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Monday, January 29, 2018

How to Protect Your Art During Shipping

I recently found out my painting "Department Store" was accepted into the 31st Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors.  Since I live in the Baltimore-Washington area and the exhibition is in Old Forge, NY I have to ship my art out of state for the first time.  When you ship your art you want it to arrive safe and sound at your customer’s location or at the gallery.  You have invested yourself into your art and you want others to enjoy it, so you want to make sure that can happen. So I asked some friends their experience and recommendations for shipping to exhibitions and I spoke to my insurance provider about insurance during transit.  Here is the process I plan to follow.  If you have anything to add, please comment on this blog.

Every care must be taken to ensure the art is properly packed.  Since accidents can happen during shipping you may also want to have documentation to ensure you get reimbursed if it gets damaged in shipping.  You’ve paid for shipping insurance, so you need documentation to ensure you can prove you properly packaged your art.  You also don't want your packing materials misplaced at the destination so the art is properly packed at the end of the exhibition.  Here are the steps I will use when shipping framed art.
Department Story by April M Rimpo in shipping box
  1. Make sure your art is clean and ready to ship (properly labeled, your bio on the back of the painting with a summary of your inspiration for the buyer).
  2. Photograph the art (have the date turned on in your camera so you can prove it was immediately before shipping).       One shot of the full painting and frame.   One close up of each corner showing a segment of the art with a 2nd close-up of each corner showing the frame corner is free of mars or dents (show a little of the painting so it can be correlated with the artwork).
  3. Prepare the foam insert so your art fits snugly.
  4.  If shipping to a gallery or exhibition, label all packing materials with your name so none of the packing foam gets lost by the gallery or handling agent.
  5. Photograph the outside of the box to show the condition of the shipping container on the outside.
  6. Place your art in the shipping container and photograph it with the cover open to show the painting is secure within the box (insurance won’t cover your art if they can claim the art was not securely packaged.).
  7. Place a copy of shipping address labels inside your package in case the outside gets damaged.  This will allow the carrier to still deliver the art.
  8. Insert the Return Shipping Label in the carton per the exhibit shipping instructions.  Most shipping companies (FedEx, UPS) allow you to create a return shipping label. If you don't know how to create the return shipping label, take the art to the shipper without taping the box. They can make the Return Shipping Label for you to place in the package before shipping.  
  9. Close and tape the box and photograph one last time to show the final condition of the box.

RedDotBlog has a great post on the packing process for 2-D art. They show you how to create a shipping box and double boxing the artwork.  See it here

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Copyright April M Rimpo All Rights Reserved. You may share my work with attribution and a link to this source site, but all other uses are prohibited.


  1. April, I have always used an airfloat box (or equivalent - from Uline) with hard (somewhat impervious) plastic lining - lid and bottom. (I hear many wrap the art in shrinkwrap to avoid scuffing. I have not tried that, but will.) Ensuring that the painting is firmly surrounded by foam sponge material to reduce movement, I then ship FedEx overnight OR two day (max) to limit the varying temperatures AND reduce handling/storage. So far, all paintings have been sent and received (if to a show) without harm. This of course is with great thanks to the many wonderful people who carefully handle the art at these shows!

  2. I used UPS and found I could not create a return shipper because the value was too high. I suspect their high value limit will be an issue for most artist. I called and the venue said we'd deal with the return shipping later so I continued, but will definitely try FedEx next time.

    Agora Gallery sent me shipping tips and they said that when you wrap in bubble wrap to have the smooth side against your painting to prevent damage. Bubble side out. I did not use bubble wrap with the Airfloat, but will consider that next time if the painting is loose within the foam insert.
    Thank you for your thoughts.

  3. I had heard to wrap in "shrink Wrap" so tight against the frame with the goal of nothing to rub the frame finish. In addition, there is a "sticky" film to put on glass to keep from breaking. (And probably contain the pieces if it does break). Although most contests don't allow glass -- but collectors will.

    My airfloat style box once came back with a gash on the flat surface. Had the tough plastic sheet not been there, the art would surely be gone. If not part of the box, I suggest using plastic corrugated sheets on both sides to protect the art. Shipping and supplies can be costly, but valuable art deserves the care.

    Don't forget to carry your own insurance for the art. Most shippers won't cover artwork.

  4. When I reserached carriers a couple months ago I noticed fine art was not covered for one of the carriers, but unfortunately my notoriously good note taking failed that day and I'll have to research again. In the mean time, business insurance for the art will take care of that, but make sure you get the right endorsements attached to the business insurance or the artwork is not covered "in transit". Do you think they could make it more complicated?

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. Aniqa Rajput commented: A few years ago, most businesses found it unprofitable to offer free shipping to their online customers. Free shipping was less common and customers still expected to pay for shipping.

  7. To Aniqa Rajput - The discussion of return shipping was relative to return of a painting in an National Watercolor Exhibition held by a Watercolor Society. In that case the organizing society expected the artist to cover shipping to and from the venue. That is still common practice today. The expectations when working with commercial galleries is not the same. Typically the artist pays to ship to the gallery but, if not sold, the gallery often pays for return shippment to the artist. If sold then the buyer typically pays for shipping to them.

  8. Thanks for your information, it was really very helpfull.. Michael Freight

  9. Your web-site is so cool. I am impressed by the details that you have on this website. It reveals how nicely you understand this subject. Bookmarked this website page, will come back for more articles. best insurance 40ft shipping container australia


I look forward to hearing from you. - April

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