Corrugated Plastic Artwork Carrier




Introduction: Corrugated Plastic Artwork Carrier

I love plastic. It's wonderful stuff –

light weight yet durable and easy to work with. Better yet, it's made from petroleum. I love petroleum too! Petroleum powers my car, heats my home, and made possible all the products used to make this Instructable, and your ability to view it. Without oil, we'd still be living in the pre-industrial dark ages – no personal computers, no Internet. And Steam Punk would not be a substitute.

Some people don't like plastic, and I have to wonder what plastic has ever done to them to make them so angry at it. Plastic is cool – remember the iMac? And without this space age material our modern lives would be much less pleasant. And I like pleasant.

This Instructable will show you how to make a handy artwork carrier out of corrugated plastic, another super great petroleum product. I already had a couple of artwork carriers that I bought, but my art board is too tall for them and would stick out of the top forcing me to carry them using only one of the handles. With a new art class coming up I wanted a carrier that would hold my board and my large drawing pad, plus some other supplies and I knew I was going to have to make it myself. Fortunately, I had a 4' x 8' sheet of corrugated plastic left over from three sheets I had purchased about 10 years ago. I paid about $14/sheet back then and it is somewhat more expensive now, but not terribly much.

Supplies you will need:

  • Layout drawing of your carrier
  • One 4' x 8' sheet of corrugated plastic
  • Utility knife
  • Duct tape (good quality like Gorilla brand)
  • Plastic tubing
  • Measuring Tape
  • Marker pen
  • Drafting square
  • Straight edge (I use an 8' aluminum door sill.)
  • Utility Scissors
  • Narrow-bladed scissors
  • Cutting platform (I use two 2'x8' rigid foam insulation panels.)
  • A plastic tub of some kind that has square sides. (I used a clear plastic snack tub.)


  • A roll of woven strapping
  • Strap buckles
  • Rivet gun
  • 1/8" diameter x 1/4" long rivets
  • Washers for the rivets
  • A torch or lighter
  • Electric drill
  • 1/8” diameter drill bit
  • Circular hole saw (The type that fits on a drill.)
  • Awl

Step 1: Draw Your Layout Plan and Cut It Out

First you need to draw up a layout of your carrier to work from. I have included a photo of mine, but your dimensions may be different so make one to fit your need. Some considerations when making your layout:

  1. Oversize the width of the carrier by at least an inch per side.
  2. Remember to add extra length for the flaps (I added ¾” (X-n, n= 1/4”) per side).
  3. Make certain the top of your carrier is high enough above whatever you are carrying to make a handle slot for your hand. (Measure the thickness of your hand.)
  4. Add extra length for the bottom of your carrier. (I added an inch (X) to the length for mine.)
  5. Remember to draw a two-sided carrier on your corrugated plastic. (My plan only shows one side of the carrier. The actual layout is Side A + X + Side B where X = width of the bottom.)
  6. Your marker lines will be on the outside of the carrier. (This is important!)

After you have your plan drawn up, transfer it to your corrugated plastic sheet using your marker pen and drafting square. You are now ready to cut out your carrier. Make sure you have a deep cutting platform under your corrugated plastic. I use two 8' rigid sheets of insulation I bought at the local hardware store. You will need a straight edge to cut the plastic. I use an 8' aluminum door sill (also from the local hardware store.) This is the same straight edge I use for my circular saw. It is very rigid and keeps my hand well out of the way. Corrugated plastic is hard to cut. You don't want to slip with your knife and cut yourself. Use proper care and make your cuts. Be certain you CUT ONLY THE OUTLINE OF YOUR CARRIER. DO NOT CUT ANY INTERIOR LINES YET.

Step 2: Cut the Fold Lines

Once you have cut out the outline you

are ready to cut the folding lines of your carrier. DO NOT CUT ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE FOLD LINES. Make light cuts until you cut through only the top layer of the corrugation, not all the way through. This will create a weaker section in the plastic allowing you to fold the corrugated plastic like a hinge. IF you do happen to cut all the way through don't cry. Duct tape will make your boo-boo all better. A new blade in your utility knife makes this much easier.

Make the fold cuts for the bottom and side flaps of your carrier.

Now you want to make folds for the front and back of your carrier:

Turn your carrier marker side down and carefully bend up one side to make the first bottom fold. You will probably have to hold the bottom down with one hand as you bend up the side to make the fold. Do this to both side of the carrier until you have created your front, back and bottom. Do not work on the flaps yet. Make your handle slots first.

Step 3: Make Your Handle Slots, Back Flaps, and Handle Grips

Measure the width of your hand and add an inch for the slot length. Make the slot with rounded sides for comfort. I first cut both ends of the slots using a 1 1/2” hole saw on my drill press and then cut out the plastic between the holes to create the slots. You don't have to have a drill press to do this, your hand drill will do. If you don't have either, just take your time and take light cuts with your utility knife until you have it cut out. There are almost always different ways to accomplish the same thing. Don't sweat it – this isn't rocket science.

After you have cut your handle slots, decide which side of your carrier will be the front and which will be the back. Cut the side slots off the front of your carrier. DO NOT CUT OFF THE FLAPS FOR THE BACK OF YOUR CARRIER. You will later re-attach the front flaps using duct tape.

