Art Print Packaging Tips | The 2 Most Important Things To Consider In My Book

Art Print Packaging Tips | The 2 Most Important Things To Consider In My Book

Art Prints Packaging | The  Two Most Important Considerations in My Book

Packaging is quite a thing for me, hey.⁠

I spent the longest time grappling with not wanting to do prints of my art because I felt like it would loose all heart and sentimentality. How I finally came around to doing the prints is a story for another time.

Now, when I get stuck into an aspect like packaging I have only 2 concerns:⁠

1. Can I make it beautiful?⁠
2. Can I make it kind?⁠


1. What makes your packaging beautiful?

By beautiful, I mean it must be lovely to look at and to unwrap. I’m talking tactile, soft and crisp to the touch. But it must also be a pleasure for me to package.⁠ (a lot of consideration – and dare I say unnecessary bucks – go into the ‘customer experience’ – and I’m all for that stuff for the most part. However since the customer will experience what I experienced while creating or wrapping the item – the makers energy transfers – why not make the work beautiful for ourselves as far as we can first and foremost?)

2. What makes your packaging kind?

For kindness, I consider the cost – the cost for the environment and then the cost for my budget. So all my options for aesthetic choices come down to asking, “how did this item/ string/ ribbon/ paper get here and where will it go?⁠


These are some of the environmental kindness questions I ask myself:

  • Were toxic chemicals used in the dying or printing of this?
  • Is there a film, veneer or a wax or a glue on it that makes it non-recyclable?
  • Is it essential? (even if all your bits and bobs are on eco paper and eco ink and eco stickers – it’s still using resources at the place of creation, like water and electricity⁠)

The truth is, it doesn’t matter how beautiful you make your packaging, for the most part it will probably be disposed of.⁠ I have found in the past that when there’s so much really expensive boxing and packaging, I feel guilty throwing it away and force myself to find a purpose for it. But that’s not a burden I want to place on my art buyers.


art print packaging

My art print packaging choices

Here’s what I chose in terms of product and process. I hope they help and inspire you to make the best considerations for your product.

1. Hand written thank you stickers

At this point I’ve chosen not to go the bulk-branding-stickers route just yet. Bulk stationary is higher in cost and likely higher in secondary resources and at this point I’m still small enough to get by, by being scrappy and hands-on.

Being tiny has its perks and I’m enjoying giving my stationary a handwritten attention to detail⁠.
⁠The stickers have a water soluble glue on them and they’re necessary to hold the paper wrapping together. I write the ‘thank you’ in a silver pen, and I’m okay with each one looking a little different.


2. Better plastic

Art prints need to be sold in such a way that the print itself doesn’t get tarnished or stained. I sell mine in compostable clear Good for The Ground sleeves. How lucky are we to be living in an emerging time were better options other than PET plastics are becoming available? Good for the Ground sleeves are made from PLA (Polylactic Acid), a polymer derived from starch.


3. Upcycled backingboard

Prints also need to be supported against something firm so that they don’t bend before being framed. I didn’t want to buy cardboard that would literally be tossed once it arrived at it’s home. I’ve gone the up-cycled route. The framing store The Framery, where I have some of my frames made, keep their off-cut pieces for me (they would ordinarily be discarded and recycled). Luckily my art is miniature so I can go this route.

So, all my prints that go out have varying colours backing board. I go with whatever I get. Some are grey, some rust red, some white, some plain brown. I also get some upcycled backboard from photographers who are tossing out their damaged board. I trim the water-damaged edges and bob’s your uncle.

Sure, in an ideal, aesthetics-only world, they’d all be black, I guess, if I wanted it to match my branding.

But I’ve chosen to release my brand’s identity from over-curation.

I like that my growing brand has room to breathe beyond the confines of colours and font and can define itself by its intention too.

4. Simple wrapping

For presentation and wrapping, I’ve gone with unbleached, white tissue paper (so yes, again the white leans off-white rather than crisp, which visually I would prefer but this falls into the above thinking). No bleaching, no inks, can be recycled or composted.

When all is said and done environmental kindness is the coolest colour.


