Many artists, both professional and amateur, often like to take some of their art materials such as paints, brushes, pencils and sketchbooks on a trip with them.
If you are one of them, you obviously do not want to have all your art supplies confiscated by airport security so you need to know if you can bring them in your carry on or checked luggage.
The quick Answer: The TSA regulations for taking art supplies on a plane are relatively straightforward. Actually, there are no specific regulations relating to art supplies, such as artist paints but some things such as paint can fall under other TSA rules such as those concerning carrying liquids and also the flammable liquids and hazardous materials rules.
Hopefully I have covered most of the art materials you are likely to want to take with you below.
- 1 Art supplies and the TSA regulations
- 1.1 Can you bring acrylic paint on an airplane?
- 1.2 Can you take watercolor paint on a plane?
- 1.3 Can I bring gouache paint on a plane?
- 1.4 Can you bring oil paint on a plane?
- 1.5 Can you bring aerosol spray paint on a plane?
- 1.6 Can you bring paint pens on a plane?
- 1.7 Can you bring paint brushes on a plane?
- 1.8 Can you take artists pencils on a plane?
- 1.9 Can you bring paint thinner on a plane?
- 2 Art FAQs
Art supplies and the TSA regulations
The FAA states in its pack safe guide:
Artist paints that are nonflammable are not regulated by FAA and may be carried in carry-on or checked baggage.
Some artist paints such as alkyl gels, polyurethanes, and varnishes can be flammable (flashpoint at or below 140° F / 60° C). Flammable paint products may not be carried in carry-on or checked baggage.
However, any paints which are not actually solid, such as tubes of squeezable paint and, obviously, liquid paints all fall under the TSA’s liquids rules if being taken in your carry on bag. In which case, each container must be no larger than 3.4 ozs (100 ml) and they all must fit in your one permitted quart-sized liquids bag. This liquids bag must be removed from your carry on and be placed in a separate bin at the checkpoint for x-ray screening.
If you pack them in your checked luggage then the liquids rules do not apply so there is no restrictions on size or the amount.
Can you bring acrylic paint on an airplane?
Acrylic paints are permitted on a plane but the rules differ depending on whether you want to bring acrylic paint in your carry on baggage or in checked baggage.
If you wish to take them in your hand luggage they are likely to fall within the liquids rules. This means that we will be considered as liquids if they are not only a liquid but also a cream (ie. they can be squeezed from a tube).
In this case each tube/bottle of acrylic paint must be no larger than 3.4 ounces (100 ml) and they must all fit in the one quart sized plastic liquids bag that each passenger is permitted. This bag must be removed from your carry on and be placed in a separate bin at the security checkpoint for x-ray screening.
You can pack any amount of non-flammable acrylic paint in your checked bag without restriction.
This is the TSA’s response to a passenger’s question about bringing acrylic paint on a plane:
Can you take watercolor paint on a plane?
Solid watercolor paints
Watercolors that are solid can be carried in both carry on or checked bags without restriction.
This is confirmed by the TSA below to a passenger’s question about taking solid watercolors on a plane in hand luggage.
Non-solid watercolor paints
Watercolor paint tubes (or bottles) are considered a liquid by the TSA so if being taken as carry on items then each container must be smaller than 3.4 oz (100 ml) and they must fit into a one quart sized plastic liquids bag.
They can be packed in checked bags without restriction.
Can I bring gouache paint on a plane?
Gouache paint is treated in a similar way to watercolors above:
- You can take any amount of solid gouache in either carry on or checked baggage without restriction
- Any paste or gel is treated as a liquid for airport security purposes. This means you can can only take gouache paint tubes in carry on luggage if the individual tubes are less than 3.4 ounces (100 ml) and they are all placed within your one quart zip-top liquids bag along with any other items such as toiletries. Tubes can be packed in checked luggage without restriction.
This passenger is asking the TSA if they can take water soluble gouache paint tubes in their carry on:
Can you bring oil paint on a plane?
You need to establish whether the oil paints you wish to take with you are flammable or non-flammable by checking the material safety data sheet or the label.
If the oil paints are labelled as flammable then they cannot be taken on board at all, either in the cabin or the hold.
If they are non-flammable then you can can only take them in carry on bags if the individual tubes are less than 3.4 ounces (100 ml) and they are packed in your one quart size bag along with any other liquid items such as toiletries.
Non-flammable oil paints can be packed in checked luggage without restriction.
Can you bring aerosol spray paint on a plane?
You cannot bring aerosol paints on a plane in either carry on or hold baggage as the propellant contained in the can is flammable.
Aerosols paint products use a flammable propellant and may not be carried in carry-on or checked baggage.FAA Pack Safe guide
Can you bring paint pens on a plane?
Paint pens can be taken on board. As stated in the TSA’s response below, they might require separate screening at the security check so putting them ina separate bin might be a good idea, rather than leaving them in your carry on.
You will have no problems if you pack them in your suitcase and check that.
Can you bring paint brushes on a plane?
Is it paint brush or paintbrush or are both correct? I am never sure!
You can pack paintbrushes in either your carry on bag or in a checked bag without worrying as they are allowed in either. You can also bring as many as you wish.
As you can see from the reply from the TSA below, you can only bring palette knives if they have rounded blades (corners I guess they mean).
Can you take artists pencils on a plane?
Artists pencils, or any pencils for that matter, can be carried in either your hand luggage or your checked luggage with no restrictions.
If your pencils are sharp then they should be contained within a strong pencil case or other packaging to prevent injury to a security officer if the search your bag.
Can you bring paint thinner on a plane?
Paint thinner, paint related solvents and turpentine are all banned from being taken on a plane in either carry on baggage or checked baggage because they are flammable solvents.
If you try to take any in your carry on then they will be confiscated and if, in your checked luggage, the bag will probably be opened by TSA officers and not only will the thinners be confiscated but your bag may be delayed too.
Paint thinners, turpentine, and brush cleaners are flammable liquids and may not be carried in carry-on or checked baggageFAA Pack Safe guide
Can you bring pens and pencils through TSA?
Pens and pencils can be taken through the TSA security checkpoint and on a plane without restriction. They can remain in your carry on bag to pass through the x-ray screening.
Can you take a painting on a plane?
Provided the painting is not too large to be carried on as a piece of hand baggage or to be packed in your checked bags then it is allowed on a plane. This applies whether the painting is framed or not.
Can I bring linseed oil on plane?
Linseed oil can be taken on a plane. In carry on it must be in a container that is no larger than 3.4 ounces (100ml) and be in your one quart size liquids bag with your other liquids to pass through security.
I have been traveling around the world by air since the early 70s and living overseas too. I worked for British Airways for a number of years and I am also a private pilot.