Finding the right painting—one that’s the right size, the right price, and the right aesthetic—can be as simple as stumbling across the perfect piece while you’re on vacation or as arduous as a months-long marathon of gallery tours.
As a collector, once you find a piece that speaks to you, the last thing you want to do is leave it behind when you move. If you’re an artist or run a gallery, the last thing you want is to lose a sale because you can’t ship the painting to your would-be customer—or worse, for your hard work to arrive damaged.
Whether you’re a collector, a curator, or an artist, shipping paintings can be complicated and stressful. The key to shipping paintings safely is to package them properly—and to work with professionals who have the experience to treat these valuable, highly sentimental items with the care they deserve.
There are several ways to move or ship a single painting or larger collection across the country. The shipping experts at TSI are here to help. Read our comprehensive painting shipping guide to learn about five ways to ship paintings, or jump directly to special considerations and other important tips for shipping paintings, including step-by-step fine art packing instructions, by clicking the menu below.
Read about five common ways to ship paintings, including pros and cons and when to use each method.
The cost of shipping your painting depends on what shipping method you choose.
Moving locally or long distance? Find out which shipping method is best for your move.
Paintings are difficult to ship, and each piece will come with its own unique set of considerations for packing and moving.
Keep your painting safe throughout the moving process by avoiding these mistakes.
Pack your paintings the right way with our step-by-step instructions.
1. How To Ship Paintings
No matter how large, old, or valuable your artwork is, paintings are delicate and often highly sentimental, and that can make them stressful to move or ship—especially if you’re relocating long distance. If you’re moving long distance and want to transport your paintings across the country, you have five options:
- Rent a truck and move yourself
- Hire professional movers
- Parcel shipping, such as UPS or FedEx
- Rideshare or peer-to-peer shipping
- Consolidated freight
Let’s take a closer look at each of these methods:
I. Rent a truck and move yourself
Renting a truck and moving yourself is often the method of choice for small or short-distance moves. If you don’t have much to move, aren’t moving far, and are physically able to manage the loading and unloading process (with help from friends, family, or employees), this method will likely be your most affordable choice.
PACKING TIP: Smaller paintings, once wrapped, can be packed together into a single box. If you do pack multiple paintings into a single box, be sure to reinforce the bottom—artwork can be heavier than you expect.
If you have space in your car, packing your paintings into your personal vehicle is the safest way to transport artwork during a DIY move. You’ll have better temperature control, and you can keep your eye on your artwork throughout the moving process.
Loading paintings onto the moving vehicle
If you don’t have space in your personal vehicle, paintings can be packed onto your moving truck anywhere they will fit, as long as they are secure and aren’t subject to pressure on either side. Keep your paintings safe during a DIY move by following these tips:
- Always load paintings standing up instead of lying flat. They are much more likely to sustain damage if they are lying flat.
- If you can, wedge them between two mattresses, couches, upholstered furniture, or any other large, heavy items that have been properly secured so they won’t shift in transit.
- Don’t pack paintings in a space where something could fall onto it.
|Can be more cost-effective than hiring movers (assuming your painting doesn’t sustain damage)||You are entirely responsible for packing and loading your paintings|
|Your painting remains in your care the entire time||Larger paintings can be especially difficult to move, depending on the size of your moving vehicle|
|You can move on your own timeline||Can be dangerous to pack paintings in the back of a very hot or very cold truck|
|Can be expensive for long distance moves, particularly if you are moving lots of stuff|
|No insurance included|
How much does it cost to rent a truck and move your paintings?
The total cost of a DIY move depends on the size of your rental vehicle and the distance of your move. You’ll pay a day rate based on the size of the vehicle, as well as mileage and fuel charges, and any additional charges for moving supplies and insurance. If you’re moving long distance, you may also need to pay extra to leave your rented vehicle in a different city than where you picked it up.
- Day rates typically range between $19.99-$29.99 per day for a 10’-17’ truck, or $29.99-$39.99 for a 20’-26’ truck.
- Mileage often ranges between $0.69-$0.79 per mile during the week and up to $0.99 per mile on weekends, and can be higher during peak moving season.
When should I rent a truck and move my own paintings?
