Art Portfolio Bags for Oil Paintings: the Most Important Features

A special bag for carrying canvases is something every painter should purchase. It simplifies transporting works and, more importantly, protects them from damage.

Portfolio bags are available in a wide variety of designs and price ranges. So, how do you choose one that meets your needs?

Types of Portfolios

Firstly, identify the general category of case you are looking.

If you’d like to save money, I recommend looking at standard zippered art bags. Their main compartment holds a small number of canvases, sometimes only two.

Also available are more sophisticated versions which expand to the required width. These convenient cases are usually ruggedly constructed. They keep their shape and stand up by themselves thanks to wire stiffeners.

Art backpacks also tend to be quite roomy. The following features differentiate them from other portfolio cases:

  • shoulder straps make it easier to carry heavy works;
  • multiple front pockets (strictly speaking, these backpacks were designed for plein air equipment. Nevertheless, you can also use them when you need to carry a painting to an exhibition).

Hard-sided cases  – boxes with a fixed position handle. They provide maximum protection for contents. Unfortunately, they also take up a good deal of space, as it’s impossible to fold them up.

Advantages and Drawbacks of Various Materials

Modern-day portfolios can be made of:

  • leather;
  • synthetic plastic polymers (vinyl, polyethylene).
  • fiber (nylon, cotton);
  • metal.

Natural leather is durable, flexible, and luxurious, but expensive. It should not be confused with much more affordable leatherette. The latter belongs to the polymers group. Unlike natural materials, leatherette does not stretch and can accumulate sweat. As a general rule, it is not long-lasting.

Vinyl and polyethylene are often attractively textured; some PVC bags look very stylish. Their best characteristics include resistance to penetration by liquid and sturdiness.

Fiber bags are lightweight; that is their significant plus point. Unfortunately, they offer poor protection against damage. It is also important to remember that not every cotton portfolio is waterproof.

Art portfolios constructed of anodized aluminum have many upsides. They are sturdy and easy to clean, and their latches keep them securely closed. The only obvious disadvantage of these cases is their relatively small, fixed position handles. An adjustable shoulder strap is handier.

Additional Attributes

Here are three more features to consider:

  • a zipper can unzip along three sides or at the top (the first option is definitely better);
  • soft interiors prevent scratching of artwork, in contrast to hard ones;
  • rubber or foam-cushioned handles may prove useful when you carry a lot of bulky paintings.

Look at customer reviews, especially if you are going to buy an art case online. They can alert you to unexpected issues.

For example, I discovered that the portfolio I wanted to order had a strong chemical smell.

Look for a minimum of a one-year manufacturer’s warranty.

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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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