Artist guide to packaging - Part 1
Damages to artworks during transit can be a disheartening end result following a successful sale. As you cannot predict how a courier will handle your parcel, it is important to ensure your artworks are suitably packaged to avoid any damage during transit.
Although we have specific advice here on how to package different types of artworks, we thought it would also be great to let our artists give some advice on what their best practice is when it comes to packaging an artwork.
Unframed Linocut prints on paper
For anything smaller than 48 x 38 cm paper, I will mount it (if sold mounted) and cut 1200 micron grey board to size for backing.
- The visible artwork goes one side of the backing, and the COA (certificate of authenticity) the other.
- This is then wrapped in florist’s cello wrap – the artwork is kept clean and flat ready for shipping packaging.
- This is then bubble wrapped, packing slip added, and placed inside a white mailing box – I buy mine 50 at a time from Kite Packaging; they are strong boxes and available in a range of postal sizes.
- If there is a gap within the sides of the box, I use a small rolled strips of bubble wrap to hold the artwork in place.
- The box is made up and fragile tape used to secure the box.
- An A5 document wallet holds the shipping address in place.
Artworks of 48 x 38 cm or larger are sent in a postal tube:
- The artwork is sandwiched between 5 layers of white tissue each side, and carefully rolled around a 2’’ diameter postal tube with end caps.
- At this stage I then add the postcards, COA and packing slip, and use a piece of florist’s cello wrap around the roll. This keeps it all clean, in place, and makes it easy for the customer to remove the artwork without damage.
- This is placed inside a 3’’ diameter postal tube, end caps added and secured with a couple of staples each end.
- The shipping wallet is then added along with customs declaration if used.
A non-essential but nice touch and appreciated by customers: the artwork is wrapped in white tissue paper and curling ribbon used to wrap it as a present would be. I thread a ‘made with love’ silver charm through the ribbon to finish it off – sounds tacky but it’s not and customers love it! The ribbon then holds in place complimentary postcards of my work, including one with a thank you message to the customer.
I ship my unframed Linocut prints in hard backed envelopes.
- I package my prints in a biodegradable cello sleeve with 1500micron backing board behind the artwork to offer extra protection - this is also recyclable.
- Then using a square of card (off cuts from my prints) I fold my own corners to offer extra protection to the prints.
- I use Glassine which is a waxy paper to wrap the print and give an extra layer of protection. I seal this with a wax seal to add to the aesthetic and hopefully something that the customer will remember.
- The art work is then sent in a hard backed envelope.
- When pieces are travelling further afield I tend to add an extra piece of the backing board either side of the wrapped print due to the longer journey and possibility of manhandling in transit.
Amy has also published a detailed video showing how she packages her artwork, which you can find on her Instagram account here.
Unframed watercolours on paper
I sell watercolors without any frame/mat, from small (A4 ) to standard "imperial sheet" (76 x 56 cm) and more. I send large watercolors larger than 76x56 cm in tubes. All other watercolor works, I pack using the same methodology:
- I create a paper envelope first. To do this, I bought a roll of paper for a plotter, 0.8 m wide and 100 meters long, paper weight - 80 grams per square meter. This roll is enough to last me about 1 year.
- I then use 2 sheets of styrofoam. I buy several packs of polystyrene foam at once from a hardware store. This is a building insulation - lightweight and impact-resistant material. Easy to cut with a utility knife.
- A very important point, I make sure to secure the corners of the envelope to the styrofoam sheet with masking tape. It is usually enough to secure two opposite corners. I then wrap it with tape.
- Next I need to create a waterproof polyethylene bag. I bought a large roll of heavyweight polyethylene from a hardware store. I cut out a workpiece of the required size and seal the bag using the Manual Impulse Sealer. This is the largest Manual Impulse Sealer I have found in an online store. This gives me a neatly sealed bag.
All that remains is to take it to the post office, and the size of the package for a 76 x 56cm artwork is at 80x60x4 cm, and with a weight of 750g.
Framed digital giclee prints
Since starting out I've settled on having a handful of different sizes for my artworks. This has made it easier to customise my packaging materials to meet the need of whatever piece is sold. This is easiest with my print sales where I opt for either parcel tube or large letter boxes to keep shipping fees low. Framed pieces are a bit more challenging due to greater volume of packaging needed. The two key points for me when when it comes to frames would be:
- Layers of packaging. I package the frame before packaging it into the parcel box.
- Paper filler - it's cheap, versatile and green.
Framed collagraphs on paper
As all my artworks are small and similar size, it’s been easy to get a good routine for packing.
- The frame goes in a bubble wrap pocket neatly into a box, which I think really helps keep it safe especially as there is glass.
- I then put this small box inside a bigger box (still pretty small) with enough space around which is filled with scrunched up paper. I have a large roll of brown paper which I use for this. I buy all the boxes and brown paper in bulk so every parcel is wrapped the same way.
Make sure to also check part 2 of our article here and our artists advice on sustainable packaging here.