How to Pack Pictures and Paintings When Moving

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Your paintings and pictures require special care when moving them to a new home or placing them into storage. Besides their cash value, some of your paintings and pictures probably have a lot of sentimental worth as well, and damaging them could be devastating. Packing them with caution is a necessity for their safe arrival to your new residence.

The Biggest Risks to Paintings and Printed Photographs is YOU

The biggest risk to a painting or a printed photo are humans. There are many ways we destroy artwork of any kind, and, therefore, the things you must avoid when moving your paintings and prints are the following:

  • Breaking, smudging, tearing, or misplacing painting and picture components because of improper packing and impacts.
  • Fingerprints that attach to paint and printed surfaces.
  • Stains or other spots caused by dirt, makeup, household chemicals, contact with skin, smoke, or food.
  • Conditions that support pests or damage due to packing with infested objects.
  • The use of inadequate packing and storage materials, or exposure to heat, damp conditions, or strong light.

In other words, the process to packing and moving your paintings and pictures begins with YOU making limited contact with THEM. By simply moving your pictures and paintings around the house, you could be subjecting them to damaging temperatures, humidity, vibration, pests, and harmful elements including the oils and dirt on your skin.

Certain paintings and artwork elements are very vulnerable to damage when handling and moving them, and those include:

  • Pastels
  • Watercolors
  • Ivory
  • Parchment and vellum
  • Large complex pieces of art made from different elements
  • Ceramics
  • Glass
  • Textiles

When handling vulnerable photographs and paintings when you move them, you must use a bit of common sense, like the following:

  • Wear clean, cotton gloves when handling photographs and paintings because skin salts, oils, and dirt can leave permanent marks.
  • Give yourself ample space and time when organizing your photographs and paintings, so that they are not bumping together, and you are not dealing with other distractions that might lead to an accident.
  • Do not drink, eat, or smoke while handling paintings and prints, and do not use ink pens when inventorying your items.
  • Wear clothing that will not snag, tear, or scratch your valuable items, and this might include jewelry, buttons, or hair ornaments.

Invest in the Very Best Packing Supplies When Moving Paintings and Photographs

Do not be cheap when buying packing supplies for your prized paintings and prints. For example, old cardboard is often covered in filth like dust and dirt, and using newspaper as packing paper can destroy your precious artwork because the ink transfers on everything from the photo or painting itself to the piece’s frame. Find high quality packing tape, bubble wrap, corner protectors, Styrofoam, moving blankets, and custom-made boxes that allow no wiggle room. You will also need a good razor knife to precisely cut cardboard and Styrofoam to the exact measurements that you need.

Properly Packing Paintings and Pictures When Moving

Packing paintings and pictures is a risky proposition because you are dealing with so many fragile elements, including frames, glass, canvases, and delicate prints. The following steps will ensure that you prized prints and paintings are packed perfectly:

  1. Wrap individual paintings and prints in plastic in order to keep them clean from dust and dirt and to protect their finish.
  2. The corners of the frame or canvas will receive the most impact as it is moved around, so corner protectors are important. You can but corner protectors from craft and hobby stores, but you might be required to build custom ones from cardboard and bubble wrap.
  3. Seal the painting or print, and its frame in a sturdy Styrofoam casing. Never use packing peanuts in the place of Styrofoam because artwork easily moves through peanuts and settles to the bottom of the packing box while the container moves around during its transport. When this happens, it leaves the bottom of the box clear of cushioning and exposed to the elements, such as vibrations as it rides in a moving vehicle, as well as hard landings when it is moved around in trucks and homes.
  4. Put the packed painting into a tight cardboard box. In other words, there should be no room for the painting or print to move around in the box. Therefore, you must find a box, which is improbable unless you kept the original box it came in, or build a box that is the exact size of the piece of art. If there is any space left in the box after you place the painting or photograph in it, fill the remainder of the box with bubble wrap, so that the it does not bounce around or bang against things. Then, seal the container with packing tape.

