February 14, 2015

Shipping Art and Mosaics, 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
I came up with this method of shipping around 2013 and wrote this post in 2015. 
At the time I had an Etsy store where I sold not only mosaic art but also canvas
 paintings and mixed media/recycled artwork.
In 2017 I moved to my new website LucyDesignsArt.com
where I'm focusing exclusively on mosaic art and I still use this same
method to ship and it still works well for me.

I'm sure there are plenty of great pack and mail services out there and if you choose to go that route that's perfectly fine. For me, packing it myself gives me more peace of mind than if I just handed it over for someone else to pack. Also, as small business owner, packing it yourself is usually a little  more economical as well.

None of my pieces will fit in a premade box so I build a box for each piece I ship
which creates a custom fit with less wiggle room and chance of shifting or damage.

I buy cardboard  from Uline both in 275 lb. test and 200 lb. test to create my boxes.
Test is the bursting and stacking strength of the cardboard.
I mostly use 200 lb test, it's a good general purpose weight for mosaics
 or canvas paintings, but occasionally will use 275 lb test for larger, heavier items.

If you don't want to buy cardboard, you can usually get large appliance boxes from your
local home improvement store. I did that many times before I decided to purchase cardboard.
For small items I will sometimes use recycled cardboard from online shipments
I've received as long as they are still in good shape and they are getting one more use instead of being recycled or thrown away.

The photos shown here are using appliance cardboard.

This is a 5ft mosaic surfboard 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.
Scroll down for the glue I use
I measure my item and add about 2" on all sides when calculating the
size of my box.

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. If you are using cardboard sheets from Uline or
elsewhere, it doesn't matter which side of the cardboard you make your score.
On this sheet of appliance 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 your
measurement lines so the cardboard will bend neatly.
I use a utility knife and yardstick to keep the line straight.

Cardboard can dull blades pretty quickly so a quick change blade
utility knife makes it easier and less frustrating.

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
Previously I used a regular hot glue gun like shown in previous photo and regular glue sticks 
but it wasn't ideal because the glue wouldn't set up right away and I was getting
inconsistent results. I searched online and contacted Surebonder and explained what I 
was looking for and they recommended the Surebonder DT-750 Glue gun along with the
I can tell you that the difference was remarkable since the glue sets up in seconds
which is so great when building boxes. Well worth getting the right gun and glue if you
plan on doing lots of shipping.

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.
You don't need to do that step if using the 275 lb test cardboard.

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 $13-16 depending on 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 where
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 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 then use glue and tape to secure the top of the box to the bottom of the box.

Even though I glue the top of the box to the bottom, I also apply tape on each side
for extra security. Depending on your box size, one or two strips per side is fine as long as 
you are using a good quality packing tape at least 3.0 mil thick. 
A tape gun is invaluable and makes it quick and easy, it's not fun 
fussing with cutting tape with scissors.

how to ship paintings
I don't have photos but I also used this same method to ship my canvas paintings.
First I would wrap my canvas using 24" wide 3/16th bubble wrap.

I don't have a link for the bubble wrap because I would usually just go with the best price 
I could find but the 24" width is a lifesaver when wrapping larger pieces. I found the 
small bubbles worked best for paintings or flat pieces.

I would cut a layer of foam for the bottom of the box I had created, add my bubble wrapped
painting, cut down more foam to line the edges of the sides of the box around my painting and add another piece of foam on top of the painting, then attach my box lid.
The painting is secure and the foam is lightweight so it doesn't add much to
the shipping weight.

how to ship artwork, 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 do get a small discount by
printing my own labels as well as with USPS. I'm sure UPS is probably the same.
I use these half sheet peel and stick shipping labels and if using Fedex
they provide free shipping label pouches if you want to use those.

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 USPS or a ship store for packing, you still need
a scale to accurately calculate shipping costs when listing your items on your website.

diy shipping, a scale is mandatory
I use a Weighmax digital scale I bought on Amazon. I've had this one about 7 years
and it works perfectly. You can buy them in different weight limits. Mine has a 75 lb
weight limit so just keep your items in mind that you'll be shipping and get a scale that
can accommodate the weight of your heaviest item.

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

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

how to ship art, mosaics, diy, lucy designs
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...

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 both Fedex and USPS depending on size and destination but 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.

Shipping doesn't have to be a source of stress! 
I actually enjoy being in charge of the art I've created throughout the entire transaction, 
including shipping, because I know no one is going to put as much care into packing my
 item as I will. I've actually had customers email me to tell me how much they appreciate 
the packing and care I've used in getting their art safely to them!

Thanks for reading!
Visit my new website 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 :)



I've moved to Lucydesignsart.com to focus on my mosaic art. I'm no longer creating dragonflies or mermaids.

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