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1. What is the cost of shipping paintings?

Shipping paintings: How to ship artwork safely

Shipping artwork, especially valuable and delicate pieces like paintings, requires much more than simply wrapping it in a layer of bubble wrap and placing it in a box.

For artists, galleries, and other art businesses, ensuring the safe delivery of their masterpieces is a fundamental aspect of their operations. The consequences of inadequate shipping practices can be disastrous, including hindered customer reviews and satisfaction, decreased sales, and irreversible damage to priceless art.

This article will provide comprehensive guidance to aid art businesses and individuals alike in preserving the integrity of their artwork, ensuring it arrives at its destination as pristine as it was when it was created.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Paintings are delicate and can easily be damaged during transit.

  • Proper preparation and packaging are essential to protect your artwork from harm and ultimately drive art sales.

  • The cost of shipping paintings can be high, but it's important to choose a shipping service that will ensure your artwork arrives safely.

  • Preparing a painting for shipping involves removing any hardware that could cause damage, cleaning the painting carefully, and taking photos of its condition before packing.

  • Packing a painting requires acid-free paper, bubble wrap, packing peanuts, cardboard corner protectors, packing tape, and a sturdy shipping box.

  • Consider purchasing insurance for your artwork to protect it in case of loss or damage in transit.

  • If you're selling artwork internationally, there may be additional paperwork and regulations to consider.

What is the cost of shipping paintings?

The cost of shipping a painting can vary depending on several factors, including the size and weight of the painting, the destination it's being shipped to, and the shipping service you choose.

It's important to keep in mind that larger and heavier paintings will generally cost more to ship, as they require more packaging materials and may need to be shipped via freight rather than standard mail or courier services. Moreover, packages with large dimensions but light weight could also have high shipping costs due to their high dimensional weight.

The destination of the painting is another important factor to consider. Shipping a painting domestically will generally be less expensive than shipping it internationally, as international shipping requires additional paperwork and may be subject to customs fees and taxes.

Choosing the right shipping service is also crucial when it comes to the cost of shipping a painting. While standard mail services may be less expensive, they may not provide the level of insurance or tracking that you need to protect your artwork. It's crucial to factor in the cost of insurance when choosing a shipping service to ensure that your painting is protected during transit.

How to choose the right shipping boxes for paintings

02_How to choose the right shipping boxes for paintings

One of the most important aspects of shipping paintings safely is choosing the right shipping box. A sturdy and reliable box can make all the difference in ensuring that your painting arrives at its destination safely and without damage.

When selecting a box for your painting, choose one that is slightly larger than the painting itself. This will allow for ample packing material to be added to the box to provide cushioning and protection during transit. You should also consider the weight of the painting and choose a box that can support its weight without risking damage.

A double-walled box is one of the best shipping boxes to use for paintings. These boxes offer added protection and durability during transit, which is essential when shipping fragile items like paintings. Double-walled boxes are also less likely to collapse or be punctured during shipping, which can help prevent damage to your painting.

You should also consider using a custom-made box for larger paintings or ones that are irregularly shaped; these boxes can be tailored to fit your painting perfectly, providing added protection and security during shipping.

Preparing paintings for shipping: Four essential steps

03_Preparing paintings for shipping Four essential steps

Shipping a painting can be a nerve-wracking experience, but with the right preparation, you can ensure your artwork arrives at its destination safely and in pristine condition.

1. Remove any hardware

It's important to remove any hardware that could damage the painting during transport. This includes any wires, hooks, or other hanging mechanisms. Not only can these items scratch or dent the surface of the painting, but they can also cause damage to other items in the shipping box.

2. Clean the painting

Once the hardware has been removed, it's time to clean the painting carefully. This step is crucial to ensure that any dirt or debris that could scratch the surface of the painting is removed. Use a soft, lint-free cloth to gently wipe the surface of the painting, taking care not to apply too much pressure. If the painting has any stubborn marks or stains, consult a professional conservator to determine the best way to remove them.

3. Let the painting dry

After cleaning, it's important to allow the painting to dry completely before packing it. This is especially important for oil paintings, which can take several days to dry fully. If you're short on time, you can use a hairdryer on a low, cool setting to speed up the drying process, but be careful not to overheat the painting.

4. Take photos before packing

Finally, take photos of the painting before packing it to document its condition. This step is important in case any damage occurs during shipping. Make sure to take photos from multiple angles and include close-up shots of any existing damage or imperfections.

How to pack paintings for shipping step-by-step

04_How to pack paintings for shipping step-by-step

Whether you're sending wall art to a customer or shipping a painting to a gallery, proper packing is essential.

Delicate artwork, especially stretched canvas prints, requires careful packaging. With the right tools and techniques, you can ensure your art arrives at its destination in pristine condition.

1. Gather the necessary packing materials

Before you begin, make sure you have all the necessary materials on hand. You'll need acid-free paper or glassine, bubble wrap, packing peanuts or foam, cardboard corner protectors, packing tape, and a sturdy shipping box.

