Oil Paintings on Canvas – Storage Guidelines

So, you’ve created a masterpiece. Congratulations! Preserve the treasure in order to the next generations could have a look at it.

Caring for oil paintings requires attention to many details. Here are the crucial little things you should know.

How to Prolong The Life of Your Artworks?

Let your canvas leave on easel till paints fully dry or put it on a special drying rack. There are wall mount and tabletop racks. I prefer the latter – they allow moving new works around.

Generally, colors become touch dry in 3-10 days. The rate depends on a number of factors – above all, the thickness of brushmarks, features of particular pigments.

Some artists apply a coat of varnish over pictures as a protectant, but that is a risky matter. I wouldn’t advice doing that on one’s own.

Just wrap your chef-d’oeuvre in breathable sheets/tissue papers (don’t use the bubble plastic material which is intended for packing household equipment!), then find for it the right place.

Optimal Conditions

Neither basement nor boxroom fit to store canvasses: they need protecting from moisture. Paintings are getting slacker on their stretchers because of damp.  Very high humidity – over 70% – cause appearance of mould.

The attic also isn’t a good for – its extreme heat tightens fabric and destroys the original texture of strokes. The normal temperature for artworks varies between 18ºC (65 ºF) and 24ºC (75 ºF).

Keep all artworks in a separate room of your house. Locate them far from:

  • radiators;
  • sinks;
  • building’s perimeter walls (they are the coldest during winter and hottest during summer).

Set your canvasses at least 7–10 cm. (3–4 in.) above the floor. If it is concrete the height must be more since the composite material absorbs water.

Temporary and Permanent Storage Units

Leaning paintings vertically against a wall is believed to be acceptable on the understanding that they are stacked up in the manner for short time:

  1. Put a skid-proof block between flooring and your works;
  2. Inlay separators (sheets of cardboard) lest your works contact with one another.

Ideal separator boards are larger than canvasses.

In the case of the little studio, the best solution is storage shelves. Try to make the storage system with your own hands. I just would like to give you a tip: don’t overcrowd them.

Maybe, it wouldn’t be hard for you to construct a multi-purpose slotted cabinet from plywood.

Is there ready-made oil painting storages? Yes, there is. For instance, very nice carts are designed.

The mobile device usually holds up more than 10 gallery-style or more than 20 standard canvases. Vertical position ensures paintings remain accessible at any time.

Watch the youtube video to assess the advantages of such devices:

While displaying works, make sure that hooks are durable enough. Brick, stone, concrete walls require drilled holes with plugs into which a hook can be hung.

Safe Dusting

Keep artworks free of dust, but clean them carefully. Don’t attempt to apply household liquids to remove dirt (the liquids almost always interact with paints and varnish; as a result, disgusting spots appear).

You’d better not use microfiber cloths, wool or feather dusters.

Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute recommends:

Provided that there are no signs of loose or flaking paint, a painting may be safely dusted using a clean, soft, natural-hair artists’ brush (3.5cm to 5cm tip). (…) Brushing is carried out slowly and gently in one direction across or down the painting followed by a second brushing in the opposite direction.

It’s important to wash hands before dusting (or better yet, put on cotton gloves before handling paintings). The natural oils on skin leave prints – the will likely develop after a few weeks.

Storing of paintings isn’t an easy task.

Well, I have a great idea for you. Improve your skills, polish up your technique. Paint at least twenty indisputable masterpieces. When experts pay attention to them, you’ll sell each new work quickly and all the cabinets-shelves-separators will be none of your concern.


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Natalia Usanova
I am a poet and an amateur artist. A few years ago, it seemed to me creating works of art is a much more important occupation than reading books, visiting galleries, or listening to music. Now I don't think so. Let me share with you the masterpieces which have changed my life and can change yours. Follow me on Twitter!

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