Shipping De-Mystified: How To Roll Artworks For Shipping (2023)

With the art world becoming more and more globalized everyday, artists are more often being required to transport their works internationally. Whether you areexhibiting in galleries abroad, participating in international competitions, or selling works to clients, you need to be willing and able to ship your works anywhere in the world with relative ease.

But, artworks can be heavy and unwieldy. Its delicate nature makes it difficult to ship and cumbersome to travel with. Finding a box that fits the size of your works can be expensive and time-consuming, and the shipping fee adds up with every additional requirement. All in all, packing and shipping artwork can amount to hundreds of dollars. One way to save money is to roll artworks for shipping instead of the regular procedure.

Shipping De-Mystified: How To Roll Artworks For Shipping (1)

Rolling artworks means taking the works off their stretcher bars or out of the frames that they are housed in and then packing them up to be shippedin a tube. When the artwork arrives at its destination, you simply re-frame or re-stretch them with the help of a local art handler or framer. On an average, the amount of money to reframe or re-stretch the artwork will be much less than the amount of money it takes to ship the works ready-to-hang. When done properly, this method is also much safer for the works. The chances of the artwork being damaged in transit are much lower.

Is it cheaper to ship your works framed or rolled?

Shipping De-Mystified: How To Roll Artworks For Shipping (2)

  1. Measure and weigh your work ready-to-hang* and use this UPS Shipping Calculator to estimate the cost of shipping as-is.
  2. To estimate the cost when you rollyour works, weigh an empty frame/stretcher bars of the same size/materials, and subtract this weight from measurements of Step 1. This will give you the weight of your unstretched/unframed works. Add a few pounds to account for the light packing materials and tube. Though the cost does range depending on materials and quantity, it usually will fall between 5-10 pounds.
  3. The cost to re-stretch or re-frame your works will vastly depend on where you are shipping your works to. Simply do an internet search to find the services available at your artwork’s destination, and add this to the cost of shipping your works.
  4. Compare the cost of shipping your works ready-to-hang with the cost of shippingthemrolled in a tube, plus the framing upon arrival.

*If your works are currently unframed and unstretched, then just reverse these steps: add the weight of your frame in Step 2 instead of subtracting.

How To Roll ArtworksFor Shipping

So you’ve been invited to show your artwork in an exclusive gallery. Congratulations! But, it’s overseas and you’ve got to ship the works. You were able to determine that you would save moneyshipping if you roll your worksto be shippedin a tube. Great! Let’s get started.

What You Will Need

  • Your artwork
  • A large, flat surface to work on / a clean, uncluttered floor space
  • Craft paper / a clean table cloth to lay under your works for protection
  • Smooth, archival paper such as glassine or tyvek
  • Bubble wrap
  • Artist tape (drafting/painter’s tape can be substituted if artist tape is unavailable)
  • Scissors or a box cutter
  • One cardboard, PVC, or plastic tube large enough to hold your artwork
Shipping De-Mystified: How To Roll Artworks For Shipping (3)

Tube sizes for safely shipping artwork:Your tube should always be 4 inches longer than the shortest side of your largest artwork when flat. The width of the tube depends on the diameter of your works when rolled tightly: no matter what, the tube will need to be at least 4-6 inches wide. If your works are very long, they will be thicker when rolled, so aim for your tube to be 4-5 inches wider than the diameter of your rolled works.

Shipping De-Mystified: How To Roll Artworks For Shipping (4)

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Step One

Lay out your protective cloth/paper/bubble wrap on a large flat surface. This will be your work area.

Step Two

Lay out 2-3 layers of your smooth, archival paper (at Agora, we use glassine paper). Archival paper should always be acid-free so it will not release any chemicals as it degrades over time. This protects your artwork from chemical damage.

These layers will be the outermost level when you roll your works – like the rice to your artwork sushi or the tortilla to your artwork burrito. It plays a crucially important role, as it’s going to be an extra level of cushioning to protect your artwork from the inside of the tube.

Cut the paper to be at least 2 inches larger than your largest work on all sides. You can overlap multiple sheets of the paper to make sure that the full area of the piece is covered. When doing so, make sure the overlap is at least 1 ½ inches in width.

