Packaging Your Framed Artwork


There is probably not a more precious moment than when your artwork sells or is accepted into an exhibition.  To me personally the elation is often quickly replaced with a sense of dread as I contemplate shipping.

One of the challenges as an artist is the very real possibility of an artwork being damaged in transit.  This is often more scary as dry media artworks generally need to be framed under glass, and therefor shipped under glass.

I have yet to find a courier company with a specialised art shipping service in South Africa.  As a matter of fact, most courier companies refuse to insure artworks and/or items shipped containing glass.  The unfortunate reality is that no courier will take the responsibility of getting your artwork safely to the lucky recipient – as the artist this is your duty.  

The truth is also that the only way to attempt to make sure your hard work arrives in tact is packaging as best as you can. 

After I had to redo a commission that was damaged in transit, I quickly realised that taking the additional 10 minutes to ensure I take all the precautions I possibly can, is completely worth it.

I was lucky enough to spend some time with Coleen and she taught me her packaging tricks – I hope they’ll help you as much as they helped me!

Step 1.

Leave the plastic wrap protecting your newly framed artwork in place.  The more protection, the better!

Using masking tape, create a crisscross pattern over the glass – this is a trick my framer taught me.  In this way, if the glass breaks it’ll hold the shards together to help protect your fragile artwork.

Step 2.

Bubble wrap is your friend!

If your frame is rather deep, consider adding some extra sheets of bubble wrap cut in the size of your glass and fitting it onto your glass to create a cushion.  This isn’t really needed if the frame is quite flat.  


Secure your artwork in at least two layers of bubble wrap – bubbles on the inside – taking care to snugly wrap.  Using box tape, neatly fold the edges in and tape.

Step 3.

Measure the length and width of your bubble wrapped artwork and add a little to each side (usually 1 to 1.5cm for each side is enough – so about 2 to 3cm in total). 

For this next part you’re going to need a box cutter (I buy these ones for R8.00 at the local hardware store and use them for sharpening my pastel pencils too) and preferably a metal ruler to cut along.  If the cutter is sharp you might just end up shaving your plastic ruler to shreds.  I also use a self-healing cutting mat to protect my furniture (or my floor in this case!!).

You will be cutting two rectangular pieces of cardboard boxing to sandwich your artwork between.  I strongly advise using the double-walled version as its not only much stronger, but will make the following steps easy peasy.  I buy these sheets in bulk – often getting 10 to 20 of the largest sheets available at a time.  They’re dirt cheap and available in different sizes from most cardboard boxing companies.  

For larger artworks I strongly suggest having two sheets of masonite cut to size.  You can still use cardboard for the sides.

Step 4.

Sandwich your artwork between the two pieces of cardboard.

You already know what the length and width of your wrapped artwork is, so use the same measurements, then measure the distance between the two pieces of cardboard.  In this case it was 5cm.

You are now going to create sides for your package.  These need to be folded around your package.  This bit is more tricky, but bear with me and come and read this part again.

You want to create a side that will also fold around your artwork and provide more protection against bumps and jolts.  Using your  measurements cut a strip for each side.  My artwork was a square, so each strip was 41cm in length, and I always add 6 to 10cm to the distance between the cardboard pieces to allow for a flap on each side.  Therefor, in this case the sides were about 41cm x 13cm.  I then divide each flap to have the 5cm in the middle and the extra cms to each side.

Using the cutter I make a shallow cut so I can bend the edges around without cutting them off.

Step 5.

Fit the sides around the edges of your artwork.  I overlap some on the inside and some on the outside to make them fit.

Step 6.

Box tape is also your friend!

Wrap that baby snug as a bug!  The tighter the better!  You don’t want your artwork to slide around inside, so make it tight – an extra pair of hands help a whole lot!

At this point you can actually send your package off, but I honestly prefer adding another layer of bubble wrap – cardboard might be damaged or softened by water and an additional layer of plastic will help guard against that.

Using stickers or tape mark your package as ‘fragile’ on all sides.  Buy some neon stickers and write ‘glass’ in bold lettering on them and stick them everywhere (no jokes!) – make sure they cannot miss the fact that your package contains glass.

I’ve sent large artworks measuring over 1m under glass using this method – without any breakages.  This is not failsafe, if they drop a washing machine on it I’m quite sure it will be wrecked.  Bar that, your package should travel safe and snug to its new home.

Happy packaging!!