How to Ship Oil Paintings

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Oil paintings are fragile and delicate, requiring extra care to transport safely. There are two methods of packing oil paintings that keep the paintings well protected: one using bubble wrap and cardboard, and one using custom-built wooden crates. Professional artists shipping work to galleries and collectors can use the wooden crate option for impressive, fool-proof results.

Things You'll Need

  • Glassine paper
  • Bubble wrap
  • Packing tape
  • Corrugated cardboard pieces
  • Foam board
  • Cardboard box
  • Permanent marker
  • 4 hardwood strips
  • Power saw
  • Wood screws
  • Power drill
  • Wood glue
  • 2 masonite boards
  • 2 sheets bubble wrap

Bubble Wrap and Cardboard

  • Make sure your name and the title of the piece are marked clearly on the back of the painting.

  • Place a sheet of acid-free glassine paper on top of the front of the painting (the painted part). This protects it from moisture and dust.

  • Wrap the painting with a sheet of bubble wrap, making sure it's completely covered. Tape to secure.

  • Place a sheet of corrugated cardboard or foam board on each side of the painting over the bubble wrap.

  • Add an additional layer of bubble wrap to the outside, and tape to secure.

  • Place the wrapped painting inside a cardboard box lined with foam board. The box should be the same proportions as the painting and fit snugly to prevent the painting from bouncing around inside.

  • Mark the outside of the box clearly with your name.

  • Take it to your local packing and shipping store. Have the painting insured, and place FRAGILE stickers on the box.

Custom Wooden Crate

  • Follow steps 1 and 2 from the previous section.

  • Assemble the frame by screwing the hardwood strips together to fit the perimeter of your painting, leaving the top strip unscrewed for now. The hardwood strips should be just wide enough to accommodate the depth of your canvas, plus a sheet of bubble wrap on each side. The frame should be large enough to easily place the painting inside it, but not so large that the painting won't be secure during shipment.

  • Make sure that the top piece of the frame fits over the top edges of the side strips. This piece will be unscrewed to remove the artwork once it arrives at its destination.

  • Cut two sheets of masonite board to fit the front and back of the frame (including the top strip, which is not yet attached).

  • Secure one sheet of masonite board to the back of the frame using wood glue and screws.

  • Line the frame with a piece of bubble wrap and place your painting inside. There should not be any room for it to jiggle around inside the frame. Cover it with another sheet of bubble wrap (on top of the glassine paper).

  • Place the other sheet of masonite board on top of the frame, securing well with wood glue and screws. It should be air tight so moisture cannot get inside.

  • Mark the top board of the frame "OPEN HERE." Screw it tightly into place on the frame.

  • Mark the outside of the crate clearly with your name.

  • Take it to your local packing and shipping store. Have the painting insured, and place FRAGILE stickers on the box.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make sure the painting is dry before you start. Oil paintings can take up to 6 months to dry in some climates. Even though it may be dry to the touch, layers underneath may still be wet which can cause damage during shipment.
  • You can attach a handle to the top or side of the crate to make transport easier. Use a cabinet handle from the hardware store and screw it into place. Make sure the screws are large enough to fit very securely; you don't want the handle to fall off while someone is using it to carry the crate.
  • Don't use packing peanuts or other loose packing materials. They're a hassle for gallery assistants who have to unpack and re-pack artwork, and they make you look unprofessional. They also settle during shipping, so they don't provide good protection.

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