Traveling With Oil Colors – Tips for Hassle-Free Trips

Traveling (especially flying) with precious art supplies can be very nerve racking for some of us. For artists who work in oils, the Painted Ladies have put together a simple approach to packing that we have used for years with great success.

First, it helps to put yourself in the shoes of the TSA agent who is lucky enough to go through your checked bag. 🙂 They don’t have much time to do it, so putting things where they are easy to get to is a BIG plus. Make sure to place your supplies, especially your tubes of artist colors towards the top of your suitcase. That way the agent won’t need to unpack everything just to check-out your tubes of colors. I like to put everything in my Thumbox. Makes less work for me when I arrive, and also provides a sturdy support to protect the tubes from who-knows-what.
Below you can see my ThumBox with the lid up/opened. On the palette I place a packet of documents.
Paint Box With Coverletter How to pack for travel artist painters guide and other documents
First page of the packet is a cover letter. It reads like this:

To whom it may concern,

Contained in this box are various tubes of artist colors, suspended in vegetable oil.

The US Department of Transportation defines “flammable liquids’ as those with a flash point of 140 degrees F or below, these artist grade oil colors have a flash point at or above 450 degrees F. They are not hazardous. If you need to confirm this, please contact TSA at 866-289-9673 or their Hazardous Materials Research Center at 800-467-4922

Attached you will find the MSDS for these artist colors as well as the list of prohibited and allowed items for air travel taken from the website on 5/20/14 Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely, Karen Whitworth


You are welcome to copy and tweak this format however you see fit.

Second page of the packet is a MSDS sheet from the oil color Manufacturer website. Do you use Gamblin too? Here is a link to their site where you can print off a MSDS form. (They are listed under their respective colors)

This MSDS page lists the flash point of your oil colors which in turn determines whether or not it is a flammable liquid. As you can see in the picture, I eagerly highlighted the 620 degree flash point. 🙂

Gamblin MSDS with Flashpoint temperature highlighted How to pack for travel artist painters guide

Next part of the info packet is a copy of the TSA Prohibited Items List which states that you can bring non flammable liquids in your checked luggage. Click here to see and print the latest version from their website.
TSA allowed Items brocure printed out with non flamable liquids highlighted How to pack for travel artist painters guide and other documentsHere is a zoomed in version of the brochure showing exactly where this is noted. I highlighted again… I enjoy it too much not to. 🙂How to pack for travel artist painters guideAnd that’s it for the packet! 🙂 You’re all done.

Next, I will show you a quick way to pack your tubes of color to ensure that those pesky sharp crimped corners don’t puncture a neighboring tube. Believe me, it’s not pretty when that happens!

All I do is place the tubes cap to cap and roll them in a sheet of scrap paper. (Pictured below) It works beautifully and is very simple for TSA to place back in the box after inspecting it.

Oil Colors Rolled in Paper to protect from being punctured How to pack for travel artist painters guide

Below you can see the tubes in their cozy paper cocoons nestled in the drawer of my ThumBox.Paint Box With Coverletter and other documents Drawer pulled out How to pack for travel artist painters guide
That’s it! You’re ready to go!
If this post was helpful, please feel free to share it! 🙂
Happy flying from Karen Whitworth and the Painted Ladies


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