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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Shipping unframed pastel paintings 101

Not much is available on the internet regarding how to ship these more delicate pieces of artwork and so I thought I'd post some information about how I pack my pastel paintings for shipping. I would like to thank Roberta Baer for sharing her idea of the special box used for transporting and shipping pastel paintings. She is an amazing pastelist who's blog I follow at

First, I build what I call a "floater box" (thanks Roby!). When they say a picture is worth a thousand words, this is exactly what they mean! Click on the image for a more detailed view of the box construction.

Here, I used a combination of cardboard and foam core "spacers" and hot glue to build the box. I would not normally use cardboard but for this larger piece, it was necessary due to lack of larger foam core pieces in my studio.

This type of box allows for a space or gap on the front of the pastel painting so that nothing touches it's delicate surface. In essence, the painting "floats" in the box, having only the backing as a support. Note that the pastel painting is mounted onto a slightly larger foam core board with artists' tape. The painting/mounting board then slides in the gap created by the slits of foamcore that have been hotglued together.

I add an extra strip of foam core at each end of the box that fits inside the front/back cardboard pieces. This helps support the ends so that they don't collapse (note white strip beside box below).

I write instructions on the box on how to proceed to open and slide the painting out of the box. The box is opened right side up and at one end where a pull tab is attached the the backing of the pastel painting.

The "floater box" is then packed in a secondary shipping box for added security. Here, I've re-inforced the edges of the box with foam core to make it more sturdy. In this case, I was lucky that the "floater box" fit perfectly snug in the shipping box. Otherwise, place crumbled-up newsprint to fill the gaps around the "floater box" so that it does not move around inside the larger shipping box.

I make sure to mark the box with FRAGILE on all sides.

I hope this helps fellow pastelist with the dilema of shipping or transporting unframed pastel artwork, or at best, provide a cheaper alternative method.

Below is an example of a box I built using 100% foam board:

Keep on painting!


  1. I pack my pastels flat in a very simialr way as I can't possibly feel comfortable with rolling them and putting them in a tube like some brave artists. I don't use fixative on my pastels so I think they are much safer flat. It is comforting to know that somebody else packs flat as well!!

  2. Thanks for all the great tips, so far my pastel commissions have been local, but this will hopefully will be put into use soon.

  3. Great tips for shipping, Collette. We ship a lot of art at our gallery and I'm always open for new or any ideas to use for shipping. You have furnished me with some really great information.
    Thanks for your post on my blog.

  4. You are welcome everyone! I'm happy to learn that it is of help to fellow artists. Really, though, the credit should go to Roby who provided me with the idea of the box.

  5. That's a great idea, thanks! I would still worry that the postal service would bang it on things and bounce it around, thereby loosening the pastel. But I guess you just have to trust that they won't because there is no other choice right?...aside from hand-delivering it!
    I'm also going to check out Roby's blog!

  6. Heather, I know all about that and one can't help but worry. That is why I tap my pastels hard enough before I ship them so that all the loose dust falls off. I also lightly spray the pastels that I ship to help hold the pastel on the sandpaper. I'm sure some dust will fall off but nothing the client can't gently blow off. I guess we'll see when he contacts me with his painting...

  7. To help prevent pastel dust from loosening once a pastel is finished I lay a peice of glassine paper gently over it and then carefully draw a credit card over the whole picture. This helps to press any loose pastel into the tooth of the paper. It has never caused smudging! Just thought this idea may be helpful.

  8. Wow! That is a great idea Sally. Thanks for sharing. I will have to try it on an experimental piece. I'm sure it would work well for pastel on suede or velour but wonder if it would work as good with sandpaper as a surface.

  9. I only use colourfix pastel paper for my pastels whic is a sandpaper type finish. I don't know how it would work on velour!