Especially for first-time shippers, packing your artwork to ship to a buyer, gallery, or exhibition seems daunting. There are so many choices to make and questions in your mind, like "Where do I get boxes? Which shipper can I trust? How do I protect the painting? How much will this cost me?" The truth is, there are many different answers to these questions.
Here you will find 3 ways that I use most often when shipping my artwork. The decision on which one to use depends on a number of factors like how many pieces I am shipping and what their sizes are. On this particular day, I was preparing multiple shipments, and used all 3 ways.
Most self-storage facilities sell boxes. These are much cheaper than the ones you buy at UPS. Buy large 'mirror' boxes ($6-10 each). If you painting is larger than will fit inside one box, you may need to join 2 boxes together to make a larger box. Small boxes for small and medium sized paintings are available at FedEx.
I ship by FedEx and have for several years. They have always treated me well, but I know artists who use UPS too and I have used them a few times in the past. I opened a FedEx account and a FedEx Ground Shipper account so that I can easily make my shipping labels (and return shipment labels if needed) online. I schedule a pick up (an additional $4 on top of shipping costs). To prepare you label you will need the box dimensions and weight of the box. You can give a good estimate if you do not have a scale. FedEx will weigh it too, and charge you accordingly. If you do not have an account or do not wish to open one, take your box to a FedEx staffed facility and have them weigh it for you. Here you will fill out the shipping label by hand.
The first thing I do in any case, is to protect the corners of the painting with commercially made frame protectors. Seen here are the plastic bubble kind, but you are probably more familiar with the cardboard type. Either one is fine. I buy these bubble ones from http://www.twikart.com. They come on a large roll and you tear off as many as you need. If you do not have these on hand, you can make your own with bubble wrap (seen in photo 2) or with several layers of clean craft paper.
Commercially made bubble corner protectors.
Protecting with regular bubble wrap.
Commercial corners can be stapled with short staples to keep them from falling off in transit.
Next I protect the front of the painting with a piece of cardboard, mat board, or foamcore, cut slightly larger than the painting itself. Fasten with tape to the protective corners used above.
Tape board to protective corner.
I place the protected painting into a plastic sleeve (available from shipping suppliers and frame suppliers) and tape securely. Here I have wrapped the painting with bubble wrap on all sides.
One of the pieces I needed to send was fairly small. I placed protective corners on the frame just like in the example above. I found a box that I had kept when I ordered frames. You will want to make sure you put identifying information INSIDE the box lid or top. I have placed my name and contact information along with a photo of the painting enclosed. This helps if the receiving gallery or exhibition is keeping your box to return your painting to you.
Clean craft paper for padding.
You do not want any 'wiggle' room inside your box. Here I show clean craft paper used to pad around the edges of the painting.
You can also completely wrap the painting in bubble wrap as shown here.
Protected painting wrapped in bubble wrap.
Add scrap padding to the bottom of your box.
Basically I have wrapped 3 paintings in 3 different ways, all very well protected. I am ready to place them inside my box. Start by adding padding to the bottom of the box.
Foam sheet wrapped in plastic.
After I slide in the paintings, I add more protective padding around the interior box walls. Galleries do not accept paintings which have been packed in styrofoam or styrofoam peanuts. This piece of foam has been wrapped in a plastic sleeve and taped securely so there will not be any mess when the gallery unpacks the box.
Continue to add more padding such as foam wrap, bubble wrap, or clean craft paper so that no movement occurs. Seal the box well with packing tape on all seams and sides. Mark it with FRAGILE, and add arrows showing which end is the top. This tell the receiver how it is best to open the box.
As far as cost goes, I ship FedEx Ground. The shipment I am showing in this example took only 2 days to get to Richmond Virginia from my studio in Franklin Tennessee. The cost for shipping for 3 boxes, 2 large and 1 extra large, weighing a total of 52 pounds was $103.42.
If you prefer, you can also take your painting to a FedEx staffed shipping facility and pay for them to pack and ship for you. This costs about 50% more.
This final option for packing is super easy --
. They come in a variety of sizes. Order one that will have at least 1-2 inches on all sides of your frame. While these boxes may look expensive, if you figure in all of your time and added padding materials, they are a steal. Also, because they sponsor many of the larger exhibitions, you may be eligible for a discount if your shipment is associated with that event.
Airfloat Systems Strongbox
Shown here is the box with the top layer of foam removed. There is a middle layer of 'pluck' foam and a bottom layer of foam under that. There are instructions included inside the box as well.
Lay your painting down on the second layer of foam and mark the corners.
Mark corners so you know where to start 'plucking.'
Remove pluck foam to form a cradle for your painting.
Remove the 'pluck' foam (little perforated squares) inside the area where the painting will rest. Place the painting inside. (Remember, there is another layer of foam UNDER the painting.) Place the top layer of foam back in on top of your painting.. Put your identifying information on the inside of the box.
Tape in 2 places and ship!
There is a 4th way that I have to ship on occasion, and that is by wooden crate. If my painting is really large or has a very heavy frame, I will use this option. Watch for a blog post on that in the future.