Packing and Shipping Art on Paper

Mailing and Shipping always involves some risk, but this can be greatly reduced by following a few common sense practices. Later in this post I describe a method of packing flat items that has worked well for me over the years but first – a few words about Carriers, Insurance and Customs.


  • Each carrier has their own size limitations. If your item is on the large side, check the maximum dimensions your carrier will accept before packing.
  • Whichever carrier you choose, make sure to get a tracking number.
  • Canada Post and USPS offer express services and economical customs clearance. They also offer registered service which requires brown paper tape at seams and corners so that the package can be stamped with arrival and departure times.
  • UPS, Fed Ex and other commercial couriers offer international express services, but their customs clearance is considerably more expensive than Canada Post and USPS. Please check clearance fees before using them.


  • All carriers offer some type of insurance, with value limits, but do check before hand to find out what exactly is covered. One-of-a-kind items are difficult to insure, and you may want to get independent coverage.

Customs Declaration

  • If you ship from outside of Canada, you will need to fill out a Customs slip, describing contents and assigning value. I prefer low key general descriptions (e.g. documents, print, textile). To avoid sales or import taxes please state clearly that the contents are entering Canada temporarily for repair, and will be returned to the sender upon completion.

In my experience, defensive packing, fast shipping, discreet descriptions and tracking numbers are a great help. I have never had a mishap, although things can get held up in Customs, especially in holiday season.


If you are not a DIYer, there are a number of companies that supply shipping packages and materials, including , and . In urban areas there are usually companies who specialize in packing and shipping art.

This is a simple system for flat items that works well for flat, relatively small artworks.

  • Cut two pieces of acid free foam board (available at art supply stores and from picture framers) sized 1″ – 2″ larger than the art on each side.  Center art on one piece of the board.Cut some photo corners from strips of paper.
  • Slip the photo corners onto the the art and tape over them to attach the art to the foam board.  This will prevent shifting.
  • Taped photo corners.
  • Cover art with the second sheet of foam board and tape the edges.
  • Although the surface of foam board is smooth, some types of media will be better protected if covered with a sheet of tissue or glassine before taping the foam boards together.

Now you are ready for the outer packing.

  • Cut two pieces of Coroplast (corrugated plastic available from art suppliers, sign makers and building material stores).
  • If size permits, it is nice to cut the Coroplast larger than the foam board package to give a little bit more protection to the edges of the art. If you can, cut the Coroplast so that the corrugations of the first sheet are perpendicular to those of the second.  This will make the package more rigid.
  • For added protection strips of foam board can be placed around the inner package to prevent crushing and shifting.
  • Tape the edges and write the address with permanent marker on the Coroplast.
  • I like to give a final wrapping with brown paper.  Registered mail does not accept plastic tape or packaging so if you are using this service you will need to give a final wrap with brown paper and paper tape.
  • And a final address using permanent marker.  Fragile stickers are useful too.

Homemade photo corners

Center art on foam board

Taped photo corners

Strips of foam board at edges help prevent crushing

Outer packing boards cut from Coroplast

Final wrap with brown paper

Exterior address with permanent marker