How to pack pictures for movingThe framed art pieces must be one of the reasons why you love your home so much. Precious framed pictures around your house or apartment tell all kinds of stories and bring back dear memories of special occasions from the past. Valuable framed paintings on the walls show your impeccable artistic taste, your masterful skills as an artist, or both.

While it’s true that framed artwork can turn an ordinary residence into a special place, it’s also true that packing picture frames for moving will not be the easiest task in your packing and moving calendar. The reason? Framed artwork is fragile.

Regrettably, various types of problems may ruin your mood when you start unpacking your framed art pieces in the new home: cracked or broken picture frames, shattered glass elements, damaged pictures, torn photos, ripped canvases, and so on.

Read on to learn how to pack pictures when moving from one home to another, and specifically – how to pack framed pictures, canvas paintings and other framed art you have in your home.

What packing materials will you need to pack your pictures and paintings?

One thing is clear: you don’t want to find any of your framed photos and paintings ruined upon arriving in the new home. Sure, the way you pack your framed art pieces is fundamental for the success of that particular packing task, but you should also keep in mind that you can’t do it right without proper packing materials.

Looking for a good way to pack your picture frames on your own will mean that you must have decided against hiring professional packers to protect your items. Nevertheless, the great thing about hiring a full-service mover is that the packers will arrive in your home not only with high-quality packing supplies, including specialized picture boxes, but also with the skills to complete the delicate task quickly and safely.

Here are the packing materials you’ll need to protect your framed art during the actual move:

  • Cardboard boxes of the right size. Or better yet – specialized picture moving boxes (see below for more details);
  • Clean pieces of cardboard. These cardboard pieces will be used to protect the fragile glass sections of your framed photos and paintings. The good news? They should be easy to find with all the packing boxes in the house.
  • Packing paper. You’re going to need plenty of soft packing paper to make sure your easily breakable art pieces stay intact throughout the house move.
  • Bubble wrap. The secret to wrapping pictures and paintings for moving is the ample usage of bubble wrap. Do not make the mistake of skimping on the best protective material when packing up your home, especially when it comes to packing fragile items for a move.
  • Packing boxes for large pictures

    Flatten out some cardboard boxes to make good picture boxes.

    Painter’s tape. Get a couple of rolls of painter’s masking tape simply because it can be removed cleanly and easily from the glass surface of your framed photos and paintings without leaving any adhesive residue. Why exactly do you need masking tape? Read on to find out.

  • Packing tape. Of course, you’ll also need regular packing tape when packing and moving picture frames and paintings. Make sure you purchase enough rolls of high-quality tape as you’ll soon be taping, securing and sealing too many boxes as well.
  • A permanent marker. Finally, get a hold of a permanent marker so that you can label properly the boxes and the bundles after you’ve packed them with your valuable photos and paintings.

Do you really need picture boxes?

Before we show you the detailed steps to packing pictures and paintings for a move, let’s say a few words about the specialized moving boxes for paintings and pictures known as picture moving boxes or just picture boxes (sometimes referred to as mirror boxes as well).

Picture boxes offer a number of advantages over ordinary cardboard boxes:

  • Picture boxes are made of stronger and thicker cardboard, and that fact alone will provide a better protection for your art pieces.
  • Picture packing boxes are made up of four individual cardboard pieces that fit together to create an adjustable hard protection for the picture frames and the painting frames. This way, you won’t have to worry whether your framed photos and paintings will fit in the boxes or not.

As you can imagine, those boxes for moving framed pictures and paintings cost more than plain cardboard boxes. A standard Mirror & Picture Box (37’’ x 4’’ x 27‘’) costs around $5, while a larger Mirror & Picture Box (49’’ x 5’’ x 33’’) will be approximately $7. So, here’s a piece of advice that will help you save money: use specialized picture boxes ONLY for really valuable and expensive framed pictures and paintings.

Where to buy picture boxes for moving? You can order such framed art shipping boxes online, at truck rental agencies (UHAUL, for example), office supply stores and home improvement stores. Don’t worry if you don’t have any specialized artwork boxes – simply use the following steps to creating DIY cardboard picture boxes from ordinary moving boxes.

How to pack quickly for a move

How to pack pictures and paintings for a move: Step-by-step

Now that you have the necessary materials to pack your pictures and paintings, it’s time for the actual step-by-step packing process. Interestingly enough, your framed photos and paintings can be one of the first things to pack when moving house simply because you can do without your fragile framed artwork until after the move is over.

Here’s the best way to pack pictures for moving:

Step 1. Gather all pictures and paintings for packing

Packing pictures for a move

It’s good to know what you’re up against before packing up your framed pictures for the upcoming move.

Go around your home and take down all photos and paintings that are hung on the walls. Be careful not to drop any framed items as you’re removing them from their spots.

Also, gather all framed pictures and smaller paintings that are on display on various nightstands, desks, tables, dressers, and other pieces of furniture around the home.

Take all of the fragile items to the room you’ve selected as your packing station.

Step 2. Set up a packing station

Designate one room as the place where you’ll complete the packing task, and then look for a large table where you’ll feel comfortable enough packing your pictures and paintings.

Clear out that table and then cover its surface with a thick (moving) blanket to be the soft protective layer you’ll need during the actual wrapping process.

Remember that picture frames can be rather fragile and may not survive the house move intact unless you add some extra protective measures.

