Updated: Dec 9, 2021
I still remember when I made my first sale on Etsy. It was exciting but terrifying all at the same time.
I think that shipping and making sure that my canvas paintings and prints would not arrive damaged was my biggest point of anxiety when selling art online. So, I thought that I would take all that I have learned and create a post on how to ship original canvas paintings and prints.
I do not make any money or receive any commissions from any products listed below, these are just my own personal preferences.
Have all of your shipping & packing supplies on hand BEFORE listing an item for sale, also keep them organized so you can find them.
When starting out, buy items in smaller quantities until you are sure of what products/supplies you are comfortable with and will use on a regular basis. When I was first getting ready to sell prints, I bought a whole case of cello plastic wrap, shipping tubes and matte backing board for shipping prints. I later found that these did not fit my prints. So, I still have a whole stack of supplies for shipping prints that I will probably never use up.
Make your own boxes for large/oddly sized canvases. I learned that making my own boxes was not only the most cost-effective, but in some cases was my only option when shipping odd sizes like an 18x36in commission that I did last year.
Use cardboard for backing when packaging prints.
Shipping & Packaging Supply List:
For Original/ Canvas Paintings:
Glassine Paper: For protecting your original artwork. It is acid-free and will not stick to surfaces and it is made to protect artwork.
One of my mini paintings wrapped in glassine paper.
Boxes/Packing Supplies: For original paintings, I typically look for long and narrow side loading boxes because they offer the most support.
I like these boxes (below) from Fed Ex for 9x12 in or similar sized paintings.
Making your own box: For shipping larger odd-sized paintings up to 50 in, I like these cardboard sheets from Staples to make my own boxes from.
Corner Protectors: These are a must for shipping framed or canvas art and they ensure that your artwork does not arrive with dented corners.
Bubble Wrap: I use 2 different sizes of bubble wrap. Your standard smaller 3/16in bubble wrap which I buy in bulk from Ebay, and larger sized bubble wrap (about 1in sized bubbles) for wrapping larger paintings (I use less bubble wrap that way, and it is quicker to wrap up).
Shipping Scale: You may not think that you will need this, but trust me, it will save you from over paying for shipping and the hassle of returned packages.
For Prints: Clear sleeves for packaging
Shipping Tubes - Useful for larger prints and original drawings since shipping in a tube is much cheaper than shipping flat for larger pieces.
Other things you will need:
Artist's Tape: I like to use this tape for wrapping my paintings in the glassine because it is designed to peel off very easily (it also works very well for taping down drawings, or paintings on paper).
Thank You Notes - a hand written thank you note feels more personalized.
Ribbon - for wrapping smaller paintings in to make them look pretty.
Business Cards - so that your customers know where to contact you and find you in the future.
Small Prints - for customers who have purchased a larger piece from me, I will throw in a free small 4x6in print with the artwork just as a little something special.
(For Etsy) You can print your labels directly from Etsy. Etsy gives you a discount on shipping if you print your shipping labels through the website.
(For Etsy) Save shipping profiles for popular sizes. If you have a particular size that you plan to sell a lot of, you can save a shipping profile so the next time you create a listing you will not have to re-enter the information.
Add shipping insurance f(Upd
Un-stretch large canvases and roll them up to ship in tubes if shipping internationally. It can be to ship larger pieces internationally and hearing this from many other artists, I thought that it would be a good tip to add.
Shipping Services; USPS Priority Mail, Vs. First Class and Domestic Ground:
I generally stick with USPS when shipping packages. I have had the least delays and issues using USPS (even during the pandemic) and find that USPS's shipping rates are the most affordable. For US Domestic Shipping:
USPS First Class: (1-3 business days) Perfect for shipping smaller paintings and prints, you can only use First Class mail if your package weighs less than 13 oz. USPS Ground: Standard delivery time (2-7 business days). USPS Priority Mail/Flat Rate: I rarely use this option, but if you have a heavier/smaller object that you want to ship Priority Flat Rate can be a great option. Priority mail takes 1-2 business days and comes with up to $100 in insurance. (If you package value exceeds that, then you must add on additional insurance).
International Shipping: While I have not yet shipped my artwork overseas, I have some other experience with International shipping and still find that USPS is the cheapest option
Customs Forms: Make sure you list the package contents clearly with the accurate value of each item. Some countries also have bans on importing certain items, although I would be surprised if any of these applied to artwork. I also found out that unless you are a business, you cannot ship a single package internationally that is over $2500 in value. You will need to add an AES or ITN Exemption Code. The ITN Exemption code is a code that can be input for your specific item if it is less than $2500 in value, or if it falls under another exemption. The AES code is a license that you apply for to ship internationally if you are a business, you will need a business license and a tax ID number issued from the IRS. (more here about this) USPS Priority International Express: Expedited shipping time, more expensive but can arrive in a week or 2. This is the only service that you can request a refund on a label say if it gets kicked back from customs. USPS Priority International: Most cost effective way to ship overseas, usually takes around 30 days or more.
Anyway, I know this is one of probably many articles online, but I hope someone out there found this a little helpful and insightful. Leave me a comment or send me an email if you like!