Art Blog

How to Ship a Watercolor Painting to Avoid Damage in Transit

It’s the holiday season! It’s gift-giving time! Why not use your carefully practiced watercolor painting skills and give the gift of art this year?

watercolor paintings

If your loved ones don’t live near you, you will need to know the basics of how to successfully ship a watercolor painting. Because watercolor paintings are painted on paper (not canvas), you need to make sure that you can send them without having them get bent, ripped or exposed to moisture.

Shipping methods: envelope vs. parcel

What’s the best method for sending your artwork cross country? There are two main options, and one far outweighs the other.

Envelope

Mail that’s shipped as an envelope must be non-rigid because it goes through rollers during the sorting process. Although envelopes are cheaper, this is not a good way to ship a watercolor painting. You do not want your painting rolled! You want it to stay completely flat during the entire shipping process.

Parcel

Shipping a watercolor painting as a parcel means that it will not be sorted with rollers. It will be sent with other boxes and rigid packages that are not meant to be bent. This is the best method for shipping a watercolor painting. Trust me!

Size categories

Small: This includes any painting that measures 11″ x 14″ or smaller. These can be shipped flat in a cardboard mailer.

Large: This includes any painting that is larger than 11″ x 14″. These are better to ship rolled up in a cardboard mailing tube.

How to ship a small painting

Materials:

  • Clear seal-able plastic bags
  • Archival cardboard backing
  • Rigid cardboard mailers
  • Mailing labels
  • Clear packing tape
watercolor painting shipping supplies

Step 1:

Use cardboard backing the same size or slightly larger than the size of your watercolor painting. Insert the painting with the backing into a seal-able plastic bag that’s slightly larger than the backing. Seal it tight so that moisture doesn’t penetrate your bag and damage your painting.

packaged bird painting

Step 2: 

Place your backed and bagged painting into a rigid cardboard mailer that is slightly larger than the backing. Carefully slide your painting all the way in, then fold over the flap and seal it.

It’s always a good idea to tape the flap down as well to make sure it doesn’t get ripped up during shipping. Apply clear packing tape all along the edge of the flap to stick it down to the rest of the mailer securely.

mailer

Step 3:

Apply mailing labels on the front of the cardboard mailer. You can use fancy sticker labels or, if you want to be more economical, you can print the addresses on computer paper and then tape them down with clear packing tape.

Make sure you cover any computer-printed labels with tape so they don’t get ripped or smeared from moisture. Never write your labels on with a marker or pen unless you also cover those with tape.  They can easily smear during the shipping process and you want to keep your addresses legible!

mailing label

How to ship a large painting

Materials:

  • Rubber bands
  • Large clear plastic bag
  • Mailing tube
  • Clear packing tape
  • Mailing labels
rolled painting

Step 1:

Very carefully roll your watercolor painting and secure with rubber bands. Usually one rubber band on each end does the trick. Then place your painting roll in a clear plastic bag to ensure it doesn’t get wet.

Step 2:

Place the rolled painting into a mailing tube. I find that triangular cardboard mailing tubes from the USPS work great! You just need to make sure to seal all the seams and ends really well with packing tape.

cardboard triangle tube

Step 3: 

Lastly, place your labels on the outside of the tube securely with tape and you are set to go!

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10 Comments

Tyler

I really like the recommendation to put the painting in an envelope before putting it into the tube. It makes sense that this could be a good way to keep the rough surfaces away from the painting itself. It’s something to remember because this could work for a lot of different types of painting and even prints to avoid scratches. Thanks for the post!

Reply
Elise Engh

I’m glad you found some useful tips here! Thanks for reading!

Reply
Artemis

Where do you recommend locating the flat mailing materials?

Reply
Elise Engh

I buy my shipping materials online. I find it is most cost effective to buy in bulk too. You can check out clearbags or even amazon, but I find clearbags has better quality materials.

Reply
Kelsi Eldredge

Awesome tips! But I prefer to paint on bristol board, which I am worried about trying to roll since it is so thick. Is there another way to ship large, unframed watercolor paintings, where they will don’t need to be rolled?

Reply
James Hobusch

I like your recommendation to utilize an envelope and a tube if possible. It makes sense that using an envelope to conceal the painting and a tube to protect it would be good to ensure its safety. My daughter wants to ship some of her paintings to my grandparents and getting some proper mailing tubes and large envelopes could rally ensure the intricate designs don’t get ruined.

Reply
Zequek Estrada

Elise, this was so helpful. My mother-in-law has been asking me to ship her some of my artwork. However, I don’t want it to get damaged along the way. It’s actually a bit relieving that it doesn’t take much effort to send off a bigger painting.

Reply
Andrea

What kind of plastic bag do you mean? I see the sleeves on the website, but I wasn’t sure if that’s what you meant?

Reply

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