Artwork Packing – Tips and Tricks
Last year’s best packed winner:
- The box below was built by 56th Annual Juried Competition Best Packed Winner, Rebecca Miller. We liked it because it was clearly labeled as to who it was from, which end to open, and where to cut. It also had a clever multi-layered design that proved extremely durable in transit AND easy to open and repack. The interior black box is built from foam board. Inside that, Rebecca had wrapped her work in a thin foam envelope, and wrapped that in many layers of bubble wrap. This ensured her framed photograph did not shift in transit.
- When shipping artwork, always put your name, artwork title, and exhibition title on the outside of the box. If you have the name of the museum staff member responsible for exhibition inventory, it’s a good idea to put them on the address label as C/O. This helps your package get to where it needs to go in the museum faster, and it makes it easy to tick you off the list if packages aren’t opened immediately. This is especially important if someone else ships your work as your name may not be on the return address.
- It’s a good idea to write on the outside of the box and any inner materials which way is UP, and which end to open.
- Best: Artist’s tape (white), blue painter’s tape. Both are low tack and easily removable so packing materials can be reused. Artist’s tape is acid free, too, so it’s your best option if you absolutely must secure any packing materials to the work or frame itself.
- Okay for certain uses: Packing tape. Clear and brown packing tape are GREAT to use on the outside of your packaging. However, they’re not your best option for securing interior packing materials/padding. If you MUST use clear tape on foam sheets, bubble wrap, or inside packing paper, PLEASE create tabs at the end and mark with permanent marker so our art handlers can easily find the tape.
- Avoid: Basic masking tape, duct tape, clear scotch tape. Exception: Duct tape is great for making sturdy pull-tabs, just like in Rebecca’s example above. It can also be useful in reinforcing connections of foam board. However, it isn’t great for your artwork in the long run – it will become brittle and off-gas chemical vapors, causing your work to degrade and yellow over time.
- Always put the SMOOTH SIDE against your artwork. The bubble side may leave an impression of tiny circle on the surface, which may not be reversible. We’ve seen this happen on paintings, frame surfaces, and ceramics.
- Use an opaque, low-tack tape on bubble wrap so it can be removed without ripping up the bubble wrap. Blue painter’s tape is usually a safe bet. Some combinations of brands work better together than others.
- If you MUST use clear tape, please tab the ends so they can be easily located and peeled up. Even better: mark the end with an arrow or write “tab” so we can find it even faster!
CRATE OR BOX?:
- You can find tutorials online for how to build crates and boxes. When building a custom box or crate, make sure to leave about 3″ all around your artwork for padding. Do some searching online for some different crate and box-building methods to find the one that’s right for your work!
- Pro tip: make your box more sturdy and give your art extra protection with insulation foam board! Alternatively, use pick-and-pull foam or foam sheets to sandwich your art securely and absorb any shock suffered while in transit.
- Ceramics and fragile sculpture: double-box your sculpture, and fill the empty space around the inner box with something soft and shock-absorbing. This is the only time we will accept packing peanuts, but foam or crumpled or shredded paper will work too. (If you MUST use peanuts, PLEASE use the eco-friendly ones!)
- ***No matter what kind of box you use, make sure you fill ALL space inside to prevent your work from shifting and rattling around in transit.