Traveling with painting gear is always a bit of a challenge, especially on an airplane. Due to TSA regulations, flying isn’t as simple as it once was.

However, after many years of traveling with my painting equipment, I have refined how to successfully pack for painting. I hope my tips help make your art travels a bit easier.

First, I usually pack my small  pochade box in my suitcase.  There are a lot of different painting boxes out on the market. I have tested most all of them. The following are my three favorite boxes.

  • The tough and trusted Strada Easel is great for airplane travel. It’s well designed, durable and compact.
  • The EasyLite Pochade Box is another favorite as it includes a built in panel holder.
  • The popular  Day Tripper Easel is a favorite when I plan to paint larger works, plus it is lightweight, durable and offers a large mixing area.

Below are some packing tips:

  • Try to streamline your art supplies down to the utmost essentials. Consider 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-mixable 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). I suggest packing the paints in a clear plastic container.
  • Be sure and enclose your paints with the Plein Air Magazine label! Print off a large copy and fill it in with your own information.
  • 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.
  • When you pack for painting, keep your brushes and palette knives within 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.
  • Pack any Leatherman-like tools or pocket knives in with your checked luggage.
  • Remember to keep your toiletries in your suitcase or they might also be confiscated!
  • Here is my helpful tip for packing and traveling with wet paintings! How to Turn a Wine Cork into a Plein Air Painting Carrier!


plein air painting TSA label

Pack for Painting 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)
  • Canvas or linen panels
  • Acrylic Primed Canvas Pad (these are light and pack easily) and 1 board or panel to tape the canvas sheet to while painting
  • Painter’s Tape, wine cork.
  • 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?

When I am flying, I prefer painting on linen or Multimedia Artboard. I usually bring 9×12, 8×10 and 6×8 sizes. Also, I highly suggest using water-mixable 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.

I hope this information helps you with your painting travels. You will learn from trial and error and decide what works for you.

Bon voyage!






You might like to read:

Water Mixable 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


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