Step 3. Get the stack of packing paper ready

Position the stack of soft packing paper in the middle of the already padded table.

If a frame happens to be larger than the size of the packing paper, then place several sheets of paper so that they overlap, creating a paper area that’s sufficiently larger than the size of the picture frame, or the painting frame.

Step 4. Secure the glass pieces of the frames

Some picture frames will have pieces of glass on the front, while some of them will have thin plastic sheets that will protect the photo or the painting from dust, moisture and so on. One of the key steps of packing pictures for shipping is to make sure those extra fragile frame elements stay perfectly safe during the haul.

The glass protection task consists of two separate steps:

  • Make an X. Use the painter’s tape and make a big X on the glass or plastic face of the framed picture or painting – diagonally, from corner to corner. The tape should prevent any glass pieces from damaging the photo paper or canvas in case the glass did break or crack during the move.
  • Use cardboard. For extra security, place a piece of cardboard over the breakable glass front, then use tiny pieces of masking tape to fix it in place. The size of the cardboard piece should be roughly the size of the frame.

Step 5. Wrap the picture frame

Position the framed picture or painting in the middle of the paper stack with its glass side facing down, and then cover it in two sheets of paper the same way you would wrap a birthday present. Finally, use pieces of packing paper to secure the edges of the newly-formed paper bundle.

Make sure you don’t leave any unprotected areas of the frame. If the painting is too big, use as many sheets of packing paper as necessary.

Step 6. Remember: safety comes first

Pack pictures and paintings in bubble wrap

Bubble wrap is indispensable when packing valuable and expensive pictures and paintings.

When packing pictures for a move, you shouldn’t worry too much about how nice the paper bundles look in the end. The sole purpose of packing your framed pictures and paintings is to keep them safe until you reach the new home, so safety has a higher priority here than appearance.

Using packing paper and tape, make sure the bundles get as tight as they can be and the frame is not shifting inside, not even an inch.

Step 7. Add bubble wrap for valuable framed artwork

When packing pictures and paintings that you value a lot, or ones that cost too much, then you must add an extra outer layer of bubble wrap to keep your valuables safe.

Simply cover the paper-wrapped frames with one extra layer of bubble wrap, then use packing tape once more to secure the new bundle. It’s better to be safe than sorry, right?

IMPORTANT: Bubble wrap should never get in direct contact with a picture or a painting because it can ruin that artwork. Use bubble wrap only when the picture or painting is protected by glass covers.

The best packing tips for moving

Step 8. Prepare the picture boxes

If you’re using picture boxes to move your large pictures and paintings, then boxing the protected artwork pieces is pretty straightforward. All you need to do is position two box sections and slide them into one another to create a custom-sized closely-fitting box. Place some bubble wrap into their joined corners for extra protection and support.

Do the same thing with the other two box sections until you’re left with two cardboard halves that will be interconnected and snugly fitted around the big photo frame or the large painting frame.

Step 9. Make picture boxes out of regular boxes

If you don’t have any specialized picture frame packs, you can try and create makeshift picture boxes. To do this, you’ll need to flatten out two standard cardboard boxes.

Take the first flat box and use plenty of packing tape to seal one of its two open ends. Then, do the same with the other cardboard box, thus creating the second cardboard sleeve that will be fitted around the large picture frame. The main idea is to interconnect and then telescope the two pieces into one another.

Don’t forget to introduce sufficient padding into each box corner – use crumpled paper or a few sheets of bubble wrap.

IMPORTANT: Original picture boxes or DIY ones work best when packing large frames of pictures or paintings. When packing small framed photos and paintings that are not too valuable in any way, then it’s best to transfer them into medium-sized moving boxes after you’ve wrapped them carefully in packing paper and even in bubble wrap.

Step 10. Transfer the packed frames into the boxes

Here’s how to transfer the already packed frames into their cardboard containers:

What's the best way to move picture frames?

Thanks to our solid packing tips, your framed pictures and paintings have survived the house move.

Small pictures and paintings

Transfer the already protected small frames into medium-sized boxes and arrange them vertically on their ends, NOT flat. This packing method is used to avoid excessive pressure on the framed pieces that remain on the bottom.

Large pictures and paintings

  • Cushion with paper or bubble wrap the bottom and edges of one of the two sections of the picture box, then place a large framed piece into it.
  • Press down gently. If there’s enough room, you can pack more than one picture or painting, just make sure there’s a good level of protection between them.
  • Then, place the second section of the picture box over the frame, adjust the size and then press down until the two halves meet and interlock.
  • Finally, use packing tape to secure the two segments of the picture box.

Step 11. Label the picture boxes

Use a black marker pen to label your boxes once you seal them shut using plenty of packing tape. Mark the content, destination room (if applicable), and of course – write down FRAGILE and HANDLE WITH CARE in big letters.

How to label moving boxes like a pro

Step 12. Use the gained knowledge to pack mirrors for moving too

It’s important to note down that the above steps for packing picture frames can also be used to pack mirrors for moving. Just use more bubble wrap than you would normally do.

When packing your pictures and paintings for a move, it’s fundamental that you recognize your limits as a self-packer. If you do happen to own really expensive framed art, then don’t take any unnecessary risks – hire a full-service mover and have the smooth relocation you’ve wanted ever since you knew you were going moving house soon.

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