You've sold your artwork, and ideally, you'd install your piece for the buyer or art collector personally to ensure it's in perfect condition.
However, it's more likely that you've sold your art online or through a vendor and now need to send your product to the buyer. You may be wondering how to ship art internationally without your package becoming damaged, lost, or stolen.
Learn how to prepare your artwork for shipping, choose the right carrier, get through customs, and find the best insurance in this guide.
Step 1: Pack Your Art Properly
Special consideration is needed to prevent damage during transit when shipping art internationally. At the same time, your packaging should look professional and worthy of the masterpiece within.
Determine the Size
Measure your artwork's length, height, and width to determine what size box, tube, crate, or shipping container you will need. The dimensional weight, which is the amount of space a shipment needs compared to its actual weight, will help you calculate shipping costs. Both UPS and FedEx provide calculators.
In addition to an appropriate container, you'll also need the following:
- Sharp box cutter or knife to cut cardboard
- Marker or pen
- T-square to make straight cuts
- Box sizer to make folds in the cardboard
Cover the Surface
Glassine paper protects artwork from dust and moisture. Cover every side and corner of your works of art with glassine and secure it with acid-free artist tape. Leave two inches of extra space at each side when rolling paintings for shipping in a tube.
Plastic palette wrap acts as a protective coating and helps prevent scratches on an oil painting, art print, or canvases. Wrap canvases in at least in 3.5-millimeter thick foil and choose extra wide roles.
If you're shipping framed artwork, you'll need to protect the glass from breakage. Painter's tape or a tight layer of plastic wrap around the glass can help prevent punctures should the glass break during transit.
Corners are particularly susceptible to damage and need extra protection. Cardboard corner protectors will help secure framed and unframed mounted artwork.
Use Bubble Wrap
Bubble wrap not only fills space in the box but also cushions your artwork. The flat side should face your art, and the bubbles should face to the outside to avoid imprints. Use at least two inches of wrap and tape the corners for additional moisture protection.
Seal with Tape
After wrapping and packing your art for shipping, you'll need to seal the container with high-quality packaging tape. Pressure-sensitive poly tape is ideal.
Step 2: Choose the Right Shipping Company
Despite an enormous shipping industry, UPS and FedEx complete the majority of package deliveries. In most cases, UPS will charge slightly more than FedEx. Both carriers offer commercial volume discounts.
One differentiating factor involves delivery times. UPS makes deliveries Monday through Saturday, while FedEx only delivers Tuesday through Saturday. If you need your artwork to arrive on a Monday, then UPS would be the better option.
If you're shipping large artwork, contact freight companies beforehand to find out if they offer professional packing and shipping at a reduced rate. Bundling art shipping services can often save you time and money.
Step 3: Prepare for Customs
If you're shipping artwork through art galleries, they will likely handle customs for you.
However, if you're organizing the delivery by yourself, you'll have to prepare the paperwork on your own. Forgetting details on the customs declaration documents can result in delayed delivery or a returned shipment. The most important documents include:
- Export invoice – This document is necessary for shipping fine art outside of a customs union. Use a commercial invoice when you sell art and use a proforma invoice if your art is for an exhibition. If you want to have your work returned, you'll need to include an import invoice for the journey back home.
- Customs Declaration Forms – This form is required for all commercial shipments. There are two different forms, depending on whether the art is of low value or high value.
- Trade Tariff Commodity Codes – These codes will help you avoid paying additional duties and get artwork released from customs.
- Export Licenses – Depending on the country you're shipping to, as well as the age and value of the art piece, you may need an export license.
- EORI number – An Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number is necessary if you wish to send artwork into or out of the European Union.
- VAT – You'll have to pay this tax when importing art into the U.K.
Finally, remember that not every country uses the same formatting to write an address. Double check the format of the address for accuracy.
Step 4: Get the Right Shipping Insurance
UPS and FedEx both provide $100 of standard shipping insurance. However, this amount may not be enough if your art is damaged or lost. Although each carrier offers additional coverage, your artwork won't be protected for more than the actual cash value. Additionally, a long list of exclusions means that your shipment might not necessarily be covered.
Third-party shipping insurance can help cover the gaps left by delivery carriers. Cabrella provides full coverage for your art business shipments with the ability to file a claim in just minutes. Additionally, you can save up to 90% on shipping insurance rates compared to other carriers such as UPS and FedEx.
Final Tips For Successful International Shipping
When shipping artwork abroad, remember to package it properly to avoid damage. Taking care to pack your art with the appropriate materials will ensure that it arrives safely.
UPS and FedEx have dimensional limitations, so if you're shipping a larger piece, a freight company may be a better option. If you want to avoid delays and complications from customs, make sure to complete all the required documentation.
Finally, protect your valuable artwork with third-party shipping insurance, like that provided by Cabrella, to reduce your business risks.