Moving can be a monumental task, especially when it comes to packing delicate and valuable items like paintings and pictures. Proper packing is crucial to ensure your artwork arrives safely at its new home. This guide will provide you with everything you need to know about how to pack paintings for moving to ensure that your pieces of art avoid breakage.

By the way, we’re Bellhop, experts at local and long-distance moves. We’d love to help with affordable moves as part of your moving experience. And if you are running short on time to pack that art, Bellhop offers packing and unpacking help too. You can book us as part of a move or independently.

Pre-move Planning before Packing Pictures for a Move

Before diving into the painting or picture packing process, it’s good to plan.

  • Start by assessing your collection to determine the specific packing needs of each piece. Some may require extra care. Acrylic painting for example require less care that paint on canvas.
  • Do you know the value of each? For insurance it may be good to locate the receipts.
  • Check your move schedule with your movers and be realistic about the time required to pack your pieces of art for the move to your new home.
  • Can you do it all? Do you need help? Even just to buy supplies like Styrofoam and cardboard.
  • If you have fine art, it may be better to leave packing (and shipping) to fine art professionals who can ship it separately via UPS (which knows how).
  • Photograph: take lots of pictures before to establish condition before the move, in case of damage and an insurance claim, particularly if it is fine art.

5 Questions to Ask When Packing Paintings for Moving

How you answer questions like these will impact your packing:

  • Are you planning to DIY move the items yourself? (Pack lighter with less labeling)
  • Is a moving company moving them? You can watch and remind the professional movers when they load the moving truck to keep that framed artwork upright.
  • How far are they traveling and how often will they be loaded and unloaded from moving trucks. If you aren’t around to watch, it means better cushioning and extra protection when packing that painting.
  • How valuable is this piece of art? The answer drives insurance and packing. That black and white photo may be an Ansel Adams and worth $50,000.

Gather the Supplies for Moving the Paintings

To pack paintings effectively, you’ll need a variety of materials and tools. Gather packing materials such as bubble wrap, cardboard boxes, packing paper, and tape. Make sure to have cushioning materials like foam sheets and Styrofoam packing peanuts for extra protection. Additionally, tools like scissors, a utility knife, and markers will be handy for labeling and cutting.

Bellhop - "Best Movers Ever'

Mirror and Picture Boxes:  Mirror and picture boxes are designed specifically for artwork. They provide a snug fit and extra protection. Use them for larger pieces and add cushioning inside the box. These are pricey but cheaper than building a wooden crate. U-Haul sells them individually which may be a better deal.

Picture frame corner protectors can cushion as well as protect. (Available on Amazon).

Cardboard sheets you can scavenge for free at big box club stores like Costco and Sam’s Club. These come in the pallets in various weights. Go mid-day when items have been sold down.

Blue painters tape  is handy for quickly securing bubble wrap inside the box. It’s not appropriate for closing artwork boxes, picture boxes, etc.

Packaging tape for the real taping

Bubble wrap is your most important item.

Newsprint (packaging paper) is a good substitute for non-recyclable packing noodles.

10 Tips for Packing Paintings

1. Use Quality Materials: Invest in good quality packing materials to provide adequate protection.

2. Create Layers of Protection: Layering is key to protecting your artwork. Start with glassine paper, followed by bubble wrap, and then add cardboard or foam sheets. Ensure each layer is secure and provides cushioning from all sides.

3. Double Box and Double Bubble: For extra protection, double bubble wrap and consider double boxing your paintings.

4. Labeling Is as Important as Packing: Your professional movers need to know before the artwork goes into the moving truck.

  • Fragile: Clearly mark boxes containing artwork as ‘fragile.’
  • Art: lets professional movers know to be careful
  • Up / Keep Vertical: Ask your moving company what to write to keep paintings upright, particularly important for canvas paintings to reduce pressure on the painted surface.
  • Print out infographics that show fragile and vertical. (You can’t assume even professional movers all speak English fluently).

5. Use Proper Tape: Secure packaging with strong packaging tape. Blue painters tape and masking tape is ok in some situations.

6. Cushioning: Ensure there is ample cushioning around the artwork inside the box. Expect the art to shift during long distance moving.

7. Place extra cushioning in the bottom of the box. Artwork will shift inside the box, slowly settling and pushing aside noodles and packing peanuts. Ball-up packing paper and place in a used plastic bag to make a pillow. Or use a pillow or towels.

8. Declutter / Donate: Now may be a good time to reconsider that piece of art. I donated some great art prints to related charities for auction events. You may also get a tax donation.

9. Hire Professionals to Pack: Movers (Bellhop included) offer hourly moving help.

10. Consider the environment: Styrofoam packing peanuts are not recyclable. Consider using balled up packing paper (newsprint paper) instead.

11. Make the Move as Fun as Possible: my kids sat around watching TV and balling up packing paper we used later, throwing it into empty moving boxes.

Checklist for Packing Paintings

1. Clean the Artwork: Ensure the artwork is free of dust and dirt. Use a soft bristle brush or soft towel.

The Better Way to Move

2. Cover the Painted Face: Protect the surface with glassine paper, particularly for oil on canvas. Then maybe add a piece of carboard.

