How to (not) Crush It!
How to ship your art safely without breaking the bank
I was recently talking to one of our fellow community members (the always awesome Toni DeBiasi) and she was telling me about how difficult it was to find good information online on how to ship art safely to customers without having to spend a ton of cash in the process
Since my experience with mailing anything other than flimsy manuscripts is fairly limited, I thought I would throw this question out to our amazing Skinny Artist Facebook community and see what types of tips, tricks, and suggestions you had about how to safely ship art prints and other types of fragile creative work down the street or around the world.
The number of responses we received was incredible [you guys rock!], so I thought I would take a moment to collect all of your tips and recommendations onto one page and create some type of online resource that we could continue to add on to in the future.
So if you haven’t already, please take a moment to help us out by sharing your thoughts, recommendations, and experiences with the rest of us in the comment section below :)
Shipping Art 101
Here are a few good articles that our community members recommended to get you started:
“How to Ship Paintings | A Step-by-Step Guide for Artists and Galleries” by Jason Horejs
This is a great introduction to shipping artwork safely including a list of some basic tools and supplies to make the job easier as well as some recommendations on carriers and shipping insurance.
[Thanks go out to Allison Richter for sharing this article with us]
“Art Shipping Horror Stories (and how to avoid shipping problems)” by Jason Horejs
Another good article by the same author that shares a few more specific tips including the right way to face your bubble wrap, the importance of using labels, and why you should never try to save a few bucks on cheap packing tape. [Thanks go out to Pia De Girolamo for sharing this article with us]
“Fool-proof method for shipping art” by Laura Den Hertog
A really good step-by-step tutorial (with lots of pictures!) on how to package artwork securely along with a few helpful suggestions on shipping as well. [Thanks go out to Jeannie Begin for sharing this article with us]
Here are a few additional tips and suggestions from our community members on how to ship your artwork safely and as cheaply as possible:
Charl Paul Bruwer “I recently shipped a painting to the US from South Africa. It was a really easy, painless process using UPS. The artwork (stretched canvas) was removed from the stretcher bars and rolled onto an 80mm cardboard tube and protected with bubble wrap, this in turn was placed into a 110mm PVC tube. The stretchers were dropped down the inside of the tube and packed tightly with more bubble wrap. The completed package is virtually bulletproof and lightweight.”
Pia De Girolamo “I have used a local shipper experienced in packaging antiques and artwork to ship to Europe, my gallerist has used Fedex, and I have used UPS. I would get insurance and tracking. I would ask the client to pay for shipping and insurance or make some accommodation with them about the cost.”
Annie Seddon “Always insure, make sure you’re covered! And definitely use delivery confirmation. I usually try to use FedEx as I have found that they usually treat your packages better, I am not sure if that’s true for your area or not. I usually use thick foam (about 1″-1 1/2″) around all sides of the framed piece (including front and back). Make sure your box is a good sturdy one and clearly labeled. And, yes, always assume they will mistreat it and pack accordingly, you can never be too careful!”
Jane Robinson “I ship large canvas artwork regularly. I always take it to our local shipper and have them box and ship. Yes, this can be expensive but I often have the client pay for shipping and I pay for insurance. Or increase your price to cover shipping.”
Cheryl O. “In Canada – I’ve found FedEx really good for larger paintings going longer distances.”
Scott Rolfe “Regarding shipping materials, don’t buy them at a store. Many stores will have cardboard boxes that they are going to get rid of anyways. Sites like Craig’s List regularly have people giving them away. It’s good on the wallet and for the environment. I package almost all my art myself…though still could do better. My biggest problem is patience; rushing the packaging is a no-no. If you are really concerned about it, there are places like the UPS store that will pack it for you for a reasonable price. I almost always use the USPS because the rates the private places charge are way too high, but if you want something insured go with one of the other services. Also USPS have recently changed it so that all packages have confirmation.”
Shana Kohnstamm “It greatly depends on what is being shipped. I tend to use a lot of pink insulation board to line the work and/or the box and I pretend it’s going to be carelessly handled no matter what. Always get insurance and a tracking number.”
Pam Fowler “If you are shipping something with glass you must wrap in bubble wrap and also pack in the Styrofoam peanuts..That’s the way UPS does it. For stretched canvas I just put styrofoam board on it to cover front and back and tape the sides. It’s light and I’ve never had a problem. You can’t ship a frame and glass like this…And good info is if you ship with UPS and they don’t pack it, even if you buy the insurance they will not cover any damage unless they have packed it themselves. So insurance is basically useless…I learned this the hard way when three of my works were totally busted and destroyed. UPS has really high packing charges too. And yes you better pack it like a gorilla is going to be handling it! ”
Now it’s your turn!
- What experiences have you had with shipping artwork to clients in the past?
- How do you prepare & pack your artwork for shipping?
- What shipping service do you prefer to use and why? (I realize this varies depending on your location)
- Do you purchase any type of insurance? (and how do you determine the amount – i.e. is the selling price and the appraised value the same thing?)
- Do you generally purchase delivery confirmation or any other type of optional services?
About the Author
Writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist community. His book "Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work" is all about finding the time (and energy) to live a more creative life.