Shipping De-Mystified: How To Roll Artworks For Shipping (5)

Step Three

Lay out your largest work on the archival paper. You must be sure that you’re placing the largest piece, as this will be the outer-most work in the roll, protecting it and the other pieces from crumpling during transit.

If you are shipping artworks on paper, then place your piece with the image side face-up on your archival paper so that the image is facing you and the back of the paper is against the surface. This includes: drawings, photographs, prints, and watercolors. By placing these face-up on the paper, you will be rolling them “face in,” protecting the image.

NOTE: Many artists apply a layer of fixatifor a similar product over their works after completion. This will protect the pieces from smudging up.

Works on fabric-based materials (canvas, linen, etc.) should be placed face-down on the archival paper: the painted part should be directly touching the glassine. This is because the materials are on top of the works, and run a huge risk of cracking/breaking if rolled facing inward. By rolling them “face out,” if the works do crack in transit, the process of unrolling the work will help close the cracks, as opposed to worsening them.

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Step Four

Place another sheet of archival paper down on top of the work you just laid out, again making sure that each size is approximately 2 inches longer than the next work you will be placing. Then, place that work on top of the paper.

Continue this process until all of the works are laid on top of each other from largest to smallest, with a layer of archival paper in between each piece. All works should be facing the same direction. This is very important, as you can damage your works if they are packed facing the wrong way.

Step Five

Once you’ve gotten your works all laid out, align them so that the bottom right-hand corner of each work matches up. That is, all the layers should appear to originate from one corner. The bottom side of all the paintings should also line up perfectly. This will be the starting point of your roll.

Shipping De-Mystified: How To Roll Artworks For Shipping (6)

Take the ends of your work and pull them over, creating a soft arch. Do not fold the work to begin your roll, as this will damage your artwork, sometimes irreparably. Be careful not to roll the works too tightly; you’ll have to exercise your own judgment here by feeling the resistance of your materials. Light materials with light media can be rolled more tightly than thick media on thick grounds. For example, an acrylic wash on linen can be rolled more tightly than impasto on canvas.

There should be no clear bends or folds down the inside or outside of the roll. If you start to see folding, stop rolling, release your work, and roll more loosely.

Shipping De-Mystified: How To Roll Artworks For Shipping (7)

Step Six

When you tape the roll closed with your artist or drafting tape, fold over one end of the tape to create a tab for easy removal. By doing this, you’re not only being considerate to the unpacker; you’re protecting your works. Otherwise, the people unpacking your work will have to tear the paper, potentially damaging your artwork.

Step Seven

Once you have your roll completed, set it aside and lay out your bubble wrap. You shouldhave enough bubble wrap to fill the space between the tube’s inner walls and your works. To make sure you don’t underestimate and leave the work under-protected, don’t cut the bubble wrap until the end of step seven.

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Lay the end of your bubble wrap bubble-side down on your surface. With the bubbles facing out, you’ll be creating extra friction within the tube to keep the works in place. Otherwise, they will slide around inside your tube, potentially damaging the edges.

Place your roll of works on top of the bubble wrap and begin rolling.

Keep an eye on your tube while you roll, making sure that you will be able to fit everything inside. Once you have enough wrapping around your roll to fit snugly in the tube, you can cut the bubble wrap.

Shipping De-Mystified: How To Roll Artworks For Shipping (8)

Remember that extra few inches of bubble wrap you left at the top & bottom of the roll? Fold them over and tape them closed to create extra cushioning on the top/bottom of your package. Lastly, tape along the length-wise edge of the bubble wrap so that you seal the whole package closed.

Step Eight

Slide your roll inside your tube. It should be snug enough that it doesn’t move when you jostle the package, but shouldn’t be too snug that you can’t slide an open hand in to remove the work. If your work is too loosely packed, it can bang around during transit and get damaged. If your work is too tight, it can crack due to pressure changes, or during unpacking.

Remember, if you have trouble getting it in the tube, it will betroublesome to get it out too.

Shipping De-Mystified: How To Roll Artworks For Shipping (9)

Step Nine

Seal your tube. When you purchased your tube, it should have come with a twist or push cap. Rarely, they may come with a screw top (twists go on the inside of the tube, screw tops go around the outside). You can also cut a custom piece of extra-thick cardboard to seal the tube.

