If you have been painting for a while you probably have a few paintings stacked against a wall or hidden in the back of a closet. You probably haven’t given much thought about how to properly store and ship your artwork.
It’s heartbreaking to take out a painting and find that it has stuck to the one it is stacked against. Getting them apart usually results in damage to one or both of your paintings.
You have put a lot of effort into making your masterpieces so you want to make sure they are protected while in storage. You also want to make sure the pieces you sell arrive at your customer in good shape.
Here are a few ways you can make sure your paintings are stored or shipped safely.
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Make sure your painting is completely dry. I like to give acrylic paintings or watercolors a few weeks to cure.
They will feel dry to the touch in less than a day, but all of the layers may not be completely dry, especially if the paint is thick or you have used a medium to slow down the drying time.
To learn more about acrylic mediums see my post on how to use acrylic mediums.
Oil paint will take considerably longer to dry. This could be weeks or months depending on what type of paint and solvent you use and how thick the painting is.
Read the manufacturers instructions on both paint and solvent to help you estimate how long the drying time should be.
The best place to store your paintings is on your walls where they can be admired by your family and friends.
Your artwork is relatively safe on your walls as long as you don’t hang them in direct sunlight. A light dusting occasionally is all the maintenance you should need.
There are many reasons you may not want to hang your work. You might run out of space or the work doesn’t fit with your décor or various other reasons so you need to find a space to store them until you want to hang them or they are sold.
A climate controlled storage facility would be perfect but we are not all lucky enough to have access to such things. Tossing your finished painting behind your sofa and hoping for the best is not a great idea either.
So what other options are there? Well, depending upon the space you have and the type of artwork there are a few options you can explore.
Storing Stretched Canvases
Museum curators and other art experts will tell you not to store your art on the floor. It is good advice but we don’t all have museum budgets to follow this rule. Most of us have to make do with what we have to work with.
If you have an unused closet you can use it to store stretched canvases, properly wrapped (see below for wrapping instructions) and leaning upright against each other.
Never store canvases flat and piled on top of each other. The weight will cause the canvases to sag and increases the likelihood of them sticking together.
If no closet is available you can stack them against the wall in an out of the way place. It should not be an outside wall since the changes in temperature can cause sticking or mold.
Try and store them against a wall that does not get direct sunlight or cover them with a dark curtain or cloth if necessary.
If you have more room, you can construct storage racks the lay your canvases on. These are great for drying too. There are a ton of websites and YouTube videos with tutorials on how to build these. You can use anything from wooden palettes to old baby cribs to make theses. The downside is they require extra room.
Unstretched canvas can be rolled up and inserted in a tube for storage and transport.
Wrapping for Storage
Don’t use plastic wrap the cover your paintings for storage. The plastic wrap traps moisture and can cause your painting to develop mold.
A better idea would be to cover them in a cloth or felt bag that protects the canvas but allows it to breath. Again, make sure the canvas is completely dry before storage.
If you have no cloth bags and are just going to lean them against a wall you can use a sheet of parchment paper or glassine between them to prevent sticking.
Glassine is an acid free paper used in museums to protect artwork. You can buy it from most craft stores, some hardware stores and on Amazon.
I also use a small piece of glassine under my hand to protect my work when I am drawing. It won’t smudge the graphite or colored pencil when you are moving your hand over your drawing.
Storing Paper Artwork
Artwork done on paper, such as prints, watercolors, drawings or oils or acrylics done on paper, can be stored in a filing cabinet, old dress or other furniture with the appropriate size drawers. Bookshelves or credenzas with wide enough shelving are also good.
Unlike stretched canvases, paper can be stacked one on top of the other as long as they are properly wrapped to protect from sticking or smudging. They should also be protected from direct sunlight.
You can layer a sheet of parchment paper or glassine between each piece to prevent sticking or smudging. Paper should be laid flat because standing it upright will cause it to curl over time.
The same is true for thin canvas boards. They too should be laid flat for storage.
Packaging Artwork for Shipping
To ship a stretched canvas first wrap it in glassine or parchment and lightly tape it on the back with painters tape. Wrap the canvas in a layer or two of bubble wrap and secure that with tape.
Once the canvas is wrapped, place it in a box that is slightly larger than your wrapped canvas. Fill the extra space in the box with pieces of bubble wrap, newspaper or shredded paper to prevent the canvas from moving around in the box during shipping.
Secure the box well with packing tape. Label it for shipping and mark it as fragile.
If you are shipping a framed piece, protect the corners with Styrofoam, cardboard or a couple of layers of bubble wrap.
Try and avoid shipping glass. It is very hard to prevent glass from breaking during shipping and it can add weight to the package making it more expensive to ship.
If you have to ship a framed painting with glass put low tack tape such as painters tape or masking tape in an X across the glass. If it does break during shipping the glass won’t shatter and may help protect the painting from scratching.
Add an extra layer of heavy cardboard to the front and back of the frame for added protection. Some artists use thin sheets of plywood to protect the glass but again you will most likely pay extra shipping because of the weight.
Hint: Don’t use dollar store tape. It often doesn’t stand up well when shipping and your box could come apart and damage your artwork. It is better to spend a little extra on good packing tape. ( I learned this from experience… sigh)
If you don’t have the proper size box, you can improvise by making a box from larger boxes or pieces of cardboard. Lightly score the cardboard with a dull knife to make bending it into shape easier.
Whenever you come across a box that might be good for shipping future artwork save it. You can take it apart and store it in an out of the way place for future use.
Prints, watercolors, drawings and other paper artwork can be placed in acid free clear plastic bags designed for artwork. You can usually buy these bags to fit the size of your paper.
If you can’t find acid free bags you can use glassine or acid free tissue paper to carefully wrap the artwork. Place the wrapped paper inside a regular plastic bag or plastic wrap.
Put your plastic bag or glassine wrapped painting between two sheets of heavy cardboard or foam core board to prevent buckling. Tape them together and pop them into a cardboard mailer or a bubble wrap lined envelope.
Make sure the work fits inside the envelope tightly. Excess movement in a too large envelope can damage the edges of your work. You can add extra bubble wrap to the envelope or fold down and tape the top of the envelope if it is too long.
Shipping Artwork in Tubes
Heavy duty shipping tubes are great for shipping unstretched canvases or large paper works. To prepare the artwork for shipping you need a sheet of glassine or other archival paper cut about 2 inches larger than your piece.
Place your drawing, watercolor or print face up on the glassine. For paintings on canvas, place them face down on the glassine to help prevent cracking when rolled.
The thicker the paint on unstretched canvas, the more likely you will get cracks. To minimize this problem, make sure the painting is thoroughly dry and don’t roll it too tightly.
Once you have your artwork rolled up tape it closed with artists or painters tape. To give your work extra protection and keep it from moving around in the tube wrap it in a layer or two of bubble wrap.
You can cut the bubble wrap longer than your rolled artwork and use the excess to close up the top and bottom of the roll.
Pop your roll into the cardboard tube and seal the tube well on both ends. Label and mark as fragile.
I hope you found some helpful info in this post. If you have any suggestion or words of wisdom about shipping art please leave a comment below. 😊
Thanks for reading.