The Care and Feeding of Acrylic Paintings Part I – Storage

October 12, 2007 at 12:46 am 2 comments

Let’s talk about the best way to store art.

Of course the absolutely best way to store a painting is to hang it up on a wall in your home and enjoy it!

But you might not be able to do this right away. Maybe you don’t have any hooks. Maybe you’re moving, remodeling, or redecorating. Maybe you have other things hanging that you plan to remove but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Whatever the reason, you don’t have a place for it to hang just yet. In that case, you’ll need to store it.

Let’s store that painting so when it does come out of storage it’s undamaged and ready to be hung and enjoyed!

The first rule of art storage, and this applies to ALL forms of art, is to let nothing touch the surface. Delicate works of art like watercolors can be scratched. Glass can be scratched or even broken. Plexiglas is notoriously easy to scratch. And a painting on canvas (such as acrylic or oil) might actually deform if something leans against the canvas, either from the front or the back. Please don’t let that happen! If it’s only a short time and there’s just a small dent it should relax out after you remove the offending item (give it a couple days), but if it happens over a long time the canvas can become permanently deformed. And the paint might get scratched or chipped if the item is sharp and pointy.

It’s best to store a painting, especially a large one, upright rather than lying flat. But I’ll let you bend this rule if you really have to. If the only place the painting will fit is under your bed, so be it. Just please remember it’s down there and rescue it before too many months or years go by, okay?

The best location to store a painting is in a climate-controlled interior space. Like your house! If the temperature and humidity are comfortable for you, they’re perfect for your art.

A garage or attic is not a good place to store art. The high heat in the summer and/or extreme cold in the winter are not good for the longevity of your art. Please protect your investment and keep it inside the house.

I think a basement that never gets below freezing is okay, just please keep the painting up out of any possible flood zones! Water is terribly damaging, more to the structure of the painting (the wood stretchers and the canvas fabric) than the paint, but mold can discolor the painting itself too. Best just to keep the painting out of the damp altogether!

If you can find the space, leaning the painting against a wall so that the front of the painting faces the wall is the best. The back of a closet works well for this. This will protect the front of the painting from scuffs, while still keeping the canvas upright. Second best, as mentioned before, is lying flat under a bed where it won’t get kicked.

When you buy one of my paintings, whether in person or by mail, you’ll get a nifty clear plastic bag along with the painting. I strongly recommend keeping it in the bag until you hang it. If it’s framed, this is less important, but for an unframed piece it’s crucial.

One annoying thing about acrylic paint is that it remains flexible and therefore very slightly tacky, pretty much forever. This helps it withstand changes in humidity and temperature without becoming brittle over time the way oils do, but on the other hand it also means that acrylic paintings are more prone to sticking to stuff. Now don’t worry, I don’t mean it sticks like glue! But if it leans against something or rests on top of something, it might get a little too cozy with that something and resist being separated after a while.

So please leave your painting in that protective bag I gave you (to which it will NOT stick) as long as it’s being stored. I’ve stored acrylic paintings in these bags safely for several years, as well as subjected them to tests using weights, and I’m confident they’re the best way to keep your painting safe while it’s in storage.

But I do hope you’ll pull it out of storage and hang it up as soon as possible!


Entry filed under: Acrylic, Conservation.

Using White The Care and Feeding of Acrylic Paintings Part II – Lighting


  • 1. Alan  |  November 16, 2012 at 6:40 am

    Out of interest, where do you get these bags and what are they made of? (I’m an artist myself and could seriously do with a way to protect the many paintings in my studio/living space from dust and smoke…)

    • 2. barbarajcarter  |  November 20, 2012 at 5:56 pm

      Alan, I think the place has since gone out of business, but you can find polyethylene bags lots of places. Try Uline, or just google “polyethylene bags 3 mil” or whatever thickness you want. 6 mil is great but pricey. 3 mil is the lowest I’d go.

Barbara J Carter

I'm an artist. I make paintings with dots.

I work in acrylic paint, in a couple of distinct styles: landscapes and abstracts.

Native to California, I've lived elsewhere and only recently returned to my home state. I now live in Los Angeles.

I mostly show my art in outdoor festivals in California. I also occasionally show my work in art galleries or open studio events. You can see an up-to-date list of upcoming shows on my website (click here).

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