The Right Box for Your Art

At FinerWorks, we have two decades of experience in shipping people artwork in the form of prints. During that time we have learned a thing or two about shipping and are still learning. Some of our first non-stock boxes consisted of boxes we could piece together with cardboard, tape, and glue. The crude at best boxes was efficient but left a lot to be desired. In the years that followed we learned how important a box is to a customer’s perception of the print itself. As a result, we invested a lot of time and effort to learn how to properly make boxes from sheets of corrugation. These boxes looked considerably better than some of our early boxes and were able to withstand the stress of shipping much better. Today, those have been replaced with digital box-making equipment providing substantial protection to the print products they contain while shipping.

So much more artwork is shipped today than before. And we learned early on using the right box to protect an art print as well as elevate its value is incredibly important. Most of our customers do not bother to ship themselves and have their orders drop shipped through us. But occasionally a customer will want to ship their prints themselves. If so, they will have needed to develop some sort of shipping strategy.

Shipping rates have sharply increased as well as the materials involved in packaging. But it is a cost that may be a factor in how you ship your prints and your overall shipping strategy. And if you are not yet shipping prints on your own but are thinking of doing so, here is some advice to help guide you.

Protect the Artwork

The primary purpose of any shipping container is to contain and protect the product inside. With artwork such as prints that are flat, there may be challenges with standard protective measures such as styrofoam peanuts or bubble wrap. While these measures can be included, the artwork, whether it be a framed print or unframed, must remain stationary in the center as much as possible. Sometimes this means creating inserts to help suspend the artwork away from the sides. Shipping carriers like UPS and FedEx can insure your artwork for loss and damage however you will want to keep in mind that damage shipment claims may only be covered if certain criteria are met. One, the box has to be made of a suitable material designed to handle shipping. Usually, this means  200lb corrugation like used with a typical brown or white cardboard box. And second, there need to be at least 2 inches of space or padding around the artwork. There are some exceptions to this rule but it is one that we recommend following when possible.

Make Shipping Affordable

Not only will the box need to protect the artwork but it must also be affordable. Boxes too large and bulky can mean greater shipping costs since shipping carriers price shipping which is greatly dependent on this factor. So finding the right size that will both protect the artwork and not break the bank is a not-so-easy balancing act. One way to plan beforehand is to go to any of the major carrier’s websites and go through the process of creating a shipping label. It will ask you the dimensions of the box and weight as well as the destination. You will need to come up with an approximate weight but then experiment with differing dimensions (width, height, and length) to see how this affects the price. You may find that a box with the 2-inch buffer zone discussed above makes this more difficult. Decide if this 2-inch area is worth it. What I mean is if the occasional loss from damage is less expensive to your bottom line than the additional shipping costs associated with the larger package, it might make sense to use a smaller box. Many companies do this willing to write off the damaged shipment knowing to save more money in shipping costs.

Presentation

Customer perception is a big part of any business’s success. This is why large companies invest millions in the design and manufacture of their packaging. How an item is packaged, how it appears, and the condition it arrives in. Customers will also rate and perceive the quality of the item based on this. A simple example pertaining to art prints is we have noticed customers are less likely to be happy and even complain about the quality of a print if they opt to have their prints shipped in a shipping tube versus in a flat mailer.  Also, the condition in the box arrives will play a role. Many people will subconsciously associate the quality of the print as lower if a box arrives mangled and torn. This is where an inner box might be appropriate. We have clients that realize this and will have us utilize branded boxes that contain the artwork. This will then be placed in a larger box. The larger box will always arrive dirty and in poorer condition than it originally shipped but the inner box remains pristine. The recipient will be much less likely to associate the quality of the product based on the condition in which the item arrived. If selling on 3rd-party marketplaces like Etsy or Amazon, this can mean the difference between a 1-star and a 5-star review.

Ultimately all of these will affect your shipping cost for better or worse. You will need to make decisions as to what is best for your company. And if you are using a drop shipping service like FinerWorks, is the packaging they are utilizing sufficient? Maybe they meet all the criteria discussed above or maybe they make exceptions for good reason. If not sure, ask them why and uses that knowledge to develop your own shipping strategy.

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