How to Ship Unframed Paper Artwork

A cardboard box is open, with a view from above. It will be used to pack and ship artwork on paper.

Just like artworks in other media, shipping unframed paper artwork comes with its own unique challenges and considerations. This article was written with a “do-it-yourself” agenda, endeavouring to offer tips for those who would prefer to do it themselves rather than hire professionals. However, remember: when in doubt, call a professional! (A few professional art wrappers listed at the end of this post). Read on below to learn a few considerations when planning to ship unframed paper artwork.

Shipping other artworks? Check out two additional articles with info for shipping works framed with glass, and shipping paintings on canvas or panel.

Prepare to ship unframed paper artwork

  • If possible, the best way to ship (or store) an unframed work on paper is to have the work matted between an archival mat-board backing and mat-board window. This way, the work is safe from shifting, as works are hinged to the mat window with archival tape or tissue. For more information on what makes a mat-board archival, read this.
  • If you are unable to mat the work you are shipping, you should wrap the work in glassine. To do this, cut a piece of glassine slightly more than twice the size of the work in each direction. Place the work face down in the centre of the glassine. Fold the excess glassine over the work as if you were wrapping a gift, and tape in place. If you are using a mat-board and mat-backing, also wrap it in glassine using this technique. Be sure that the tape is only touching the glassine, not the artwork (or the matboard, if applicable).
  • Next, cut two pieces of foamcore larger than your glassine-wrapped work (2″-3″ extra on each edge). Lay one piece of foamcore down, then centre your work on it. Use painters tape (or any other removable tape) to tape the four corners of your artwork to the foamcore. Lay the other piece of foamcore over top, sandwiching your work evenly between the boards. Tape in place.

  • Wrap the bundle in bubble wrap or clear poly plastic, sealing the seams with packing tape.
  • Sandwich your package between two pieces of doorskin (a thin and lightweight sheet of wood) or other solid, rigid material cut to the same size as your bundle. This is to protect the artwork from puncturing. Tape together with packing tape.
  • Insert your artwork into a cardboard box that fits the bundle snugly. If the box is too big, cushion the work with foam or bubble wrap to avoid any movement of the work within the box.

Shipping label considerations

As with any work you are shipping, label clearly. You should include:

  • Your return address, contact name, and phone number
  • Your recipient’s shipping address, contact name, and phone number
  • Your recipient’s hours of operation (if sending to a business, ie a gallery)
  • Any other shipping specifications you think will protect your work, such as: “fragile”, “glass”, “do not stack”, “this way up”, etc.

Rolling paper artwork in a tube

Although often not ideal, many people roll unframed artworks into tubes to ship. This is usually the only manageable way when a work is very large. Some risks in rolling artwork on paper is that it could crease, or it might be difficult to flatten later. If you must ship this way, put a sheet of glassine on the face of the work before rolling. Never roll a watercolour work (or any other work on a delicate paper). With watercolours, rolling can crack the sizing within the paper and damage the work.

Need a pro to ship unframed paper artwork? A list of fine art packers in Vancouver:

Denbigh Fine Art Services (custom crates, wrapping, shipping, storage, and more)

Fine Art Framing (custom framing, wrapping, crates, shipping, and more)

Thiessen Art Services (custom crates, wrapping, shipping, and more)

PacArt (CANADA-WIDE) (custom crates, wrapping, transportation, and more)

8 responses to “How to Ship Unframed Paper Artwork”

  1. Thank you for all the great info. Very very helpful!

  2. Would you recommend glassine wrapping for unframed watercolors and chalk paintings?

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