Traveling with Art Supplies

The Workshops in France team has taken the mystery out of traveling with art supplies. The TSA has imposed rules about traveling with all kinds of things, including paints. Every now and again, your bag might be the one that is chosen for a random search, but if you do as we do, you shouldn’t encounter any problems.

Don’t Call Them Paints! 

It’s really quite simple. Don’t call them Paints! We have found that if you call them “Artist’s Colors” you will have no trouble. When you sign up for one of our workshops or retreats, we will send you a specific letter to the TSA that informs them you are traveling with Artist’s Colors, that you can personalize and place directly on top of your paints.

Pack all your art supplies in your checked luggage like this:

If you are an oil painter, use acrylics, or tubes of watercolor paint, pack all your paints inside a transparent plastic container and then slip that into a large zip-loc bag. Go to your paint manufacturer’s webpage and find their Manufacturer Safety Data Sheet. Print this off and put it into the plastic bag with your TSA letter, on top of the paints box so that it is the first thing that will be seen if your luggage is opened. Chuck in a business card if you have one. Don’t worry if you don’t.

If you are a watercolorist that uses a watercolor set with pans of color, just pack it along with the rest of your supplies in your checked bag. Easy-peasy!

What to Bring:

If you already have a well-tested and proven-in-the-field set of supplies that you always travel with then you’re all set! If not here are some suggestions. Adapt them to your needs and don’t feel you have to bring everything.

It’s always a good idea to bring a limited palette, but keep in mind that there are some colors that you may be using a lot, for example if attending one of our retreats during lavender season make sure to bring some purple or violet. Poppy Season? Bring cadmium red, and Scotland, greens. Oh, the greens!

Of course, you can mix your own colors, so consider paring down the number of paints you bring. Your arms will thank you in the end…

Do not bring solvents or thinners, as we will supply these for you.

Here’s an image of Tim Horn’s suggested supplies. Read on for ours…

The List

  • Paint brushes (7 or so)
  • Palette knife
  • Painting surfaces (i.e. acrylic primed canvas pad, canvas on wood painting panels, canvas, primed board, etc.)
  • 1 board or panel to tape the canvas sheet to while painting if using loose canvas or pre-primed canvas sheets
  • Pochade box (paint box) & palette
  • Tripod
  • Sketchbook & pen or pencils
  • View finder
  • Camera & charger
  • Apron or smock
  • Hat
  • Backpack/tote bag to use on site
  • Checked luggage bag for all of the above to fit in
  • Some people like to bring an umbrella to shade their palette and painting, but keep in mind that they can be heavy, tricky to attach to your easel and can catch the wind! If you have one that works for you, by all means bring it.


What not to Bring

Workshops in France will provide the following:

  • Liquin or equivalent
  • Solvent
  • Empty container for solvents
  • Tape
  • Paper towels
  • Baby wipes
  • Disposable vinyl gloves

With these simple lists and guidelines, it should be easy to pack. We can’t wait to see you overseas painting, sipping wine, and enjoying excellent company!

 Blogger: Shirley Hambrick

Shirley Hambrick is an award-winning stained-glass artist and painter. She has lived in Scotland, Spain and the USA. Shirley has been part of the Workshops in France team over the last few years and attended over 10 of these trips. Being Scottish, she was trained at Edinburgh College of Art and Design. Shirley teaches in the West Virginia area and you can some of her beautiful work here.

Shirley Hambrick artist

Check out more blogs about art workshops, tips and hacks for artists traveling in France and Scotland.

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