How to Ship Large Artwork, Small Business Owner, Artist, DIY Shipping Tips

Preview "How to Ship Large Artwork, Small Business Owner, Artist, DIY Shipping Tips" | Lucy Designs
Hi all! I can't believe it but February 2015 will mark the 3 year anniversary
 of opening my Etsy store. Wow and Yay!

After 500 orders, I have learned a lot about shipping and so 
I thought I would share a post on how I ship my art and what has worked for me.

Opening an online shop was the best thing I ever did by the way,
you open yourself up to the whole world.

cafe artwork by Lucy Designs
My art in cafe, Panama City Beach, Florida
Before my online venture, I sold my art locally in small art galleries,
antique shops, restaurants and through private commissions with just
an occasional piece to ship so at that time, I didn't dive fully into the DIY shipping world.

how to ship artwork cost effectively
After opening my shop I realized I needed to figure this shipping thing out.
I tried researching the best way to ship large artwork and didn't find a whole lot
of info for do it yourself shipping.

 Paying a pack and ship store to box my pieces was also out of the question
 because the cost was too high so I set out to find the best way to get it done
without costing a small fortune.

Since my customers pay the cost of shipping, I strive to keep costs down
to be able to pass the savings to them but at the same time,
 I want them to receive their order quickly and undamaged.

Using recycled cardboard and packing foam is good for environment
and costs however I don't skimp on packing tape, bubble wrap, etc.
Using inferior product to pack your art you worked hard to create
will just create frustration and you'll end up using more of it. 

hand painted coastal stockings Lucy Designs
With the exception of my Hand Painted Christmas Stockings that ship in a 
Priority Mail envelope, not one item I make will fit in a premade box... I know !

I "build" a custom box for each item I sell.

Lucy Designs hand painted heart ornaments and dragonflies
I create boxes for my small items too like this table leg dragonfly, or my hand painted hearts
but in this post I'll show you how I box and ship my larger pieces...

mosaic surfboard palm tree lucy designs
This is one of the stained glass mosaic surfboards I offer. 
It's right at 5 1/2 feet tall and it needed to be shipped to California.

how to ship artwork, recycled cardboard
I start with large, clean pieces of cardboard that I get from furniture or 
mattress store "dumpsters". 

Truth be told, I'm no stranger to dumpster diving, but these types of dumpsters
are not like digging in the trash, they are more like recycle bins. 

I have several furniture stores right near me, I always ask first and they are more 
than happy to let me get as much as I need. I take as much as I can cram into 
my SUV and I'm good to go for awhile.

The boxes at these types of stores are usually very large, which is perfect for me.

If I see styrofoam packing pieces in the bins, I grab that too, 
I'm always amazed by how much of that type of material is thrown away.
I like that I'm rescuing it and reusing it one more time.

how to ship artwork DIY tips Lucy Designs
Back to the surfboard...
I start with a large piece of cardboard, this piece happens to be huge, probably 9ft wide.

If you need a large piece and don't have it, you can always glue two smaller pieces
of cardboard together to get the size you need to create your box.

* I keep a list on my wall of box measurements I use for each of my pieces
so I don't have to remeasure every time. 
I allow about  2-3" on all sides of the item I'm shipping when calculating 
the size of my box to account for bubble wrap and/or foam padding.

artist, how to ship your art, scoring cardboard
Based on my box size mentioned above, I measure my 
item and add 2-3" on all sides for padding to determine my box size... 
I score the cardboard on the clean unprinted inside of the recycled cardboard. 

The unprinted inside will become the outside of my new box and it will keep it looking neat.

By "score", I mean, don't cut all the way through, just lightly cut so it 
will make a nice clean edge when you bend it. 

I need this box to be about 3" deep, so three inches out from my score line, on all sides, 
is where I will cut the cardboard to have a more manageable piece. 

I usually use a yardstick to keep my line fairly straight.

* A quick change blade utility knife and lots of sharp blades on hand makes the 
job easy and less frustrating. Cardboard seems to dull blades pretty quick. 
I order blades in bulk from Ebay or Amazon. The knife I was using in these
photos recently broke and I ordered a new mac-daddy utility knife, works great.

build your own boxes to ship art
Scored and folded.

how to ship artwork, diy, build your own box
After scoring and bending I use hot glue to secure the corners and create the box shape.

