At no point do I claim to be an expert on anything, but in my humble journey, the need has arisen to know how to do this (among other things...) properly! .. hence, through trial and error and a bit of research, I thought I would share in case it comes in handy for anyone. Ultimately, it is up to you to do the homework and ensure that you are using the correct wrapping technique for your particular work, depending on the medium, size etc.
(most of you probably know all of this already - and any additional input is always welcome! Information is king, after all!)
This method obviously works for acrylics and recently painted oils...aged paintings should not be rolled if you can avoid doing so, since their paint film is no longer flexible. It is not advisable to roll paintings exceeding 1.8 m on their long side.
MOST importantly - make sure your painting is DRY. It is not worth letting your or your client's impatience make you send it too early - you don't want the paint to crack and peel later! As you all may know, with oil painting, each additional layer of paint should contain more oil than the layer below to allow proper drying. This is not a hard and fast rule of course, and it is ultimately the quality and type of oil that leads to a strong and secure paint film, as well as the drying medium, if any, that is used, and even the paint colors themselves. On average, and especially on larger works, oils can take between 6-12 months to cure properly.
Once dry, designate a flat, clean surface to work on (table or section of floor). Cover the area with a clean protective sheet.
Place two - three sheets of wax paper (a spare piece of canvas - not too coarse in texture - works best) down, ensuring that the area is at least 5 cm bigger than the outside edges of the painting itself. If you have to overlap the sheets to get the area big enough, ensure that the overlapping edges do so with at least 4 cm.
Place the painting, FACE DOWN onto the wax (or glassine) paper. Paint, once dried onto linen, has more flexibility when curving slightly outwards than when being turned in on itself and being "squished" together. If rolled outwards, the painting is stretched, and if there is any hairline cracking, these will be invisible when the painting is laid flat again. Rolling oil paintings inwards causes the paint to crease, chip or flake, which become clearly visible when the painting is laid flat again.
You want to roll along the short edge, since this gives the packaged structure more stability than a longer one. Carefully roll the painting as loosely as possible - ensuring that there are no lines or bends in the buffer paper. If this happens, unroll it and start over. Do not fold the painting when you start rolling, as this can damage the painting - try and make the rolling action as smooth and consistent as possible.
First prize is to buy two tubes - one to roll the painting around (called a "roller")and one to put the rolled painting into. It should be as wide as possible and be longer than the ends of the painting. Be sure to protect the painting from the roller with either a polyethylene foam such as Plastazote, or Dacron wadding covered with clean white cotton fabric - especially if the painting is textured and has irregularities in the painting’s thickness. (PVC pipe or carpet roll tubes also work well - as long as they are as solid as they are lightweight)
DON'T use any material that may be difficult to remove - for example clingfilm or tissue paper. Also, don't use any material that is coarse or textured (like bubble wrap) against your painting, since this can imprint itself onto your painting. The art must also be able to breathe...If using loose pieces of canvas, ensure that is it a fine weave. No printed material like newspapers or wrapping paper - only acid-free paper is an option.
Once rolled, use (a good quality!) tape at regular intervals to secure your roll. Don't attempt to use strings to secure the roll, since these can place undue pressure on the painting and cut into the painted layers. A great tip is to fold the end of the tape into a "tab" so that the unpacker doesn't struggle to remove it. If the tape is difficult to lift, the unpacker may end up tearing the paper, and damage the painting, in an attempt to unwrap it. Another good idea is to use red or blue colored tape - which is easier to see (and locate) than transparent tape.
When it comes to your tube, a heavy duty mailing tube is always best. Look for one that is at least 10 cm longer than the shortest side of your painting when flat. The width of the tube of course depends on the diameter of your work when rolled : regardless, the tube will need to be at least 10 cm - 15 cm wide (if not wider, depending on the size of the painting - recommended minimum diameter is actually 20 cm, regardless of the size of painting). If the painting is very long, it will be thicker when rolled, so aim for your tube to be at least 10 cm - 12 cm wider than the diameter of your rolled works. Also, make sure you have proper end caps for the tube - simply taping it shut will damage the painting.
You need to prevent the painting from moving around inside the tube as well as to prevent moisture from getting in. This is where bubble wrap does come in handy. With the bubbles facing outwards (they provide excellent "traction" between the painting and the tube, further reducing possible movement inside), roll your rolled painting in the bubble wrap until enough cushioning is achieved so as to allow the painting to fit snugly in the tube. Tape again. Leave a 10cm piece on each end which can be folded over and taped, like a present, to further protect the ends of your painting - be careful not to squash the ends in this process. Remember, if you struggle to get your painting into the tube, the unpacker is going to struggle to get it out....RATHER BUY A NEW TUBE.
Secure the lid of the tube and secure with tape for additional security.
Viola! Bye-Bye Baby! :-)
(It is advisable to clearly mark the tube FRAGILE, and clear instructions that its handlers carry and store it in a VERTICAL position - within reason obviously, but as far as possible, since lying on its side in a horizontal position can also place undue pressure on one side. The idea is equal distribution of pressure throughout, and as far as possible)
Although it seems like a viable storage option, be sure to tell your client to unroll the painting immediately after transport. It should be stored flat if necessary, and be re-stretched on a new frame as soon as possible after receipt.
I hope this can be of use to you soon in future when you send that next commission of yours to its new home.....!