How to Pack a Painting

Deandra Henahan
Written by Deandra Henahan
Updated August 18, 2015
An art appraisal will help you determine whether a specific piece requires additional insurance to cover it during transit. (Photo by Eldon Lindsay)

As an aspiring artist or a longtime professional painter, you take great care to ensure each piece looks its best.

When you finally finish the last brushstroke, you can’t help but feel a sense of pride and accomplishment over a job well done. Even if you sell most of your pieces, you likely hang on to a few of your favorites for your personal collection. Naturally, you want to preserve your paintings so they last for generations. So what can you do to ensure your gallery survives your next move?

Appraising art

Your art likely carries a great deal of personal value, but how much is it worth from an economic standpoint? If your paintings represent a large portion of your income, you may wish to have an appraiser estimate their value.

Once you know your paintings' value, you can determine whether a specific piece requires additional insurance to cover it during transit. For highly priced items, you may wish to ship your art separately from the rest of your household goods through a specialized service. You can also talk to your moving company about their packing policies for fine art.

CHECK OUT: 5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Appraiser 

Packing tips for unframed paintings

Unframed paintings require a delicate touch. The oils on your hands could easily attract dirt and smudge your artwork. To protect your painting while your prepare it, wear white cotton photography gloves, and then follow these steps.

1. Wrap the painting in acid-free tissue paper. Don't use newspaper, as the inks can rub off onto your art. Parchment paper also has rough edges which can pit, scratch and etch delicate pieces, so avoid it whenever possible.

2. To secure the tissue paper, place acid-free photo and document tape on the corners. Only tape the tissue paper, not the painting itself.

3. Mount your wrapped painting to a piece of sturdy cardboard with tape, and cover the other side with cardboard. You may use multiple layers on both sides for extra protection and tape to keep everything together.

4. Place the painting in a mirror box. Once you finish, mark the box as fragile and inform your movers about the art to ensure they store it appropriately.

movers packing painting
When packing a framed painting, wrap the frame in acid-free tissue paper. (Photo courtesy of Wheaton World Wide Moving)

Packing tips for framed paintings

Although framed paintings have a little more protection than unframed paintings, they can still suffer damage. If not packaged correctly, the canvas can stretch and shift in its frame, or the glass may shatter and tear the art underneath. Follow these steps for framed artwork.

1. As with unframed paintings, wrap the frame in acid-free tissue paper.

2. Cover the art in Bubble Wrap. Make sure the corners have adequate coverage; they tend to absorb the most bumps during a move.

3. Place a layer of cardboard on both sides of the Bubble Wrap, and secure them with tape.

4. Insert the artwork into a mirror box or crate that fits the piece. Fill in any gaps with tissue paper to prevent shifting.

5. Mark the box fragile. Don’t forget to let your movers know that your pieces require careful handling. 

RELATED: Angie's List Guide to Moving

With these techniques, your art should arrive in pristine, exhibition-worthy condition.

This article originally appeared on the Wheaton World Wide Moving blog.

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