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Boxing up Art

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Hi, Posting this here so I can share some box design ideas with other artists.

I had some mixed media piece that I had to ship across the country. They presented pretty BIG packaging challenges.  They arrived safely.  Shipping was expensive but not  horrific compared to research I’d done on shipping items the same SIZE as boxed art (but heavier, more “normal” weights and dimensions)


The largest two shipped FedEx Freight because of the size.  Freight has a certain weight allotment depending on the size of the object.  Size is measured using the edges of the piece – it is weighted more towards package surface area than volume.  Paintings have a very high surface area and low volume.  Unless you roll them up, shippers consider them “large”.   Since paintings are light and large the weight isn’t a huge issue, but I try to keep it low as possible.  The objective is to build a sturdy packaging that protects the art in shipping AND that the collector can manage once it arrives.


Both of the pieces had three dimensional surfaces and adhered media, which is a challenge.  Here’s a detail from one of them, “Canopy” – looks like a packing nightmare, right?


canopy detail with stuck mica
Detail from Canopy, A large tree painting with patterns of adhered mica flakes on top of three dimensional extruded ribbons of acrylic.


Here’s the whole painting, photographed to show scale. It was just under 4×5 feet.

canopy perspective

As you can imagine, If I tried to construct a wood crate around this, my art collector would have a real challenge just getting it through the front door and unpacked.  I solved the problem by constructing a foam core shadow box or cradle around the painting, then wrapping the heavy duty cardboard box around my construction.  Nothing touched the surface of the painting.


  1.  Metal brackets from the hardware store were affixed to the heavy duty wood stretcher bars in the back of the painting.  See the arrow labeled “metal bracket”?  That edge of the bracket (no screws) was NOT flush with the edge of the painting.  I measured and left just enough room to wedge a piece of heavy duty foam core between the bracket and the edge of the painting.  You can see the foam core in the photo also.


side stage 1 of shadowbox-innerbox


2.  Here is a view from the back of the canvas.  You can see the brackets screwed into the wooden stretcher bars, and you can also see how they are NOT flush with the sides of the painting.  The edge of the wedged foam core walls is also visible.

back stage 1 of shadowbox-innerbox
Back of the canvas, showing the arrangement of metal brackets in more detail


And here is the front of the canvas.  You can see the foamcore walls, just waiting for a cover.

canopy with edge of box front stage 1 of shadowbox-innerbox


3.  I did not get a photo of the covered walls, but I used a heavy duty thick foamcore for rigidity.  It’s pretty hard to buckle foamcore  once you get to the thicker sturdier grades.  An even better material is honeycomb (not corrugated) cardboard.  The honeycomb pattern creates stiffness in all directions and the cardboard compresses rather than buckling.


4.  Both thick foamcore and honeycomb cardboard also provide some protection against punctures, especially with the airspace created by the shadowbox.  The facing Material (heavy duty foamcore) covering the walls and front of the painting was secured using lots of Gorrilla tape.


5.  Bubblewrap was stuffed into the volume in back of the canvas, to protect against punctures during shipping.


6.  I broke down two heavy duty cardboard cartons that were originally sized for 23 x 36 work and used them to construct a shipping box.


7.    If you ship a fair amount and work in similar size series, I would suggest Uline for custom size cardboard crates.  They store flat and they are a lot less expensive if you buy them in bulk (or get a group of artists together and split an order)


8.  Your local UHaul may have a moving supplies shop.  Cardboard mirror crates work well for big art, and there are usually other very useful packing goodies available.


Happy Wrapping guys!


Some other big scary (and succssful) art shipping challenges:

These paintings have also been shipped across the country and arrivewd safely – proof that the box design works.  Slideshow below.

“Autotroph” was shipped to a museum exhibit in Maryland.

“Genome” was shipped to a hotel in D.C.  The collector picked it up and took it back on the plane with him to the United Arab Emirates (pretty sure it was a checked bag – arrived safely)

“Vertical Space” shipped to a collector in Ohio.  That’s Fiber and paper stiffened with acrylic medium on the surface.  It was OK on arrival and the collector managed to unpack it with the help of one male friend.

Here’s the slideshow.

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If these can ship safely, yours just might ship safely as well.