How to Pack and Transport Artwork

Senior couple moving house, packing box
kali9 / Getty Images

Moving is a scary prospect when your items are fragile—particularly when it includes precious artwork or family photos. Artwork can be large and unwieldy, and even the items that are supposed to protect the art or photos—that is, the frame and glass—can end up damaging it during a move. However, if you pack the artwork and picture frames carefully and properly, you can avoid finding shattered glass when you arrive at your new home.

Tools and Supplies You Will Need

  • Boxes in multiple sizes
  • Masking tape
  • Brown packing paper
  • Bubble wrap
  • Packing tape
  • Markers

Instructions

Match the Artwork with Appropriately Sized Boxes

Sort your artwork according to size. In most cases, small- and medium-sized artwork can be grouped and packed together. If you're moving large pieces of artwork, it's best to pack each piece in a separate specialty box that is slightly larger than the frame you're packing. Purchase specialty boxes at a moving supply store or from a truck rental agency. If you can't find specialty boxes, take apart a used box and flatten it. You'll need a box that is bigger than the picture and frame.

Mark Glass with an 'X'

If the frame has a glass covering, use masking tape to place an X across the glass. This will stop the glass from totally shattering or moving around too much if it breaks.

Protect the Artwork's Face

If your artwork doesn't have glass over it, protect the painted face by wrapping it in several layers of kitchen plastic wrap or commercially available palette wrap.

Wrap Artwork with Paper and Bubble Wrap

On a flat work surface, lay out the brown paper flat on your work surface so the ends overlap to create a paper area that is twice the size of your frame. Lay the frame glass side down against the paper. Wrap the ends of the paper around the frame, just like a present. Never wrap artwork or frames in newspaper. While it works well for padding, newsprint can leave marks on the artwork.

Wrap the packing tape all the way around the frame both lengthwise and widthwise. This will ensure the paper stays in place during the move. Repeat the process with bubble wrap.

If you're packing small photos and frames, and are packing them together into a moving box, wrap each one in packing paper. You want to ensure the glass doesn't break during the move.

If you want additional protection for the corners of your picture frames, purchase specialized cardboard corner protectors.

Test Movement

Before you seal up the box, test it for movement. Gently close the box and wiggle it a bit to see if anything feels like it's shifting. Add crumpled newspaper to pad the artwork if it feels like the frames are going to move around.

Seal the Box Thoroughly

If you're using a specialty box, tape one end of the box closed. Stand the box on the sealed end and gently slide the wrapped frame into the box. If you're having a hard time getting it to fit, then ask a friend to help hold the box.

If you're not using a specialty box, place the frame on top of the flattened box that you took apart earlier and secure it using packing tape. If the flat box is large enough that it can be bent around the frame, bend it and then secure it with tape.

If the box doesn't wrap, you can either cut the box up, creating individual cardboard pieces or disassemble another box and use that to protect the exposed side.

Mark the Box with Contents and Descriptor

Mark the outside of the box on both sides with the content, the word "Fragile," and its location, such as the living room, bedroom, kitchen, etc.

Position the Boxes in the Truck

When packing the box and loading it on the moving truck, keep the packed picture on its side, not flat. The picture will absorb pressure easier on an edge than when flat. Pack pictures on their edges and in a place where they won't fall over. Wedge them between heavy objects that will not shift during the move.