Monday, February 19, 2018

the gray poppy paints
Image from The Gray Poppy Paints
As an artist, the thought of packaging and shipping your finished product may be the last thing on your mind. Yet for many artists who have art prints for sale on a personal website or an Etsy shop, knowing how to professionally package your work is critical for staying in business. Your packaged art prints or framed art may be what prospective customers see in a gallery or what you send in the mail. Either way, you want to use packaging materials to keep your art safe and looking professional.

Your investment of time and the care that you put into packaging is also a reflection of your brand. From the materials you use to wrap and protect your print to the container used for shipping, you are building a relationship with your customers. An ideal packing list includes rigid backing to support your art prints and, if possible, high-quality archival material for long-lasting protection.

That said, how you decide to package and ship your prints is a matter of preference and style. You don't need to be a packaging engineer and do this all on your own either! We've gathered a few packaging solutions to put together a finished package and some ideas for shipping as well. With a little planning, you might even enjoy this final step.

Packaging for Art Prints

So, how can you package your art so that it looks professional and inviting to your customers? A simple method is to place your prints into a clear plastic bag along with a piece of rigid backing to keep it from bending. You can also hinge your prints to matting to enhance your presentation. Your final package can also include additional touches that reflect your personal style.

What makes a presentation stand out is the quality of materials that you use. Let's take a look at some art packaging supplies that you can use to create this completed package.

High Clarity Archival Bags

The higher the clarity of your plastic bags, the better your presentation. Clear archival plastic bags made of Biaxially Oriented Polypropylene, or BOPP for short, have set the industry standard for clarity and they are archival safe. Archival BOPP bags show off your prints in high definition while keeping your product well-protected. While paper folios and paper cases are some other options, BOPP bags are less expensive and allow your art to shine through.

Three Types of BOPP Bags

When selecting a BOPP archival bag, here are three options to consider:
While some may think a bag is simply a bag, there are key differences to note here. A protective closure bag is made with the resealable adhesive on the body of the bag instead of the flap. With this design, the adhesive does not stick to your prints when pulling them out of the bag.

On the other hand, flap seal bags have the adhesive on the bag flap. These bags allow you customize the height by folding the flap past the opening of the bag, allowing more flexibility. The downside is that the adhesive may catch on your print when removing it from the bag.

The last option is no flap bags. As the name suggests, these bags have no flap. They also do not have any adhesive. They are sealed on three sides and open on the top. Many people like no flap bags because they are easy to use. The downside here is that they are simply not as secure because there is no way to seal this type of bag closed.

Of all three choices, protective closure bags are considered the most ideal for packaging art. The location of the adhesive on the bag makes it easy to remove and insert prints without doing any damage or harm and, for this reason, is a popular choice.

Image from SarahDanelionCray

Get the Right Fit

Another consideration is the fit of the bag. Loose bags can appear tacky and thrown together. A properly fitted bag looks more professional and shows you took the time to present your work in the best possible light. Plastic bags vary in size and in depth to accommodate backing and matted materials. When selecting a bag size, check the amount of depth your may need with additional backing or matting. Some people like to buy a bigger bag altogether to fit more than one print inside. This could be a good option for customers who order multiple prints.

Bags for Canvas and Framed Art

Canvas and framed art pieces require thicker and more durable packaging. Canvas Gallery Wrap bags are the perfect solution! These bags are uniquely sized to accommodate the depth of a canvas or frame, are laminated for extra strength, and are designed with an oversized flap. Like protective closure bags, the adhesive is on the body of the bag so it won't come in contact with your art. The laminated material still retains high clarity for a professional presentation and keeps out moisture and harmful elements. The longer flap allows you to adjust the fit as needed. You can use these bags to package a single framed piece or hold a group of smaller prints together.

Backing Board

While perhaps not as showy as a clear bag, a rigid piece of backing is just as important for the protection of your prints. Not all backing boards are created equally, however. Cardstock can work well for thinner prints, but to ensure the archival protection of your prints, conservation-grade backing is recommended. Options include the following:

To determine what choice makes the most sense, consider the level of protection you want and the thickness of your print. Foam core is available in 4-ply and 2-ply thicknesses and can be completely archival or just have only archival surfaces. This type of backing is quite rigid and sturdy for mailing prints and can later be used by your customers for framing. You may prefer a solid white or black foam core board to the appearance of cardboard. On the other hand, a heavy-duty corrugated pad or chipboard may be exactly what your piece requires. Do include this essential piece to your package to keep your prints from bending or creasing.

