How to Ship a Painting

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated: March 8, 2023 / Published: March 27, 2015

Transporting a painting – like other fragile and valuable items – is a task that involves careful packaging and choosing the right carrier. And unless your painting has its own waterproof stainless steel case, it’s a good idea to steer clear of large shipping companies. Shipping fine art is a very specialized field – the white glove service offered by independent drivers organized through online companies like CitizenShipper ensures your painting is delivered on time and in pristine condition. But the process begins with getting your painting ready to travel.

Traditional paintings – whether done in oil, watercolor, tempura or other media – are usually composed on standard canvas sizes of 16” x 20”, 18” x 24”, 24” x 36” on up to 36” x 48 “ and even 4’ x 7’. Custom canvas sizes can come in any dimension, but the basics of packaging apply to every painting. If your painting is in a frame, it’s important to note most experts suggest it should be removed and shipped in a separate container.

Start out by wrapping your painting with flat plastic wrap two or three times. Do not use bubble wrap for the first layer of protection, as the blisters can harm the varnish and make noticeable indentions on the surface. Next, cover the item with a layer of butcher paper or thick packing paper to ensure the plastic doesn’t move during transport. At this point, two layers of bubble wrap (along the horizontal bias, then vertically) will complete the first phase of preparation.

Cartons for shipping paintings can be bought from various art supply chains. Ideally your painting will be double-boxed, so get two different sizes (one larger than the other). The first box should house the wrapped painting snugly, but not too tight. Place this box into the larger one, with flat Styrofoam sheets cut to fit between the two. Finally, use quality packing tape to secure all outer flaps as well as around the middle of the carton. Moisture proof packaging is not recommended because a small amount of airflow allows your painting to ‘breathe’. It’s critical your driver understands the fragile nature of the painting and that it must not be transported in open air.

Finding the right online driver starts with creating a listing that includes your packaged painting’s dimensions, weight, the timeline in which you need it shipped, point of origin, and destination. It’s also a good idea to include a picture of the shipping carton so drivers will have a better idea of how they can transport it before offering bids. As offers come in, you can communicate with interested transporters and check out the vehicles they use. More than likely, drivers will include a painting in a group of other shipments they intend to deliver en route to the destination.

CitizenShipper’s community of 49,000 drivers can help deliver your painting safely and securely.

Click here to list a painting for online shipment.