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Unless using a screw top, you will need to tape the package securely by creating a “star” and a “circle”. For the star: cross the tape over the top and edges in an asterisk formation. For the circle: wrap the tape around the sides so that the “star” tape won’t peel up easily.

Always, always, always use a cap! Do notuse tape alone to seal your tube. It might stick to your works and damage them.

Step Ten

Pay for postage and send the work on its way!

There you have it! Your artwork has been successfully rolled and is safely on its way to whatever future lies before it. Bon voyage, art!

Looking to develop your artistic career and build a presence in New York City andworldwide?Book an onlinecareer development consultation meeting today.

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How do you wrap fine art for shipping? ›

Wrap the plastic, fairly tightly, around the painting and cardboard so that it overlaps itself on the backing board (or on the back cardboard, if used). Tape along the overlapping edges and along all of the other edges of the plastic with packaging or carton tape to create a good seal.

How do you pack art prints for shipping? ›

The safest way to ship art prints is in a cardboard shipping tube. To ship a print flat, first, slide the print into a self-seal cellophane bag, and sandwich it between two rigid pieces of cardboard. Place it snuggly into a mailer box, fill extra space with layers of bubble wrap, and tape everything down.

How do I ship multiple pieces of art? ›

Just bring it to your neighborhood The UPS Store®, where we offer boxes in all sizes, and a range of advanced packaging materials to protect your artwork in transit. We can even create custom boxes and crates designed specifically for shipping larger pieces, like: Sculpture Shipping.

What is the best way to roll a painting? ›

To minimize the risk of damage, you will want to follow a few simple guidelines: keep the roll loose and the paint on the outside. Roll up the canvas with the paint on the outside. If you roll it up with the paint on the inside, the paint may wrinkle (especially if it's applied thickly or has a lot of texture).

Can acrylic paintings be rolled up? ›

Fine art grade acrylic paint and medium films are generally quite flexible, and so can be rolled easily at warmer temperatures, but this inherent thermo-plastic nature of acrylic allows it to go back and forth throughout its life, moving from very soft and flexible at warmer temperatures, to harder and potentially ...

What is the cheapest way to ship art? ›

USPS is the Cheapest Way to Ship a Canvas or Painting

That being said, most canvases are lightweight items (under 16 oz) that aren't too big. Therefore, your best bet is to ship them USPS First Class Package service.

Can you just wrap something and ship it? ›

Paper wrapping is not recommended; it can catch and tear off in mail processing equipment. Parcels (including fragile items) should be prepared to withstand normal mail processing and transportation. Contents can be padded with newspaper, Styrofoam, bubble wrap, tissue and ink-free packing paper.

What is the best packaging for sending prints? ›

For my art prints and canvas paintings, I use heavy duty 30x40” double-walled corrugated cardboard pads from U-line, but you can find cardboard from other sources. Just make sure that it's good, durable cardboard and that you always use quality tape to seal it up and hold the pieces together.

What is the best way to ship canvas art? ›

Now, the best way to ship canvas art is in a cardboard box – however, make sure the package is prepared correctly so that your artwork is protected. There are various ways of doing this, but one of the most popular is bubble wrap.

Is fedex or UPS better for shipping artwork? ›

Choose a Shipping Company

They offer reasonable rates and delivery times and also help you track the package at all times. Typically, UPS charges a little more than FedEx. In most cases, however, the difference is minimal. Both of these companies offer volume discounts.

How much does it cost to ship art with UPS? ›

Small or medium-sized paintings on canvas can be shipped via UPS or Fedex for approximately $10-$50, depending on the size. Declaring value (similar to insurance) will add more to the price of shipping as well. Large paintings that are over 30 inches in one dimension usually cost at least $50 to ship via UPS or Fedex.

How do you package multiple paintings? ›

Don't Pack Multiple Artworks In One Box

If possible, try to give each piece its own box. Smaller photo frames that are the same size and are well protected may be fine, but when you pack framed art pieces together, they will typically end up damaging each other.

