Busted. Acrylic paintings are easy to ship – as long as you follow a few steps. Here’s how to ship your work safely.
Make sure it’s dry
First, the basics. Shipping a wet painting is never a good idea. Be sure to let your work dry completely before packaging it up. Don’t worry – this isn’t a lengthy oil paint-type situation. Acrylic dries quickly by comparison. It’s one of the best things about acrylics, and why early pop artists were drawn to the medium. So, how long do acrylic paints actually take to dry? It depends on the thickness of application and your climate. Acrylics form a set ‘film’ as they dry. In regular temperatures, with a thin application, this film can be set and dry in 10-12 minutes. If you’re going in deep with impasto or 3D effects, or have a humid or hot studio, this drying time will be much longer. Now, for a bit of a chemistry lesson.
Acrylics are made of pigment, water and clear acrylic polymer particles. Once out of the pot or tube, the water evaporates (or is absorbed into your painting support). That’s when the polymer particles come into direct contact and organize themselves into a stable structure, trapping the pigment in place. The result? A paint film which is stable, water-resistant, permanent and vibrant. That’s the beauty of acrylics – this film is incredibly durable. It’s not organic and crumbly. It’s an acrylic surface. Remember, the thicker the layer of paint, the more water there is to evaporate. The hotter it is in the studio, the faster the water evaporates, so you’ll find your work dries much quicker. You can learn more about the science behind acrylic paint and how it's made here.
Give it a final varnish
Varnishing your work is optional, but it will add an extra layer of protection (and also dial up color vibrancy). Wait until its completely dry and apply a final seal of clear acrylic varnish – you can find more information in our varnishing guide.
How to pack it up
Once paint and varnish are dry, think about how and where you’re shipping to. Be aware of something called acrylic glass transition. This happens when the paint gets too hot or cold. When cold (44°f), the set acrylic film can become brittle like glass and is in danger of cracking if disturbed. If too hot (+70°f), the film surface can get tacky and stick to anything that touches it. You can counteract this by being smart when wrapping and boxing shipping acrylic painting. Don’t roll, fold or stack work. You don’t want surfaces touching or flexing when it may be more brittle or sticky. And don’t wrap with fabric, card or bubble wrap - you don’t want them sticking to the surface if temperatures fluctuate.
For smaller pieces, first wrap in a non-stick paper. Baking parchment or a home wrap like Tyvek are good. Make sure you have the plain, non-printed side towards the painting to avoid any ink transfer. Then use bubble wrap and some card before putting in the box. You want to ensure the canvas isn’t pressed or flexed so card can be useful.
For larger paintings make a ‘sandwich’ to stop the art from moving in transit. Start with a box a little bigger than the painting. Cut a piece of thin plywood/thick cardboard to fit in the base to reinforce it. Glue some taller bits of wood to the base at the corners/sides to hold the painting away from the walls and support the top of the sandwich. Add some Velcro dots on the back corners of the canvas and stick it to the base so it doesn’t move. Put another piece of ply/card on top – with an air gap - and then pack the box out with bubble wrap/scrunched paper so the sandwich is secure.
You’re good to go!