You can visit local art stores or moving companies to purchase specialized picture boxes or order them online. These boxes are designed specifically to accommodate framed art and come in various sizes. If the artwork you're shipping is extremely valuable or of unusual size, consider getting custom crates made.

Bubble wrap will provide cushioning for your paintings and protect them against impacts. Buying bubble wrap with larger bubbles will offer greater protection.

Look for cardboard corner protectors to protect the corners of your paintings, which are the most vulnerable parts. You can find these in stores or online, or even make your own from spare cardboard and tape if you prefer.

Gather packing peanuts or foam and acid-free tissue paper. The packing peanuts or foam can be used to fill in any extra space in the box to prevent the paintings from moving during transit, and the acid-free tissue paper acts as a buffer between the painting and other packing materials, protecting against scratches. This is particularly important for artworks with exposed surfaces.

Finally, ensure you have strong packing tape to secure the wrap and box, with clear industrial-grade tape being the best choice.

2. Wrap your painting

Start by wrapping your painting in acid-free paper or glassine.

Lay out a sheet of it on a clean, flat surface and place your painting face down on the tissue paper. The paper acts as a buffer, protecting the painting from scratches or other damage from contact with packing materials. If your painting has exposed, textured, or delicate surfaces, you might want to place an extra layer of this tissue paper.

After covering your painting with tissue paper, wrap it thoroughly in bubble wrap. Start by placing your artwork on a sheet of bubble wrap, bubbles facing inward, and then fold it over the painting, securing it with packing tape. Repeat this step, adding multiple layers for more protection, especially for valuable paintings.

Ensure that the whole painting, including corners and edges, is covered and cushioned. Attach cardboard corner protectors to further protect the vulnerable corners of your paintings.

3. Package and seal the shipping box

It's essential to fill any gaps with packing peanuts or foam to ensure there's no empty space left that would allow your painting to shift during transit.

Begin by placing a layer at the bottom of the box, then insert your wrapped painting and fill the remaining space on the sides and top. Make sure the painting is centered and surrounded by this protective buffer.

After the painting is securely nestled within the box, it's time to seal it. Close the box flaps and use a generous amount of strong packing tape to securely seal the box. It's recommended to apply the tape across the center seam of the box and then extend it over the edges. Also, run the tape along the edges where the flaps meet for added strength. This "H" tape method ensures the box is thoroughly sealed.

Lastly, double-check the box for any potential issues. Give it a light shake to verify there's no movement inside. If you hear or feel anything shifting, reopen the box and add more packing materials until everything is snug.

Once you're satisfied with your packing job, label the box "Fragile" and "This Side Up" to alert handlers to the precious cargo inside. Your painting is now ready for shipping.

Tips for choosing the right shipping service

05_Tips for choosing the right shipping service

Choosing the right shipping service is crucial to ensuring that your painting arrives safely. Whether you're shipping a valuable piece of art or a sentimental family heirloom, you want to ensure that it arrives at its destination in the same condition it was when it left your hands. Here are a few tips to help you select the right service:

Opt for a specialized shipping service

Choosing a shipping service that specializes in shipping art and has experience handling delicate artwork is especially important if you're shipping a painting that is particularly valuable or irreplaceable. A specialized art shipping service will have the expertise and equipment necessary to properly pack and transport your artwork, ensuring that it arrives safely at its destination.

Consider insurance coverage

Another important factor to consider when choosing a shipping service is insurance coverage. While no one wants to think about the worst-case scenario, accidents can happen during transport. That's why it's important to choose a carrier that offers insurance coverage for your artwork during transport. This will give you peace of mind knowing that if something does happen to your painting during transport, you'll be covered.

Read reviews

It's also a good idea to read reviews and check the carrier's safety record before choosing a service. This will give you an idea of how reliable and safe the carrier is and can help you make an informed decision about which service to use. You can also ask for recommendations from friends or colleagues who have shipped artwork in the past.

Considerations for selling artwork internationally

Selling art internationally can be more complex than domestic selling due to customs regulations and paperwork. However, with the right preparation and knowledge, it can be a smooth process. Here are a few tips for selling artwork internationally:

Research the destination country's customs and regulations

When selling artwork globally, it's crucial to research customs requirements and regulations for the destination country. These rules govern the importation of goods and vary widely from country to country.

Start by visiting the official customs website of the destination country or contact their embassy or consulate. They often provide guidance on import duties, taxes, and restrictions that apply to artwork. Keep an eye out for any regulations concerning cultural heritage, as some countries have strict rules about importing certain types of artwork.

Check whether the country has special VAT or import taxes on art, as this can significantly impact the total cost for the buyer. Also, understand the process for declaring the artwork's value and providing necessary documentation, such as a commercial invoice or proof of the artwork's authenticity and origin.

Furthermore, if your artwork includes materials from protected species (like ivory or certain woods), ensure they meet international conservation agreements, such as CITES.

