How to pack artwork for moving

Relocation is seldom simple. While packing towels, books and plates can have its difficulties, it is still much simpler than packing sculptures and paintings. If you are faced with this challenge for your relocation, it’s a good thing that you’ve come across this text. In it, we will go in detail about the proper way you ought to pack artwork for moving. So, without further ado, let us get started.

Pack artwork for moving with ease

All of your artwork can be divided into two groups: framed and printed artwork, and sculptures. Both of them can be packed in what’s called a mirror box or and artwork box. Heavier and larger items might require a wooden crate. Smaller items can go in China carton, since it has two layers of cardboard, keeping your artwork safe. More on that later, however. What you need to know for start is that there are two basic stages to packing artwork:

  1. protecting the piece in question
  2. padding the box where the item will go
Man standing in front of a wall with paintings
In order to pack your artwork for moving, you will need to be attentive, careful and smart about the process.

Packing framed artwork and prints for moving

It might cross your mind how getting flat picture boxes are a total waste of money. However, you would be wrong when holding this opinion. Yes, they are more expensive than your regular boxes, but they are worth that difference. That is if you want to pack artwork for moving in a way that ensures its safety. So, cutting back on expenses here is not a good idea. It would be best that you find one that is larger than your artwork by about 3 to 4 inches on each side. If it is bigger than that, you will have to use more padding materials. If it’s smaller, you won’t have enough room for padding, and that can lead to all sorts of problems.

The packing steps

  1. Mark an ‘X’ on all glass covers. If your painting or framed print has a glass cover on it, take some masking tape and place an X across the glass. This prevents the glass from moving around too much in case it gets broken. It goes without saying that you will skip this step if your painting does not have glass.
  2. Plastic or palette wrap all pictures that don’t have glass covers. In this situation, it is critical that you protect the painted face. One of the better options is to wrap the painting in several layers of plastic wrap. Going for sheets of palette wrap is also a good way to protect your artwork. If applied correctly, the wrap will stay put and prevent friction damage if the artwork happens to move inside the box during relocation. We strongly advise that you use this protection technique when moving glass-covered watercolors and prints.
  3. Protect corners with cardboard slips. Unique and valuable frames should be treated with extra care. You can either purchase or make cardboard corner protectors for your art piece. Make sure to put them over the cling wrap.
  4. Use bubble paper for padding. This is no time to be stingy. Be generous when applying bubble paper, and cover both horizontal and vertical dimensions. When finished, seal the wrap with tape.
  5. Prepare the bottom of the box. It would be best that you place a wadded newsprint on the bottom of the box. Afterward, you would place the artwork inside, and work on filling the sides and the top.
  6. Time to test whether you did well. Close the box but do not seal it just yet. To test if all the work was properly done, gently move the box back and forth. If you sense anything shifting, you should open the box and add more padding until everything stays put.
  7. Seal and label. Once you have passed the safety test, feel free to tape the boxes shut. Make sure to mark them as ”fragile” and ”artwork”, so that the movers will know to handle them with extra care.
A wooden box with 'fragile' written on it
Labeling the box as fragile is very important for the safety of the contents inside.

Packing sculptures for the move

Every sculpture that has protruding parts or holes, be it big or small, is prone to damages. Let’s take a sculpture of a cat, for example. Ears and tail are vulnerable to being snapped off. So, in order to ensure the protection you would have to:

  • cover the sculpture in cling wrap to protect the finish. Take smaller pieces to get in and around all the nooks and crannies. You want to provide complete support.
  • roll up strips of bubble paper and wrap them around the vulnerable parts of your sculpture.
  • once the fragile areas get full support and structure, use more bubble paper to wrap the entire sculpture. The end product of this action should be a sphere or egg shape that you can place inside the box, and brace with padding.

As with the previous group, you should pad the box, and test it.

Regarding larger sculptures

If you have a sculpture that is a couple of feet tall and weighs a bit much, you have a bigger challenge to handle. We strongly advise that you hire long distance professional movers to take care of this if you are going far away, of course. However, in a case where you are adamant about taking care of this of your own, we will have to oblige and provide advice.

A big marble scuplture
You should not move bigger items on your own.

You will have to figure out the approximate weight of the piece. This will help you make the course of action, and decide whether you need a wooden crate or if a cardboard box will suffice. You should know that most single-walled boxes are perfectly capable of holding up to 40 pounds or so during transport. If you are moving a large item and the weight exceeds that, you will need a wooden crate. This is the safest and sturdiest way you can take care of larger items. Apart from that, they are also super noticeable in a sea of cardboard boxes. Thus, your movers are less likely to mishandle it, since they will be able to assume something that is fragile and valuable is inside. You can find them online or at a shipping supplier.

So, when you pack artwork for moving, keep in mind that you can never be too cautious or thorough with safety measures.

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