Whether you’re an artist or a collector, it’s important to know proper storage and care for your artwork. You may have accumulated a lot of art over the years and it’s starting to collect dust. Or you’ve noticed warping, cracking, or flaking on the art surface. Personally, I have experienced all of these things and now I want to share my storage secrets with you.

Wet Surface

If the artwork is not dry, store it flat and away from dust. Oil paintings take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to dry fully. If your painting is framed, hang it up and do not touch it until it is dry. For artist who are working with many wet paintings, it is important to use a drying rack. Check out school supply websites. They often have large drying racks for wet paintings. It’s much easier to store all of the paintings flat on one drying rack than to lean them up again the wall or lay them on a floor.  If they are stored properly, they will collect less dust; which will help the integrity of the painting until it dries. Storing them flat or on a rack will also keep the art surface from warping.

Dry Surface

Artwork that dries completely within a relatively short period of time (ex: acrylic, watercolor, pencil) can be stored in archival sleeves (fancy plastic bags) to prevent dust and dirt. If the paintings are framed and hung up, periodic dusting should be sufficient, or the use of glass to cover the art.  However, if your paintings are being stored (especially in bulk) make sure to separate them out and cover them with archival bags.

For oil paintings, which take a long time to dry, I would not recommend putting them in archival bags. Rather, leave them to dry as long as possible on a drying rack and if they must be stored or transported, have them framed. Cover the front end of the frame with thick cardboard so that the oil doesn’t get damaged. Although oil may feel dry to the touch it can easily be damaged without proper storage and care. If the oil painting is framed, lightly dusting the surface with a microfiber cloth should do the trick.

Preventing Warping, Cracking, and Flaking

Although I have not noticed this as much in acrylic or watercolor, oil paints tends to act out while they are drying. I have learned about a process called oiling out that really helps to keep the paint in good shape. The process requires adding an additional layer of clear stand (or linseed) oil after the painting has dried to the touch. It also helps even out the shiny and dull parts of the painting. This techniques is only recommended for artists and should not be tried at home by art collectors. If you have purchased a painting and it starts to warp or crack – contact the artist.

Some artists prefer to cover their paintings with a clear sealer, but I do not recommend this method. The sealer can get sticky, dull, and discolored over time. It is best to leave the painting unsealed. Damage can be prevented by keeping art in cool and dry areas. Acrylic and watercolor painting need to be kept out of direct sunlight.

Dealing with Dust

It’s inevitable that you will have to deal with a lot of dust as an artist. If you are able to afford it, I would recommend getting an air purifier. It can help with dust and with toxins in the air from paint or other art mediums. If you are storing artwork and you notice dust collecting, use a microfiber cloth to wipe away the dust. I prefer getting a large pack from somewhere like Home Depot and using them as much as possible. I have noticed that normal cotton cloth and paper towels actually leave dust behind so I don’t recommend using them.

Storing Prints

If you have fine art prints, I suggest storing them in archival bags and keeping them organized in folders or in a shelving unit where you can access them easily. I tend to keep my prints in storage with temporary bags that may collect dust and then switch them out into fresh, crisp bags as they are sold and shipped. Clearbags.com has a great assortment of sizes for archival bags and at reasonable prices, especially if you buy in bulk.

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