The Complete Guide To Packing Artwork for Moving

The Complete Guide To Packing Artwork for Moving

Artwork brings life, personality, and beauty to a home. Whether you’re a serious art collector or enjoy adding beauty to your home where you can, you must pack artwork carefully to protect it during a move. Fortunately, there are some great boxes designed to protect your art during a move and some packing tips you can follow to preserve your artwork during the move.

Below, you’ll find our complete guide to packing artwork for moving so that you can rest easy knowing your artwork will make it to your new home unscathed. 

Gather the Right Supplies

Start by deciding what kind of boxes and packing supplies you’ll need to move your artwork. There are three primary types of artwork boxes available: 

  • Picture shippers – Please note that these won’t work with all sizes. However, picture shippers and picture boxes are durable and secure, so they do the job well. 
  • Mirror boxes – Mirror boxes often come with custom-fit designs and additional padding inside. They also have a corrugated cardboard box, which helps protect artwork during a move. 
  • Oversized artwork boxes – Great for huge mirrors and pictures that don’t fit in typical boxes. They often have a high weight capacity and are priced affordably. 

In addition to artwork boxes, you’ll need to gather the following packing materials: 

  • Glassine paper
  • Plastic wrap
  • Blue painter’s tape
  • Packing paper
  • Packing peanuts
  • Bubble wrap
  • Packing tape
  • Masking tape

Packing Framed Art

If you’re packing framed artwork covered by glass, you’ll need to prioritize protecting the glass. Take the following steps when packing framed art with glass: 

  1. Create a large “X” with the blue painter’s tape on the glass. Make the “X” large enough to run from each corner of the glass without actually touching the frame. This “X” protects the glass from shattering during the move, keeping the artwork safe in the process. 
  2. Next, take glassine paper, which is water, air, and grease repellent, and cover the piece of art and part of the frame with it. If you have canvas art or canvas paintings, use acid-free paper for this step. Don’t skip this step or use wax paper, parchment paper, or newspaper instead because these can damage the artwork. 
  3. Use plastic wrap to wrap the framed artwork, then cover it with bubble wrap, securing the bubble wrap with packing tape. 
  4. After wrapping the artwork, prepare your artwork box by placing several inches of packing paper inside the bottom of the box. 
  5. Place the frame gently into the box, then fill the space around the frame with packing paper. Place packing paper on top of the frame, then seal the box. 
  6. After sealing the box, give it a gentle shake. If the frame shifts when you shake the box, reopen the box and add more packing paper until you can’t feel the frame shifting around. 
  7. Mark the box as “fragile items” with a sticker or marker on all sides of the box. 

If your artwork is unframed, you can still follow these steps. However, we recommend placing the unframed artwork between sturdy pieces of cardboard to keep it from bending. In addition, you’ll want to wrap the corners of the artwork in bubble wrap or use cardboard corner protectors to keep the artwork’s corners intact and give it extra protection. 

Another option for packing framed artwork is bubble pouches. Bubble pouches will cost more than boxes, but they are heavy-duty and lightweight, making them great for transporting delicate pieces. These pouches can also be saved and reused in the future. 

Packing Posters

Packing posters is much easier than packing a frame. 

Simply purchase a cardboard tube at any shipping store. Open the cardboard tube and roll up the poster gently. Place the poster inside the cardboard tube, sealing both ends carefully. Then, label it appropriately for shipping or moving. 

Packing Sculptures

If you have non-framed artwork, such as sculptures, you’ll need to take special care to pack these pieces for your long-distance move. Unlike framed artwork, sculptures can come in many strange and cumbersome shapes, so you’ll need to adjust your packing method for each piece. 

The best packing materials for sculptures include:

  • Packing paper
  • Bubble wrap
  • Plastic wrap
  • Appropriately sized moving boxes – Choose the smallest box possible for packing the sculpture, leaving just enough space for a healthy layer of bubble wrap and packing paper. 

The first thing to consider when packing a sculpture is where the weak points of the sculpture are, which are usually thin protrusions like arms or legs. The torso or thicker part of the sculpture is usually much sturdier, although you’ll still want to protect it. 

Take the following steps to protect your sculpture during a move: 

  1. Wrap the entire sculpture in plastic wrap, taking care to place plastic tightly into all nooks and crannies in the sculpture. Use extra plastic wrap to protect thin protrusions and weak points. 
  2. Use bubble wrap to create another layer of protection around the sculpture’s weak points. 
  3. Then, cover the whole sculpture in bubble wrap. Your sculpture should look like a ball or egg after the many layers of plastic wrap and bubble wrap. 

After you’ve wrapped your sculptures, use the following tips to pack them securely in moving boxes: 

  • Large sculptures that are too heavy for typical moving boxes can be placed in wooden crates instead. The wooden crate will also give the piece additional protection.
  • Small sculptures can be packed into one large moving box together. Use additional packing paper to pad the inside of the moving box and the space between sculptures so that they don’t rub against each other while in transit. 
  • Label all boxes containing sculptures as “fragile” to remind anyone moving the box to take extra care. 
  • Don’t place other boxes on top of fragile boxes containing artwork.

If you have large, sturdy sculptures, you may be able to use large bubble wrap rolls or moving blankets as a simpler alternative. 

Loading Your Artwork on Moving Day

Loading your artwork in the moving truck correctly is just as important as packing your artwork inside the boxes. 

When moving day comes around, follow these steps to load all fragile boxes: 

  • Don’t lay frame boxes flat inside the moving truck. Instead, place these boxes on their sides which will help prevent breakage. 
  • Place fragile boxes between heavy boxes that won’t shift in transit to keep them from hitting things. 
  • Check that all cardboard boxes are secured with tape so the artwork doesn’t fall out during the move. 
  • Don’t stack fragile boxes or place other boxes on top of boxes containing artwork. 
  • If you have a lot of high-value artwork, move these in your vehicle rather than using a moving truck. Moving them yourself will give you more control over how the artwork is packed and transferred from location to location. 
  • If you have a large amount of fine art, you may want to consider using an art handler or specialty moving company. These trained professional movers know exactly how to store and move artwork. Many art handlers are also artists and have experience working in museums, so this can give you extra assurance that they will move your artwork carefully. 

Final Thoughts

Moving day can be stressful, but properly preparing your artwork can reduce stress. Choosing the right packing materials can make a huge difference in how easy it is to pack your artwork and if it’s protected enough during the moving process. 

Don’t forget to mark all boxes containing artwork as fragile so that you, your family, and the movers know to handle it with care.

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