Image from Stephanie Corfee Artworks


A gorgeous mat can really help your print stand out and increase your sales potential. For a gallery presentation, the presence of a mat may be the determining factor in making a purchase. For a mailed package, customers may attach a higher value to a matted piece and result in a future purchase.

Mat boards can be simply decorative or archival-grade and last for decades. Here are some available options:
Pricing, sizes, and color choices vary for each type of mat board, as well as the amount of time required for assembly.

Slip-in mats are great if you want something quick, easy, and efficient. With slip-in mats, the mat is already affixed to the backing. Simply slide your print into the opening at the top of the mat and you're all set. This mat is one and done! No tape or adhesive is needed to secure your print. As slip-in mats are relatively new, these are usually available in small sizes in black and white and cost a bit more than other mats.

If you need more choices, you can find a wide selection of conservation-grade and decorative (non-archival) pre-cut mats in popular and larger sizes. If you don't need archival packaging, decorative pre-cut mats are a cost-effective way to add a splash of color to your presentation.

If you're willing to spend more time and money, you can always choose a customized mat. You may have a customer who has something in mind or an original piece that requires specific sizing. This route allows you the flexibility to dream up whatever color and size you desire to create your masterpiece. You can also create a unique experience by pre-printing your signature directly onto the mat. Those mats don't hinge themselves! You might also try using mounting tape for a quick and convenient way to mount your prints to backing board.

Image from Pinpoyntfx

Personal Extras

Your packaged print wouldn't be complete without your personal touches. This is your chance to communicate directly with customers and show off your brand. You can write a thank you note and attach it to the backing with washi tape for a colorful accent. A handwritten note on their packing slip can be a nice, personal touch. Here are some ideas for items you can include:

  • Your business card
  • Packing slip with their printed order
  • Certificate of Authenticity
  • Customized card
  • Personal message or photo
Extending these personal extras invite your customers to get to know you better and shows your commitment to your business. Including a business card or contact information is a must and can be simply loose in your bag behind your print. For a classy touch, you can also use clear photo mounts to attach a business card, photo, or certificate. Some artists package multiple items in a customized envelope and secure that to the back side of the print. Find what works best for you. Taking the time to acknowledge your customers is bound to help strengthen your relationships and your business.

It's Time to Ship

Now that your artwork packaging is complete, it's time to ship! Although this section falls at the end of our post, shipping your prints safely without any damage is really priority number one.

As with packaging prints, how you ship them is a matter of preference. A wide variety of options are available to you, depending on the size of your work, how much money you want to spend, and how you want to present it. You can wrap your prints in tissue, brown paper, cardboard, or silk. A more expensive piece may warrant a fancy, boutique box for a more satisfying experience for your customer.

Unboxing a piece of art is an experience in and of itself and is your customer's first impression. Consider these options:
What you are shipping will, of course, influence this decision. No matter what type of container you choose, remember to support your art with some kind of rigid backing.

Image from Feasting Fine Art

Lightweight to Medium-Weight Prints

For lightweight to medium-weight art prints, rigid mailers will get the job done. They provide sturdy support and reinforcement for items that need to stay flat such as art prints. You can also find heavy-duty mailers that are thicker and designed to take on more weight. Another method of shipping prints is to roll them up and put them in tubes. This works well for lightweight pieces and for shipping more than one print.

Framed/Heavy Art Pieces

For truly heavy art pieces, a durable, sturdy box is your best bet. Rigid metal boxes or an odd-sized boutique box will cost more to ship.

Airsafe™ art boxes are specially designed to package art. They provide two inches of air space between your product and the outer wall to protect your art and are made of corrugated cardboard. Click below for a demonstration of how to assemble these boxes and see how they work:

Artsafe Box Demo

Extras, Finishing Touches

Having a system in place allows you to ship things more promptly. Some personal websites and Etsy shops allow you to collect addresses without having to reproduce or rewrite them. If you can print these addresses directly onto to labels, this will save you time and reduce errors.

Consider investing in pre-printed "Do Not Bend" or "Fragile" stickers or stamps to save you time and to ensure this message appears clearly on your packaging. Not only do these final touches make your packaging look more professional, they provide peace of mind and help your package arrive safe!

Final Thoughts

You can only imagine the experience your customers have upon receiving your artwork in the mail. When it's met with smiles and excitement, all your hard work is worth the effort and then some. For more information about the materials we carry for art packaging, please visit our website or feel free to speak to one of customer service representatives.

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