I use a regular hot glue gun and low temp packaging glue sticks specially
made for cardboard and packing. 
You could also use tape.

glue sticks for packing boxes, diy shipping
I order a big box of the packing glue sticks on Ebay or Amazon.

diy artwork shipping, build a custom box, Lucy Designs
Here is bottom of box, glued and ready for next step.

One of the reasons I like furniture store cardboard is because it is usually the dense,
sturdy kind.  I'm sure there's probably some kind of cardboard density rating but
I have no clue what that is, but, I can tell if my box is feeling a little flimsy.
If that's the case, I will glue an additional layer 
of cardboard on the entire bottom of the box to beef it up.

diy shipping, using insulation foam panels
To protect my surfboard in the box, 
I use 4' x 8' foam insulation panels from Lowe's or Home Depot.

They come in 1/2" or 3/4" thickness, are very dense, sturdy and fairly 
inexpensive for the amount you get, $13-16 depending on the thickness.

how to ship artwork, cutting foam panels, Lucy Designs
This foam is lightweight but strong and cuts easily with a utility knife.

I measure and cut 3 pieces to fit right inside the box I just built.
I'll use one piece for the bottom of the box, the middle piece will hold the surfboard,
and I'll top it with another piece.

foam panels to protect artwork when shipping
I laid my surfboard on the middle piece of foam, drew around the shape then 
cut it out with utility knife.

diy artist shipping, mosaic art
After cutting, my surfboard fits neatly into the cutout space with
2-3" cushion of foam on all sides.

shipping artwork, diy Lucy Designs
I've found that I don't need additional padding around the edges on
the mosaics so I just drop it in the cut out area.

artist how to ship artwork, diy, small business
I cover the mosaic with a large piece of packing paper...

I get these rolls of "packing paper" from my local newspaper office.
They sell their end rolls of newsprint paper for $1.00 each, quite the bargain!
They can vary in size but as you can see, there is usually quite a bit left on them...
for a dollar.

how to ship art, diy artist shipping
Ok, so here is my box, a layer of foam, the middle layer cut out
with the surfboard inside, a sheet of packing paper, customer receipt,
and a final layer of foam all neatly sandwiched together.

Then I got busy finishing the box and forgot more pics!
I used the same steps to create the top of the box.
I cut and score the cardboard, then use glue and tape to secure to the bottom of the box.

* I sometimes see sellers say they don't include a packing
receipt when shipping saying the customer just
throws it away and/or to save on paper and ink.

Um, it is never a good idea to ship a package with no identifying information with it.
If your shipping label gets ripped, damaged or unreadable, 
you need identification within the package for it to find it's 
way to your customer, or back to you. 

The same goes for shipping internationally.
Secondly, it gives you the chance to include a personalized note of 
thanks with each order, I love that :)

Etsy gives you the option of printing a "gift receipt" that includes all 
pertinent order info. It takes half a sheet of paper to print.
I think you know what I'm going to say next... 
I cut the other half of the paper off and reuse it 
to print my next receipt, because...trees.

how to ship art, direct from artist, diy shipping
If you do a lot of shipping, you will want to print your
labels online. You'll never see this girl standing in line to ship something.

Plus, USPS and Fedex, (maybe UPS too, I don't use them so I'm not sure)
 give you a small discount if you print your labels online and Fedex
provides free self stick label pouches to attach the label to your box.

In order to print your labels online, you are going to need a scale.

A scale is pretty much a mandatory piece of equipment if you sell online and plan to ship, 
plus you need one anyway to accurately calculate shipping costs when listing your items.

I personally do not like having to message someone to ask how much shipping will be,
I think it should be right there with your listing, wherever that happens to be. 

diy shipping, a scale is mandatory
I happened to already have this digital scale that I used with another 
business I had. This one has a 75 pound weight limit. 

Keep your items in mind when purchasing a scale and get one that can 
accommodate the weight of your heaviest item. 
I got mine on Ebay and have had it about 6 years.

direct from artist shipping diy
I also use bright red handle with care stickers on my boxes for fragile items...
which is usually all of them.
I don't know if it makes a difference but makes me and probably my customer, feel better.

