How to Pack Art for Moving
Preparing your prized artwork collection for your upcoming move can seem like a daunting task. Since your favorite pieces will go through the wringer of the moving process, you’ll need to become a bit of an artist yourself. Because art comes in all shapes and sizes, you might need to get creative!
Shipping artwork is in essence like shipping anything else (just more delicate). Generally speaking, you should have this list of packing materials on-hand when shipping artwork:
- Sturdy art shipping boxes and/or wooden crates
- Specialty flatpack boxes
- Styrofoam (especially for corners)
- Protective padding (like bubble wrap)
- Plastic wrap
- Packing tape
How you use these materials depends on what you’ll be shipping, so we’ll dive into more specifics below. Think you should just leave it to the professionals? Then skip right to finding art shipping companies.
How to pack framed art for moving? Whether you plan to move a small, minimally framed print or an enormous, ornate masterpiece, there are definitely some best practices to follow. In certain cases, the frame is as aged and delicate as the art itself, adding an extra element to care for when shipping artwork.
✅ Tape the Glass
If your frame has a class front, tape an X across the front. In the event of a hard drop, this will prevent shattered glass from scattering and giving your painting the Wolverine treatment.
✅ Apply Wrapping
It’s like wrapping a Christmas present, only with more plastic. Wrap your piece in several layers of plastic wrap to seal it airtight. Household kitchen wrap is one option, while more heavy-duty foam wrap is a recommended alternative for larger, more expensive pieces.
✅ Watch the Corners
Once your framed art is snug as a bug in its wrapping, add extra corner protectors. The corners will take the brunt of any fall, and with corner pads your artwork will stay more firmly in place.
✅ Think Inside the Box
Odds are your art shipping boxes probably aren’t going to be exactly matching the size of your wrapped pieces. Before placing your piece inside, line the extra space with packing material. This can include foam, Styrofoam, crumpled newspaper, etc.
Rolled paintings & Prints
Obviously, packing framed artwork is quite a hassle. Wondering how to ship canvas art or how to ship art prints?
For the lucky ones with loose pieces, it can be as easy as rolling it up in a packing tube! However, there are still some protective measures you definitely want to apply before stuffing your prints away. What is involved?
✅ Archival/Glassine Paper
Before rolling up your painting or print, you might want to lay some glassine paper over the front. This specialized protective layer will prevent any friction from damaging the colors or causing them to bleed into each other.
It’s recommended you cut your glassine paper in dimensions larger than your art piece. If the paper is too short, the edges can be damaged. Rough around the edges isn’t a common painting compliment!
✅ Perfect the Roll
When you go to roll your piece, try not to go for too tight a roll. This prevents the material from warping and makes it less likely that you’ll bend or crease your artwork.
If you are rolling a painting, make sure to roll with the paint-side facing outward. Otherwise, the pressure going inward can cause the paint to crack… and not in that aged, classy looking way.
Sculptures & Other Art Objects
There is a lot more to art than just paintings. Once things get truly three-dimensional, complications abound. When you go to pack a sculpture for shipping, this is definitely something you want to nail the first time. Just like with sculpting, removed material can’t be put back, especially if it’s shattered pieces!
✅ Pick Your Box
To start, consider the size of your sculpture or other art object. The bigger the piece, the more sturdy your art shipping boxes need to be.
- For sculptures under 12 inches, strong cardboard art shipping boxes should do the trick (and some even double-box it!).
- Once things get a bit larger, you are looking at a wooden crate situation
- Anything larger than 24 – 36 inches is starting to get pretty heavy. This is why we would urge you to consider strapping the piece to a wooden pallet after crating.
✅ Load Up on Padding
Sculptures and shaking mix like oil and water. If you want your piece to arrive in one piece, filling up the void space in your art shipping boxes is crucial.
Bubble wrap will suffice for most small to medium sculptures. Try wrapping snuggly around the top and bottom sections separately, adding extra bubble wrap in the mid-section so that there’s no exposed openings.
In order to tightly seal your piece in place, fill the surrounding space with packing peanuts or shredded paper with at least 2-3 inches of padded space around the sculpture.
Some argue packing peanuts aren’t ideal for shipping artwork because they can shift and settle in transit, allowing space for the sculpture to bounce around. If you have any doubts, stick with paper!
Sirelo Tip! Does your piece have a delicate surface? Then use artist’s tape to prevent any unwanted residue!
Cost of Shipping Artwork
Just as there is no one formula for creating art, there is no one price formula for shipping art. With so much variety in your package size, shape, and required expertise, we can only say it is going to cost you a pretty penny.
