How to Pack For Painting – Tips for the Painter Traveling by Airplane or Car

delta-airplaneTraveling with painting equipment is always a challenge, but the reality is beginning to hit me…this weekend I will be hopping on a plane and flying to Provence, France where I am teaching my plein air painting workshop!

We have been planning this trip for 6 months and it is finally here. I am excited to go, but now I have to PACK!

And I am asking myself, “What should I bring?”

Since 911 flying isn’t as simple as it once was. This has made air travel challenging for artists. So nowadays I try and make it easy on myself when I fly with my paints. I usually pack my small homemade pochade box in my suitcase. But on this trip for teaching purposes, I am bringing my larger EasyLite Pochade Box.  This box is convenient, light weight & holds many supplies.

Below are some packing tips:

  • Try to streamline your art supplies down to the utmost essential. Think about using a ‘limited palette’ of only 5 or 6 paint colors. Don’t forget, you can mix your own greens, oranges, etc. A limited palette assures a more harmonious painting anyway.
  • ‘Oil Paint’ is a security buzz word, so it is best to refer to your oil paints as “artist colors made with vegetable oil”… I always tuck a little note into my paints that explains this. Personally, I always travel with my Cobra solvent free water soluble paints. 
  • Keep your paints in a separate plastic bag in case they leak during the flight and pack them in your suitcase (don’t carry them on the plane).
  • Don’t carry on your art supplies! Save yourself the hassle and risk of having them confiscated at security. Due to the  TSA regulations, we are only allowed one quart size zip-lock plastic bag of 3 oz or smaller creams & liquids. Art paints fall into this category.
  • Do not carry on or check in with your luggage any flammable solvents or thinners ( you can purchase these at your destination). These will not be allowed on the plane.
  • Pack your brushes and palette knives with your luggage – just in case TSA wants to consider them ‘a weapon’…
  • If possible, pack all your supplies in a separate suitcase. If not, pack your supplies so they are on top of your other items in your luggage. This makes it easily accessible for a security check.
  • FYI, for the same reason, you should pack your shoes on top too. I always pack my shoes in a recycled plastic grocery bag.
  • Pack your empty pochade box in your carry on or suitcase.
  • If you are running out of room in your suitcase, consider ‘carrying on’ some of your clothing or shoes instead.
  • Remember to keep your toiletries in your suitcase or they might be confiscated!

Packing Check List:

  • Pochade Box (paint box) & palette
  • Tripod
  • Paints (Titanium White, Cad Yellow,  Cad Red light or Madder Lake/Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Viridian, – this is more than plenty, or just bring the primary colors and white.)
  • Medium (non-flammable)
  • Empty container for turps or solvents
  • Paint Brushes
  • Paint Knife
  • Paper Towels (take some off a roll and fold compactly)
  • Baby Wipes (for clean-up)
  • Acrylic Primed Canvas Pad (these are light and pack easily)
  • 1 board or panel to tape the canvas sheet to while painting
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Apron or smock (Scott Christensen taught me to wear black because it does not reflect onto your canvas)
  • Hat
  • Bug Spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Camera
  • Sketch book & pen or pencil
  • Don’t wear sunglasses while plein air painting…it changes the values & colors – just squint!
  • Did I forget anything?)

That is a basic check list…you of course can customize your own. When I am on a road trip, I like to paint on Masonite panels. But, for this trip I am only using the canvas pads. I plan to paint 8×10 and 6×8 studies. When I get them home, I will glue the finished canvas sheet to a Masonite panel – and it will be ready to frame!

Also, I highly suggest using water-soluble oils for air travel. They make for easy cleaning, you don’t have to worry about solvents, plus the paintings dry quickly so it makes transporting them easy. Finally, I am bringing a flat folder to secure the finished canvases. I will put a paper towel or sheet of paper in between each dry painting. Unless you have a special carrying case for wet paintings, it might be a good idea to stop painting a day or two before your return home. Take this time to enjoy the sites and take lots of pictures instead!

