How to Ship a Painting So It Arrives Damage-Free

three watercolor paintings

Fact: you can never go wrong with a handmade gift. But if your recipient lives far away, navigating how to ship your homemade goods can be totally stress-inducing, especially a painting. What if it’s too big for an envelope? Or it gets wet in transit?

Don’t fret — with these simple tips, your art will arrive in pristine condition.

Shipping Methods

When shipping your artwork across the country, you’d think you could choose between an envelope or a parcel, depending on the size. But despite it being more cost-effective, an envelope isn’t the smartest idea: Mail that’s shipped this way goes through rollers during the sorting process, so a rigid painting is likely to get ruined.

Ideally, you want the art to stay completely flat during the entire shipping process, so parcels are the best choice. They’re sorted with boxes and rigid packages that aren’t meant to be bent, so it’s way less likely they’ll be mishandled.

Size Categories

Another aspect to keep in mind when shipping your painting is its size. There are two categories: small and large. Small paintings are anything that measure 11″ x 14″ or smaller and can be shipped in a flat cardboard mailer. Large paintings are bigger, and it’s better to send these rolled up in a cardboard mailing tube.

How to Ship a Small Painting

What You Need

  • Clear sealable plastic bags
  • Archival cardboard backing
  • Rigid cardboard mailers
  • Mailing labels
  • Clear packing tape
  • Instructions

    1. Back It and Bag It

    watercolor painting in a clear bag

    Place a cardboard backing that’s the same size (or slightly larger) than your painting into a sealable plastic bag. (The bag should only be slightly larger than the backing.) Insert the painting in front of the backing. Seal the bag tight so moisture doesn’t penetrate your bag.

    2. Use a Mailer

    watercolor painting in a mailer

    Carefully slide your painting into a rigid cardboard mailer. Fold over the flap and seal it.

    Pro Tip: It’s always a good idea to apply clear packing tape along the edge of the flap as well, to prevent it from ripping open in transit.

    3. Add the Labels

    adding shipping label to mailer

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

    Pro Tip: 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!

    How to Ship a Large Painting

    What You Need

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

    1. Roll It Up

    rolled up painting

    Carefully roll your painting and secure with a rubber band on each end. Place your painting in a clear plastic bag to ensure it won’t get wet.

    2. Use a Mailing Tube

    tube mailer

    Place the painting into a mailing tube. (You can use round or triangular ones, like what’s shown above.) Seal all the seams and both ends with packing tape.

    3. Add Your Labels

    Place your labels on the outside of the tube securely with tape, and you’re ready to ship!

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    4 Responses to “How to Ship a Painting So It Arrives Damage-Free”

    1. David Lawson

      How can you ship a large pairing that cannot be rolled up? It’s on canvas ..

      • Brady Simonson

        Hello David,

        Shipping artwork is always a little risky. You never know how the shipping company is going to treat the package, but you can take steps on your end to try and avoid any issues. If the painting is not framed the artwork has one less layer of protection around it, but you can still pack it up so that it’s as protected as possible.

        I always make sure that the painting is fully dried before packing. The last thing you want is a big scratch mark across it in transit. Then grab some clean cardboard cut to size of the painting for the front and back. Carefully secure the cardboard on the front and back with plastic wrap. I completely cover the surface a couple times just in case the package gets wet the painting won’t. Then I grab some cardboard corner protectors (available online) and wrap those on with the plastic wrap. Once I’m satisfied that it’s wrapped up enough I put it in a box lined with packing materials and make sure it doesn’t wiggle around.

        If the painting is on the larger side (over 40″ or so) you can contact a box maker in your area to make a custom double walled box for it. They can even line the box with foam so all you have to do is place the painting in the box and tape it up. Easy peasy, but takes time to order the box and get it made so takes some planning.

        The third option is the least economical, but if it’s a very large painting (72″+ or so) may be necessary. Go to your local hardware store and buy plywood to build a crate. The dimensions of the crate will be determined by the size of the painting, taking into account the thickness of the wood in your plans. You’ll still have to take steps to protect the front of the painting so that the plywood doesn’t scratch it, and may want to do the same treatment for the back in case something wants to puncture it. You’ll want to contact your shipper to confirm they can take the crate.

        I hope this helps! Good luck, and I hope your painting arrives at it’s destination safely.