Happy 2019, everyone!
Let’s face it. Nobody enjoys the hassle of receiving damaged prints either from the standpoint of a customer or a seller. Below you’ll find my shipping process for art prints that I’ve been utilizing for the past ten plus years. It’s not the only way to ship prints, but this method hasn’t failed me yet. That said, if you’re just starting to sell your artwork and are fulfilling orders direct or if you’re looking for way to improve your current shipping method for safer transit, this little write-up is for you.
Part 1: Materials
Shipping materials can sometimes be prohibitively expensive, but they are essential when it comes to selling your artwork and protecting it while in transit.
Materials I use:
No flap, clear print sleeves (sleeves without the adhesive flap)
Corrugated cardboard pads/sheets in various sizes (5x7, 8x10, 11x14, and 16x20)
1” blue painters tape
Some places you can browse for shipping supplies:
Staples - Self Seal Flat Mailers
Why stay-flat mailers instead of tubes?
As I mentioned above, I like to ship my artwork flat… even larger prints (13x19 or 16x20). This is mostly due to preference, but also due to the fact that the thicker paper I use for gicleé’s does not roll well.
Why do you use no flap sleeves instead of protective closure sleeves?
I’ve found protective closure sleeves are really overkill for most art prints. Sure they’ll protect against water getting in to the sleeve or other misc debris, but the odds of that happening are slim. The main benefit of using no flap sleeves is that it significantly cuts down the time it takes to pack your prints for sale. It’s a one step process instead of three. No flap bags = Put your print in the sleeve. Protective closure bags = Putting your print in the sleeve, peeling off the adhesive strip, sealing the print.
If you choose to use sleeves that close with an adhesive strip, make sure you purchase the protective closure type versus the type with the adhesive on the flap.
There is a huge difference. Protective closure bags (like these) ensure that there is zero chance your art prints will come in contact with the adhesive strip when you (or your customer) removes the print from the sleeve. With standard flap seal bags, you run the risk of the print catching on the adhesive strip and ruining it.
Part 2: Method
The goal is simple: Reinforce the stay-flat mailers quickly and efficiently. The method I’m outlining here applies to prints 16x20” and smaller.
For 5x7”, 4x6”, and smaller prints:
For 8x10” and 8x8” prints:
For 11x14” and 9x12” prints:
For 16x20” and 13x19” prints:
You might be wondering why I’m using an 18x24 mailer instead of a 17x21 mailer (the next smallest size) to send my larger prints. I use 18x24 mailers because the 17x21 size doesn’t expand enough to accommodate two sheets of 16x20 backer board.
International mail disclaimer: When shipping larger prints internationally, this larger mailer size exceeds USPS First Class International limits. I have to get creative at this point. For 13x19” (and similarly) sized artwork, I cut down four 16x20” corrugated cardboard sheets to around 14x20”, sandwich the print between the sheets, and seal the edges with packaging tape. This cut-down size meets the requirements for First Class International packages. For even larger prints, I have to resort to a large diameter (4-5”) shipping tube.
Additional things to keep in mind:
Be resourceful. You may not need every mailer size. You can always package smaller prints with larger prints.
When inputting dimensions into your shipping calculator, always round up. Once packed, the thickness for these mailers is under an inch. You still need to input “1” for the height value. Example: L 12x W 15x H 1” (for the 12x15 mailer).
Buy a postage scale if you don’t have one already.
It doesn’t hurt to purchase a roll of small DO NOT BEND stickers.
Your 6x8” mailer ships as a package, not a letter. If it’s not a traditional envelope, it ships at package rates (either USPS First Class or Priority depending on what service you offer your customers).