Pastel Pointers | Shipping Pastel Paintings, Part 1

shipping pastel paintings

This carton contains two paintings on their way to a gallery. You’ll be glad to know, they made it safe and sound!

Pastel artists have to face the inevitable day when they must package their precious pastel paintings for shipment and place them in the hands of a package carrier for delivery. To ensure safe transport, no matter the media, there are certain packaging standards that every artist should follow, such as extra cushioning space around the artwork and a strong outer shell. When packaging a pastel painting, additional precautions need to be taken to protect the glazing from breakage and reduce the potential of dusting-off from extreme mishandling. Consideration also needs to be given as to whether the packaging will be used for return shipment or not. In this two-part blog, I will share a few of my shipping tips.
  • Boxes: Find a reliable source for shipping boxes. A local art supply store often has empty boxes from canvas, matboard and frame orders that will work well. These boxes will not stand up to repeated use but can provide an economical solution for one-way shipping. Office-supply, moving, and shipping businesses are another good source. Make sure the outside dimension of the box allows for three or four inches of extra space around the entire painting or paintings if more than one is being shipped together. Remove or black-out any previous shipping labels. If the box feels like it requires additional reinforcement, cut spare sheets of cardboard to fit and adhere them to the inside. Then reinforce the box by taping all internal seams. This takes a minute to do and can greatly strengthen the container. Remember, paintings can be heavy!
  • Glass Concerns: For one-way shipments, many artists adhere a tacky film, commonly referred to as “Glass Skin”, to the front of the glass to add protection from breakage during transit. This low-tack film, which is available from a variety of shipping supply companies, is easily removed and will hold broken shards of glass in place until unpackaged. Additionally, before placing the painting into the container, cut two pieces of heavy duty cardboard, one or two inches larger than the painting’s dimensions. Place these on the front and back of the painting, creating a painting-sandwich. Tape them together using moderate tension. This will add extra circumferential protection and will help to isolate the front of the pastel from static cling issues that can arise from the plastic bubble wrap packing. The painting-sandwich can then be placed in a plastic bag for added moisture protection, if desired.
  • Packing Material: For the best shock absorption, use bubble wrap or upholstery foam. These both provide a nice cushion and are easy to remove and reuse. Foam packing peanuts and crumpled old newspapers should be avoided. They are messy, can shift around during shipment, and are often prohibited by exhibitions. Wrap the painting-sandwich with packing material to a desired girth and place additional packing material in the bottom of the carton before placing the painting inside. Finish by carefully wedging additional packing material to fill any voids, leaving no dead space. You don’t want the painting to slip around in transit. A full container adds extra strength to the carton, making it less prone to crushing.

In next week’s blog, I will continue the discussion on shipping, with a focus on exhibition shipment. No matter the purpose of the shipment, making sure our paintings arrive in as good condition as they departed is the ultimate goal.

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