tips to store paintings

Here are some simple steps on how to pack paintings and how to store paintings long term:

Step 1: Understand common risks that can damage your painting

Step 2: Always handle your painting with care

Step 3: Carefully clean your painting, or have it professionally cleaned by a conservator

Step 4: Wrap and pack your painting, protecting it against common risks

Step 5: Carefully place and secure your painting inside the moving van

Step 6: Select a climate controlled, professional, reputable storage facility

Step 7: Prepare your storage unit for paintings.

Step 1: Understand Common Risks That Can Damage Your Painting

Knowing how to pack artwork is all about understanding what can damage your artwork, both during transit and once in storage. These include:

  • Damage caused by contact with skin, such as fingerprint etchings, stains from leftover food, cosmetic products and residue from chemicals and a range of other materials that our skin comes in contact with every day
  • Tears, breakages and smudges to the canvas and frame as a result of impact and contact
  • Unfavourable environmental conditions such as heat, cold, damp, humidity, dust, pests and fluctuating temperatures.

Step 2: Always Handle Your Painting with Care

The way in which you handle your painting plays a major role in the best way to pack artwork. Keep these hints in mind:

  • Only ever carry one painting at a time. Although it may seem tempting (particularly if you’re moving or storing a large number of items), never attempt to carry ‘stacks’ of smaller paintings. They will move around in your hands, scratching one another in the process
  • Always carry paintings with one hand at each side, rather than with a single hand at the top or bottom. You just never know how well secured the frame is; there’s nothing worse than an entire side of the frame coming away from your painting, and it falling to the ground
  • Always wash your hands first and, if your painting is particularly valuable, you may want to consider wearing cotton gloves to protect its surface from fingerprints
  • Remove any rings, watches and bracelets. These are often forgotten, and regularly damage the surface of paintings.

Step 3: Carefully Clean Your Painting, Or Have It Professionally Cleaned by a Conservator

Before placing your painting into storage, it is a good idea to clean it first. This can be done by dusting its surface to remove any residual dirt, grime, and dust. To do this, you should use a brand new, clean, professional paint brush (made from soft hair). Place your painting on a soft surface (such as a couch, or on a pillow), tilt it towards you, and then softly brush the surface, always brushing in the same direction, without applying any pressure. Once complete, brush in the opposite direction the second time through.

If your painting is quite old or particularly valuable, we suggest that you invest in the services of a professional painting conservator to take care of this step for you.

Step 4: Wrap and Pack Your Painting, Protecting it Against Common Risks

Now that you understand exactly what your painting needs to be protected against, you need to know how to pack framed art so that it is protected accordingly.

In order to minimise contact between your skin and the painting, wrap the entire painting in plastic wrap. When doing this, make sure that the plastic is wrapped tightly around the frame, leaving a gap between the canvas and the plastic wrap—you don’t want the plastic to come into contact with the canvas itself.

Once wrapped, encase your painting in Styrofoam. It’s very easy to cut pieces of Styrofoam to create the perfect cradle for your painting. You should then place this Styrofoam cradle inside a high quality, double-corrugated moving box. Fill any empty space with bubble wrap to prevent movement during transit. This takes care of tears, breakages and smudges to the canvas and frame as a result of impact.

Finally, seal the box with some heavy-duty packing tape, and mark the outside with ‘Fragile’ labels.

A quick word of warning on how to store paintings long term: it’s never a good idea to use Styrofoam packing peanuts in the place of bubble wrap. Over time, these packing peanuts will settle at the bottom of the moving box, leaving the top quarter or third of your painting unprotected.

Step 5: Carefully Place and Secure Your Painting Inside the Moving Van

Never set out on a journey with your favourite painting assuming that it will be a smooth ride. Pack your painting inside your moving van in such a way that, if you have to break suddenly or take a corner sharply, your painting will remain safe.

This means keeping your painting on its side. If you were to lay your painting flat, you risk other objects inside the moving van toppling over, falling onto the canvas, and scratching or tearing its surface. It’s also imperative that you surround your painting with blankets or a similar form of cushioning. This way, if it does move during transit, at least it will come into contact with something soft.

Finally, secure your painting to the inside of the moving truck to prevent it slip-sliding around. Professional, moving trucks will have bars to which you can fasten paintings, or even racks that paintings can slot into. Before renting a moving truck, or hiring a professional, ensure that the truck features at least one of these options.

Step 6: Select a Climate Controlled, Professional, Reputable Storage Facility

When it comes to knowing how to store paintings long term, selecting a professional, reputable storage facility is all-important. You need a storage unit that will protect your paintings against unfavourable environmental conditions such as heat, cold, damp, humidity, dust, pests and fluctuating temperatures.

Above all, you need a storage space that is climate-controlled. The majority of self-storage unit won’t have this feature, which means your paintings will be subjected to heat waves, cold snaps, humidity and damp.

Your storage space also needs to include measures to protect your art from pests.

Step 7: Prepare Your Storage Unit for Paintings

Want to know how to store paintings in a storage unit? Just follow these tips:

  • Wherever and whenever possible, store paintings on their sides
  • If you do have to lay paintings flat, or stacked up against each other, always use padding in between each painting—acid-free paper or cardboard is best. If you have a large number of paintings in storage, it may even be worthwhile investing in a custom-built painting rack
  • Once you’re happy with their placement, use a clean, dry moving blanket or cloth to cover the painting.

So, there’s your step-by-step guide on the best way to pack artwork. If you follow these steps, you’ll know how to pack paintings for storage and how to store paintings long term.