How to Ship Art Prints So They Arrive Safe and Sound

How to ship art prints so they arrive safely

Shipping prints can be a daunting task. You want to make sure your art arrives safe and sound, but you don’t want to spend a fortune. I’ll show you how to ship art prints the easy way.

The safest way to ship art prints is in a mailing tube, one with a polythene liner. To ship a print flat, first, slide the print into a self-seal cellophane bag, and then sandwich it between two backing boards. Place it snuggly into a mailer box, and tape everything down.

Here are some tips to help you ship your art prints so they arrive in perfect condition.

(I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. However, I only promote products I like and recommend)

How to Package Art Prints For Shipping

Kerching! You have a notification and you’ve made a sale – Woohoo! The first of many no doubt, and all you have to do is send it off. Easy

What could possibly go wrong? Well it could get…

  • Squashed
  • Bent
  • Creased
  • Wet
  • Lost

If something can go wrong, believe me eventually, it will go wrong. The best you can do is limit the problem by preparing for all eventualities.

When shipping art prints, it’s important to use the right materials. You’ll need some basic office supplies. (Amazon affiliate links)

There are a few optional extras. I like to weigh my parcels on a kitchen scale myself, address my own labels, and have a roll of custom declaration stickers handy, as well as a few sheets of airmail stickers.

OK, so let’s get started with the basics.

How Big is Your Print?

This is significant because it will determine the mailing costs. Get this wrong and you will lose your profits, especially if you’re exporting it abroad.

Your postal company will calculate the costs by weight and size. If your print is packaged too well, or it’s too large, you’ll tip over the price scale and pay heavily for your mistake.

Ideally, you’ll have a standard size print size that fits into a standard size mailer.

This post dives deeper: What Size Art Sells Best? Frames and Apertures – FREE Chart

This was one mistake I made.

My art prints are all printed on A3 paper, and I send them in 13″ postal tubes. Until a few years ago, I could send them in 2 1/2″ (65mm) diameter tubes. No problem

That saved me storage space and money. Then I changed my paper without thinking it through, and they wouldn’t roll tight enough.

Now, I have to use 3″ (75mm) diameter tubes, which cost more to buy, more to post, and are a pain to store. Damn

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Have You Got Plastic Wrapping?

Couriers are working insane hours, often in a blind panic, and have to get the job done as quickly as possible. They do not read stickers urging them to ‘Handle with Care’

Your art print had better be packaged well because the parcel will be dropped, thrown, and get caught in sorting equipment.

Not only that, it will be stored overnight in a warehouse or in some cases, for a week in a Customs depot, and delivered in all weathers.

You must wrap your print in a waterproof bag.

I like to use A3 Cello bags. Self-seal Cellophane wrappers cost very little, and you can get them in a multitude of sizes. I also use Polythene bags for my postal tubes.

Or if you want a budget logo made for you, try Fiverr

Which is Better for Shipping Art Prints, Flat or Rolled?

The size of your art print will also determine how you post it.

Given the choice, most people would want to receive a flat print. That’s fine, but larger prints need sturdier packaging, and for the most part, mailing tubes are the more practical option.

Any print below A3 in size, in the US that would be called Tabloid or Ledger (11″ x 17″), can be sent cheaply and conveniently in a mailing box.

Small packages seem to survive the rough and tumble well. They fit into mailing sacks and are light enough not to damage when they’re dropped.

You can get mailers for A3 prints, and above, but they get damaged in the system more easily.

I was a witness to what can happen when I took an A3 print to my local post office. I’d done everything I could to prevent a problem, including adding extra cardboard stiffeners and writing ‘FRAGILE’ in bold letters.

The woman took the print and realizing it was too wide for the parcel bin and too rigid to bend, proceeded to karate chop it down the middle. Job done. I was not a happy bunny.

Larger prints are best rolled up in a tube. Your mail might go astray occasionally, but they don’t get damaged. That’s never happened in the 20 years I’ve been sending out prints.

Costs and Storage issues

When it comes to packaging, the costs reduce considerably when you buy wholesale.

You’ll need plenty of storage space, indeed, there was a time when I had to rent extra storage just for my postal tubes. They take up so much space when you buy them in bulk.

Mailers, in contrast, fold flat and you can store them stacked up in the corner. Not only that, they are cheaper than postal tubes.

Related post: How to Store Drawings Safely: The Ultimate Guide

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Putting Prints into a Mailing Tube

There is more to rolling paper than you might think. You can’t afford to be slack.

Paper is easily damaged,

  • When you roll them without due care,
  • When you slide them into the tube,
  • When your customer pulls them out.

Here’s how to put prints safely into a mailing tube in 10 steps:

  1. Get a mailing tube that’s big enough for your prints. You don’t want them to be too snug, as this could damage the prints.
  2. Slide a thin polythene bag partially into the tube, as your liner and leave the end open.
  3. Carefully roll the paper, taking extra care not to roll the paper too tightly.
  4. Slip your print into the bag and push it down into the tube.
  5. Let the paper unwind making sure it’s lined up so that the edges of the print are flush with the top and sides of the tube.
  6. If you are sending more than one print, do the same and insert the second.
  7. Pop in any promotional or business card.
  8. Tuck the polythene inside the top and put in the end cap.
  9. Secure the end caps with a criss-cross of sellotape
  10. Wrap more tape around the ends of the tube.

