coloured pencils on Arches HP, 30cm x 20cm
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Katherine, do you have any info or articles about packaging artwork and posting it (for commissioned work)? This is something I've been having enormous difficulty finding out about. How do other artists prepare their artwork - is there a standard or is it a variety of ways? Is it flatpacked or in a tube - if so how does one ship pencil drawings and get over the problem of smudging? How does one cut the frames or are there standard sizes? I may have to commission a work to find out! This are not questions I'm demanding answers to but the sort of questions I have that have been a stumbling block for me. If you can point me to any info, suppliers or even images so I can get an idea, I'd be very grateful!I received this query yesterday - and it's certainly one which has perplexed me as well in the past - and, I guess, quite a few other people as well.
Postal and packaging guidelines
First some postal packaging guides from the mail and parcel people. [These have been updated as of February 2014]
Royal MailThis is the official Royal Mail Wrapping and packaging advice. Make sure to check dimensions.
- These are the size and weight guides according to Royal Mail.
- This is the Royal Mail Guide to Prices for sending parcels
- This is their A-Z of Wrapping and Packing table
- These are the Royal Mail's Top Tips for sending mail overseas
- This is the Royal Mail guide to Tips for Sending Fragile Items
- This is the Post Office Guide to parcel sizes
- Here are the Post Office
recommendations for preparation and packaging(unfortunately no longer available)
- Plus they even do
a packaging guide for e-bay customers. (also no longer available)
Parcel ForceIn the UK most small packets can go via normal mail. Hence unless your package is very large there is no need to use Parcel Force.
This is Parcel Force. Their service can be expensive and, as indicated, it's really only needed for larger packages - at which point you should compare prices and service offered with courier services (see below). These are the Parcelforce pages for
Us Postal Service
People have different views about the cost-effectiveness of the various carriers and courier services. They are not cheap. Well known ones include FedEx, UPS and DHL.
You can find a summary of UK courier services for artwork on How to pack, post and ship art - Resources for Artists
Here are some of the supplies which I know people have found useful in the past. I'm hoping there'll be a few more suggestions coming in by way of comments.
Protection for surfaces to avoid smudgingI'd always recommend glassine paper - which you can get from lots of different suppliers.
Mats for works on paperMats make small works look good. Larger mats on larger works can make packing a very tedious exercise and increases the risk of damage. Work out what is the maximum size of mat you can ship with ease. (What do people think?)
Buying mountboard and then cutting your own mats and backs and taping together and then hinging a work can involve lots of profanities and expletives until you've got the hang of it! This is an understatement as I'm sure others will testify.
There are easier ways............
- Some suppliers sell precut mats with backs. These help to make smaller works look good.
- Some suppliers sell mats with backs and bags - making life so much simpler! I'd just like to know where the UK equivalent are!
- Most framers will do you a job lot of pre-cut mats with backs for standard sizes to order at less cost per item that it might cost you for a one-off.
Archival clear bags for presentation
- ClearBags™, who you can find at www.clearbags.com - who supply Crystal Clear Bags™ and Crystal Clear Boxes™ I've certainly seen them recommended by artists time and time again - but have never come across them in the UK or Europe.
- Archival clear art bags from Daniel Smith
Protective packing I use includes:
- bubble wrap - good for cushioning. Bubble wrap can be recycled if you are careful when unpacking - although almost always in smaller pieces.
- board backed manilla envelopes - useful for smaller pieces. Less good for larger sizes
- polythene envelopes - good for keeping work dry - but needs internal stiffening of some sort
- bubble envelopes - useful and provides some cushioning but also needs a stiffener
- poster tubes - are sold for larger/odd shaped works which are sent rolled
- foam core in various sizes and thicknesses is light and robust - use for backing sheets or to provide a sandwich inside which the work(s) go. If taking a a sandwich approach then tape the foam core sheets together.
- sheets of corrugated cardboard. This comes in different thicknesses. I prefer foam core as I'm always worried about what would happen if the cardboard got wet.
- small self-assembly mailing boxes - these come in varying sizes and are best for 3D works or small consignments. Pack to fill and make sure works do not move.
- If you buy books on the internet, some of them come in very robust packaging - which can then be recycled
- heavy duty packing tape - never ever assume glue works!
