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Prepayment vs drop-off; insurance; drying time

Hi all,

I’m the new guy! I have yet to list anything for sale; I have some newbish questions first. I’m in the USA, and I’m interested in shipping small 6" x 6" oil paintings on panels.

  1. When you use USPS or UPS, do you have to physically drop off your package at a UPS or USPS store? Or is there a way to weigh and prepay your package so that you can let the postal-delivery person pick it up from your home? I ask because standing in line at my local USPS is time-consuming, to say the least. UPS is easier, but my impression is that most folks here use USPS.

  2. How does insurance work? If I sell a painting for $100, and I purchase insurance from USPS, who gets the insurance proceeds if the painting is lost in the mail?

  3. I read here that people let a painting dry for a couple weeks before listing it. I paint fairly thinly, but even after a couple weeks, I’m not sure I’d be confident putting a painting in a bag or under glassine. Also, there’s no possibility of varnishing in that case, is there? Buyers are ok with that?

Thanks in advance!

Hi new guy! I guess that makes me the old gal. : ) I’ve been doing this for over 10 years now. Gha!

  1. I would definitely recommend USPS for shipping small paintings. If you go to their website usps.com, under Mail & Ship there is something called “Click-N-Ship”. There you can purchase postage and sign up for “free carrier pickup.” Your carrier will then pick up boxes from whatever spot around your house you specify (I leave mine on my front porch). I would recommend buying a simple scale to weigh your boxes, and some label paper to print out shipping labels. Also, if you are painting on panels, you might want to check out clearbags.com.

  2. If you sell a painting for $100 and insure it through USPS, and then it gets lost in trastit, you would use the money to repay the buyer. I have had 1 painting get lost, and it was during a one month period when I wasn’t insuring my paintings, as an experiment. Doh! You can probably guess that I always insure now.

  3. I think that as long as you communicate your intentions wherever you sell your paintings (on your blog, in DPW, Facebook, and most importantly in the auction description) about how long it will take to ship, people will understand. Also, when a person pays, you should write to them and tell them exactly how long it will take to ship the painting, and why. You could say, “this painting will take another week to dry and then I’ll need to varnish it.” People usually aren’t in a big hurry. That said, I also paint fairly thin, and my paintings are dry to the touch after just a few days. I wait 2 weeks to varnish, which is then dry in 1-2 days. If you find that your paintings are taking weeks to dry, you might consider a medium that speeds up the drying time. Just a thought.

Best of luck, and happy painting!!! -Carol Marine


Thanks for your reply, Carol! Wow, I’m honored – my first post draws a reply from the founder of the website! Thank you for answering my questions.

I found your site after I purchased and read your book “Daily Painting.” I’ve re-read parts of it a half-dozen times, especially the parts on “vulnerable” islands, edges, and composition. I also followed your advice to buy Greg Albert’s awesome book on composition, AND I bought a Still-Life Stage. So I’m “all in”! Since I bought your book a few weeks ago, I’ve done a couple dozen small paintings, usually 6" x 6", usually finishing in one afternoon. (I was already doing a couple a week, as I take a couple life-painting classes.) Already I see signs of improvement. I also see a growing stack of paintings that want to be sold. .

I hadn’t realized one could varnish a painting as soon as two weeks after painting it, even if it’s dry to the touch. (Mine, like yours, are usually dry to the touch after a few days.) I had the impression one had to wait six months or more – that things had to dry thoroughly beneath the surface as well as on the surface. I guess I needn’t have worried. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have a varnishing party.

Thanks again!

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Hi again Geoffrey, and thanks!! : ) So glad you’ve joined our family!

So, right after I replied to you I read a long discussion (in Art Talk) about varnish. Apparently a lot of people (specifically conservators) say you shouldn’t varnish before 6mo to 1yr because the varnish binds with the paint and can’t be removed later. I didn’t know that. So it’s something to consider. I would recommend reading the discussion because they talk about “oiling out,” which might be an alternative. I myself am going to have to do more thinking about it.

Cheers and happy painting!

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Thanks, Carol! OK, it’s good to know I wasn’t completely crazy. I’ll read more about it too. Thanks again!

  • Geoff.

You can’t apply final varnish for about 6 months to a year but you can apply Retouch varnish. It evens out the sheen where some color become dull and others stay glossy. You can use this while painting and paint over it. It is still “breathable” and allows the oil paint to continue to oxidize.


Thanks, Andrea. I’ve never tried retouch varnish. I’ll give it a go. Thanks again.

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Hello Geoffrey,

I also use Winsor and Newton Re-touch varnish every time I paint. I wait until it is touch dry and give a light coat of RTV. I use a lint free paper towel and smooth the liquid over the work. Not too much or it might run. It dries quickly. The colours and tones come up instantly and it doesn’t look too shiny either. I ship like this as not all buyers want a really shiny permanent varnish. I leave them to chose later.

Best regards Anne.


Thanks, Anne. I will try some retouch varnish. Does retouch varnish raise any long-term risk of yellowing?

I don’t think so Geoffrey…if you Google Winsor and Newton site…there is plenty of information there. Hope this helps.

I really like this thread, got lots of good tips! Thanks e’rybody! :smiley:

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I agree, I learned a lot here. Thanks, Anne, for the tip on retouch varnish.

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I don’t wait in line as I use the self serve part of the post office that is open 24/7. As far as the insurance the buyer should get their money returned.
Two artists I know of use Damar retouch varnish when the painting is dry to the touch and ship the painting out as they are fortunate to sell pretty much as soon as it’s posted.
Hope this helps and welcome to the community!

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It does help, Karen. Thanks for the warm welcome!

Welcome, Geoff. I’m in same place as you as waiting for oils to dry. Have appreciated all of the advice and insights from your question. I once bought and received a small oil painting that arrived stuck to cello bag. I returned it. That experience has made me very cautious on dry time. I’m waiting 4-6 months for dry time before varnishing and listing. Thanks to all who have replied and offered suggestions. Best to you, Geoff.

Thanks, June. Ugh, the experience you describe is exactly what I worry about! I’m in no rush to sell things, so I may let things dry a bit before listing them, as you do.

Parchment paper (found in the grocery store baking section) as well as tracing paper does not stick to oil paint (or acrylic) and is what I wrap my paintings in before I pack in anything else. Never use bubble wrap as pressure can leave an imprint if there is any thicker paint that is not hard dried. I paint thick oil and usually ship in 3 weeks described in my details.

Hi Carol!
I always enjoy going online to see what you’ve pained last:) I highly recommend Gamvar varnish. It is formulated to let you varnish a painting as soon as it is dry to the touch. It’s permeable enough that it doesn’t interfere with the natural curing process of your painting. Mitchell Albala has a great article about it here: http://blog.mitchalbala.com/gamvar-an-easy-to-use-varnishing-solution-for-oil-painters/




Giles: thanks for the comment. I’ve ordered some Gamvar; I look forward to trying it.

Andrea: I looked at your gallery – lovely paintings! – but couldn’t find your shipping details. In lieu of bubble wrap, do you follow Carol’s practice of cushioning paintings with crumpled-up newspaper?

Have used Gamvar too exclusively after experimenting with several other varnishs. For me it’s the perfect solution.

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