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How To Fly With Your Painting Supplies

Hello everyone! I just wrote about my recent trip to Maine (here) and I thought I'd share about how I was able to fly with all of my plein air painting supplies!

This was the first time I had flown on a plane with any of my gear. I had to do some research and planning on how to make everything fit and on how to avoid having anything confiscated at the airport. I was ultimately able to fit all of my supplies into my carry on backpack and didn't have any problems with getting through security!! This was a big accomplishment for me because most artists I've seen typically pack everything in their checked bags. I've compiled all of my insights together to hopefully help you out with traveling in the future. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out/comment and ask me!

Keep reading below for a list of everything I brought and how I made it work!


Number 1: The U.Go Plein Air Pochade

I absolutely love this pochade! I have the medium size and it's super lightweight and portable. It's also super sturdy and the company, New Wave, also offers helpful attachments. I have one side tray that I brought with me that I use to hold my brushes.

Link to the product below:


Number 2: Gamblin Solvent Free Gel

Flying with any sort of liquids can be a risky affair. I knew that the Gamblin Odorless Mineral Spirits that I normally paint with are highly flammable, and would not be allowed on the plane at all. As an alternative to the paint thinner, I packed a 37 mL tube of Gamblin's Solvent Free Gel. I used this as a medium, similar to how you might use another type of oil. I also used this product to clean my brushes with.

What I liked about this product was that I could fit it into my quart size bag (along with my paints, more on that later) and throw it in my carry on bag. I also liked that I can squeeze it out right onto my palette and not have to use a separate jar for medium.

What I didn't like however is that it isn't useful for thin base layers of paint like mineral spirits are. It also doesn't help the paint to spread as much I would like. And though it could sort of clean off my brushes, it couldn't get all of the paint out. In the future I might try bringing a small container of an oil instead. But all in all it was useful for what I needed--traveling--and I could just further wash my brushes with soap and water back at the Airbnb.

Link to the product below:


Number 3: Oil Paints

Normally, I paint with a palette of about 13 colors. For this trip, I narrowed down my palette a bit to just 8 colors. These are the colors I brought: Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Red, Alizarin Permanent, Viridian, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, and Titanium White. I packed these, all 40 mL tube sizes, into a (double-bagged) quart size plastic bag along with my solvent free gel. I also put some bubble wrap around it for protection. Since it was all small liquids, I actually brought the paints in my carry on bag! Airlines require the flash point of liquids to be over 144 degrees. Oil paints consists of just vegetable oil and pigment, and are over that flashpoint! There is no flammability issue with these. TSA did take them out of my bag while I was going through security but put them right back in without any explaining or issues.


Number 4: Compact Tripod

I have a large heavy duty tripod for painting, but it was too big to fit in my backpack or even my luggage bag for the plane. I scrambled the day before our trip to find another tripod that would work! I got lucky and found one at best buy that was much more compact and lighter weight. It worked great! It fit right in my backpack and was super adjustable. Though it didn't have a weight hook on the bottom of it (to attach your bag/weight to keep the tripod from flying away), I didn't have any problems since I wasn't in any high wind situations.

This is the tripod I used:


Number 5: Panels and Wet Panel Carrier

I painted on lightweight 1/8" thick linen panels from Raymar. These are my favorite panels for painting. I brought 6 panels with me total, which all fit in my backpack on the way there. I have a fantastic panel carrier from Raymar that I would normally use to carry my wet paintings back, however it only fits 11'x14'' panels and I didn't have any that size! So I had to improvise. I created my own panel carrying system with 1/4" square dowel rods, some glue, binder clips, and rubber bands. I am going to be writing a tutorial on how I made those soon too! This system worked very well for me, and I carried the paintings back (using this system) in a tote bag (plus some bubble wrap for added protection.


Number 6: Folding Stool

I physically cannot stand for very long to paint without getting faint, so I have to sit down when I paint. Due to this, I have a folding camping stool from REI that I packed with me. It just barely fit into my backpack! But it could have easily gone in a side water bottle pocket or have been bungee corded on to the front too. This is a great light weight stool that does what I need it to.

Link to the product below:


Number 7: Paintbrushes

I normally bring an assortment of brushes with me to paint, but this time I narrowed it down to 6 of my favorites. I wrapped them in some scrap fabric to keep them protected in my bag. This is just a matter of personal preference, but I really like evergreen flats from Rosemary & Co. I brought my normal long handled ones, but you could bring all short handle brushes to make things even more compact! I did choose to leave my palette knife and paint scraper at home just in case they didn't make it through TSA.


Number 8: Backpack

This list wouldn't exist if there wasn't also a bag to put it all into! I used an old L.L.Bean since it was really spacious and could fit everything inside the zipper pockets. However, I have previously used a backpack from REI which I added some bungee cord onto the front of. I normally bungee my tripod on the front and put my stool in the water bottle pocket. This would have worked for this trip, but the old L.L. Bean one also could fit my unpainted panels inside on the way there. So I went with that one. I don't think they make that one anymore, but here is the REI backpack if you're interested:

REI Backpack:


Number 9: Miscellaneous Supplies:

I like to paint with nitrile gloves to keep paint off of my hands since I'm a messier painter. So I packed some of those. I also packed some paper towels which I folded into squares so they would be more compact. Some wet wipes would have been helpful but I forgot to get those. A plastic grocery bag is also helpful for putting dirty paper towels into. I also brought a button down shirt to wear like a smock to keep paint off of my clothes.


Andddd I think that's it! Was this helpful for you? Let me know and drop a comment if you have any questions I can help with!

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1 Comment

Great tips , thank

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