Rolling Fine Art Prints for Shipping (Podcast 425)

Rolling the Print

09 Jun Rolling Fine Art Prints for Shipping (Podcast 425)

I’m often asked how I package fine art prints for shipping to customers, so I’ve prepared a short video showing the process, and we’re going to expand on that a little today in today’s Podcast. I’m also going to be giving away the print that you’ll see in the video, so look out for details on that at the end of the episode!

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Whether you sell your own prints, or simply want to send something to a friend or relative, every so often, we have to put one of our prized photographs into the postal system. Having shipped hundreds of prints to all corners of the globe, I’ve come up with a pretty good system for rolling and packaging my fine art prints, which I’m going to share with you today.

The video (below) is pretty much self explanatory, but I’m going to walk you through in more detail as well, to ensure that everything is clear. Here to start with is a photograph of the tubes that I use. I buy these from a shop in Tokyo called Sekaido, but this won’t of course be of much use to the majority of you that don’t live in Japan. The thing to note when you try to source a shipping tube, is to ensure that they are sturdy enough to not be crushed in transit. I had a few issues when I first started shipping prints, but since finding these particular tubes, I’ve not had an issue.

Shipping Tubes

Shipping Tubes

The tubes I use are 70mm in diameter, and they need to be pretty wide, so that you don’t have to roll the print too tightly. This is highly recommended if you are using heavy fine art paper, that can kink when you roll it if you try to get it too narrow. The smallest you’ll want to go it probably a 2 inch diameter tube like the one’s I see on Amazon, but ideally, a little wider is better. 70mm is two and three quarters of an inch.

The short tube here is the one you’ll see in the video. This is 505 mm, the medium one is 655 mm and the tall tube is 1,020 mm. That makes them 19.88, 25.78 and 40.15 inches respectively. The plastic caps on each end of the tube actually extend into the tube by about 10mm each end, which is about just over 3/4 of an inch in total, so the short tube is perfect for 13 x 19 inch prints, the medium tube is good for 24 inch wide prints, and the longest tubes is good for longer prints up to 39 inches. I can’t print wider than 24 inches with my printer, but sometimes I like to roll the print lengthways, as this is better for really wide prints because you don’t want to be rolling them too tight.

I always wear cotton gloves when handing prints, to stop any oil in my hands from getting on them and generally help to prevent me from marking them. It’s important to note too that if you brush the face of a matte print you can easily mark it, even with gloves on, so you basically treat that as a no-touch area.

Before I roll the print, I place a piece of facing paper over the printed area, to protect it. For this I actually use Canon Coated Paper that is available in 24 inch rolls for my printer so it is large enough to use for any print size that I can create at home. For 13 x 19″ prints I actually use sheet A3 paper which is large enough to cover the printed area.

I roll the print with the printed area facing upwards. This not only protects the printed area better, it also rolls the paper the opposite way to it’s natural roll, so it essentially de-curls the paper after being given time to lay flat when opened at the customer end. If the print needs to be de-curled again, I generally suggest people roll it around the tube using the facing paper to protect the face of the print again. These instructions are included in the Certificate of Authenticity that I also include with the print. I also include an Archival Quality Certificate from Breathing Color when I’m shipping an archival certified print such as Pura Smooth, which you’ll see in the video.

Once I have the print rolled, I wrap a piece of paper around with the words “Tear this paper away to unroll your print” printed on it. I actually print this along the entire page on A4, so that the customer doesn’t have to turn the rolled print around to see what they need to do. I also print the MBP Logo alternatively with the line of text, which is partly just marketing, but also to ensure that the paper catches the customers eye.

I actually apply two pieces of tape to this sheet of paper before I roll the print, so that I can just feed it in as you see in the video. Trying to roll this around and tape it without doing this can cause you to lose your grip on the rolled print, and it starts to open up and sometimes needs to be rolled again, and I like to avoid that.

You have to roll the print smaller than the tube of course, and if you are wondering why I even bother to apply the last piece of paper to the outside of the rolled print, it’s to stop it from opening up inside the tube. If you simply roll and insert the print into the tube then let it unroll to fill the tube it becomes very difficult to get out. You essentially force the customer to pinch at the end of the print in the tube, possibly creasing the edges, and then they have to tug it out of the tube. With the paper stopping it from unrolling, the print can be easily slid out once a tube end cap is removed.

