Artist guide to packaging - Part 2

Make sure to check Part 1 of this article here and see below for more advice from our artists on how best to package your artworks.

Large oil paintings on canvas

Lilia Orlova-Holmes

  • I use good quality cardboard boxes, which I order from Davpack. Even better, they share some of the Artfinder values and promise to plant a tree with every order!
  • I use biodegradable bubble wrap first, then use single-layered cardboard and secure it with biodegradable film.
  • I put extra side protection ( cardboard strip) on 4 sides and put it inside the double-layer cardboard box.
  • I try to keep boxes as small as possible, not only because of the shipping cost but also because I think the bigger/bulkier packages are more difficult to carry and they are more likely to get dropped or mishandled.
  • For extra-large paintings (120x150cm) I add grey shock-absorbing foam inside the box.
  • Overall I try to avoid excess packaging and use reliable couriers, such as DHL and FedEx express.

Bronze sculptures

Yenny Cocq

When packaging artwork, the first thing I like to keep in mind is the person receiving it. They have bought a gift, whether it be for someone else or for themselves, and as the artist, I am creating an experience for the recipient to carefully open and enjoy the process of unveiling their artwork. Think about the feeling you want to convey as an artist. Does your packaging communicate your message?

To package my artwork, I first have to assess what all the parts are that I'm shipping. If I am including stone, I have to ensure it is protected with enough padding so it isn't damaged in transit. I am very generous with the amount of packing materials I use. I like to reuse packaging materials and get creative with what I have, like bubble wrap and air pouches from orders I get from online retailers. I won't, however, reuse heavily used materials or boxes or materials with someone else's branding. It does not look very nice. I also do not use printed newspapers, but packaging newspaper is great. I will often use styrofoam peanuts for padding and protection, but I try not to purchase any of them myself. The starchy, biodegradable version is good, too, but has the tendency to get compressed and it will dissolve when wet.

I add a layer of coloured tissue paper around every item, which adds to the security of the package, but also adds to the unveiling experience. Gift boxes come in all sizes, so I like to use those to place items into when I'm finished wrapping them up. I love pillow boxes for my small unmounted sculptures. Once wrapped and boxed, everything gets a ribbon bow adhered with my logo sticker on the outside. I do offer gift wrap as an extra feature, but it costs a little more, since I wrap everything very nicely to some degree, anyway.

I like to make sure any of my branding materials are visible upon opening the box. When opening the box, the customer should see the packing slip in an envelope with a thank you card or brochure. It is good to include care instructions on a separate card or flyer. Small gifts from stickers to an actual small piece of art are always very appreciated. Customers who purchase larger and expensive work of mine receive a small piece of jewelry or a symbolic gift item from me.

Because the outside package is not very appealing due to the shipping wear-and-tear, a good way of elevating the packaging is double boxing your package with a smaller, more attractive box inside the shipping box. This makes for a better customer experience and is usually more secure and less prone to damage. I think it looks much nicer to use a high quality white box rather than kraft boxes. Packaging artwork securely is an art in itself. Sometimes, with larger items, sending the artwork in two separate packages might be the answer, or if it's a much larger sculpture and double boxing does not work, crating is advised. If crating artwork isn't in your wheelhouse, an experienced art handler will know what to do. Although that can become expensive, it may be worth it to have the peace of mind to know the artwork arrived in perfect condition.

Oil/acrylic/mixed media on canvas/cradled wood and cradled masonite/hardboard

Valerie Erichsen Thomson

Single stretched canvas

  • For single stretched canvases, cradled wood and cradled masonite/hardboard (Mine are from .75" to 2.5" deep), I wrap the front of each item in glassine, then attach with acid free artist's tape. The glassine is acid free, protects the painted surface from acid of other packaging and scratches from minor abrasion.
  • I then wrap the painting with the glassine and padding. If traveling a long way, I add a layer of cardboard all around the wrapped painting and tape it down, pinching the ends in and securing them so the contents won't shift during transport
  • I then place this inside a double wall cardboard box.
  • It doesn't hurt to add a layer of additional cardboard along each side, and top and bottom. (I cut up undamaged surfaces of cardboard boxes I've received.)
  • If I am concerned about the weight, I will add cardboard edge protectors to the inside edges of the outer box. You can make your own by doubling up on single wall cardboard, bending the two layers to 90 degree angles and glueing them, or you can buy or recycle them ready made.
  • I then tape it all down securely. Don't scrimp on tape. Use the best you can afford. It's what holds it all together. If the package is large, I will also sometimes use fiber glass strapping tape in the shape of a cross across the center of each direction to reinforce the outer box.
  • Single wall cardboard is easy to handle but also easy to tear and penetrate, so I use it only for added padding inside a stronger box. If it's all there is on hand, I double box the contents adding recycled padding inside the two boxes, or making concertinaed folded cardboard to create some distance between the outer box and the inner in case of penetration. In terms of cost, to me it's not worth it. You have to make the box larger to add more padding, so while it's easier to cut and fold, it's more expensive to ship and increases the likelihood of damage to the artwork.

Multiple stretched canvas

  • To address abrasion for multiple stretched canvases, cradled wood or cradled Masonite/Hardboard, for items I ship together, I wrap each as above then place them facing either side of a cardboard sheet 4 inches wider than the largest packed piece.
  • I tape both down on both sides so they don't move. 
  • Then I add a layer of cardboard all around, cocooning the two and their cardboard divider between two more sheets of cardboard pulling the sides and end of the outside sheets in a bit and taping all tight so it's snug as a bug. 
  • I can then follow the same steps as with single artworks.

Rolled in a tube items

There are a few considerations to keep in mind for rolled items. Will the substrate hold the roll? If a canvas, how wide is it including its wings (the parts that are stretched around the stretchers)?

  1. If the substrate will hold the roll, creating the possibility that in trying to flatten it, the buyer or framer might damage the piece, I ship flat.
  2. Otherwise, I cover in glassine a little larger than the original, place the art immediately below the beginnings of the glassine, and tape the glassine to a cardboard tube using acid free artist's tape.

I roll making sure there are no wrinkles to cause indentations on the surface of the work, around a cardboard tube at least a few inches in diameter and several inches longer than the original.

When the end of the artwork roll is reached, I cut the glassine a little beyond the artwork, and tape the glassine to itself. The glassine and artwork roll sandwich should be snug but not tight, just snug enough to keep the artwork from moving off the inner tube.

I then place documentation inside the inner tube. Always good to tell the buyer via the messaging system that's where the documentation is, or dangle a coloured string to add a message to that effect on the end of the tube.

I add padding thick enough to keep the artwork from moving inside it's outer roll or box and tape it down, using the bunched up ends to provide nice end padding for the roll. Provide enough padding so it doesn't move and will fit inside another tube or inside a telescoping box.

In both cases I use thick heavy duty tubes that won't crimp and can stand up to heavy packages sitting on top of them. or double wall cardboard telescoping boxes (made for shipping long skinny items like golf clubs). The advantage of the telescoping box kind, is that for a good part of the package, it's quadruple walled, so this is great for long distances. Cardboard tubes, including the heavy duty ones, can be cut to size with a handsaw. For the inner tubes, if the artwork is larger than the tube, you can piece together as many tubes as needed and tape them together. Using pieced together outer tubes can be risky. Before you put your artwork inside, if you can bend the taped together tube with force, so can courier equipment and heavy boxes. I have large heavy tubes in various sizes in my inventory in case. None of these are inexpensive, so keeping that in mind for shipping/pricing calculations matters.

Make sure to also check what our artists recommend in terms of sustainable packaging on our Knowledge Base article here.

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