Perhaps you’re an art collector, or just someone with a few valuable paintings you want to protect during a life transition such as moving homes or a death in the family. Or maybe you’re making a living as an artist, where there’s plenty of incentive to sell each and every piece. We’ve all got bills to pay, but what happens when you make it big in the art scene and the demand for your originals skyrockets? It might pay in the long run to hold on to a few works— sort of an investment in your own art. With these needs in mind, we’ll go over a few helpful hints for putting artwork in storage.

Staying cool and collected
When it comes to storing artwork, there are no more crucial factors than temperature or humidity. Cracks and warping are just two of the dangers presented by fluctuating climate, so talk to your self-storage manager about climate control options. Many facilities provide dehumidifiers for their climate-controlled units. To ensure the safety and longevity of your artwork, maintain a level of 40-50% humidity and a temperature range of 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re comfortable, your stored items will be as well.

Wrapping it up
Choose which of your works you plan to store, and prep them accordingly. Keep in mind that fresh paintings take varying amounts of time for the curing process (basically, the evaporation of a solvent in the paint making it soft and spreadable), depending upon the type of paint used. While oils can take between 6-12 months to fully cure, latex-based paints may cure within days or weeks. It is recommended that you wait until paintings have fully cured to protect against scratches and stains.

Wrap your paintings in material that protects from dust, scratching and bugs while allowing air to circulate. Tissue paper, breathable sheets or blankets, and foam are all viable options for protecting your artwork in storage. Avoid plastic wrap and bubble wrap, as these materials will block air circulation and trap condensation, leading to water damage. Canvas paintings should be supported with a backing board of either wood or sturdy cardboard.

Transporting art can be one of the most dangerous procedures, and should be approached carefully. That doesn’t mean you need to delve into your pocketbook to afford safe transport methods, although if you can afford it, there are plenty of online vendors who sell tools and materials specifically designed for this purpose. For a more DIY approach, check out these cool solutions to packaging and transporting your artwork.

Canvas paintings are usually attached to a wooden frame called a “stretcher” or “strainer,” designed to easily expand and stretch the painting with expandable corner joints. Stretch your canvases to be taut (a process called “keying out” your painting) during warmer, more humid months when wood has expanded to compensate for contracting in colder months (avoid keying out during the winter, because there is danger that the frame will later expand and tear the painting).

Making arrangements
When you’ve successfully packaged your artwork, the next step is to stow it so it is both accessible and safe from damage. Shelving is your best bet, but if that isn’t an option, you can opt for pallets or wooden slats to keep your art off the ground. This will protect from water damage and allow air circulation. Sensitive pieces can crack and puncture from the weight of frames and paintings stacked on top of them. Artwork should be stored vertically, in order of smallest to largest.


This painting by Fredrick Schaefer was subject to water damage from being stored on the ground. Courtesy of

Make sure you’ve separated each painting with a couple layers of material (again, felt, foam or cloth are great options to protect and breathe) to insure against damage from shifting. Framing is one of the best ways to prevent many kinds of damage, but these methods can be applied to most works of art, framed and unframed.

If you decide to roll up some of your artwork, make sure the paint is rolled to the outside. Rolling paint side in will increase the likelihood of cracking and warping. While space may dictate the necessity for rolling some of your paintings, keep in mind that acrylic and latex-based paints are much more flexible and easy to roll than oils.

Putting on a show
If you have amassed an extensive collection and feel your artwork isn’t receiving the exposure it deserves, consider opening up your unit for display and inviting some friends and critics in for a unique viewing party. While lighting is scarce within the units, most facilities should have outlets in the hallways you can utilize. Hanging racks may be made available by the facility, but you can also find them at any home improvement store. Alternatively, adhesive hangers can be easily applied and removed from the walls of your unit for a quick fix.

Are you keeping your art in storage? Have you put on a self-storage art show? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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  • Judith Carroll

    What is the best way to store oil paintings and watercolors in the basement of a Lakeway Austin house?

  • Vương Chi

    My paintings are facing flakling problem. I have left them lean on a chair, under the heat of sunshine in the afternoon. Those flakling areas have been decreased but when it’s cold, they appear again. I paint them with oil pastel that looks like crayons. What can I do now ?

  • swept

    I am sorry Matt but this isn’t practical for work a day artist who is still unknown. I have some 30 acrylic paintings of different sizes that are going into storage and some may need to stay in rolls for some time. I have to ship rolled, face out and the rolls are wrapped in plastic. Best can do. The plastic will protect the move procedure vs any kind of cloth or paper which I can’t even figure out when a painting is 55″ length. True, trapped air and moisture, but I personally do not have any other option with my budget. The key is to get them out as soon as possible, show them, move them, not store them.

  • Greenwitch Vaudrey

    i have around 3000 unstretched artworks belonging to a friend who has passed away…some have been stacked or rolled for decades. The time has come to introduce them to the world. Some are VERY good. Any tips…i just have an average house with no garage or attic

  • Jeanette Fowler

    Dogsitting for my kids – again – and came across your site when googling for artwork storage tips – I have 50 to 70 paintings in oils which are now basking in the walls of a 7 x 10 storage unit. I have never heard of selling from a storage unit but it might be a good idea – with lots of help. I have been painting and taking workshops for years but everything went to h – e – double toothpick when we moved from Mission Viejo to Laughlin NV. Any ideas would be appreciated. Thank you.