- a tape gun - makes life so much easier! Once you've used one, you'll never ever want to use packing tape any other way!
- sticky labels in different sizes
- waterproof marker pen
Shipping giclee prints / drawings / works on paperI've personally received these from some of the best - and it's very interesting to see how others package their work! ;)
Some ship flat and some ship rolled. On the whole it seems to be the size and shape and whether or not they are matted which seems to determine whether they are flat or rolled. Larger/odd shapes seem to come rolled and without mats. All prints seem to come without mats.
If shipping flat then my practice is as follows
- wrap a sheet of glassine around a drawing and tape glassine together so it does not move
- use a robust but lightweight form of support to avoid bending and/or postman who can't or won't read 'Do not bend' stickers (they don't and never assume they do - you MUST pack on the basis that they won't). I tend to use two lightweight sheets of foamcore either side taped together. Sheets of corrugated card can also work well.
- If you are sending a small consignment of drawings for framing (for an exhibition) then the boxes that Amazon books come in work extremely well!
- slip the package inside a plastic bag (helps to make it waterproof)
- you should now have a rigid waterproof pack - now choose a suitable envelope. My preference is for padded with bubble wrap lining or a waterproof envelope for larger works and the manilla with board envelopes for smaller ones.
- make sure you fill/seal the envelope so that the inner package cannot move around. Movement is what damages corners and leads to packages coming apart!
Shipping framed and/or glazed works
Personally I think it's a huge and expensive mistake to ship framed works. Only frame shops make money from frames. Plus the shipping becomes very complex and you're probably shipping a frame which they want to change anyway! Really. One of my framers says most of his business comes from people who are having frames replaced! Plus the money customers save on having the frame shipped could be spent on a nicer frame at their end - do you need any more reasons?
Never ever assume that people packing your work to send it back again will take the same care as you do. Take away the anxiety by providing them with the materials which make it easy for them to do a good job.
If you must ship framed/glazed works...........
- keep all the strong boxes sent to you which used to house art materials and other stuff. You will need them if you are going to construct your own box.
- Airfloat Strongbox is used by a lot of people in the USA. I think it's often a preferred solution by many who ship work to exhibitions/competitions when they know it may well need to come back again - but be packed by somebody else. It has the advantage of being capable of reuse. Opinions differ as to whether or not they consider them expensive - and I guess this probably relates to your perspective on how many times each one gets used.
- Airfloat Glass Skin - if you must ship glazed work then you must also to take extra precautions. I've witnessed the unpacking of a work where the box had been wrecked. The frame had some mild damage but the real damage came from the glazing having broken and the glass then rattled around next to the surface of the picture - and damaged it. It's preferable to use perspex - and many competitive exhibitions refuse to accept works glazed in glass.
- Air cushions - you may have received goods sent with air cushions but my check round indicates that these are only going to be available to those companies handling lots of packages who can invest in the machinery and supplies. Looks nice - but there are alternatives.
- edge guards and corner protectors are very useful for frames which must be stored stacked prior to an exhibition. However not all galleries will allow you to keep them on - they take up space!
- my framer always wraps the frames of my works for competition submission in cling film - using one of these
Be green - and recycle
My final recommendation would be to look at anything you receive or buy with a view to whether the packaging can be recycled. In a world which is becoming increasingly green I don't think too many people are going to object to recycled packaging being used so long as it did the job and the external surfaces were all clearly marked with addresses etc. In any case you can always include a slip saying that you're reducing your carbon footprint through recycling!
These are things I save
- bubble wrap
- brown paper
- books by post boxes
- big padded envelopes (if I managed to get them opened with wrecking them) where you can easily cover the old addresses with a label and reuse. Even if you can't they can be reused inside other external packaging.
- classy plastic bags! If I'm not sending in a waterproof bag then anything I send always gets wrapped in a plastic bag - just in case the postie forgot to look at the weather forecast when he leaves a parcel outside a door. So I keep all my bags from National Galleries and art museums, interesting book stores and posh shops! Fortnums and Hatchards are the best!
NOTE: If you find any links which are not sending you the site you expected to visit please let me know. This is an old post and links become out of date as websites change.