Fine Art Shipping: A Guide to Shipping Works of Art

Whenever you buy a new piece of art to freshen up your home or as a present to your friend, you are normally supposed to deal with fine art shipping. The packaging of a single item has lots of ins and outs that every shipper should know to ensure that the artwork arrives at the destination intact. This guide will provide you with a step-to-step instruction on how to ship a work of art properly.

7 steps of shipping works of art

Whether you are a seasoned collector or just a person buying fine art for your home, it always pays to know how to do things right since the safety of your items is a primary goal. Not following these steps or doing something by halves may adversely influence the outcome of your work, so please be attentive at every stage of the art shipping process. 

Before you start, compile a list of the required materials. This list may vary depending on what exactly you are shipping, but the most common materials usually include:

  • A durable shipping box/tube/container
  • Painter/artist tape
  • Bubble wrap
  • Corner protectors
  • Clingfilm
  • Foam boards
  • Glassine paper 
  • High-quality packing tape

When everything is ready, it’s time to prepare your works for shipping. 


Step 1. Take measurements

Knowing the length, width, and height of an object is crucial for selecting the right size of a shipping container. Make sure all the measurements are accurate because the wrong size of the box may be the reason for the artwork damage. The right measurements can help you calculate the cost of shipping as well. You will also need to weigh the artwork for a more accurate estimate.


Step 2. Select a solid container

Be it a box, a shipping tube, or any other sort of container, you have to pay close attention to its quality and durability. Always opt for new boxes when shipping fine art. Besides, keep in mind that you will need a separate container for each artwork.

For smaller pieces, cardboard boxes and tubes would be a perfectly suitable choice. Each box should be several inches larger than the item so that you have space for padding and cushioning.

For large framed and unframed pieces, fine art shipping experts recommend using custom wooden crates in addition to standard soft packaging. Such crates are built in full accordance with the item’s shipping requirements to ensure its complete protection in transit.


Step 3. Wrap the artwork

If you are shipping an unframed canvas, wrap it in acid-free glassine paper first. This is by far the best option on the market as the smoothness and quality of this paper provide good protection even for the most delicate drawings and paintings.  Glassine paper should cover every inch and corner of the artwork.

In case you are shipping several pieces in a single tube, place a sheet of glassine paper between each canvas before rolling it and putting it in the tube. 


Step 4. Protect glass and corners

If your painting is framed with glass, you need to ensure that glass, if being broken, won’t harm the canvas. You can achieve this by taping several strips of artist or painter tape to the surface of the glass. You need to make a large “X” shape from corner to corner and add several more pieces of artist tape to each side of the glass borders.

Clingfilm can be used as an alternative to artist tape. If the framed painting is properly wrapped with clingfilm, glass won’t damage the surface of the artwork even if it is broken in transit.

For corners, use self-made or store-bought cardboard corner protectors and secure them with the tape.


Step 5. Pack the artwork

Wrap the entire piece with bubble wrap. Make sure you use it enough. Two or three layers, or 2 inches of bubble wrap on each side, would be enough. Secure the bubble wrap with the packing tape. You may also use two pieces of foam board to ‘sandwich’ the artwork and thus provide it with more protection.


Step 6. Put the piece in a container

Put the artwork in a box or shipping container and fill the voids with bubble wrap or another cushioning material. Bubble wrap will create an additional layer of protection, which is supposed to help the artwork withstand friction and movement during shipping.


Step 7. Seal your package

Use high-quality packing tape for securing your package. Vertical and horizontal strips should cover all the seams on each side of the box. Also, consider labeling the package with “Fragile” and other similar labels to let the shipping company know what is inside the box. 

All that remains is to bring your package to professional art shippers who will deliver the artwork wherever it needs to be. Hopefully, this guide will help you go through the art shipping process more efficient and spare lots of your valuable time.

Categories Shipping