- Inexpensive artwork
- Local or short distance moves
II. Hiring professional movers
Professional movers are a popular choice for larger local moves, as well as for those who don’t have the ability to move themselves or simply don’t want the hassle of loading and unloading their belongings.
Unless you pay for packing services, your professional moving team likely won’t pack your paintings like they will your other furniture. Be sure to mention your artwork collection when you call for a quote so they can provide an accurate price and advise you about packing requirements before they arrive.
If you hire professional movers, it may be best to move your paintings in your personal vehicle, if possible. The moving truck may not be temperature-controlled, and you’ll be able to keep a watchful eye over your treasured paintings en route.
|Professional movers know how to handle artwork, and will load it onto the truck properly||Professional movers likely won’t pack your paintings, unless you pay extra for packing services|
|No heavy lifting—the pros will load and unload all of your stuff||Can be costly for long distance moves|
|May include professional packing materials for your other household items|
|Basic insurance is often included|
How much does it cost to hire professional movers?
The American Moving and Storage Association estimates that the average local move costs around $2,300, while the average long distance move costs about $4,300.
The total cost of your move will ultimately depend on how much stuff you have and how far you’re moving. Some moving companies base their prices more on distance, while others place more emphasis on how much stuff you have. If you’re considering hiring professional movers, always get a quote from at least three moving companies before you commit.
When should I hire professional movers?
- Larger local moves, such as a full household move
- If you don’t have the ability to load or unload your belongings but are able to pack your paintings
III. Parcel shipping (FedEx, USPS, UPS)
Parcel shipping is provided by familiar services like USPS, as well as private courier companies like FedEx, or UPS. Express delivery options are available, and you may even be able to add packing services for an additional fee.
Parcel delivery is a popular shipping option for artists and gallery owners, and it’s also a viable option for those undertaking a long distance household move who only have a few items to ship. If you have a large collection or are dealing with large volumes, consolidated freight is typically ideal.
When you ship artwork using parcel shipping services, you need to be aware of “dimensional weight”. Parcel shipments are typically priced based on how much they weigh, but the space they take up on the truck can also impact the cost of your shipment, especially if you’re moving large pieces like paintings. Dimensional weight more accurately reflects the density of your shipment—or, the amount of space it takes up in relation to its actual weight.
How to calculate dimensional weight
Measure the package dimensions to calculate the cubic size in inches:
L x W x H = cubic size
Then, divide the cubic size by the specific dimensional weight divisor determined by your parcel shipping service to calculate dimensional weight. You may need to ask your shipping provider for this information.
If you only have a few paintings to ship and you have space in your personal vehicle, moving your artwork yourself will save you some money—and the stress of waiting for your package to arrive undamaged.
|Faster—expedited shipping options are available||Package pick up options are typically limited—you may have to take your painting to a store to ship|
|Cheaper than consolidated freight||Can be expensive to ship large artwork|
|Can include professional packing and crating||Your painting is out of your control from pickup to delivery|
|Can include additional insurance||May not include sufficient insurance|
How much does parcel shipping cost?
The cost of parcel shipping is based on the level of service you choose. Shipping a painting typically costs between $50-$300 per package, depending on the speed of travel and packing method you employ. Shipping artwork tubes is often cheaper than shipping boxed or crated artwork, ranging between $75-$200 per tube. Next-day or expedited shipments will cost significantly more than regular ground freight, no matter how they are packed.
When should I use parcel shipping services to ship paintings?
- Unmounted artwork that can be packed and shipped in tubes
- Expedited or time-critical shipments
IV. Rideshare or peer-to-peer shipping
Rideshare or peer-to-peer shipping is like carpool for cargo. After you post your shipment on an online marketplace, potential shipping partners who are travelling in the right direction will bid on your shipment. They could be a road tripper, a truck owner/operator, or a larger logistics company. It’s up to you to vet your options and negotiate your shipping rate.
Vetting a potential peer-to-peer shipping partner is especially important when you’re shipping paintings. Any shipping partner should be qualified to handle these delicate items, and they should also be able to provide a safe transportation environment that reduces the risk of damage to your artwork, such as temperature control.
|May be cheaper for long distance moves||You may not be working with a professional—there’s no guarantee of expertise or experience, and there’s less accountability if something goes wrong|
|Opportunity to vet potential shipping partners||Need to pack your painting yourself|
|Can be used to ship just about any type of large item||May need to provide loading and unloading assistance|
|May not be able to track your shipment|
|No insurance if your painting gets damaged|
How much does it cost to ship a painting using peer-to-peer shipping?
