In this guide, find tips on how to store paintings like a pro, to keep your collection in perfect condition.
If you have a large, or small art collection and you need to store some paintings away for a while before you can hang them on the wall, there are some essential storage tips you need to know to protect the artwork to avoid damage.
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Choose the right environment
Light, temperature and climate can affect a painting. Some types of paintings are more susceptible to damage than others. For example cotton canvas can warp with temperature and humidity change.
It may be tricky, especially if you plan to store paintings at home, to completely regulate the climate in a room. Year round, there will be shifts in light, temperature and humidity that can’t be avoided. However, there are some qualities to look for when choosing your storage.
Think about the temperature and humidity of the storage space
Avoid storing paintings in a garage, attic or a basement where the temperature and humidity can fluctuate greatly and cause damage to your paintings. These sudden changes in climate can cause paint to crack, warp or mildew. It’s essential to store paintings in a room with low humidity.
You could consider turning a closet or a small room into an art storage room, depending on how much space you need.
If you don’t have another room in your house that is suitable, consider renting space from a storage facility that offers climate-controlled units.
Avoid direct sunlight
When storing paintings, avoid putting them in direct sunlight as UV can cause certain pigments to fade over time. If you don’t have another option but to store paintings near a window, use a curtain or blind to diffuse the light and protect your artwork.
Be sure to stack and wrap paintings properly
To avoid any scratches or damages while in storage, be sure to wrap each painting individually in acid-free paper. You can also buy specially made archival art boxes for storage that will protect your paintings even further.
However, you should avoid wrapping paintings in plastic. This can cause them to go mouldy if you accidentally trap moisture in.
Store paintings vertically
When storing multiple paintings, it is best to store them vertically. This will help to avoid any scratches or damages to the frames and paintings.
Optionally, get a canvas storage rack to keep the paintings separate and stored safely.
Use padding in between each painting
To further protect your paintings while in storage, you can wrap in acid-free paper and place an acid-free foam board between each painting. This will help to keep them from rubbing against each other and causing any damage.
Protect the corners
When storing canvases or panels, protecting the corners is an extra step you can take to cushion artwork against damage. Get some foam corner protectors, or cut your own out of acid-free foam.
Pack paintings in boxes or crates
Another option is to purchase mirror boxes or crates for storing paintings. These boxes are great because they provide an extra layer of protection. You can also get specially made archival artwork boxes for canvases. For prints and other paper works, consider getting sleeves to support and cover them.
How to store paintings on canvas: Storage racks
If you have a lot of paintings on canvas, one option is to get a storage rack. Canvas racks are great because they keep the paintings separated and stored safely. You can find these at most art supply stores or online.
How to store large artworks
Store large paintings in crates, or in a large format storage rack. When storing in a crate, pad the inside out with acid-free paper and optionally wrap the painting in acid-free paper like glassine paper. This way you will protect the painting but still give it space to breathe.
How to store paintings on paper
When storing paintings on paper, be sure to use an acid-free storage box or sleeve. This will help to protect the painting from damage and keep it looking its best.
Paper is more delicate and tears more easily than canvas and wooden panel, so you may need to get acid-free foam to reinforce your paper prints or originals for extra protection. However, most sleeves will keep your prints flat.
Varnished or sealed paintings will last longer
Oil and acrylic paintings should be varnished to protect the pigments in the paint from UV and other environmental damage. Watercolour, pastel paintings and charcoal drawings can be sprayed with sealant to fix and protect them. Charcoal and pastel drawings don’t fully set, therefore there is the possibility of them smudging or being damaged by small amounts of water. To prevent this from happening, either make sure they are sealed or put them in a sleeve for extra protection.
How to clean paintings before storing
Before storing paintings, make sure they are clean and free of dust and dirt. Instead of cleaning with a cloth, get an extra soft brush, like a goat hair brush and gently brush away dust. Rubbing a painting’s surface with a cloth, could scratch dirt across the surface. When handling paintings, wear cotton gloves, as oils on your hands could damage the painting surface.
Inspect your paintings regularly
Even if you follow all of these tips on how to store paintings, it’s still important to inspect them regularly for any signs of damage. Check for cracks in the paint, warping or buckling of the canvas and look for any changes in color. If you notice any damage, take steps to correct the environment where the painting is being stored.
Get insurance for your paintings
You can always get insurance for your paintings. Be sure to document each painting with photos and keep a list of their titles and the name of the artist. This will come in handy if you ever need to make a claim.
Take photos of the condition of the painting before you store it, especially if you are paying for a storage facility. Make sure to keep any documents that came with your painting, such as the certificate of authenticity organised.
Storing paintings can be a tricky business, but following these tips will help to ensure that your artwork stays in perfect condition for years to come. If you’re an avid art collector, you might be interested in our guides on how to start an art collection, how to buy prints online and our inexpensive wall art ideas. When you’re ready to hang your artwork, you’ll need to choose a painting frame to suit your artwork, check out our guide to learn how!
Do you have any other tips on how to store paintings? Let us know in the comments below!
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