In short, you can’t bring flammable paints and paint-related solvents on a plane in either your carry-on or checked bags, but you can bring non-flammable paints in both, though the 3-1-1 rule applies.
In other words, most (but not all) artist paints are nonflammable, so are fine to bring in your carry-on bag as long as the container of each paint doesn’t exceed 3.4oz/100ml. While most paints and paint-related solvents are flammable, so you must leave them at home.
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Paints You Can Bring on a Plane
You can bring all the following paints in both your carry-on and checked bags, though restrictions will apply if packed in your carry-on bag.
- Acrylic Paint: Acrylic paint is water-based and therefore isn’t flammable. However, as it is a liquid, the 3-1-1 rule will apply.
- Watercolor Paints: Watercolor paints are non-flammable and also have the advantage of being small and easy to pack. If you want to bring solid watercolor paints, you can bring as many as you want in your carry-on, as they aren’t considered a liquid.
- Gouache Paint: The same rules apply for gouache paint as they do for watercolor paint. So, solid gouache paint can be packed in your carry-on in large quantities, while liquid gouache paint must follow the 3-1-1 rule.
- Non-flammable Oil Paint: Non-flammable oil paint can be packed in your carry-on and checked bags, though once again the 3-1-1 rule will apply if packed in your carry-on.
Paints You Can’t Bring on a Plane
You should leave the following types of paint at home otherwise they will be confiscated if packed in your carry-on bag, or confiscated, and you may be subject to a fine if packed in your checked-bag, given the dangerous (flammable) nature of these products.
- Spray Paint: Spray paint use a flammable propellant, so you can’t pack it in either your carry-on or checked bag.
- Lacquer Paint: Lacquer paint is also flammable, so is again a non-go in either your carry-on or checked bag.
- Alkyl Gels, Polyurethanes, and Varnishes: You may or may not be able to bring these, as some of these artist paints can be flammable. Make sure you check beforehand.
Leave Turpentine & Paint Thinner At Home
Turpentine, paint-thinner and paint-related solvents are flammable, which means that you are unable to bring them on a plane in either your carry-on or checked bag.
This also applies to brush cleaners.
How to Pack Paint When Flying
- Figure out if your paint is flammable or non-flammable.
- If your paint is flammable, leave it at home; if non-flammable, you can fly with it.
- If your paint is solid, it can be packed in your carry-on with no quantity limits. If liquid, each container must be no larger than 3.4oz/100ml.
- If you pack the paint in your carry-on, make sure that you place it in a clear, resealable single-quart bag.
- If you pack the paint in your checked bag, place it in a plastic bag in case the tube leaks or bursts. Generally, paint won’t explode on a plane.
A Note About the MSDS
If your paint is not marked as non-inflammable, but actually is, make sure that you pack the manufacturer’s material safety data sheet (MSDS) with the paint to avoid the paint being removed from your bag, and to avoid delays.
According to TSA baggage rules and regulations, if your paint is marked as non-inflammable, you can ignore this.
In case you aren’t aware, the MSDS will show if a paint is a flammable liquid or not based on if its”flash point” is higher than 140° F (60° C).
You Can Bring Paint Brushes, Pens & Pencils
The TSA allow you to bring all of your paint brushes, pens, and pencils in both your carry-on and checked bag.
There is no limit to how many you can bring.
You can also bring palette knives in both bags, too.
You Can Bring Paintings
According to the TSA, you can pack paintings in both your carry-on and checked bag.
However, whether the painting will count as a personal item, carry-on item, or has to be checked in will depend on the airline.
Generally, personal items have a size restriction of 17 inches long, 10 inches wide and 9 inches high, and must also be able to fit underneath the seat in front of you.
Carry-on items have a size restriction of 17 inches long, 10 inches wide and 9 inches high.
Any painting larger than this will have to be checked or shipped to your destination.
Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.
Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.
Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).