Traveling with Wet Paintings Using a Wine Cork

This is the lightweight, and dirt cheap method I use for traveling with wet oil paintings on panel. I find the specifically designed wet-painting carriers add too much weight, especially if you have 20 or more freshly painted panels to pack, plus no one in Europe makes them for panels cut in centimeters. Like my cigar-box, it’s not my idea, and I can’t remember where I learned it.
traveling with wet paintings

You’ll need a wine cork, a knife or x-acto blade, masking or sellotape, and two or more panels of the same size. (Sometimes finding a wine cork isn’t as easy as it sounds. In Myanmar for example it took us forever to find decent wine, luckily there is a German producing some great stuff in the hills north of Inle lake).

traveling with wet oil paintings

First, I cut the cork into slices about the width of a toothpick, then cut those into halves (if I don’t have a lot of cork, slicing into quarters will work too). I put those into the corners of one wet panel, then put a second panel on top, with the two wet paintings facing each other. If the panels are flexible or I’m worried they’ll get pushed together, I’ll put another small piece of cork in the middle of the paintings – trying to make sure it wont ruin something important. Cork works great as it’s soft enough to not damage the board, but hard enough to keep the panels separate. Metal objects (coins or metal washers) can leave an indent in the panel.

cork with paintings
I then tape the corners of the panels together as tightly as possible so the cork doesn’t slide around. If I have an odd number of boards, three can be taped together as the last group.

Obviously for this system I need multiple boards of the same size. I also have to repaint the corners after the cork is removed, but there shouldn’t be anything important painted in the corners anyways.

At any rate it’s a cheap and easy way to move around with wet paintings without adding weight to your set-up.


  1. matchsticks work well too- saw Ken Howard do this on one of his dvds – only he tapes matchsticks to the backs of the panels – corners and halfway down each side, would save repainting the corners too…

  2. In the 19th Century one could obtain small separators with a pin on either side. These were put in the corners of wet plein air paintings while transporting, with the pins penetrating the canvas and holding them in place. There are close-up photographs of the result in the corners of a Berthe Morisot landscape in the book “Impressionism: Art In The Making”, a catalogue from an exhibition held at the National Gallery of London in the early 1990s. BTW, the book has excellent essays on Impressionist color theory and other material aspects of their practice.

  3. I like this idea. It is more of a ‘found object’ solution. I’ve been using pushpins in the corners and elastics to hold it all together. The cork would offer more friction and keep a lower profile. Makes me wonder if just a folded piece of paper would work as well. Hmmmm?

    • I’ve used folded over small pieces of cardboard, With masking tape masked around the cardboard so it makes a little flat lump. And even if I don’t have panels of the same exact size, I can put the cardboard little lump wherever it needs to be to touch another panel facing inward, so long as they are not too dissimilar in size. Then I masking tape the two panels (or more) together, I put them all in a plastic bag that I can carry on the plane. (Remembering the days when we could travel on airplaneswithout fear!)

  4. I made little wooden T shapes for this purpose. These are inserted top and bottom, and can be used on sides too, so only edges are touched by the T. Then can be taped or elastic hair bands can be used to keep the pressure tight so T’s don’t fall out. Normally, though, I don’t do more than 2-3 paintings at a session so use home-made carriers or slots in the top of my home-made paint boxes to carry the wet panels home. Guess I’ll have to take a longer excursion sometime. Like the cork tip but would put them closer to corners, so frame would later hide any mars, plus the center piece. All great ideas here.

  5. I’ve tried the pins – it works (ok, but) with streched canvas, and panels with a core, but a thin panel is too hard for them to penetrate satisfactorily (if at all!) – I gave up on them. I’ve got a sort of gripper clips for streched canvas – they work ok.

  6. I’ve used something similar. I us cut up erasers and also craft foam sheets cut up into small squares, I just carry these little spacers in a bag, stack the panels up like wafers then tie with a string or tape, maybe wrap with a cloth or some paper to protect wet edges form messing things up. Works very well even when cycling them home in a bicycle basket.

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