How to Store Paintings and Protect Your Hard Work

how to store paintings

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When you spend days or weeks on your work, the last thing you want is to see that hard work fade away. Learning how to store paintings will keep this issue from ruining your day.

My years of painting taught me first-hand the importance of proper storage. I was fortunate to mentor under a fine art professor in high school where I learned the art of varnishing, packing, and storing.

Don’t ruin your paintings by accident. I’ll share my storage experience below so your artwork can stand the test of time for your future enjoyment.

Use High-Quality Materials

use high quality materials

Before we dive into how to store paintings, I can’t stress enough the need for high-quality materials.

Acid-free paper is one of your best friends – this handy detail can keep your work from yellowing and fading for a thousand years.

A soft microfiber cloth or soft duster is gentle on paintings without leaving scratches.

Artist-grade paints are also more durable than student grade thanks to having more pigment. Your acrylic or oil paintings will look vibrant much longer.

General Guidelines on How to Store Your Paintings

Whether you prefer acrylic paintings or stick strictly to oil paintings, I have some general guidelines.

how to store your paintings


Use a Portfolio for Small, Flat Paintings

Physical portfolios come with many useful additions for storing paintings safely.

For example, some portfolios have features such as lightfastness and colorfastness, both elements that protect your painting from fading. Both of these are a must-have when storing paintings near UV rays.

When learning how to store paintings, use waterproof sheets. The last thing you need is a coffee spill destroying weeks of hard work.

Last, but not least, acid-free binder sleeves protect paintings against fading. When combined with acid-free paper, your work will hold up well. The Dunwell Large Art Portfolio is one resource you can try.

A physical portfolio won’t be useful for storing canvas paintings, so let’s look at wrapping and mirror boxes.

Try Classic Bubble Wrap and Corrugated Cardboard for Canvas

try classic bubble wrap and corrugated cardboard for canvas

When you need to store canvas paintings and protect them from denting or breaking, it’s time for the classics. Bubble wrap and acid-free cardboard are widely used resources for paintings.

My biggest tip when choosing a wrap for canvas paintings is to go for high-quality options. Used or cheap materials are more likely to pop when mishandled. I recommend looking up a packing and shipping company and seeing if they sell packing materials.

Quick tip: put a sheet of paper on the front of your canvas, then wrap it up. Over time, bubble wrap can press into your canvas paintings and leave small indents.

Corrugated cardboard is a particularly strong option that protects your canvas paintings.

Mirror boxes – designed to keep glass from breaking – will protect a painting. A mirror box can even protect painting edges.

Set Up a Painting Rack for Quick Studies, Sketches, and Drafts

set up painting rack for quick studies, sketches and drafts

Do you create a large volume of artwork for a project or art blog? A painting rack is a handy place to hang up your studies and rough drafts.

This is a casual way to store paintings since you can just grab a big clothespin and pin up your artwork.

Storing paintings comes with paying attention to the finer details. Try to place your rack somewhere with low humidity – this will keep your art collection from wrinkling. You can buy mini digital thermometers to track your humidity levels.

However, if you want to store paintings you plan on selling or displaying, this option won’t be helpful. Canvas paintings are also difficult to hang up, but the next option will help you out.

Invest in a Professional Storage Service to Save You Time

invest in a professional storage service to save you time

Learning how to store paintings also means learning when to ask for help. When you’re low on time or low on storage space, professional services will give you both benefits.

Professional storage solutions for art operate similarly to any other storage service – you’ll have professionals guarding your canvas paintings with benefits like:

  • Reduced light exposure to prevent fading
  • Consistently maintained temperature
  • Security features to prevent theft
  • High-quality materials like acid-free boards and concrete floors

However, the safety of your canvas paintings comes with a fee. If you want to develop an art business, a storage unit could be useful.

5 Bonus Tips for Properly Storing Your Paintings

tips for properly storing your paintings

I have a few more tips that will help you learn how to store paintings effectively.

Once you’re done, check out some online art classes to take your canvas paintings to the next level.

Different Painting Mediums Have Different Needs

When you store canvas paintings, you need to remember that painting mediums have unique needs. You wouldn’t store oil paintings the same way you would store watercolor pieces.

For example, acrylic paintings don’t yellow as fast as an oil painting. This wiggle room could mean skipping professional storage solutions.

If you do a lot of watercolor artwork, you could also learn how to store paintings with thin paper sheets.

Start Using Varnish to Extend Your Paintings’ Lifespan

Never underestimate the power of a well-placed coat of varnish when you store canvas paintings. This essential tool will protect your paper and canvas paintings from dirt and direct sunlight.

Different types of varnish will also add a new look to your acrylic or oil paintings. Glossy varnish brings out color but increases glare. Matte leaves a slightly dull finish but has no glare at all. You can even try satin varnish – I loved using the Krylon Gallery Series in college.

Do you paint with acrylic? Here’s a quick tip: add an isolation coat to your acrylic painting before varnishing. Not only will your varnish apply more smoothly, but you can also protect your work if you need to reapply varnish.

Always Separate Works With a Sheet if Stacking Them

If you can’t access professional storage solutions and need to stack your paintings, keep them separated with sheets of paper. Placing thin sheets of paper in between each painting prevents them from sticking to each other.

These protective sheets also reduce the risk of many paintings rubbing off on each other.

Only Roll Up Paintings That Are Experimental or Casual In Nature

Sometimes the best way to store paintings is to roll them up. I only recommend using this method for works that are experimental or casual.

Basically, roll up quick oil paintings or playful portraits instead of your next gallery masterpiece. When you roll paintings, you increase the risk of cracking or tearing the surface.

Wash Your Hands or Put on Gloves When Handling Paintings

put on gloves when handling paintings

Last but not least, storing paintings should always be done with clean hands. Either wash your hands or wear cotton gloves.

When handling your framed paintings, you may accidentally leave bits of oil or dirt. Canvas paintings are even trickier since the teeth of canvas can trap any unwanted particles.

If you’ve accidentally smudged your oil paintings, check out our guide on how to clean your oil paintings so you can salvage your artwork.

Storing Your Paintings Effectively Will Protect Your Art for Decades

When you learn how to store paintings, you give yourself the ability to breathe easily.

Choosing high-quality materials like acid-free paper and mirror boxes will do wonders to protect your canvas paintings from damage. You can also use a professional storage unit to guard paintings with long-term storage options.

Want to keep building your professional skillset? Read our guide on how to sign a painting both creatively and professionally.

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