PacWest Blog
How To Pack Artwork, Canvas Prints, and Photos Before Your Household Move

How To Pack Artwork, Canvas Prints, and Photos Before Your Household Move

Packing framed artwork is not the same as packing any of your other household possessions. The characteristics of shape, fragility, and personal value make the importance of packing your framed artwork important. 

The artwork we chose for our home is important to us, because our framed art is something special and personal to our style. So when it is time to move, don’t wait until the last minute. Use the days before your move to properly prepare and package your artwork. Not rushing will decrease the risk of damage during moving.

In this article, we provide you with a list of supplies and materials you’ll need to safely pack your artwork as well as best practices and expert tips. And following these suggested steps protects your favorite framed artwork while it’s in transit to your new location. 

Recommended Supplies

Keeping your framed artwork free from damage while moving requires the right supplies. Packing best practices include supplies that protect corners, secure the item in the box, and protect the artwork glass from breakage. While common and standard packing materials may seem to be “good enough” to pack your artwork, they can actually do more harm than good.

Moving Boxes

The best boxes for moving artwork have 2 to 4 inches of space on all sides. Also known as “the void”, the space around your artwork should be filled with protective fillers like styrofoam peanuts and packing paper. 

Your artwork must be snug and secure inside the box at all times. Over-sized boxes with too much excess space can cause your artwork to shift during transit and compromise its protection.

It may take some time to find boxes that meet your needs, so give yourself plenty of lead time. U-Line is one company that carries a broad selection of boxes that come in a variety of different dimensions.

Protective Filler

Protective filler secures your artwork in the box and cushions it from impact coming from outside the box. It fills the open void between your artwork and the inner walls of the box.

Examples of protective filler include kraft paper, styrofoam packing peanuts, and corrugated pads. If you’re looking for an eco-friendly alternative to plastic-based filler, try paper-based fillers such as Greenwrap.

Boxes-With-Paper-and
There are plastic based and other eco-friendly alternatives available for fillers

Tape

There are two types of tape needed to properly pack artwork right -- especially if your frame has a glass front. 

Painter’s tape is unforgettably blue and used as an adhesive, but can be removed easily without damaging the surface it adheres to. Painter’s tape is a masking tape and often used to protect wallpaper while painting trim. 

Painter's-Tape
Painter's tape is especially useful for protecting framed artwork with a glass front

Used to pack artwork, Painter’s tape is the right tape to use to secure the supplies used to wrap your artwork.

If your artwork has a glass pane, apply painter’s tape in the shape of an X to the pane. In the unfortunate event that the glass breaks, the tape will hold together the broken glass making it easier and safer to remove.

The second type of tape you’ll need is traditional carton sealing tape. Also known as packing tape, carton sealing tape is used to close the box your artwork is packed in. 

Carton sealing tape durable and sticks to just about any surface. It’s usually clear and can be applied with a handheld dispenser.

A-Couple-Sealing-Boxes-With-Carton-Sealing-Tape
Carton sealing tape also known as packing tape is best for securing boxes

Wrapping Supplies

Wrapping supplies are secured directly to the outside of the artwork and held in place with tape. Wrapping supplies have direct contact with the artwork and will rub against its surface during transit. 

When deciding which supplies to use to wrap your artwork, it’s critical to choose materials designed specifically for this purpose. The goal is to create a protective layer that protects the piece from scratches that can withstand a potentially long transit.

Bubble wrap is a great choice of wrapping supply that provides an extra layer of cushion. Bubble wrap is non-adhesive and must be held in place with tape. Depending on your needs, bubble wrap can be applied in as many layers as you need to ensure your item steers clear of damage caused by unwanted shaking and impact.

Glassine paper is a smooth and glossy paper that is air, water, and grease resistant. It’s used to form an acid-free barrier between your artwork and its surroundings and can be creased, folded and written on.

Glassine Paper is often used for loose artwork that is not protected by a frame. It's used to protect documents, original drawings, high-fidelity photographs, and negatives.

Packing Supplies To Avoid

Not all supplies are suitable to use for packing artwork. Avoid using the supplies listed below as they could damage your artwork forever.

  • Masking Tape - high-tack adhesive will leave film on your artwork that can be difficult or impossible to remove.
  • Newspaper - when used as a wrap or filler, newspaper ink can transfer and mark up your artwork.
  • Paper Towels - can easily wrap, tear and is difficult to remove if it gets caught in small gaps in the frame. 
  • Parchment Paper - when there’s direct contact with a glass pane, the parchment can pit/scratch/etch the glass. 
  • Wax Paper - the wax coating can transfer to the artwork.

Prepare Your Artwork For Packing

Be careful, work slowly, and focus as you prepare the artwork.

  1. Clean your artwork - dust and wipe off your framed artwork
  2. Find a clean and uncluttered area of your house to setup your artwork and packing supplies and materials
  3. If the framed art is covered with glass: Place a large X with the blue painter's tape that runs from one corner of the glass to the opposite corner without touching the frame.  (The X is meant to keep the glass from shattering and shards harming your artwork.)
  4. If the framed art is NOT covered with glass: Cover the bare art completely and part of the frame with glassine paper
  5. Optional step: Cut a piece of clean, flat cardboard the same size as the frame and place on the front of the artwork 
  6. This step you can do with brown, purpose-made packing paper OR plastic wrap: Lay out flat the brown, purpose-made packing paper or plastic wrap so that the paper or plastic area is twice the size of the framed artwork. Wrap up the frame just like you would a present. 
  7. Wrap the entire artwork in bubble wrap. Do not leave any corners exposed.
  8. Tape with packing tape, lengthwise and width-wise. Only stick the tape to the bubble wrap, not the framed artwork.
Woman-Wrapping-Frame-Artwork-with-Bubblewrap
Take your time to carefully prepare your artwork (Credit: The Spruce)

Packing Your Artwork

Now that your framed artwork is protected, you can place it in the proper sized box and secure the box for transporting to your new location.

Boxing

  1. Fill the box with at least 3 inches of crumpled packing paper
  2. Place the wrapped artwork in the properly sized box
  3. Fill the space around the wrapped artwork with more crumpled packing paper as well as the top. 
  4. Optional step: Place strong pieces of cardboard on either side of the wrapped artwork, to further protect it. Multiple pieces of cardboard can help prevent bending.
  5. Hold the top of the box closed and gently shake the box. If you feel movement of the artwork, add more packing paper.
  6. Seal the box with packing tape and write the contents on the box, “Framed Artwork” 
  7. Label your box clearly with “FRAGILE” on all sides. This will alert the moving crew to handle with care.
Steps-to-box-framed-artwork
Keep your framed artwork as secure as possible in the box (Credit: Julep)

Securing Your Framed Artwork for Moving

Packing framed artwork securely for transit is important. When loading on moving day, try to follow these rules: 

  • Lay the artwork boxes on their side
  • Place the framed artwork boxes between heavy items that are less likely to shift
  • Do not place other boxes on top of your artwork boxes

If you have the possibility to transport the boxed framed artwork in your personal vehicle instead, that is an option you should consider. 

Move Forward with Packed Frame Artwork

Now that you understand how to pack framed artwork, remember to prepare and pack your artwork before your moving day with the suggested appropriate supplies and materials. You can lower your stress for the big move and know you have done your best to protect your artwork during transit.

And if you determine you want to hire professionals to pack some of your framed artwork, you can contact your moving company first for service. Also, local “pack and mail” businesses and most art galleries / museum staff will be happy to help you for a small fee, or even the art department at your local college or university may have information to share.