Lastly, some countries have special agreements with others (like EU member states) that can simplify the process or reduce costs. Being aware of these can provide advantages. Overall, thorough research helps ensure a smooth transaction, prevents potential legal issues, and improves your customers' experience.

Fill out the necessary paperwork and provide accurate information

Accurately filling out the necessary paperwork is crucial for smooth customs clearance when selling in new markets. These documents often include a commercial invoice, customs declaration, and, potentially, a certificate of origin or an export license.

The commercial invoice should include detailed information such as the sender's and receiver's contact details, a complete description of the artwork (including materials, dimensions, weight, etc.), the total value, and the terms of the trade (known as Incoterms). Always be honest about the artwork's value; under-declaring can lead to penalties or seizure by customs.

The customs declaration form, which varies by country, provides key information to customs officials. This typically includes the nature of the goods, their value, and the reason for export.

In some cases, especially for older or culturally significant works, you might need to provide a certificate of origin or an export license. These prove the artwork's provenance and ensure it's not illegally exported cultural property.

Remember, each country has specific requirements, so it's important to check beforehand. Providing complete and accurate paperwork facilitates a smoother customs process, minimizes delays, and helps avoid unexpected costs or legal problems.

Consider using a licensed customs broker

Using a licensed customs broker can be a significant advantage when selling artwork internationally. Navigating customs regulations can be complex, and mistakes can lead to costly delays, fines, or even confiscation of the artwork. A customs broker, who is an expert in international trade laws, can simplify this process significantly.

Customs brokers handle paperwork, ensure compliance with import/export regulations, calculate duties and taxes, and communicate with customs officials on your behalf. They have the expertise to navigate the often intricate customs procedures and help prevent potential issues. This can be particularly beneficial when dealing with countries that have strict or complicated customs regulations.

Additionally, a broker can offer valuable advice on efficient shipping methods and routes, international trade agreements that might lower duties, and other considerations like insuring the artwork.

Remember, while their services come at a cost, the time saved and potential issues avoided often outweigh the fees. Also, choose a broker with experience in shipping artwork specifically, as they will be familiar with the unique challenges this poses. Ultimately, a customs broker can make the process of selling artwork internationally more streamlined and less stressful.

Choose a shipping service with experience shipping internationally

Consider choosing a shipping service with international experience. These services understand the nuances of global shipping, providing an added layer of security and efficiency to your transactions.

Look for a shipping company with a strong track record in handling artwork. They should offer services like professional packing, temperature control for sensitive materials, and comprehensive insurance coverage. This ensures the artwork is protected from potential damage during transit.

An experienced international shipping company will also be familiar with customs procedures in various countries. This knowledge can help prevent unexpected delays or issues at customs. Some companies even provide a customs brokerage service, assisting with paperwork and customs clearance, further simplifying the process.

Also, consider their tracking and delivery options. Reliable tracking information provides both you and your art buyers with peace of mind, and options for signature on delivery can ensure the artwork reaches the right person.

Lastly, compare the shipping rates and delivery times of different services. While speed might be a priority in some cases, the safety of the artwork should be the top concern. A reputable, experienced shipping service can make the international selling process more secure and manageable.

Ensuring peace of mind when shipping paintings

Shipping a painting can be nerve-wracking, but with the right preparation and packaging, you can ensure a safe and secure shipping experience.

Ready to simplify your global art shipping? Trust a leading print on demand provider like Gelato to produce and deliver your custom artwork to customers worldwide.

With more than 130 production hubs across 32 countries, Gelato cuts down on shipping times and costs, handling and delivering your orders with care. Start selling with Gelato to eliminate the hassle of shipping and establish a competitive art business.

Shipping paintings FAQs

How much does it cost to ship a painting?

The cost to ship a painting varies depending on several factors, like the painting's size and weight, destination, insurance, and shipping service. Average costs can range from $50 to several hundred dollars.

Can you ship paintings through UPS?

Yes, you can ship paintings through UPS. They offer services tailored for artwork, including specialized packing, insurance options, and express delivery options.

Which is better for shipping artwork: FedEx or UPS?

Both FedEx and UPS have reliable shipping options for artwork. The choice between the two often comes down to cost, service options, destination, and personal preference.

How do I ship unframed art?

Unframed art can be shipped in a sturdy shipping tube. The artwork should be rolled with the image facing inward, wrapped in protective material like glassine paper, and then inserted into the tube.

What is the cheapest way to ship paintings?

The cheapest way to ship paintings is typically through ground shipping services offered by carriers like UPS or FedEx. However, it's important to remember that cheaper delivery services could compromise service quality, which might result in less careful handling of your precious artwork, potentially leading to damage during transit.

What is the best way to ship paintings?

The best way to ship paintings is to use a service that offers robust insurance, proper packaging, and reliable tracking. This ensures the artwork is protected during transit.

Gelato's global network of print on demand production hubs ensures your art is printed and shipped locally, reducing transit times and shipping costs while protecting your package at every step.


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