Peer-to-peer shipping costs can vary, and are often negotiable depending on the size of your painting, how many pieces you’re shipping, and the level of involvement you require from your shipping partner. Typically, shipping paintings using peer-to-peer shipping networks will cost between $175 for smaller, single pieces, and upwards of $1,000 for larger pieces or collections.
When should I use peer-to-peer shipping to transport my paintings?
- Inexpensive artwork that doesn’t require additional packing or loading services
- If you are shipping a few other large items
V. Consolidated freight
When you ship your painting(s) using consolidated freight, your artwork will share space on the truck with other shipments heading in the same direction. You only pay for the amount of space your shipment takes up on the truck, which helps keep your costs lower, especially for larger collections.
Consolidated freight shipping services are always provided by licensed and insured shipping companies. The best consolidated freight providers will connect you with an experienced shipping company that specializes in transporting artwork like paintings. This may include:
- Temperature-controlled vehicles
- Loading and unloading by hand (instead of by forklift)
- Varying levels of service, such as white glove packing services, to ensure that your artwork is packed or crated properly.
|Safe—you can trust experienced professionals to handle your painting properly in a controlled environment||May be costly to ship large artwork or collections|
|Convenient—no need to find space in your rented moving vehicle to safely pack paintings||Longer timelines, unless you pay for expedited shipping|
|Easy for galleries to set up recurring shipments||Does not always include packing and loading services|
|May include crate packing services, as well as indoor loading and unloading|
|Includes shipping insurance|
How much does it cost to ship a painting using consolidated freight?
The cost of shipping a painting (or a collection of paintings) using consolidated freight will depend on what level of service you choose. If you are able to pack your painting yourself, consolidated freight services can cost as low as $375.
If your artwork is especially valuable, fragile, or sentimental, you’ll need white glove service. With crating included, white glove service typically costs between $900-$1,000, but is much safer than a standard LTL shipping environment. Instead of being loaded and unloaded using a forklift, your painting will be carried by hand by professional artwork movers.
When should I use consolidated freight to move my paintings?
- Larger collections
- Long distance moves
- Especially valuable artwork
- If you need help with packing or crating
- High-volume or recurring shipments
2. How Much Does it Cost to Ship a Painting?
|Renting a truck and moving yourself||Depends on size of vehicle and distance of move|
|Hiring professional movers||Depends on size and distance of move; approximately $4,300|
|Parcel shipping||Between $50 and $300, depending on the speed of travel and packing method|
|Peer-to-peer shipping||Depends on size of painting and how many pieces you’re shipping; typically between $175 and $1,000|
|Consolidated freight||Starts at $375 for LTL service; $900-$1,000 for premium White Glove service|
3. Recommended Shipping Method
For local or short distance moves, we recommend transporting paintings and other artwork in your personal vehicle.
For long distance moves, consolidated freight is ideal for large collections and recurring or volume shipments of more than 10 pieces per month. Consolidated freight services like less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping are always provided by licensed and insured porfessionals, so you can feel confident that your artwork is being transported safely throughout its journey.
Consolidated freight providers often offfer multiple service levels, including packing and custom crating, assistance loading your paintings, and additional insurance. Most paintings will require White Glove shipping services, which include indoor pickup and delivery, packing services, and additional insurance. Simple LTL shipments start at $375, and can reach up to $900 or more for White Glove service.
For smaller paintings, single items, or time-critical shipments, parcel shipping is your best option.
4. Special Considerations for Shipping Paintings
If you’re researching the best way to ship paintings, you likely fall into one of two groups:
- Collectors: You’re relocating, either locally or long distance, and you need help safely moving your paintings to your new home. In this case, you might be looking for help shipping a single painting, or a large collection.
- Artists or gallery owners: You’re an artist or a gallery owner, and you need to ship paintings to both local and long distance buyers. You may also be dealing with higher volumes and recurring shipments.
Regardless of what camp you belong to, you’ll be dealing with the same considerations.
The way your painting is mounted determines how it should be packed. Unmounted canvases can be rolled and shipped in tubes, while stretched canvases should be carefully packed in boxes. If your painting is mounted behind glass, you’ll need to take extra precautions to protect the glass and limit the damage if it does break in transit.
