When you Google how to ship artwork, TONS of stuff comes up and most of it is quite complex. There is also some bad advice out there that will actually ruin your paintings if you follow it. Unless you’re selling your paintings for thousands and thousands of dollars, most artists are not going to want to spend a lot of money to ship a painting.
So the question becomes: how do you easily and cheaply ship your artwork, without damaging it?
For different types of paint you need different methods. I haven’t shipped every type of artwork yet, so I will just go into what I have done so far. These are going to be my suggestions based off of my past shipping experiences, but like I said earlier there are tons of ways to ship art and some people will probably disagree with my methods.
Watercolor Paintings, Charcoal or Pastel Drawings (or anything similar on a flat, not framed surface such as a piece of paper):
These are fairly easy to ship. You can ship them the same way as you would ship an art print (see How to Ship Prints). If it’s small, you sandwich it in between cardboard. If it’s large, you roll it up in a shipping tube. Read the full article on how to ship prints for all the details.
Acrylic or Mixed Media Paintings:
I have had acrylic paintings get damaged in the heat by anything touching the surface of it, so when I first had to ship an acrylic painting I was pretty worried about it getting damaged.
In researching how to ship paintings on the web, a lot of people said to just wrap them in bubble wrap (which I felt was a very bad idea as the plastic would stick to the paint) and a lot of people said to build a crate for it so that you could essentially have the painting suspended in the middle of it with nothing touching the surface. While the second option wasn’t a bad idea and would ensure it got there in perfect condition, who has the time or money to ship all their art like that (unless you’re selling your paintings for thousands of dollars)?
So I came up with my own idea, which I double checked via Google to ensure people had successfully done. What I did was I took parchment paper (not wax paper, though they are similar) and wrapped it around my painting (making sure it fully covered the top of the painting, the back isn’t so important). Parchment paper is awesome, it doesn’t stick to anything whatsoever. I then wrapped bubble wrap around the parchment paper and taped that together. I shipped it off like that, via UPS ground, in a frame/photo box (so the box was at most about 6 inches wide).
I asked the recipient to let me know when they got the painting and to let me know what condition it arrived it. They got the painting within less than a week and sent me a message stating how wonderful the painting was, how professionally packaged it was, and that it had arrived to them in perfect condition. Success!
How much bubble wrap you use is up to you and what you feel comfortable with. If it’s a small painting (less than 12×12 inches) I will generally wrap the painting in bubble wrap once, maybe twice, and then put it in a bubble wrap or padded envelope. If it’s a larger painting I bubble wrap it at least twice and then put extra bubble wrap depending on the size of the box so that the painting fits snuggly. I have now shipped many paintings this way and never had a single one damaged at all.
DISCLAIMER: The largest painting I’ve shipped to date has been about 16×20. Should I ever need to ship a painting that was much larger, like 5 ft long or something, I would most likely put it in a crate.
I have never personally shipped an oil painting, but I have had oil paintings shipped to me. When I ship one myself I’ll do some more research and add to this but I thought I’d impart what I’ve learned from transporting oil paintings and from having them shipped to me.
I’ve never had a problem with something sticking to the surface of an oil painting. I’ve stacked them up in my car, left them in the heat, put them in boxes, etc. and I’ve never had them get damaged.
The other day a friend sent me two oil paintings in the mail. I was super curious to see how he would ship them. The box arrived via UPS and I opened it up expecting some intense packaging. I was very surprised! There was almost no packaging. He stuck some canvas scraps in between the paintings and that was it; they arrived in perfect condition. So from my experience so far, it’s pretty easy to ship an oil painting.