Do you roll a painting in or out? ›

Paintings should be rolled paint-side out to avoid compression. Cover art with Glassine Paper and roll around a wide, solid core material like PVC pipe or carpet roll tubes. Place the rolled canvas inside a box for transport using bubble wrap for extra protection.

Do you roll paint vertical or horizontal? ›

Dip you roller in paint and move your roller in a vertical motion, going from the top of your walls to the bottom.

Should I wrap paintings in bubble wrap? ›

If the storage space is free of damp or high humidity, using bubble wrap can be a good solution for storing your paintings safely. However, be sure to put a layer of clean paper (free of any bleach or acids) around the artwork before to avoid it sticking to the surface.

How much should I charge for shipping a painting? ›

The cost of parcel shipping is based on the level of service you choose. Shipping a painting typically costs between $75-$300 per package, depending on the speed of travel and packing method you employ.

How do you ship acrylic paintings? ›

When packing acrylic paintings to ship, store or move, you should wrap acrylic first with wax paper or glass line paper, so it does not ruin the painting by sticking to it. Also, make sure that the picture is absolutely waterproof before covering it.

How do you transport expensive paintings? ›

Wrap the painting in bubble wrap with the bubbles facing away from, rather than against, the surface. Do not wrap a painted surface in bubble wrap. If the painting is framed, reinforce the frame corners with cardboard. Place the wrapped painting in a slightly larger, sturdy box.

Is bubble wrap enough for shipping? ›

Bubble wrap seems to be the most ideal packing solution for both movers and shippers. But know this: Expert movers often don't utilize too much bubble wrap in packing! In fact, a few cited they rarely use bubble wrap for moving.

Can I ship something in a paper bag? ›

For parcels that are over 3/4 in thick (or exceed other dimensions required to qualify as a large envelope/flat), but are still relatively thin could be packaged in expandable paper envelopes, poly mailers / plastic bags, paper bags or wrap, or even cloth.

Does bubble wrap work for shipping? ›

If you are shipping anything that is breakable or just needs an extra layer of protection from scratches or bumps, bubble wrap is the choice for you. Anything heavy, valuable, or breakable can especially benefit from a layer but err on the side of caution.

What is the best packing material for artwork? ›

Acid-free paper, which is PH neutral, is an absolute must-have for those dealing with art. It is even crucial if you want to protect your art from potential damage during moving and storage. Furthermore, acid-free paper is perfect for wrapping, as it doesn't cause any chemical reactions with the art piece.

How do I package my artwork for sale? ›

Use tissue paper or photography white cotton gloves. Wrap the piece in acid free tissue paper. For additional protection against moisture, wrap the artwork with plastic. Fold four pieces of acid-free tissue paper into triangles with one side open, then place the triangles on each corner of the work.

What is the safest way to ship art? ›

Smaller pieces and medium-sized artworks should be shipped in padded mailers or corrugated cardboard boxes, while crating is the best approach for large artwork larger than 48 inches to ensure maximum protection.

How do I ship an unframed canvas painting in the mail? ›

Prepare to ship unframed paper artwork
  1. 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. ...
  2. If you are unable to mat the work you are shipping, you should wrap the work in glassine.
Apr 18, 2011

Why is shipping art so expensive? ›

Finally, some artwork sizes exceed regular post office service and must be sent using specialist carriers. The number of separate materials is then added to the actual transportation costs; thus shipping artwork comes at a higher price that what many may think.

Is it cheaper to ship with FedEx or UPS? ›

UPS and FedEx package shipping costs are about the same, but UPS flat rate pricing is slightly cheaper than FedEx. For variable pricing, FedEx generally starts out slightly cheaper but can be more expensive for larger, heavier shipments or for packages that will travel a longer distance.

Does shipping art work with FedEx? ›

We recommend shipping artwork that has a lower maximum declared value and limit of liability of no greater than $1000. If you are shipping artwork valued over $500, we offer Premium Art Boxes lined with a plastic protector and foam. This solution is perfect for highly valuable artwork.

What is the cheapest way to ship a painting? ›

USPS is the Cheapest Way to Ship a Canvas or Painting

That being said, most canvases are lightweight items (under 16 oz) that aren't too big. Therefore, your best bet is to ship them USPS First Class Package service.


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