3. Add corner protectors for Framed Paintings: Adds protection and shock absorption.

4. Wrap with Bubble Wrap: Add a layer of bubble wrap for cushioning. Wrap the bubble wrap with plastic wrap to keep it in place.

5. Secure with Tape: Use packaging tape to secure the wrapping. Painters tape is ok inside the box.

6. Boxing: Place the artwork in a sturdy box with packing paper for extra cushioning.

7. Be sure to label with instructions for the movers, and an ID for you at your new home.

More Info about Packing Paintings

Do You Really Need to Build a Wood Crate?

Building a wood crate provides the highest level of protection, especially for high-value or exceptionally fragile items. Consider building a crate if you’re moving long distances or if the artwork is particularly valuable.

Bubble wrap: The Ultimate Protector

Bubble wrap is a versatile and essential packing material. Its cushioning properties make it ideal for protecting fragile items. Ensure the bubbles face inward to provide the best cushioning effect. Double wrap fragile and valuable pieces, particularly if your collection includes ceramics.

Use the Best Packaging Tape

There are heavy duty and lighter weight packaging tapes. You want the strong stuff. Be generous with tape, overlapping seams particularly on the bottom of the box.

Cardboard Corner Protectors

Cardboard corner protectors are essential for framed artwork. They prevent damage to the corners, which are particularly vulnerable. Slip protectors onto the corners before wrapping the artwork in bubble wrap.

Plastic Wrap versus Glassine Paper

Plastic wrap and glassine paper serve different purposes. Plastic wrap provides a moisture barrier, while glassine paper prevents direct contact with bubble wrap. Use glassine paper for delicate surfaces and plastic wrap for additional protection against moisture.

Masking Tape for Fragile Items

Masking tape or painters tape can be used to secure glassine paper and other protective layers without leaving residue. It’s ideal for securing delicate surfaces and provides an extra layer of security for fragile items.

Protecting Framed Artwork

Framed artwork requires special attention. Use cardboard corner protectors and bubble wrap to safeguard the frame and glass. Ensure the frame is well-cushioned inside the box to prevent movement and damage.

Packing Canvas Paintings

Canvas paintings are particularly delicate. Wrap them in glassine paper, with cardboard over the painted face, followed by bubble wrap. Use cardboard or foam sheets to provide extra protection and place them in a box with ample cushioning. Keep them vertical and label the box so they are not stored flat.

I scratched the painted face a small oil painting by not doing this. The first thing I see now is the damage.

Packing Mirrors and Glass Coverings

Mirrors and artworks with glass coverings need extra protection. Use mirror boxes and add a layer of bubble wrap or foam. Secure the glass with masking tape to prevent shattering.

Oil vs. Acrylic Paintings: Packing Differences

Oil paintings can be more sensitive to temperature and humidity changes compared to acrylics. Use glassine paper to protect oil paintings and avoid plastic wrap directly on the surface. Acrylic paintings can be wrapped in bubble wrap and placed in a sturdy box. Use cardboard to protect the painted face.

Working with Movers to Move Pictures and Artwork

Moving Company Selection Tips

Choosing the right moving company can make a difference. Look for companies with experience in handling artwork, positive reviews, and comprehensive insurance. Ask about their packing techniques and materials. Ask your local art galleries. Seriously consider UPS for moving fine art.

Moving Quotes: Getting the Best Deal

When obtaining moving quotes, compare multiple companies to find the best deal. Look for movers that specialize in handling artwork and offer comprehensive insurance coverage. Be sure to ask about any additional fees and services. Maybe UPS is really the best solution, particularly for sentimental pieces.

Long Distance Moving Tips

For long distance moves, take extra precautions. Ensure your artwork is well-protected with ample cushioning and sturdy boxes. Plan ahead to avoid any last-minute rush. Consider hiring professional movers with experience in long-distance relocations.

On Moving Day: Loading and Unloading Artwork

Loading and unloading artwork from a moving truck requires caution. Supervise the movers as they load your artwork into the moving truck, if you can.

You should expect to see the professional movers:

  • Securely strap artwork to prevent shifting during transit
  • Place art in the truck center (between the wheels) to minimize bounce
  • Handle boxes with care
  • Avoid stacking heavy items on top
  • Upright (vertical) packing of framed artwork.

The New Home Setup: Unpacking Paintings and Pictures

Unpacking artwork requires care:

  • Remove layers of protection carefully and inspect each piece for damage. If damaged, take photos and immediately file a claim.
  • Plan where to hang each piece and use proper hardware to avoid damage to walls and artwork. Consider direct sunlight and its damage to your art when rehanging.
  • Unwrap paintings and pictures as quickly as possible. Your extra protection created a perfect humidity container. Paper and canvas-based fine art can be damaged by mold particularly in southern states.
  • Recycle all you can of your packing supplies. Some shipping stores may take and re-use those peanuts. Store that extra cardboard and rolls of bubble wrap if you think another move is likely.
  • Celebrate! Your art says a lot about you. You both made it!

Some Final Thoughts about Packing Pictures for Moving

We prepared this guide because packing paintings can be neglected in the bigger story of a move. If you need more info to help plan your move, we have plenty of moving tips. Please reach out to your friendly Bellhop Movers to coordinate local moves and long-distance moving services to just about everywhere.

Warren Sly
Latest posts by Warren Sly (see all)