Eco-Friendly Packaging and Shipping for Art Prints

This is the sixth installment of my Print to Ship Series. In this section I want to discuss how I chose my packing and shipping resources.

Over the past year I have ordered prints from a huge variety of photo labs and other artists. Everything from flimsy envelopes that arrived bent to large boxes with bubble wrap for a little 8x10 print.  From the person who spends $80 per shipping box to the 'all green' printing lab who ships in enough plastic to suffocate a small whale.  

None of that would do.  I made a list of what I wanted for my packaging and then spent weeks figuring out how to make it happen. 

So what do I want for my own prints?
  • Sturdy material that does not easily bend
  • Lightweight material to cut down on shipping costs
  • Plastic free
  • Minimal Waste
  • Recycled Cardboard
  • Affordability
  • Simplicity
The combination of all these things is easier said than done. I'm mostly there but still fine tuning some odds and ends.  Responsible shipping on my part means I can offer affordable art that arrives in one piece without totally destroying the planet in the process.

Packing Prints

I have a few packaging options I'm experimenting with right now. All my cardboard is sourced from a company called EcoEnclose. They make 100% recycled packaging that I can buy in low volume and affordable prices.  I took advantage of their samples so I could try different size envelopes and boxes.

Rigid Mailers

This is the most common packaging I see when I buy prints from other artists. Finding rigid mailers that are a good fit for my non-standard sized prints can be a struggle. I currently use them for my small prints.

The most common inner packaging I see for prints are clear plastic sleeves, but I want to ditch plastic. I wrap mine in archival tissue paper and then place them in a paper envelope with folded cardstock. The envelope and cardstock alone would probably be fine, but for now I'm using the rigid mailer for extra protection.

One Panel Folder

I love the folder method. Of all the prints I've received in the mail, I have never had a damaged print if it was shipped in this kind of box.   I currently use this for my letter size prints. I use two cardboard pads inside of the folder to sandwich the print, along with an archival tissue on the print surface and a compostable print sleeve. I tape the print sleeve to the cardboard to prevent it slipping around and bending the print corners during shipping.

If I have time, I sometimes wrap the the package in kraft paper and tie it with twine before slipping it in the folder.

Kraft Mailer

I use kraft mailers for my larger prints. I'm dead set on shipping flat rather than in a tube. I support the print between two panels of cardboard, protect the print surface with archival tissue, and wrap it in recycled kraft paper. I may switch most my print sizes to this packaging when I have to replenish my supplies next.

A note about kraft paper:

The roll of paper I have is huge. I experimented with smaller rolls of kraft paper found at office supply or craft stores and they were all too thick, or not recycled, or not cost efficient. I finally settle on a roll of  30# paper. This is for wrapping inner packages and not the thick stuff that is used to wrap outer packages for mailing. Because I couldn't find any eco-friendly print sleeve options for my 11x17 prints, I also use this paper to wrap the print in and then secure it to the cardboard pads with tape. I discovered this method when I ordered from Fine Print Imaging and they shipped me a fine art print like this. As a consumer, it was my favorite print to open.  There is something delicate and earthy about it.


Choosing a carrier:

I ship via USPS because it's familiar and affordable. I have not run into any major problems with them yet.  Also, I am able to ship to and from PO Box addresses unlike some other carriers. 

Shipping discounts:

I get discounted shipping via Etsy. If I'm not selling a print through Etsy, I use Paypal for shipping. Both companies include tracking numbers for free. I purchased this postal scale from Amazon so I can enter an accurate weight and then I print my postage on 100% recycled labels. This is a huge time saver. All my packages usually fall under 13 ounces which means I can drop my mail into the USPS parcel slot without standing in line.  If you ship USPS priority mail you can request a free pickup from your house.

Eco Enclose Coupon Code:  Use this link to get 20% off your first order through 02/15/17

More in this series

Part 1: C-Prints and Silver Gelatin Lab Review
Part 2: Press Prints Lab Review
Part 3: Fine Art Prints Lab Review
Part 4: Printer Review - Epson p600 
Part 5: Choosing a Storefront - Etsy vs Tictail


  1. Thank you so much for posting about how you do your packaging! I've been struggling to find ways on how to properly package while being minimal at the same time. On top of that, I always thought you had to "jazz" it up so the customer can be like "WOW" but in reality all they really want to see is the lovely prints they ordered. :)

    Thanks again!

    1. Glad it was helpful. I like the thought of jazzing things up too, but I'm a minimalist at heart - so I stick to that.

  2. This is so helpful!! Thank you very very much!!!

  3. Hi Maryanne, Your article is very helpful, I'll see if I can implement your tips! :)
    I recently made my first sale and made the mistake of placing more cardboard between my prints on a rigid mailer, so shipping ended being more that I thought so! :/
    When you ship prints on letter size, do you go over 200gr?

    1. I don't think so. My goal is to keep them under 8oz (227gr)but I think they fall under the 200gm mark even when I use heavier printing paper or add in a little card.

      You can order sample sizes from EcoEnclose and they also list their weight of all their products online after you enter the dimensions you need.

      I hardly use the letter size boxes anymore and have been shipping my letter size prints in the kraft mailers just like I do my larger prints. It's easier to pack when I'm not messing around with taping a box.

      Hope that helps!

  4. This is fantastic. Exactly the help I was looking for! And that EcoEnclose is a great site. Thank you for putting this all down for the world to see!

  5. What would you use to package large prints such as 20x30 and 30x40 inches?

    1. I'm betting the best way to ship larger prints is to ship them rolled in a sturdy tube.

  6. Thank you so much for posting about this. I'm trying figure out all the package and printing in the most environmentally friendly way and your blog is answering so many questions.

  7. Hi! I came across your site via random internet search. Thank you for sharing useful information. I had a simple question. All in all. How much would you say pay in packaging per customer or percent per order? Thank you for the good info.

    1. The best way to calculate this for yourself is to go to eco-enclose and select the sizes you would need. There should be a price per item listed somewhere on the page.

  8. This is a great, super helpful article! I have one question though. Since all you use is paper, are you not worried about waterproofing? I often see artists put their prints into plastic wraps. I would love to avoid that, but I worry about the print getting wet. What is your experience with this? Thank you

    1. Excellent question - and it's easy for me to forget about moisture since I live in an extremely dry climate.

      I have not had anyone say their package got wet. That being said, the company I get my supplies from offer an outer plastic sleeve that is 100% made of recycled materials that may be a good option.