
  • Clear Addressing: Clear addressing ensures artwork arrives at its intended destination and isn’t lost during transport – which could lead to the package being opened for identification or if shipped back to the sender, facing further transporting risks.
  • Tracking: End-to-end tracking allows all parties to monitor where the artwork is and when it will arrive – protecting against theft or loss of valuable pieces.
  • Shipping Restrictions: Be sure to read up on any shipping restrictions associated with the company shipping the artwork – failure to do so may see the package opened or adjusted, which could affect its safe and secure shipping.

What to Do If Your Art Gets Damaged in Transit 

Damaged Shipping
If a work of art is damaged during transit, the following steps could help in the repair or recovery of the piece:

  • Document the Damage: Take photographic evidence of the packaging and damaged artwork as evidence for insurance claims and potential reimbursement.
  • Contact the Shipping Carrier: Notify the shipping carrier immediately and provide them with detailed information about the damage. Follow their instructions for filing a claim.
  • Insurance Claim: Claim against your shipping insurance policy, providing all necessary documentation and supporting evidence.
  • Seek Professional Help: Unlike many consumer items, art often cannot just be replaced with new stock and will require professional help to restore. Consult art restoration experts or conservators who can provide advice or services to assist in the recovery of damaged pieces.
  • Learn From the Experience: It’s important to understand what went wrong during shipping and how steps can be taken to prevent the same problem from occurring again – whether it’s in the packaging and wrapping or the shipment service.

How US Packaging & Wrapping Can Help You
US Packaging & Wrapping provides everything you need to safely and securely package any item for storage or shipment.

Our range of high-quality packaging solutions includes heat shrink wrap, stretch wrap, and even the machines needed to wrap your products in-house – as well as packing tape, Kraft paper for void fill, and any other materials needed to secure your packages ready for shipment.

For more information on specific packaging requirements, contact us today.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Questions and Answers

Q: How Do I Protect My Artwork for Shipping?

A: To protect artwork for shipping, using the suitable materials – such as acid-free paper and protective foam is important. Ensure the product is properly strapped down with no room for movement, then ensure it is correctly labeled as fragile so that handlers know they are dealing with a delicate item..

Q: How Do I Ship Unframed Art?

A: Shipping unframed art is like shipping framed art. First, ensure the product is wrapped in acid-free wrapping paper or glassine. Then, place it between two sets of sturdy cardboard or foam. Next, secure the package with weather-resistant packing tape and use a strong, appropriately sized box. Finally, label the packaging as ‘fragile’ and consider shipping insurance for added peace of mind.

Q: Can I Shrink Wrap Artwork?

A: Shrink wrapping can help protect artwork from scratches, it can also hold multiple pieces together. For resale and commercial uses, shrink wrapping is ideal for protection and presentation. The wrap itself will not protect from damage during transport from being dropped or crushed.

Q: How Do I Store My Artwork?

A: Storing art can be tricky; the older, the more delicate and unique. The material the art is made from should be considered, as well as transport and the storage environment. Here is an excellent online resource for storing different types of art.

Q: What Are the Most Important Packaging Materials for shipping Art?

A: The most important packaging materials for shipping art would be anything to help protect from impact. Examples are corner edge protectors, foam, or cushioning.

Q: How Should I Ship Three-Dimensional Art?

A: Wrapping three-dimensional objects in thinner foam wrap and placing them within a foam interior is preferred. The cushioning must be acid-free—heavier objects over 50 lbs. should have a custom package to avoid excessive movement.

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