Naturally, one tubed art print going 100 miles away is a much different circumstance than your priceless framed Picasso going from New York to Tokyo. This is what hikes the cost from a couple bucks to a couple (thousand) bucks. So let’s dive into it!
Shipping Artwork Long-Distance
When shipping artwork long-distance, the price will vary based on the size and weight of your package (duh!). Of course, distance plays a role, but once your package is no longer considered local the price does not rise much further.
If using parcel postage, expect a low-end of $50 for tubed artworks. Sounds doable, right? But how much does it cost to ship framed art? You’ll find a high-end of $300 for larger flat-packed pieces.
If you are moving a large amount of highly valuable pieces and need to hire art shipping companies (the ‘white glove’ service) this can quickly exceed $1000+. While pricey, this might be a fraction of your artwork’s value!
Sirelo Tip! Not in a hurry and want to save? Purchasing slower shipping options brings big discounts!
Shipping Artwork Internationally
Unlike with long-distance options, which often go via truck, when shipping artwork overseas this freight is handled by air or by sea. Both involve different speeds and costs, so what is the difference?
Airfreight via plane should be your go-to option, especially for how to ship art prints internationally (since these are typically smaller items):
- ✅ Quicker arrival time (a matter of days)
- ✅ Greater temperature/humidity control (this is a big deal)
- ❎ More expensive
Price tag? Expect a range of $60 – $1000.
Sea-freight involves stowing your packed art in a shipping container. As you might imagine, this is a less common (and less recommended) method to ship art internationally.
This involves purchasing container space on a cargo ship, and only makes any sense if you are shipping large paintings (and a lot of them!). Here are a few more points to consider:
- ✅ Less expensive
- ❎ Minimum volume requirements (out of luck for small items)
- ❎ Container sharing with a stranger (unless you’ve got a museum-sized collection)
- ❎ Slower arrival time (sometimes weeks)
- ❎ Less environmental control (exposure to excess heat, cold, or moisture... No bueno!)
If you do choose to go this route, expect prices between $200 – $500.
Customs agents are particularly interested in certain kinds of shipments coming across their borders. The usual suspects are currency and commercial goods, like a box full of iPhones.
Surprisingly, artwork falls under the ‘particularly interested’ category. Why? Fancy (and often extremely valuable) assets are now floating around in the local economy, and this is something governments are interested in controlling via customs.
What does this mean for you? That you need to file a customs declaration when shipping artwork, and sometimes pay customs duties on the appraised value.
Before shipping artwork abroad, make sure to research the local legislation. Otherwise, they might detain your art pieces. Yikes!
Insuring Your Artwork
An important cost to consider is moving insurance when shipping artwork. We’re going through all the trouble to pristinely pack our art pieces, but what about the worst-case scenario? We do not want to think about it either, but accidents do happen. 😱
In case of lost or damaged art, we recommend taking out moving insurance (if this was not already included in your shipping price). Pricing sometimes works on a simple formula, costing a small percentage of your art’s appraised value.
Think between 1% – 3%, depending on your mover and total coverage. A small price to pay for the priceless!
Finding Art Shipping Companies
By now you might be thinking, some of this might be over my head. And to be sure, we totally get it! Sometimes even the most ambitious do-it-yourselfers need a helping hand from the pros. But how do we know who the pros are and which art shipping companies are the best?
Conduct thorough research and read the online reviews of any art shipping companies you find. If you expect to be shipping large paintings, often these services will provide you with price quotes.
At Sirelo, we constantly recommend anyone moving anything anywhere to compare several quotes from moving companies. Want up to five quotes for free? Then complete the form below!
Last Things to Know When Shipping Artwork
While we’ve already given you plenty of food for thought on how to ship art, there are a few last things we think you ought to know. Some of it is just details, details, details, but also to remind you to not forget the obvious:
- Put ‘Fragile!’ and ‘This Side Up!’ labels on every side in huge letters.
- Consider your moving schedule, will your art need to be stored anywhere at any point?
- Pickup at port or Door-to-door delivery, which will you purchase?
- Document existing blemishes before shipping artwork to prove damages (but we hope you won’t need to!)
Shipping Artwork Made Easy at Sirelo!
Now you should be all set to take on the task, whether this means shipping large paintings or an army of tiny sculptures. We hope we have provided all you need to know to proceed confidently in this next step of your moving adventure. Need further assistance with your move? Then check out the useful links we have included below. Good luck!