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Packing for Painting

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

Tips and tricks on traveling with your art supplies.

If you have your own advice, post it in the comments. We'd love to hear from you. 

Traveling with your art gear can be challenging, especially if you don't have experience. The normal tendency is to bring as much as possible but the right way to think about it is the exact oposite. Only bring the essentials. This list might help you eliminate a few things and also suggest a few ideas you may not have considered. 


1. Your paints must go in your check-in baggage, not your carry-on.

2. Pack less than you need. Learn to pack light. Watercolours are the lightest but if acrylics or oils are your preference then use a limited palette. It's good practice to paint with a scaled down palette anyway. These are the colours I bring when packing light: Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Quinacridone Rose, Ultramarine Blue, Viridian and Titanium White.

3. Paint small. 6x8s make gem paintings and don't take up much space. Use this opportunity to practice painting small. You only need three brushes if you paint this size: #6 and #2 flat, and a

small script brush; Or one quality sable watercolour brush.

4. Not all easels are created equally. I have two different easels for plein air painting. I use my Soltek (Best Outdoor Painting Product 2013)for local and car trip paint-outs and I use my

small Craftech Pochade when flying because it's more compact and lighter.

5. ZIP IT: I always put my paints into a ziplock bag I include a sheet of paper in each of the zip-lock bags that reads:"ARTISTS' PIGMENT ENCLOSED. The Canadian Department of Transportation defines "flammable liquids" as those with a flash point 60 degrees C or below. Artist grade oil colours are based on vegetable oil with a flashpoint at or above 230 degrees C. THEY ARE NOT HAZARDOUS."

You can also include the MSDS (Manufacturer's Safety Data Sheets), usually be found on the manufacturer's web site. Contact us if you can't find it.

6. For oil painters: Although most of the odourless solvents like Gamsol are within legal limits, it may still be confiscated. Most places you travel to will have a hardware store that sells some type of odourless solvent. Hardware brands still tend to have a slight odour, which is tolerable if you're painting outside, but if you are in an indoor workshop environment than ask the host if there is an art store nearby. In most cases they will provide you with proper non-toxic solvents.

7. Storing wet oil paintings: a small storage unit like the GatorBox or Handy Porter work great but in a pinch you can put four small twigs on the corners of facing panels and tie them together tightly in a plastic grocery bag.

8. Try using water-soluble oils for air travel. They make for easy cleaning because you don't have to worry about solvents and the paintings dry quickly so transporting them is easier.

9. Invest in a small luggage scale. I once had to dump a $30 sketchbook into the trash to save me $60 in luggage fees. It was either that or my oversized lululemon underwear.

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