5. Eco twine

I use eco twine to wrap the tissue paper. I almost went with black raffia but I decided that the length of twine, being long enough to be repurposed, would be more useful to the buyer if it was also sturdier. Twine can tie a great many things, curtains, plants, hair, dried herbs and flowers to name but a few and if not, I know it will definitely decompose.


6. Handwritten thank you notes on recycled paper

My little thank you note, along with the miniNature header on it, is handwritten on recycled paper. It takes a bit more time than if the headers were already printed, but each one feels like a practice in gratitude. Doing things the slower way is also part of my brand story now.

I hope that when you buy a miniNature print, you enjoy all these little eco aspects as much as I enjoyed putting my heart and thought into them.⁠

And I also hope that you feel inspired to give love and thought to every aspect of what you make, even if that is ‘just the packaging’.

As I said before, for the longest time I felt like selling prints would lack authenticity, but I now see that I can put as much of myself into all these other aspects too.

In the end, Le Corbusier was right, form should always follow function first. The function of packaging is to keep the item safe, add a little beauty and then to slip quietly and kindly out of our lives, not, I believe, to do all the leg work of making your brand look and feel impressive.

Let your actual art do that.


Beautiful header image from Helena Hertz on Unsplash

How to upcycle acrylic paint by making artist ecobricks

How to upcycle acrylic paint by making artist ecobricks

How to upcycle acrylic paint sustainably by making artist ecobricks

How to upcycle acrylic paint sustainably by making artist ecobricks

Sustainable Studio

Want to be greener but still love painting with acrylic paint? Read on!

Not sure how to upcycle acrylic paint or if that’s even possible? Making art while also making waste just doesn’t sit right with me. I believe there should be little if any environmental downside to our creative expressions. Becoming a zero-waste artist is still a VERY long journey for me but I’ve committed to it and have come across one particular art studio practice, a method of disposing of my acrylic paint, that you may want to adopt if you feel the same way. I’m calling it the artist ecobrick.


First, what is an Ecobrick?


Before we go on, I must say, I didn’t come up with the ecobrick idea. The concept has been around for several years already championed by an organisation called the EcoBrick Exchange. Mine is a specific application for it and it makes for an amazing practice of upcycling acrylic paint, a great thing for any eco-conscious artist or creative.

  • An ecobrick is a repurposed 2L plastic soda bottle. The empty bottle is filled with compressed non-recyclables like small scraps of plastic, cellophane or clingwrap, wrappers or packets for chips or sweets and such like.
  • Once the bottle is as full as can be – it usually weighs about 600g – the cap is screwed on and it is then repurposed in its entirety as a brick for building structures.
  • The idea behind the ecobrick is that it alleviates pressure from landfills as well as making sure that bits of environmentally harmful plastics or degraded microplatics don’t end up in the biosphere.

The bricks are currently mainly used to build structures like play areas for kids, boundary walls, raised beds for gardening and temporary structures as well as development centres and schools within township communities that support the communities living there.

The goal, however, is for these bricks to become a building material used within the greater building industry in order to absorb plastic pollution from within all communities.

How I figured out how to upcycle acylic paint 

Now that you know what an ecobrick is, let me share how I came to making Artist Ecobricks.

The situation
I’ve painted in many mediums and have found with miniatures, I enjoy painting in acrylic paint most. Acrylic paint is essentially pigment suspended in a polymer emulsion. They’re water-soluble but become water-resistant when dry, which means they’re essentially a tinted plastic when dry.

The problem
The problem is not the final painting, because hopefully you never throw the artwork away.
The big shitty problem is the paint palette. You see, because acrylic paint isn’t water-soluble like water paints, the dried paints can’t be washed off of a plastic or wooden artist palette. Most of my life, in any art setting, be that at school or in art classes, acrylic artists are instructed to use cardboard or polystyrene trays that fruit and veg come in as their palette and then when dry, just toss it away. Recycling is already a hefty process. Add a thick goopy layer of water insolvent polymer to it and you’re bound to end up with an environmental shit storm.

The definition of an Artist Ecobrick

An Artist Ecobrick is a plastic bottle that that lives in your art studio or creative space and is stuffed full of all the tiny waste particles and acrylic paint peels from art palettes that come about as a result of your creative process. Ideally, you use this bottle within your own space to build something of value to you.