I order rolls of these stickers on Ebay or Amazon.

build your own shipping boxes
Here is the final surfboard, packed securely, labeled and ready to go!

mosaic whale art Lucy Designs
I use this packing technique successfully for all of my large items
like this large 4 ft mosaic whale for a customer's nursery...

ship large artwork
For this 4 ft mosaic octopus, I had free sheets of white styrofoam that came
with some of the big boxes I got so I used it to layer and pad my octopus...

direct from artist how to ship artwork
I used the same boxing method and end up with a nice, neat box,
you can see it here with a stack of other diy boxes I built for smaller
items that are packed and ready to go.

angel wings lucydesignsonline on etsy
For items like my angel wings that aren't completely flat like my mosaics,
I use a slightly different process.

wood angel wings Lucy Designs
This is a small pair or angel wings I'm boxing up.

I build my box, wrap each wing in bubble wrap then layer them with the decorative
sides of the wings facing each other. I pad around the wings using foam, crumpled paper
from my paper rolls or air pillows I have on hand.

All of my family knows to save air pillows, styrofoam peanuts and sheets of
styrofoam for me when they order things. Air pillows are my favorite.

* I order huge rolls of bubble wrap from Ebay. I only use the 24" wide with large
bubbles. The 24" width is such a time saver if you ship large items.

diy shipping, recycled foam
In the above photo, I used more styrofoam I saved from a dumpster
to pad my angel wings along with scraps of the blue foam for the edges.
The foam can be cut down to whatever size you need.

*If you have a lot of styrofoam to cut, an electric knife makes it super 
quick and easy. I keep one one hand for that purpose.
But!, the electric knife trick doesn't work so well on the blue foam sheets,
they are too dense, it's easier to cut with utility knife.

how to ship artwork, angel wings
I recently shipped a large pair of angel wings to London and I wanted to give 
them a little more protection since they were traveling such a long way.
Normally I pack them like the smaller wings I showed.

diy shipping artwork
I wrapped them in bubble wrap as above and used another sheet of
 insulation foam to surround them.

diy shipping foam sheets
 This time I used the softer white foam 4'x 8' sheet.
It's squishier than the blue foam and mine came with a silver backing. 

I was looking for something sturdy but a little softer against the textured surface of
the angel wings and this white foam was perfect. 

ship art, use foam sheets, diy
The silver backing peeled right off.

how to ship your artwork, diy shipping
I still used the hard blue foam for the top and bottom layers and sandwiched the 
wings in between with the white foam.

I ended up using 3 layers of the white foam to surround my
wings and they made it safely to London.

diy shipping
I did the same thing with one of my large mermaids since they have 
such a textured surface with all the sea shells.

use foam panels to ship
I'm sure it goes without saying that I don't throw away the pieces that were cut out
of the foam. I cut them down and use to pad other pieces to ship.

silver backing from foam panels
Now I just need to figure out what I can make with the 
silver stuff I peeled off the foam...just kidding!...sort of.

I happen to use Fedex and have been happy with them.
I insure every item using Fedex and/or Insurepost.

Before I opened my Etsy shop, I would occasionally ship
large mermaids and I used Greyhound Package Express.

It worked out pretty good at the time, their rates aren't bad but
but the customer does have to go pick up their item at their local
Greyhound station. None of my customer's seemed to mind. :)

At that time, my large mermaid dimensions were just over the size limit
with Fedex so they were put into the "freight" weight category which is crazy expensive.
I realized I needed to rework my pattern to keep it under the maximum dimensions so 
I could use Fedex and that's exactly what I did.

Greyhound can also be a good option for shipping furniture without going
freight. They do have size and weight restrictions so check
our their website for more info.

shipping tips, diy shipping, Lucy Designs
So there you have my tips and tricks for DIY shipping.

There is no doubt that packages are handled roughly when shipping. 
I've shipped over 500 orders and have had maybe 3 damaged shipments, 
which is a pretty good success rate I think.

Damages will happen, but I do my best to pack securely, always insure them, 
bless them and send them on their way to their new home.

Packing doesn't have to be a source of stress. I am always thrilled that 
out of all the beautiful items out there, someone chose something of mine
and that makes me grateful.

Thanks for reading!
As always, you can find me on Facebook, Pinterest, and 

I'm moving to a new home so my shop is currently closed so I can pack and move,
see you soon!

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