If you're like me and want to show your work in national galleries or participate in the country’s top plein air events, then you will need to figure out how to ship frames safely, affordably, and conveniently. I’m not an expert but I’ll share what works for me and of course would welcome your ideas. Let’s keep this brief and organized. Shipping frames can be broken down into a few categories:
- The Frame
- The Box
- The Shipper
1. The Frame
First things first: USE PLEXIGLAS if possible. It costs about $10 - $20 more per frame. You can still ship with regular glass, but plexi is lighter and doesn’t shatter. Drawback: harder to clean – you’ll need a microfiber towel (available at local department stores) and Novus #1 cleaning solution or similar product. I purchase my frames locally, from Goldeneye Framing
Watercolor and Pastel artists generally have their paintings under mats and glass. This makes shipping more expensive and more difficult because of the added size and weight. I typically ship 12" x 16” paintings and smaller for events and galleries. Whether you ship large or small paintings, you will need to know all the outside dimension of your frame; Length, Width & Height.
Save time and money by painting and framing in standard sizes. This allows you to reuse boxes and frames. These are my standard sizes:
| Paper Size
2. The Box
I get, what my wife has described as, “way too much” enjoyment out of building custom crates and boxes, but when it comes to shipping in volume it helps to purchase pre-made sizes and packing materials. Uline is the company I use and here are the products used in this project:
After assembling the pre-made box, the entire inside is lined with 1/2” foam and seems are taped so the foam stays in place. Adding a piece of foam to the top box flap will allow you to close the box with the padding intact, exactly where you want it – this is especially helpful if someone besides you is boxing the painting back up and sending it back!
Next, create two “pockets” with the corrugated cardboard. A couple of pieces of well-placed tape will keep this from getting disorganized. The framed painting goes inside a clear plastic bag, then inside a foam bag, and then inserted into the “pocket”. 2-3 of these can fit in a box, depending on how much other padding is added. Clear bags keep the frame and glass from getting scratched. Cardboard or foam is added to the inside to sandwich the frames, keeping them from shuffling around during transport. Be careful not to over-pack the box to the point where the sides bulge out. You can pack up to 4 frames in one box by omitting the cardboard, placing frames in foam bags, and placing back to back.
3. The Shipper
When shipping in the upper Midwest I will always use Spee-Dee Delivery
They are a helpful, local company that supports artists in many ways including creating annual calendars featuring commissioned artwork of their various delivery trucks. They are inexpensive and next day delivery is standard. When I say inexpensive, I mean typically less than $15 to ship one of these boxes.
I drop the boxes off at a local Auto Zone store. We have an arrangement where they keep my credit card on file and charge it when they get around to processing the package. It’s a trust thing, and in return for them processing the shipment I try to buy small items that I need anyway, like microfiber towels used for cleaning Plexiglas!
If the shipment is outside Spee-Dee’s territory I will happily use UPS. I’ve heard FedEx is comparable in price and service. NOTE that there is a difference between UPS Stores which are independently owned franchises, and the UPS Company which actually does the transporting. UPS stores are typically very helpful, but they can be spendy. There are UPS stores in most towns, and you can always hand a box to any UPS driver. UPS stores typically don’t offer ground service, only next day and if you plan to have your work insured with them then there are special requirements with the box and amount of padding - that can be a real pain! At least that was my experience.
HERE’S THE TRICK! Create a business account on the UPS website and login. In your account you can see what a shipment will cost without shipping it. Or you can create a shipment, print the shipping label, and pay a discounted price since you are a business. There’s even a box to check that allows you to make duplicate copies of the same shipment, saving time re-entering data. Paying with a credit card is handy, and having the account typically saves a few bucks on each shipment.
I usually don’t insure my shipments because they are so well protected and I use Plexiglas, adding insurance gives you peace of mind but it will drive up the cost.
What’s really NICE is that you have the option of shipping ground when you ship through your online account. That also saves a bunch of money. Labels can be printed on any printer, even on plain paper. Just make sure you carefully tape over the label to keep it from getting wet and bleeding. Once the label is on and the box taped up, bring it to the UPS store. They take it and that’s that.
Even when I have insured packages before and dropped them at a UPS store, they have never asked to open up the package to make sure it adheres to their padding requirements for insured packages. It’s really quite convenient.
Also, you can create a return shipment, print the label, and place it inside your package so that either you or a gallery can ship the work back without having to worry about handling the fuss of shipping. The labels are good for 90 days, and they don’t charge your account until the package is shipped/delivered.
Your paintings ARE special and being able to ship them across the country WITH peace of mind and WITHOUT breaking the bank is extra special!
Shipping Oil Paintings? Check out this great article by Bob Bahr “How the Pros Ship Paintings”
Also Recommended: Strongbox by Airfloat