The unexpected joy that comes from upcycling acrylic paint in this manner

Not only are you keeping your creative waste out of the environment but by containing it in the brick you are simultaneously creating something new with something you once would have discarded mindlessly. There’s something quite humbling of watching it all amass inside your brick, knowing that you’re being as responsible as you currently know how to be while being creative.

What kind of waste should you put in your Artist ecobrick

These are the kinds of things that end up in my Artist ecobrick but I’m sure it would serve to contain much more creative waste.

  • Acrylic paint – because when it dries it is essentially a plastic of sorts
  • Dried glue – also becomes a plastic polymer
  • Small scraps of cut off fabric or canvas trimmings (if you’re not reusing these for stuffing pillows say)
  • Small foam shavings
  • Old sandpaper
  • Tiny glue tubes


A note on the types of bottles you use

Before I made my first ecobrick, I didn’t know that various plastic bottles were better or worse for the recycling system. It turns out that around 68% of all clear PET plastic bottles, at least in South Africa because the industry has been growing so well, are being recycled. South Africa is actually the only developing country in the world that has the technology to recycle a plastic bottle back into a plastic bottle. Clear PET plastic can also be turned into fibre. Recycling PET in this way reduces the use of virgin plastic.

The non clear plastic bottles however – brown, green or yellow – while able to be recycled, are less in demand because they can’t be made back into drink bottles, and their colour makes them less desirable for other projects. These bottles are preferred for ecobricking if you can get your hands on them rather.

If you are using a different shape bottle than those preferred by the Ecobrick Exchange, you can still use these in your own capacity to create Ikea-like DIY small structures like a garden bench or a raised planter box. I plan on creating meditation blocks from mine (covered in a foam and fabric of course)

How to upcycle your acrylic paint in an artist ecobrick

What you need:

  • 1 2l plastic bottle (ideally brown, green or yellow)
  • A thick stick to compress the paint and plastics and glue tubes
  • A small glass pane (you can either use the glass from an old picture frame or buy a piece from your nearest glass fitting store)
  • A flat blade or scraper to scrape off the dried paint

How to go about it:

  • Squeeze your paints directly on the glass sheet. I put white paper underneath to help me see the colours properly
  • Use as a regular palette
  • Leave to dry
  • Once dry hold the blade at an angle and lift the paint off the glass surface
  • Crumple them into a ball and pop it into the brick. Once it gets full you can start using the compression stick to compact your creative waste more

What to do with a full ecobrick?

I’m still filling the very same ecobrick I started at the beginning of my 365 challenge. As I mentioned above, because my bottle is not the ideal round shape required by the Ecobrick Exchange (because I don’t drink sodas I don’t buy these) I’ll be using mine for a home build project.

Full ecobricks of the correct specifications can be dropped off at many drop-off sites around the country.

Another important thing to note on the ecobricking plastic waste collection initiatives

Because of the rise in consciousness towards plastic awareness, many people are taking up waste collection initiatives like ecobricking (myself included). Because the Ecobrick Exchange does such a wonderful job of building structures from these bricks in order to begin shifting the perception that these bricks are valuable building materials, many middle to upper-income homes want to donate their ecobricks to such charitable causes.

These charitable causes often end up being in townships which are already heavily polluted with plastic. While the intention is meant well, in a way this is the wrong direction of plastic flow.



How to better navigate the creating of ecobricks

It’s still better for you to collect your artist or other plastic waste into an ecobrick, preventing the microparticles from ending up in the environment.

It’s even better if you can put those bricks to use in your own community.

The Ecobrick Exchange is working toward shifting this flow of plastic from more affluent to environmentally fragile communities in the following two ways:

1. School environmental awareness program

  • Education around plastic pollution is vital especially in remote and polluted areas.
  • Practical activities illustrate how all types of waste can be made into valuable resources if appropriate systems are in place.

2. Creating demand within the construction industry

  • When large construction projects order ecobricks we commission our participating schools to collect.
  • In return, the participating learners and their families enjoy extra income opportunities.


I hope this article gave you some helpful tips on how to upcycle your acrylic paint and other wasteful art materials and also inspires you to start ecobricking in your studio. If you’re still with me way down here, thank you for taking the time to read this far.

Please share this article with any other artists you think would benefit from an eco practice to accompany their creative practice.