The size of your painting also determines how it should be packed.
- Smaller works can be shipped in new, double-wall corrugated cardboard boxes.
- Anything larger than 48” on one side should be crated for maximum protection.
- Unmounted artwork can be rolled and shipped in tubes that are at least 4 inches longer than the shortest side of the piece when its rolled flat. The tube should be wide enough to accommodate 4-5 inches of padding.
Larger artwork is also priced differently. Some carriers, such as USPS, FedEx, and UPS, may have size restrictions, and may price your shipment based on dimensional weight.
Artwork can be immensely valuable, both financially and sentimentally. For particularly valuable works of art, it’s highly recommended that you purchase additional insurance based on the value of the piece (not its weight) to ensure you’re covered in case it does sustain damage.
Paintings must be properly packaged according to strict requirements in order to be insured. The best consolidated freight shippers will provide packing services that comply with insurance requirements.
Paintings, especially stretched canvas, are delicate. No matter what size of painting you are shipping, packing them properly to prevent puncture and other damage is essential.
If you’re an artist or run a gallery and you ship a lot of artwork, setting up recurring shipments with a consolidated freight shipper can save time and streamline the shipping process so you can get your artwork to your buyer as fast and as safely as possible. With the best freight shipping companies, recurring shipments can be scheduled in as little as a single email.
5. Mistakes to Avoid When Shipping Paintings
- Not wearing gloves. The oil from your fingers can damage the surface of the paint and other high-gloss art. When packing paintings, protect your artwork by wearing nitrile or cotton art-handling gloves at all times.
- Using poor quality tools and packing materials. Cheap or low quality tools and packing materials can seriously compromise the security of your packing job. Never reuse boxes for packing artwork, and don’t use newspaper in place of packing paper—the ink can easily rub off and leave an imprint on your artwork. Always use the highest possible quality packing tape, and an efficient tape gun—cheap tape is harder to apply, harder to cut, and it doesn’t stick as firmly.
- Using the wrong size box. Your box should be at least 2” larger than your painting on all sides to allow sufficient space to pad your artwork. There are three common box sizes for shipping paintings: 28" x 4" x 37", 37” x 4 ⅜” x 30”, and 36” x 6” x 42”. Telescoping boxes are also available.
- Not protecting corners. The corners and edges of your painting are the most susceptible to damage. Create corner protectors using cardboard cutouts or purchase pre-made corner guards, and take care to protect the edge of your painting by padding it adequately.
- Using packing peanuts instead of bubble wrap. Packing peanuts will settle to the bottom of the box, leaving your painting susceptible to damage. Instead of packing peanuts, always use bubble wrap to pack paintings. Large, 1” bubble wrap is typically recommended.
- Not lining your painting before wrapping in bubble wrap. If bubble wrap comes into direct contact with the surface of your painting, it may stick to the varnish and leave an imprint. Always wrap your painting in acid-free, archival-quality glassine paper before wrapping in bubble wrap. Bubbles should be facing out to reduce the chance of leaving an imprint.
- Packing artwork too soon. If you’re an artist, make sure your painting is completely dry before packaging. Different types of paint take different lengths of time to dry completely, and paint can sometimes appear dry when it isn’t.
6. How To Pack a Painting
If you’re selling your home, your real estate agent may recommend packing your paintings early to help with staging. Beyond this, packing paintings first and shipping them early or storing them in a safe place is a good way to protect them throughout the moving process. Here’s how to pack paintings:
- Tape measure
- For mounted artwork: Double-wall corrugated picture or mirror box
- For unmounted artwork: Sturdy shipping tube
- Glassine paper—wax or parchment paper are not suitable alternatives
- Artist tape or painter’s tape
- Cling film or shrink wrap
- Cardboard corner protectors
- Bubble wrap
- Foam boards
- High-quality packing tape
- “FRAGILE” stickers
Once you’ve acquired the necessary packing materials, you can begin packing your painting. Every piece is different, but these steps are a good place to start:
- Clean your work surface. Wipe it down to remove dust and dirt, then pad it with protective material like cardboard, foam, or cloth to prevent scrapes and scuffs.
