How to Ship Mosaics and 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. Yay!

After 500 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.

Before my online Etsy shop, I sold my pieces locally in
small art galleries, antique shops, restaurants and through private
commissions so shipping wasn't something I had to worry about.

Utilizing a professional pack and ship service is great but I'm stubborn
... or have control issues ha! I prefer to be responsible for what I've created
throughout the entire transaction.

I'm also cost conscious so I try to keep costs down
while keeping the packaging neat, sturdy and professional looking.

You can order art boxes from places like Uline and still pack and ship yourself
but unfortunately my pieces don't fit into premade boxes so I "build" a custom
box for my pieces and I'll show you how I do it.

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.

I start with large, clean appliance boxes I get from my local home improvement store. 
I call early in the morning while they are loading deliveries
for the day and they'll save boxes for me.
I swing by and pick up a big stack of them that will last awhile.

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.
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 bubble wrap and/or foam 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.

* 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. 
I order blades in bulk on Amazon or Ebay. 
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 generously sent me the glue gun and samples of the 601 glue sticks
to try. I can tell you I am sold. This glue is amazing for quick set times
on cardboard.  Surebonder did not ask for or expect a review
from me but if a girl can get excited about glue for packing boxes,
this is the 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.

Then 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.

* 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.

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.

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)
 gives 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 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. 

direct from artist shipping diy
I also use bright red "handle with care stickers" on my boxes for fragile items.
I don't know if it makes a difference but makes me and probably my customer feel better.
You can order them by the roll on Amazon or any shipping supply company.

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.

white angel wings
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 of 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.

diy shipping, recycled foam
In this photo, to pad my angel wings I used more styrofoam, that I saved from
something I ordered, along with leftover pieces of the blue insulation 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 this 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 shown above.

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 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
that were the fault of the shipping company, not the packing method, 
so that is a pretty good success rate I think.

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


  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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