I hope this information helps you with your painting travels. You will learn from trial and error and decide what works for you. I look forward to sharing my adventures in France and my plein air paintings with you. And please share your own helpful suggestions in the comment section.

Share your packing tips with us!

Bon voyage! Lori :)

*****

You might like to read:

My Tour de France

Water Soluble Oil Paints: Facts, Tips & Why I Use Them

Turn an Altoid Box into a Mini Watercolor Set

How to Build a Pochade Box from a Cigar Box

New Zealand: Painting & Playing in the God Zone

Birdwatching in New Zealand: In Search of the Rare Fiordland Penguin

How to Interpret the Landscape in Paint


About Lori McNee

Lori McNee is a professional artist who specializes in still life, and landscape oil paintings. She is an exhibiting member of Oil Painters of America, Plein Air Painters of Idaho, serves on the Plein Air Mag Board of Advisors, and is an Ambassador Artist to Royal Talens. As the owner of FineArtTips.com, Lori blogs about fine art tips, marketing, and social media advice for the aspiring and professional artist. As a social media influencer, Lori ranks as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women on Twitter, has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and named a #TwitterPowerhouse by The Huffington Post. She is a keynote speaker, has been a talk show host for Plum TV, writes for F+W Media publications including Artist’s Magazine, Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market, Photographer’s Market. Also, Zero to 100,000: Social Media Tips & Tricks for Small Businesses.

Comments

  1. Good advice, Lori. A friend of mine had expensive oil paints confiscated at a Scottish airport because the staff thought paints were in danger of exploding during the flight. Ironically they didn’t confiscate the liquin which would have been far more dangerous. We’ve since checked the websites of various art materials manufacturers and of the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) and each has information sheets stating which materials can be carried on one’s person, in the cabin or in the hold. I’d recommend downloading such information and carrying it with the paints; that could save a lot of argument for not much effort. Happy travels, everyone.

  2. This is great advice! I was just wondering about this as I’m about to take a trip with my paints. I remember back in the good old days taking my huge paint box with thinner and all as a carry-on! I was beginning to wonder if you could even take paint in your check-in luggage. I’m glad to hear we can still do that!

  3. Thanks for sharing Lori! Love your post too. : ) Share any of mine you would like. Thanks for asking.

  4. Kozmiksphinx says:

    Great tips! Last time I flew I packed all my oil paints and ink bottles in a shoe box sized Tupperware container in my suitcase and it worked out well. It forced me to really distill down to the essentials and I felt secure no matter how manhandled my luggage was being that nothing would leak out.

  5. Hi Lori,
    This post is so helpful, Thanks for such great insights. I was wondering, how do you carry your tripod stand? Do you check it in or carry it on-board? I hope you can help me with this.

    Thanks,
    Ria

    • Hi Ria,

      I usually pack my tripod in my suitcase. However, it does add weight and they usually inspect your suitcase. I’ve bought so many trinkets down here in the USVIs, I might have to carry my tripod on the plane to get home.

      I plan to pack it in a suitcase for my next plein air trip to Monterey in April. I hope this helps you Ria. I will be talking about this at the Plein Air Convention! Thanks for the input. :)

  6. Thanks for the RTs you all!

  7. Lori,
    I enjoyed reading about your painting trip to France. I use water miscible oils too, and wondered what your favorite brand is? Have you used Lukas? So far I have found Holbein Duo to be the best, but I’ve only tried a few brands. Thanks!

    Chris Heyse

  8. Hi Chris – thanks for the visit and comment. I am happy to hear you enjoy water soluble oils. I use the Artisan and Max brands and have to admit that I have not had the opportunity to try Holbein Duo. When I started using them, I just grabbed what was at the store and the rest is history. I have had great luck with both, but I’d love to try the other brands in the near future.

    Please feel free to share any tips or painting stories with FineArtTips and come back again! Best ~Lori

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