Shipping Fine Art


Shipping Artwork – PART ONE – Shipping unframed artwork.

We get calls from people weekly about helping them ship their artwork.  Whether you are selling or simply shipping a gift to someone you love, your worst nightmare is that your artwork arrives bent or broken.  Simply putting “Fragile” on a package doesn’t guarantee that your parcel will survive today’s fast paced and automated shipping process.

Our advice to anyone wanting to ship artwork, either framed or flat, is trust the professionals and as a basic rules of thumb, don’t try this at home. Although we don’t offer packaging services here at the gallery, we can recommend local shippers who have the experience and track record for these services.   For years now, we have relied on the services of ASA postal for our shipping needs.


ASA Postal   1118 Lancaster Dr NE
Salem, OR 97301-2964
503-371-9109   503-371-3125 (fax)

See links below for other shipping information, requirements and helpful hints.


If you’re going to attempt DIY shipping, here are some basic rules to follow:

  1. Shipping Flat Prints

    1. When shipping unframed collectible artwork, most dealers and collectors prefer that the art be shipped flat instead of rolled in a tube.  

A.One of the main reasons is that collectible (limited edition/original), artwork is never mounted permanently in the framing process and if you roll these artworks, the paper has a tendency to adapt to its’ rolled state and may not completely relax enough to lay flat in a mat and frame.

Also, because of the nature of fine art paper, rolling can create dimpling of the paper and scuffing of the image which can devalue the artwork.

  1. When shipping flat (unframed)artwork, it is best to over-package rather than risk damage to the print(s).

A. For collectible artwork, we recommend placing the flat artwork between two pieces of acid neutral paper or an art sleeve that is acid neutral before using any cardboard or other packaging material around the print. It is best to insure that the print is stable in the package, so creating corner pockets within the sleeve insures that the print will not shift in the shipping process (this can cause damaged edges, which devalue the artwork).

  1. Never tape over the surface of an art print as residue from most adhesives is not reversible and can show up years later on the print.
  2. Once you have the print secure, we recommend at least three layers of cardboard or other durable shipping material to insure that artwork remains flat throughout the shipping process.
  3. As a general rule, the larger the artwork, the more layers you want to add and you might want to even consider using Luan (door-skin), thin plywood or Masonite board to strengthen the package. These will add weight and shipping cost, but most collectors would rather have the print in mint condition and are willing to pay a little extra for that.

2. Rolling the print for shipping

A.When shipping an open edition or larger collectible work (when it’s not practical to ship flat), you can roll the artwork and put it in a shipping tube. Make sure that your tube is:

  • At least 4” longer than the print you are enclosing. This allows for padding on each end of the print (use foam of wadded paper to cushion the ends of the print but don’t cram the padding in the ends to avoid damaging the edges).
  • At least ¼” to 3/8” in thickness. So that you avoid bending the tube in the shipping process.
  • Completely sealed and water-tight (as much as possible).
  • On high-end prints or originals that need to be shipped in tubes, I recommend packing in a tube surrounded by packing foam and placed in a slightly larger tube for extra strength.
  • Never use a triangle or square tube without a round inner tube. Your artwork will conform to the shape you provide for it and no one likes a square print.

B. When rolling the artwork, be very careful to use caution, avoiding finger-“dimpling” as you roll the items. Once the paper is bent, dimpled or crinkled, it is almost impossible for the print to be repaired and the items value can be diminished or lost.

When rolling the artwork, be very careful to use caution, avoiding finger-“dimpling” as you roll the items. Once the paper is bent, dimpled or crinkled, it is almost impossible for the print to be repaired and the items value can be diminished or lost.

  • Avoid rolling the piece too tight and if possible, use at least a 3-4” diameter tube.
  • Take your time and if necessary, use the tube you are going to ship the item in to start the rolling process. It may take a few attempts to roll the piece to get it small enough to fit in the tube comfortably.
  • Never force the artwork into the tube as you can bend the edges or dimple the artwork in the process.
  • Whenever possible, use a slip sheet of acid-free paper on both sides of the artwork when rolling. This helps prevent scuffing of the image and helps to protect the print from the acids in the tube during shipping.
  • Thinner papers are easier to roll but are more susceptible to dimpling. Thicker papers are more difficult to roll and may take several attempts to roll.


C. After rolling, make sure that the print is secure in the tube

  • If you are using a slip sheet, you can use artist tape to secure the rolled-up print to hold it in place while you insert the print in the tube.  Never tape the print itself.
  • Using a tube that is at least 4” longer than the rolled print, allows for padding on the ends. Using foam or at the very least, rolled up newsprint to place at each end, keeps the print from shifting in the tube and prevents edge damage. Again, avoid cramming this material in too tight to avoid damaging the print.

BEST ADVICE- When in doubt, trust the professionals and always insure your package for the full replacement value of the artwork.

Here are some helpful links from various shippers and other galleries that might prove helpful:

Next blog- Recommendations for shipping framed art.

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