Creating a Custom Box for Your Pictures and Paintings

Creating a custom box is crucial to protecting your paintings and photographs. Here are the steps to building a perfect box successfully:

  1. Flatten a big cardboard box or find large pieces of cardboard at a hobby or crafts store.
  2. Lay the piece of cardboard on a flat surface, and place the frame or canvas on the cardboard. Your frame or canvas should already be ready as described above. Therefore, it should be encased in Styrofoam with corners attached.
  3. Using a PENCIL (never use ink around a print or painting), trace around the painting or photograph (and its Styrofoam cover), and then make another box that is half the width of the overall item as a border. In other words, if the frame or canvas is two inches wide, there should be a one-inch amount of space as cushion around the first square that you drew. In the end, you should have drawn two squares (or rectangles), one that is the exact size of the frame, and another box that is outside that box, and is equivalent to the size of the frame plus half of the frame’s width.
  4. Remove the artwork from the cardboard, and using a razor knife (or box cutter), lightly cut around the inside square, but do not go all the way through, so that you can easily fold the box later. Then, cut completely through the lines that make the outside square.
  5. Create another piece of cardboard in the same way.
  6. Flip the cardboard pieces over, and fold along the cut lines to make four corners on each half of the box.
  7. Place the painting or photograph in the one of the halves and place the other half on top. Tape the two halves of the box together, ensuring that box halves are flush and touching, and that none of the tape is on the frame or canvas, which could damage it.

Properly Shipping or Transporting Your Paintings and Pictures When Moving

Now that you have securely packed your paintings and photographs, the process gets even more hairy because you have to get it to your new residence without damaging it, which requires more special care. If you are carrying it yourself, do not make hard stops and turns, and use pillows and blankets to cushion the container. Also, seat the package against something solid that is not shifting around.

It is best to transport packaged paintings and prints on the edge of the container instead of laying it flat because something could fall on top of it. If you do not have room in your vehicle for your artwork, and you must rely on a moving professional to get it to your new home, mark the box as fragile and inform the moving crew that the package contains a very delicate piece of art.

Once your paintings and prints arrives to your new residence, and you plan to store it instead of hang it right away, there are safeguards you must take, so that you do not cause them any damage. The following steps are critical to its safe storage:

  • Do not store your painting or print in damp or dry conditions like attics, basements, or garages, because they do not have consistent temperatures and moderate humidity, which are things that are critical to proper storage. A climate-controlled environment is necessary with temperatures between 70-75 degrees and humidity at a steady 40-50 percent.
  • Store your photographs and paintings off the ground and on a rack a because frames and canvases absorb dampness from concrete and other surfaces, and also to keep your artwork safe from bumps or flooding of any kind. In addition, never stack your artwork on top of one another.
  • Keep your packaged and unpackaged photographs and paintings away from the sun. Sunlight fades colors on both paintings and prints. Therefore, if you are not displaying the pieces, keep them packaged or cover it with acid-free cloth, and keep them out of the direct sunshine.

Additional Step When Transporting Glass

When you move, there are numerous glass items from tabletops, to mirrors, to the glass that protects paintings and photographs from dust and moisture. Here are the additional steps to take when dealing with protective sheets of glass and mirrors:

  1. Before placing the glass items in a secure box, place an “X” from corner to corner of the glass, which helps prevent the glass from shattering. Furthermore, if the glass does break, the “X” will keep the glass in place, which protects the artwork and the frame from damage.
  2. Cover the surface of the glass with a layer of cardboard that fits the glass panel exactly and affix it with tape. Some tape leaves a residue film when removed, so be careful. Your best bet is to use a high-quality painter’s tape and not packing tape, which is highly adhesive.
  3. Cover the surface area of the glass with a layer of Styrofoam. While the entire print or painting should be encased in Styrofoam before it is place in a box, an additional layer across the glass is important to reduce vibration and to protect against impact.  
  4. Clearly label the box as “fragile glass,” so that it receives special treatment by anyone who touches it. Mark all sides of the box, so that no one misses the warning label.

Hire a Professional Mover to Transport Your Paintings and Photographs

You can move your possessions quickly with minimal headaches if you hire a professional mover like Royal Moving Co., which understands the art of packing and moving difficult and valuable items like photographs and paintings. Professional moving companies have experienced and trained experts, and are fully licensed and insured to move your easy items and your difficult and valuable photographs and paintings.

Packing is a difficult task that takes amateurs a great deal of time, but professional packers like Royal Moving Co.’s provide convenience because they supply the packing supplies, pack your paintings and photographs carefully, and can even unpack your artwork if you wish.

However, if you are determined to move your belongings on your own, follow our advice, so that your moving process does not end in disaster.

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