When the customer opens the tube, they pull on the polythene bag and the whole thing slides out undamaged and gently unfurls. This system has never failed me.

If I’m sending an expensive print, I will place the print into a cello bag before rolling it and sliding it into the liner.

How To Ship Art Prints Flat

To minimize the risk of damage and ensure that your prints arrive in pristine condition. Follow these instructions.

Here’s how to ship art prints flat in 9 easy steps:

  1. Firstly, prepare your work area. You’ll need a cutting mat, craft knife, a ruler, and packing tape.
  2. Slip your art print into a cellophane wrapper and seal it.
  3. Choose a sturdy mailing box that’s slightly larger than the print itself.
  4. Cut two cardboard sheets to fit the box (or order them pre-cut)
  5. Tape the wrapper onto the first sheet of cardboard, by securing it at each corner.
  6. Place the second cardboard sheet over the print and tape both boards together.
  7. Place into the box and if there’s too much space, line it with bubble wrap, and/or tape it down
  8. Add your promotional leaflets
  9. Finally, seal the box with packing tape and label it clearly

By taking these precautions you can ensure that your art print arrives in top condition.

If you have a small art print, it’s possible to send it in a padded envelope with stiff backing boards, on either side.

These posts are related:

How to Ship Art Prints Internationally

With the advent of e-commerce and online sales, you would think that sending mail abroad would be easy. It is, if you pay through the nose, or if you are in the EU internal market. Otherwise, there are things to look out for.

If you’re shipping prints internationally, here are a few things you need to check:

  • Check shipping rates with several companies and do not assume that the post office will be the cheapest or most trustworthy service.
  • Choose a shipping service. NB: standard airmail won’t be tracked
  • You’ll also need to make extra sure that the prints are properly packaged so they don’t get damaged in transit.
  • Use the lightest materials to keep the weight down.
  • Fill in any customs declaration forms honestly
  • Finally, be aware of any customs regulations that might apply to your shipment. There could be extra taxes to pay.

The prices for mailing overseas have increased in the last few years, and you may well find that the hassle and economics of selling overseas make things unviable.

First, the US pulled out of an international shipping rates treaty and that put the prices up. Then the EU started to play games by forcing all countries outside the block to pay an extra 20% VAT on all imported goods, regardless of the cost.

Now, at the time of writing, the oil crisis has made things worse still. What can you do?

How to Choose a Shipping Service

When you’re shipping art prints, you want to make sure to choose a reliable company.

You have a number of options:

  • Use the post office
  • Use a major international courier
  • Use a discount courier

The postal service is still the first choice for many. Old habits die hard. If you would rather deal with the guy behind the counter, that’s fine.

From what I have read, the USPS is often the cheapest deal, from my experience in the UK ,Royal Mail are seldom the cheapest deal.

N.B. I will just add that sending standard mail to the States from the UK is often held up at US customs. It can take weeks to release. Paying for a tracked service speeds things up.

The next option is to go online and check out all the deals the big players are offering

In addition, you’ll want to choose a service that offers tracking so you and your customer can keep an eye on your shipment every step of the way.

With a little research, you can find a shipping service that will give you peace of mind and ensure your art prints arrive safely at their destination.

In Britain, discount couriers are the cheapest option. They buy empty slots from the big couriers at a discount and pass some of that savings on.

Should You Buy Postal Insurance?

Do read the small print if you use a courier, especially the budget ones.

You have a reasonable chance of compensation with the bigger couriers but good luck getting the discount couriers to pay up. I’ve tried and never succeeded.

They offer insurance but when you look at the exclusions they list everything you can ever imagine. Just what do they insure?

I have personal experience of using UK services so I can’t talk about services in the US. I suspect slippery insurance policies are the same.

I’ve never had a payout for lost or damaged goods. The last claim I made was for an extra-strong, almost impossible to break, hard plastic box that I bought because they’d trashed the earlier one.

The contents survived, but the box cost £20 alone so this time I wanted them to pay for it. I asked them to reimburse me but unfortunately, they didn’t cover packaging materials. Surprise surprise.

Even the Royal Mail lacks integrity.

When a limited edition print went missing, I made a claim. I had all the proof of postage, waited 3 weeks for it to turn up, and all they would compensate me for was the cost of the paper, not the lost limited edition!

Personally, I don’t bother with insurance anymore. Now I write it off as part of business expenses.

I didn’t realize until I was fact-checking this article, that there’s another option, a 3rd party insurer. I just found these sites. These are not my recommendations because I’ve never used them, but it’s worth checking them out.

I took a screenshot of Shippos landing page for the price example:

Shipping art prints. A price comparison chart on Shippo

I’m not advising you against getting insurance coverage, I am advising you to check every detail before you purchase any cover.

How to Ship Art Prints: Final Thoughts

I’ve been shipping my art prints for 20 years and I can promise you only one thing. Nothing is guaranteed. Things will and do go wrong. Once the print is posted you lose control.

All you can do is accept that you will annoy some customers through no fault of your own.

If you keep your customer in the loop, why wouldn’t you? The vast majority of people will be understanding and pleasant. You’ve got to understand that some people will be suspicious, that’s why I offer money-back guarantees, and I’m good to my word.

I have refunded people for delays, (usually hold-ups at customs) and then received a re-payment when the print finally arrived. It happens.


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