How to Store Paintings and Keep Them in Great Shape

Jon Fesmire |

Whether you’re an artist or you collect art, you know how precious a painting can be. It may not have a high market value, but it can still be priceless to you. If you have a large collection of your own or other people’s paintings, you may need more room to store them.

We encourage you to look into self storage. This has several advantages.

First, self storage space rents for less than residential or commercial space, so instead of moving into a larger home or to a bigger studio just for the storage room, you can bring your paintings to your local storage facility to keep them safe.

Second, storage facilities are generally safe. While thefts happen, it’s not often. Look for a facility with the best security you can find.

Third, climate control can help protect your delicate paintings. These units rent for about 30% more than standard units, but inside, the facility keeps the temperature between 50 and 80 degrees and the humidity between 30% and 50%, great conditions for most of your belongings, including paintings.

Dust and Ready Your Paintings for Storage

Before you put your paintings in storage you’ll need to get them ready. Clean them gently with a microfiber cloth to remove dust. Don’t brush too hard, as you can damage the paint. The goal is to get the dust off the surface and off the frame.

Next, wipe a few drops of oil on metal parts of the frame to help prevent rust, and use a bit of wood polish to buff the wooden parts of the frame.

After that, you don’t want dust getting all over the paintings in storage, so you’ll want them covered. Start by putting cardboard corner protectors on the frames. You should be able to get these at your local art store or order them online. Then, place each painting in a breathable covering, preferably by wrapping it in a cotton sheet. After that, wrap it in brown paper and tape the final wrapping so it remains in place.

Avoid wrapping them in bubble or plastic wrap. This can cause condensation to gather against the frame or, worse, the painting, and cause mold to grow. While this is less likely to happen in a climate-controlled unit, you still don’t want to increase the possibility.

If you put the wrapped artwork in a box, fill the empty spaces with crumpled packing paper to keep the paintings from shifting when you move them.

Preparing Unframed Art

Do you have unframed, flat canvases? If careful, you can roll these up. Do so slowly and carefully with the paint part on the outside. This lowers the chance of the painting warping or cracking. Keep in mind that acrylic and latex paints are safer to roll, and more flexible, than oil paints.

Proper Painting Storage

When you get your art to storage, store each painting vertically. Do not stack them horizontally, as delicate pieces, and especially those lower in the stack, can break under the weight.

In fact, before you bring them to storage, consider working with the facility to install a painting case, or bringing a roll-in one yourself. These have many vertical slats and compartments of varying sizes for you to place your paintings in. There are many models, so look online for one that will be ideal for your work.

Rolled, unframed paintings can go in stacks on a shelf.

Storing Paints and Brushes

If you’re an artist there may be a time when you need to store materials. Let’s discuss brushes and paints.

While we discourage wrapping paintings in plastic, airtight plastic bins work well for these materials. Make sure the brushes are completely clean and dry before putting them in a bin, and wrap them together in packing paper. For the paints, make sure the lids are on tight. Different types of paint have different shelf lives, so research how long yours are likely to last before you store them.

Insurance

Whatever you do, you must get self storage insurance for your unit. We recommend making an inventory of the paintings there and what you think each is worth. The facility will offer you an insurance policy when you sign up. If it doesn’t cover the full amount, we suggest getting a policy elsewhere to supplement and get a copy of that policy to your facility.

Your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance probably doesn’t cover stuff put in storage, so search for insurance specific to self storage.

Know that as your collection grows, the facility should make it easy for you to move to a larger unit if needed. If you’re looking for a good facility near you, check our listings, which cover the U.S and Canada.