Moving is stressful (and often rushed), and the last thing you want to think about is taking extra precautions or going out of your way to get supplies for packing your artwork.
We get it.
But, taking the time to get the right supplies before packing artwork can make the difference between moving it safely or unpacking broken or damaged pieces when you get to your new home.
In this guide, we’ll cover exactly how to prepare and pack your artwork safely so you feel more confident about your move.
Preparation Checklist for Packing Artwork
Before you can start actually packing your artwork, you need to gather the proper materials and equipment.
So, what do you need to safely pack your artwork?
- Boxes in various sizes (You may want to include some specialized flat picture boxes or other specialty moving boxes — such as mirror boxes that offer extra padding.)
- Painter’s tape
- Brown packing paper
- Glassine paper
- Plastic wrap
- Bubble wrap, packing peanuts, or other packing materials (If you are moving framed artwork, you may also want cardboard corner protectors.)
- Packing tape
- A marker and other labeling equipment
How to Pack Artwork Safely and Securely
Once you’ve gathered your packing supplies, you’re ready to start packing up your artwork. Since art can come in many different shapes, sizes, and mediums, it is essential to pack your pieces systematically and individually. This is because the packing method for a framed print would be ineffective if you’re packing a porcelain sculpture.
When packing artwork, you need to think of two primary categories: flat pieces and 3D pieces. Unfortunately, the best method of packing each piece of artwork will depend on what it is made of, how big it is, and what shape it is. But you can use these categories to get a good idea of how to securely pack every piece of artwork in your home for your move.
Your flat pieces — such as paintings, art books, portfolios, and posters — will be either entirely or very close to flat. Therefore, these pieces of artwork require large, flat boxes rather than the typical moving boxes. But, because these pieces may vary in relative flatness, there are three primary packing methods for this artwork category — which we’ll explore below.
Posters are the flattest and easiest to pack for flat artwork. All you need to pack these is a sturdy cardboard tube and a method of sealing its ends. You can purchase a tube made specifically for transporting art or simply buy one at a craft store — just make sure it is sturdy.
To ensure that your artwork stays damage-free during the move:
- Place a piece of glassine paper on top of your poster.
- Carefully roll it up (with the artwork side facing inwards).
- Put the rolled poster into the cardboard tube.
- Seal the ends securely.
- Label the tube as a “poster.”
Books, Portfolios, or Albums
If your flat artwork is collected in a book (like a sketchbook), portfolio, or art album, you don’t have to worry as much about damaging it during a move since it is already protected. These pieces are on the other side of the “flat” spectrum from posters but are similarly easy to pack most of the time.
All you really have to do to keep these art pieces safe is:
- Wrap your closed art collection book or album securely in brown packing paper — you may also want to wrap it in plastic to prevent humidity or water damage.
- Place it in a box that is only slightly larger than your now-wrapped collection.
- Pad out any open spaces in the box with additional packing materials (paper or bubble wrap) to ensure your collection stays in place during the move.
- Label the container appropriately.
Framed Art or Canvases
These are the most challenging flat art pieces to move as they are delicate and can easily be damaged if mishandled. In addition, while they typically are less thick than artwork collections, they are thicker than posters, making them the most challenging to pack properly.
To pack a framed or canvas piece of artwork securely, follow these steps:
- Find an appropriately sized box for your art piece — it should be only slightly larger than the piece you are moving.
- Protect the face of your art: If your artwork is framed with a glass covering, use the painter’s tape to make an “x” on this covering. This prevents it from completely shattering and moving around if it does break during the move.
- If your artwork’s face is not covered, you must cover it yourself with glassine paper first and then packing paper on top of that. Secure this covering with painter’s tape, like you would wrapping a present.
- Wrap the artwork in packing paper and bubble wrap.
- Place your newly wrapped artwork into your selected box and fill any open spaces with packing paper.
- Close the box and wiggle it a little to test for movement. (Add more packing paper into the open spaces if you feel or hear shifting.)
- Seal the box using packing tape.
- Label it with its contents, an arrow denoting which direction should be placed upwards, and the word “fragile.”
Sculptures or Other 3D Pieces
Packing 3-dimensional artwork is challenging in a different way than packing flat artwork. More often than not, 3D artwork is delicate, heavy, and not “conveniently” shaped, making finding packing containers that fit your artwork difficult. Additionally, any protrusions or holes can become weak points that break during the move, ruining the piece before it can make it to your new home.
To pack your 3D pieces of artwork, you’ll want to:
- Wrap the entire piece in plastic wrap, taking extra care to provide support to any potential weak points.
- Build up the fragile areas with bubble wrap.
- Use more bubble wrap to carefully cover the entire piece of art in a secure layer or two of bubble wrap.
- Secure the bubble wrap with painter’s tape.
- Place the newly wrapped sculpture into a box that is just large enough to fit it (or as close as you can get) and fill any gaps with packing materials.
- Give the box a movement test (as explained earlier).
- Carefully seal and label the box with its contents, a this-direction-up arrow, and the word “fragile.”
Note that you may need to use a wooden crate rather than a box for large or heavy art pieces, but the overall packing process remains the same.
Now that you know the basics of safely packing your artwork for a move, let’s dive into a few extra tips for moving artwork that will help you have a damage-free move.
- Give each piece of artwork its own box. This prevents your pieces from banging into each other during the move and damaging one another.
- Pick boxes that are the right sizes and shapes for your artwork. Heavier art pieces may require sturdier moving containers, like a wooden crate, instead of a cardboard box.
- Do not skip the preparation before packing your artwork. This step is critical in ensuring that your art is secure in its box and unable to move around during the move.
- Label everything. On the outside of each box, write what is in it — this can be a generic description like “pottery,” “canvas,” “glass,” etc. — and clearly indicate which way should face up during the move. And it doesn’t hurt to write “fragile” in big letters too!
Keep Your Artwork Safe with Professional Movers
If you don’t feel comfortable packing your precious artwork yourself or don’t have the time to take these precautions alongside your other moving responsibilities, don’t worry.
You can ensure quick, efficient, and secure packing and moving of your artwork with a professional moving company like Smooth Move.