Some prints fit perfectly into the tubes, and some have a little play. If there is much play between the ends of the print and the tube caps I make a little padded bung by rolling strips of bubble wrap and then taping them to hold it all together, and place one of these at one or both ends of the tube. A few millimeters of play is fine, but if the print can travel far inside the tube it will bang against the plastic cap potentially damaging it, so I like to prevent this.

Bubble Wrap Bung

Bubble Wrap Bung

I tape the ends caps on to the tube, applying a good amount of tape around one end, and slightly less on the other. I use really heavy duty packing tape now, so it’s really strong, meaning I can get away with less, and this makes it easier for the customer to cut the tape away to remove the cap and get to their print.

I find that little details like folding the tape back a little to form a tab so that the customer can get to their print more easily all help to improve the overall user experience. It’s like applying the sheet of paper to stop the print from unrolling in the tube. It’s all very well just rolling and feeding the print into the tube, but you have to consider how easy it will be for the customer to then get the print out. I like to try and think my processes through to the very end as much as I can, so that I create as best possible an experience for my customers.

Anyway, here’s the video. It’s only about 6 minutes long, but probably worth a watch to really understand what I’m trying to relay here.

Seljalandsfoss (Falls)

Seljalandsfoss (Falls)

Enter our Giveaway!

Let’s have some fun with the print that I made to shoot this video. I have set up a newsletter subscription list, that you can subscribe to with the button below. On June 23, 2014 I will randomly pick one person from the list, and mail the list to let everyone know that we have a winner. By subscribing, you agree that I can use your name in the announcement, but of course your email will never be disclosed, and that goes for anyone that signs up of course. I’ll also then email the winner for a shipping address, and get the print out to you as soon after the 23rd as possible.

Note that once we have a winner, your email address will then be merged into the MBP General Information Newsletter list, so you will continue to receive the occasional newsletter from us after that date. We hope that you’ll find any information we sending interesting and useful, but if you decide to, you can unsubscribe at any time with the links that you’ll find in every newsletter.

Good luck!

NOTE: The subscription link has been removed, because this particular giveaway has now finished. If you’d like to enter our current giveaway, please check the Fine Art Print Giveaway page.


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7 Comments
  • Stew
    Posted at 01:13h, 21 June Reply

    Thanks Martin, I’ll give it a go.

  • Stew
    Posted at 04:47h, 18 June Reply

    Great post Martin. Thank you. I have a question regarding paper thickness. I’ve been printing on hahnemuhle papers that range from 290-325 gsm. Is it safe to roll papers of this thickness? I worry about damaging the paper especially the printed side.
    Thanks
    Stew

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:52h, 18 June Reply

      Hi Stew,

      Thanks for watching!

      This is exactly the weight of the paper you saw me roll in the video. The facing paper, as long as it’s smooth, is enough to protect the printed size of the print. If you don’t use that, for sure, the print will be marked. As long as you have a nice smooth facing paper though, it should be fine.

      Cheers,
      Martin.

      • Stew
        Posted at 22:31h, 18 June Reply

        Thank you Martin, for so freely sharing your knowledge. We do appreciate what you do. I hope you don’t mind but I have a follow up question. What is the largest size that you will ship flat. I own a Canan 9500 so print size is limited to 19×13.

        Thanks again,
        Stew

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 23:06h, 18 June Reply

      Hi Stew,

      I actually only ship 8.5 x 11 prints flat. Everything else gets rolled. I’ve been considering developing some boxes to ship my own 20×30″ gallery wraps, but I’m not sure it’s worth the hassle at this point. I have started to use Art Storefronts for larger prints (there’s a link under the Shop menu). They’re not “original” but the quality is there.

      Cheers,
      Martin.

      • Stew
        Posted at 23:13h, 18 June Reply

        Thanks very much Martin
        I have a 19×13 print that I will be shipping in a few weeks. In the meantime,I think ill mail a rolled 19×13 to myself as a test to see what the process feels like and then improve on the real deal.

        Thanks for your help
        Stew

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 00:19h, 19 June Reply

      The important thing is finding a sturdy tube. As long as you nail that, and use a nice smooth facing paper, the way I show in this video is solid. Let me know how you get on though.

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