February 14, 2015

How to Ship Artwork, Small Business Owner, Artist, DIY Shipping Tips for Art and Mosaics

Preview "How to Ship Large Artwork, Small Business Owner, Artist, DIY Shipping Tips" | Lucy Designs

Hi all!
I created this post in 2015 when I had an Etsy store.
As of 2017, you can now find me at LucyDesignsArt.com for my mosaic art.

After 700 orders, and counting,  I have learned a lot about shipping and 
thought I would share how I ship my art with some tips and tricks.

Utilizing a professional pack and ship service is great for some small businesses, 
but I enjoy being responsible for what I've created throughout the entire transaction.

Not too many of my pieces will fit in a premade box so I build each box
from sheets of cardboard. I order large sheets of cardboard  both in 275 lb. test
and 200 lb. test to create my boxes.
I use the 275 lb for heavier items and mosaics and the 200 lb test is a good sturdy
weight for my other pieces.

If you don't want to order cardboard, no problem. I honestly didn't buy cardboard
for a long time until it just made sense for me. Previously I would get large,
clean appliance boxes from my local home improvement store.
If you call them early while loading deliveries, they are usually happy to save them for you.

For the boxes made in this post, I used appliance cardboard...

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 DIY tips Lucy Designs
To make the box, I start with a large piece of cardboard.

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.
The glue I use is described a little further down in this post.

I allow about  2-3" on all sides of the item I'm shipping when calculating 
the size of my box to account for foam or padding.

artist, how to ship your art, scoring cardboard
Based on the measurement I need, I score the cardboard on the clean
 unprinted inside of the cardboard.

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

By "score", I mean, don't cut all the way through, just lightly cut
so the cardboard will bend neatly.

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

I use a yardstick when scoring to keep my line straight.
Photos show a wooden yardstick but a metal one is best since a
sharp utility knife can grab onto the wood stick and potentially
slice your fingers....as shown in next photo! ooops

* Cardboard dulls blades pretty quickly so a quick change blade utility knife 
and lots of sharp blades on hand makes the job easy and less frustrating. 
The knife I was using in these photos recently broke so 
I ordered a new utility knife that works great with super 
quick blade changes.

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.

Surebonder dual temp glue gun DT-750
I recently got this Surebonder DT-750 Glue gun instead
of the one I was using in these photos. It is a dual temp glue gun
and I absolutely love it! 

Surebonder glue sticks 601 601R510
I'm also using the Surebonder 601 low temp glue sticks.
They have a super fast set time, about 5 seconds, which is so great when
building and sealing boxes and it is low temp glue.

Previously I was using generic glue sticks for packaging that I found
online but was frustrated with long set times and inconsistent results.
I contacted Surebonder company, explained what I was looking for,
and they sent samples of the 601 glue sticks. I was sold. I couldn't
believe the quick set time on cardboard and it is now my "go-to" glue. 

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

The appliance boxes are usually very thick cardboard but if my box is feeling a little flimsy,
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 lightweight but dense, sturdy,
and fairly inexpensive for the amount of foam you get.
Usually around $13-16 depending on the thickness.

how to ship artwork, cutting foam panels, Lucy Designs
This foam 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.
Um... for a dollar.

how to ship art, diy artist shipping
Shown 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.

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

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.

I use Fedex and have an account with them so I get a small discount by
printing my own labels. UPS is probably the same. I know for smaller items, USPS 
also offers discounts if you print your labels online.

In order to print your labels online, you are going to need a scale.
If you sell online, a scale is pretty much a mandatory piece of equipment.
Even if you take your items to the post office for shipping you still need
a scale to accurately calculate shipping costs when listing your items.

diy shipping, a scale is mandatory
I use a Weighmax digital scale. I've had this one about 7 years and it works
perfectly.  Keep your items in mind when purchasing
a scale and get one that can accommodate the weight of your heaviest item.
Mine has a 75 pound weight limit. 

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.

I use Fedex for oversize pieces and USPS for other shipments and always
insure my items. Remember, insurance protects you, the seller. If you end up having to
refund an item for damage, the insurance can help cover the refund
to your customer without losing money on what you've already created.

So there you have my tips and tricks for DIY shipping.
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!
Visit my new store and as always you can find me on 


  1. Lucy-this was a great article, so informative. There really isn't much out there in regards to shipping and we have to brave it on our own. I am certainly pinning this and saving for later. Thanks so much for sharing this :)

  2. I love your mosaics. They are fantastic. Thanks for the packing advice.

    I wish I knew how you've been able to succeed in the the mosaic business. People here in Mississippi look at you like you've grown a horn out of your forehead when you give them a price on a mosaic piece.

    Like I said love your creations.

    Ramona from Mississippi

    1. Thank you Ramona! Sell them online lol, that's the way to go :)


    1. Glad you found it helpful Nadine, thank you!


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