How to ship commissioned artwork

February 18, 2022

What is the best way to ship a commissioned painting?

You have just completed an art commission - congratulations!

Shipping your painting can be a little nerve racking. As the artist, you want to make sure your masterpiece is securely packaged so that it will arrive safely and in perfect condition to your client. 

The size and type of painting, and what the client intends to do with it will determine how you should send it. Let’s look over some “must do’s” for any type of shipping before we look at how to ship it.

Must Do: 

1. Tracking 

Make sure you select a form of shipment that allows both you and the customer to track the painting from your door to theirs. Being able to see where your painting is located is especially important in resolving logistic & shipping issues, if they arise. When getting art commissions on MadeMay, a tracking/shipping ID will be provided.

2. Packaging with Care 

No matter how you are sending your painting, make sure you package it so it is as secure as possible. Use bubble-wrap where possible, don’t allow loose or dead spaces where your piece can slide around and get damaged from the inside, and make sure there are no edges that can be easily snagged and tore open. 

3. Insurance 

For high priced commissions, shipping with insurance is perhaps the most important thing I can suggest. If the commissioned painting is damaged at all during shipment and you don’t have insurance, your customer is entitled to get their money back (from you) and you are out the time and materials you used to create the painting with nothing to say for it. Insurance is a little different with each shipping company so make sure you read the fine print so you know what can be claimed and what you can get back.

4. Optional: Include a Certificate of Authenticity 

You’ve just created a one of a kind piece of art for a new happy customer. By including a certificate of authenticity, the customer will understand the value of the piece and it will help you as the artist be more professional. (If you don’t know what a certificate of authenticity is - it is a certificate with the title of the painting, usually a small picture of it, the date it was created, your name, and your signature. Every artist does them a little differently but I think it adds a nice touch to a finished product).

Types of Shipping:

There are many ways to ship paintings. Here are 3 common methods, as written by artist Brian Sloan:

1. In a Mailing Tube (most popular)

I ship most of my paintings in mailing tubes. This can only be done, however, when the painting - usually a rolled canvas - can be rolled. This is usually when the customer is going to be framing it themselves so they don’t want it on the stretched canvas bars. I find this way to be very safe because the tube itself is usually made of a thick stiff cardboard. Both the material and the shape make it hard to be punctured, whereas a large box can more easily be damaged. Also, it is usually cheaper to ship a tube instead of a large box. When shipping in a tube I will add a layer of ink-free paper around the painting, then add a layer of bubble wrap. When rolling the painting, make sure the actual paint is on the outside and not the inside. Tape both caps on the ends of the tube so it won’t come open and you are ready to ship! 

2. In a Box or Crate 

Paintings that are on the stretcher bars or that are framed are best shipped in boxes or crates. When I ship paintings like this, I will put a layer of ink-free paper around the painting itself first. Then add a piece of cardboard or hard plastic to the front and back. I then add cardboard corner protectors on each of the corners. And I finish it off with a good layer of bubble wrap all the way around the whole package. Then just make sure it is all tucked snug into the box or crate (adding bubble wrap to fill in any gaps) and seal with packing tape. 

3. In a Reinforced Envelope 

For smaller commissions, a reinforced envelope may suffice. However, this is the least protected form of shipment. I follow the same steps I do when shipping in a box or crate. By adding that layer of hard plastic or cardboard around the painting, it gives it a similar sturdiness to the box. 

When picking which company to ship your paintings with, take a look at their rates both domestically and internationally, their insurance policies, and the different options they offer. Some companies will even come to your house to pick up the package which can save you a lot of time! 

Being asked to create a commissioned piece of art is a special privilege. Customers are counting on you to create a piece to their liking so make sure you take just as much care in shipping the piece as you did in creating it.