Can You Bring Paint on a Plane?

Transporting paints and art supplies can pose a unique challenge for frequently travelling artists. Between navigating TSA regulations and individual airline policies, figuring out what you can and cannot bring on a plane can be confusing. Knowing the guidelines for carrying different types of paint is key to avoiding headaches at airport security.

can you bring paint on a plane

With some advanced planning and preparation, artists can feel confident bringing their acrylic, watercolor, and even oil paints along for the journey. Understanding TSA rules and airline restrictions will make passing through security smoother. This guide breaks down the specifics on traveling with paints so you can focus on your creativity, not the logistics.

Understanding TSA Regulations

The main factor governing what paints you can bring on a plane falls under the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule. This rule limits liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, and pastes carried in your carry-on bag to containers no larger than 3.4 ounces (100 ml). These containers should then be packed together in a single quart-sized plastic bag.

TSA paint regulations strictly adhere to this 3-1-1 guideline. If you want to bring paint in your carry-on luggage, it must be 3.4 ounces or smaller. This applies to watercolor paints, acrylics, and oils equally. Your checked baggage must pack any bottles or tubes over 3.4 ounces.

TSA does not make a specific distinction between different paint types like acrylics or oils. The main factors are the container size and following the liquids rules. However, not all paints are created equal regarding air travel. Watercolors, acrylics, and oil paints have their own specific guidelines carriers should be aware of.

Acrylic Paints: Carry-On and Checked Luggage

For most artists, acrylic paints offer the least obstacles for air travel. Since acrylic paint is water-based and quick-drying, it is non-flammable. This makes acrylics perfectly safe for carrying on planes or placing in checked luggage.

To bring acrylic paints in your carry-on bag, make sure all containers follow the 3.1-1 rule for liquids. Purchase travel-sized acrylic paint tubes or bottles that are 3.4 ounces or less. Pack all the small containers in a clear, quart-sized plastic bag. This bag of paints can then go through the security scanner with your other carry-on essentials.

You can pack original acrylic paint bottles and tubes for checked luggage, even if they exceed 3.4 ounces. The non-flammable nature of acrylics makes them perfectly fine to transport in cargo. Take precautions to prevent leaking by wrapping tubes and bottles securely. Placing them in sealable plastic bags or a designated paint case offers an additional safeguard.

Helpful packing tips for acrylics:

  • Put tubes in plastic bags or a paint box in case of leaks.
  • Transport paint brushes in protective sleeves or cases.
  • Pack a travel palette for mixing paint conveniently.
  • Bring small bottles of acrylic medium and water.
  • Keep acrylics away from clothing to prevent stains if leaks occur.

With proper packing techniques, artists should feel free to bring acrylic painting supplies in both carry-on and checked bags. The quick-drying composition makes acrylics the most travel-friendly paint.

Watercolor Paints: Artist’s Favorite for Travel

Watercolor paints also provide a convenient option for air travel. Since watercolors use a water-soluble binder, they are non-flammable like acrylics. The TSA guidelines treat watercolors and acrylics similarly.

Watercolors come in two forms – semi-moist pans or liquid tubes. The TSA’s stance on watercolors allows artists to bring both types in carry-on and checked luggage. For carry-ons, ensure all liquid watercolor tubes follow the 3.1-1 rule and are under 3.4 ounces. No issues are bringing any size watercolor pans on board.

To pack watercolors for a flight:

  • Place liquid watercolor tubes in a sealable plastic bag with your other 3-1-1 liquids.
  • Transport watercolor pans in a protected palette box in your carry-on.
  • Bring empty water containers and refill after passing security.
  • Store brushes securely in sleeves or cases.
  • Pack paper/watercolor pads in your personal item.
  • Keep paints separate from clothing to prevent stains.

Watercolor’s portability makes it ideal for travel. Artists can easily bring compact pans or small tubes in their on-flight essentials. With smart packing methods, watercolors offer no hassles for airline travel.

Oil Paints: Navigating the Restrictions

Can you bring oil paint on a plane for artists accustomed to working in oils? While traveling with oil paints involves more considerations, it is possible with proper precautions.

Unlike acrylics and watercolors, oil paint retains a greasy, flammable binder even when dry. This composition puts more restrictions on bringing oil paints on flights. However, the main TSA requirement remains the 3.1-1 rule for carry-on liquids.