Use your utility scissors to make angled cuts for the top of the back flaps and remove the excess flap material. Leave the bottom of the flaps straight. Cut off the small bottom flaps and discard them.

Next, fold your back flaps.

Now make handle grips using the plastic tubing. The tubing has a curl. The inside of the curl is the belly and the outside of the curl is the back. Remember those terms.

  1. Measure out a length of tubing that is slightly longer that the entire circumference of the handle slot.
  2. You need to scribe a line down the back of your tubing. To do that, find an inside corner (I used my garage doorway trim molding) and press the belly of your tubing into the corner. Use your marker to scribe a straight line down the back of your tubing.
  3. Using a pair of scissors with a narrow blade cut a slot up the tubing's back along the line you just scribed.
  4. Cover the edge of the handle slots with the tubing by sliding the cut over the edge of the plastic.
  5. When you have your tubing snugly fit around the slot edges (make sure it is tight into the bends) cut off the overlap and tape it to the carrier using your duct tape.

You will need to cut narrow pieces of duct tape to tape down the curved areas. Just take your time and enjoy making your carrier. Make sure you use a good quality of duct tape. Spend the extra few bucks it costs - you know you're worth it. Good quality duct tape is easier to work with, holds better and lasts longer than the cheap stuff.

Step 4: Tape the Rest of Your Carrier and Finish the Flaps

When your handles are finished it is time to tape the rest of your carrier. I suggest you do this because I think un-taped corrugated plastic edges could probably give you a nasty slice if they are left un-taped. Sort of like the worst paper cut you will ever have., although I have no actual experience of that happening to me, because I taped all the edges.

Tape your carrier in this sequence for best results:

  1. Tape the bottom fold hinges of your carrier inside and out.
  2. Tape all of the corrugated edges.
  3. Tape the bottom of the back side flap to the bottom of the carrier to create a 90 degree edge between the back side of the carrier and its bottom. Reinforce it with tape inside and outside.

Now for the front panel flaps:

  1. Cut the front panel side flaps smaller than the back flaps. Put an angle cut on both ends, and tape top and bottom angles, and then tape the shorter edge. That edge will be the outside edge of the flap.
  2. Open your carrier so the front panel is flat on your work surface. Take the flap and set the untaped edge on the inside of the front of your carrier and coincident with the left or right edge of the panel. Tape the flap to that edge.
  3. Tape down the inside of the flap to the inside front of the carrier. Repeat this process on the opposite end of the inside of the front of the carrier.

Now you need to make sure the front panel flaps close inside the back panel flaps when you close your carrier so that your precious artwork won't fall out of your carrier:

  1. Take your plastic tub with the square sides and cut out 4 right angle pieces, each 1” to 1 ½” wide.
  2. Tape the right angle pieces to the inside of your front panel flaps, two per side, one close to the top of the flap and the other close to the flap bottom.

Congratulations! You have now completed your carrier and are ready to use it to carry around all your priceless works of art! The next part is optional, but I found it greatly improves the utility of the carrier by adding closing straps.

Step 5: Optional Closing Straps With Buckles

My art class provides me with an easel and a small table to set my supplies on. My art carrier is too large to set on the table so I lean it up against the table while I draw. Unfortunately, I discovered that is would fall open and get in my way while I was drawing. I decided a set of adjustable straps to hold it closed would solve my problem and give me an opportunity to use my rivet gun that I got for Christmas two years ago and have never used.

I worked out my plan to put the adjustable straps on my carrier and picked up the supplies at my local retailer. I knew that just riveting the straps to the carrier would allow the straps and even the plastic panel to eventually work their way over the rivets so I decided to make a sandwich of the plastic panel and the strap using washers on each side the attachment. The only way those babies are coming loose is if you drill them out!

To add the straps assemble your supplies and cut the pieces of strap to size, carefully flamed the cut edge with my torch to keep the strap from fraying. I did one side of the front straps first and then used that piece of strap to measure for the other side. I repeated this process for the back side straps which are much longer that the front straps.

Be certain to test the length of our straps with the buckles on them before you rivet them to your carrier.

To attach the straps to the carrier I used rivets and washers:

  1. Measure and mark where you want to attach the closing strap.
  2. For 1/8” diameter rivets, drill a 1/8” hole through the corrugated plastic panel at that location.
  3. Use your awl to make a hole in the end of the strap for your rivel to go through.
  4. Slide a washer onto your rivet.
  5. Stick the rivet through the hole in the strap.
  6. From the outside of your carrier panel, insert the rivet through the hole you drilled in the panel.
  7. Slide a rivet onto the end of the rivet.
  8. While holding the backside washer onto the rivet, slide the rivet nail into your rivet gun and pop the rivet. (This last step is easier if you have someone to hold the backside washer on the rivet while you operate the rivet gun with both hands.)

If you can't find someone to help you hold the rivet then you can also drill a hole slightly larger than the rivet in a block of wood. Slide the backside washer on the rivet and stick that side of the rivet into the hole in the block of wood while you pop the rivet.


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    2 Discussions

    Awesome design! I think every artist will probably thank you for this design at some point. I love how you made the handles so clean.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you. It has come in handy for me.