- Measure your artwork. Use your tape measure to determine the length, width, and height of your painting. This will help you choose the right size box or shipping tube. What size is the right size? Look for a box that provides a minimum or 2” clearance on all sides. There are three common box sizes for shipping paintings: 28” x 4” x 24”, 37” x 4 ⅜” x 30”, and 36” x 6” x 42”. Telescoping boxes are also available.
- Take photos from all angles. You’ll need photos to provide proof of condition if your painting sustains damage in transit and you need to make an insurance claim.
If you're boxing your artwork
- Wrap painting in acid-free, archival-quality glassine paper. This will protect your artwork from discoloration or staining. Ensure the protective paper covers all sides and edges, then secure it in place with acid-free artist’s tape. Make corner protectors out of glassine paper by cutting four squares and folding them in half twice diagonally to form triangles. Tape the free/open side of the triangle so it forms a pocket, then affix to the corner of the painting.
- Wrap the painting in shrink wrap or cling film. Pull the shrink wrap tightly around the artwork so that it doesn’t get bunched or tangled. Cut small slits in the back so your painting can breathe—airflow can help prevent trapped moisture and any resulting damage to the surface of your artwork.
- Add a layer of cardboard padding. This creates a sort of “internal box” that will significantly reduce the possibility of a foreign object piercing or scuffing the painting. It will also help absorb shock if the painting gets dropped. Cut the cardboard so that you leave 2 extra inches at each end, then bring the two sides together to form a triangle on the top and bottom edge, and tape it closed. This creates an additional buffer at the edge of the artwork that will absorb shock and help protect the edges and corners—the two most vulnerable areas of a stretched canvas. Tape a narrow piece of cardboard to the open sides to seal the internal box.
- Protect corners using cardboard corner protectors.
- Add a layer of bubble wrap. Pull the bubble wrap tightly to maintain tension and prevent bunching, taking care that the bubbles face outward to prevent indentations or impressions. Double-wrap the edges of your painting to protect these vulnerable areas.
- Sandwich the wrapped painting between foam boards for added protection. Tape the boards together firmly, but not tight enough to apply pressure to the art.
- Slide painting into the outer box. The most common source of damage to paintings is from movement allowed by extra space in the box. Cut the box down to a smaller size if necessary, or fill the box as completely as possible with additional bubble wrap—not packing peanuts.
- Tape the box shut. Tape all seams of the outer box, including the short seams at the end of each flap. Any untaped seam can snag and easily rip open if something catches it. Only use high quality, heavy duty packing tape that’s at least two inches wide. Duct tape and other household tapes are not sufficient.
- Label as “FRAGILE” and “HANDLE WITH CARE”.
If you're shipping your paintings in a tube
- Place the artwork atop two sheets of glassine paper cut to a size that is at least 2 inches larger than the artwork on all four sides to protect it from discoloration or staining. Ensure the protective paper covers all sides and edges. Paper-based artwork, such as drawings, prints, watercolor paintings, or photograph, should be placed face up. Fabric-based art, such as linen or canvas, should be placed face down to prevent cracking or breaking. If you’re shipping multiple pieces in a single tube, place a sheet of glassine paper between each work. Layer the art from largest to smallest, and make sure each piece is facing the same direction.
- Roll paper-covered artwork around a smaller tube for inner support. Don’t roll it too tightly to avoid damage to the painting. Secure the roll with artist’s tape.
- Roll the artwork in a layer of bubble wrap and seal with tape.
- Slide roll into outer tube.
- Fill extra spaces with bubble wrap, taking care not to crush the edges of your painting.
- Seal with packing tape and label as “FRAGILE”.
If you’re an artist or gallery owner shipping paintings to buyers across the country, or are planning a long distance move and are considering how to move your collection, you have five options for shipping paintings
- Rent a truck and move yourself
- Hire professional movers
- Parcel shipping, such as UPS or FedEx
- Rideshare or peer-to-peer shipping
- Consolidated freight
If you are shipping a single painting or smaller pieces, or need expedited shipping, parcel shipping is your best option. For recurring or volume shipments or long-distance moves of large paintings or larger collections, consolidated freight is ideal. TSI can help—our experienced logistics coordinators will connect you with an expert artwork shipping company and help you create a shipping plan that works for your schedule and budget, including recurring shipments.
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