Oil paint regulations:

  • Tubes under 3.4 oz are permitted in carry-on bags.
  • Larger tubes should go in checked luggage.
  • Keep paints sealed to prevent leakage or odor issues.
  • Notify TSA agents if packing oil paints.
  • Be prepared for additional screening at security.

Recommendations for packing oil paints:

  • Wrap tubes in plastic bags in case of leaks.
  • Store in sealable containers to prevent odors.
  • Transport brushes and mediums following liquids rules.
  • Let TSA know you have oil paints during screening.
  • Bring an empty palette and fill it after arriving if desired.

While oil paint’s composition makes it trickier for air travel, artists can still transport their preferred oils with smart preparation. Following TSA guidelines carefully allows painters to bring these flammable paints safely onboard.

Acrylic Paints and TSA Security Checks

When going through airport screening, how should artists handle acrylic paints? As a non-flammable paint, acrylics raise little concern with TSA agents. However, travelers may still encounter additional inspections.

During security, be prepared to:

  • Take your bag of 3-1-1 compliant acrylic paints out of your carry-on.
  • Take paint brushes out of your bag to be screened separately.
  • Answer questions from TSA about why you are traveling with paints.
  • Undergo additional screening such as pat-downs, bag searches, or chemical testing.
  • Remain patient and cooperative during any secondary inspections.

While inconvenient, these measures ensure travel safety. Be ready to show TSA agents that your acrylics conform to the carry-on guidelines. A transparent, labeled container helps speed up the screening process.

For checked acrylic paints, no action is required on your part during screening. As a non-hazardous material, acrylics in cargo hold no risks. Don’t be surprised if TSA searches your checked baggage, but this is routine and acrylic paints raise no major concerns.

With cooperative, well-prepared artists, transporting acrylic paint through airport security need not cause major issues. Following TSA guidelines and allowing extra time at security can keep your travel running smoothly.

Practical Tips for Traveling Artists

To ensure a hassle-free experience when traveling with paints:

  • Know airline and TSA restrictions – Research the policies for your specific airline and always follow TSA liquid rules.
  • Purchase travel-sized supplies – Opt for small tubes or pans suited for transport and carry-ons.
  • Label containers clearly – Use your name and the paint type (e.g. “Acrylic Paints”) so TSA can identify them easily.
  • Protect against leaks – Seal lids tightly and store tubes and bottles in plastic bags or paint cases.
  • Separate paints from clothing – Prevent stains by packing paints away from garments in luggage.
  • Alert TSA agents – Politely inform agents if carrying paints and follow their instructions.
  • Pack smartly – Use multi-purpose tools like foldable palettes to save space.
  • Check airline policies – Some prohibit hazardous materials like oils, so check restrictions.
  • Arrive early – Allow extra time at the airport in case of additional inspections at security.

With preparation and prudence, artists can visit exciting destinations without sacrificing their favored paints and tools. A little planning goes a long way towards safely transporting art materials on planes.


When it comes to answering “can you bring paint on a plane”, the answer is yes—with careful adherence to regulations. For acrylic and watercolor paints, following the TSA’s 3-1-1 liquids rule allows most artists to bring small quantities in carry-on luggage. Both these water-based paints are non-flammable, making them low-risk for air travel.

Oil paints face more restrictions, but can still be transported in checked luggage or through security screenings. Notifying TSA of oils and allowing extra time is wise. With proper packing methods and containers, artists can bring their preferred paints in reasonable amounts.

It is always essential to research your specific airline’s policies as well. While TSA sets baseline liquid restrictions, airlines can impose additional rules on hazardous materials. Be prepared for the possibility of extra screening and inspections at security when traveling with paints. Patience and cooperation will ensure the process goes smoothly.

With the proper precautions, artists no longer need to leave their vibrant paints at home. Acrylics, watercolors, and oils can safely accompany passionate painters nationwide or overseas. Transporting your favored paints allows you to create and teach art wherever you travel.

Additional Resources:

TSA Guidelines on Liquids, Gels, Aerosols

TSA Guidelines for Artists/Art Materials

Artist Discussion on Traveling with Paints

Tutorial on Packing Paints for Flights

Airline Policies on Restricted Items

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