Monday, December 21, 2009

Flying with Oils

"Slippery Crossing"
9x12, oil, en plein air

(painted at Red Rock Crossing at Crescent Moon Ranch)

For those of you flying for the holidays, here's some useful information if you're thinking of doing some oil painting at your destination. As you know, the Transportation Security Administration has restrictions on flammable materials. Artist's oil colors are not flammable, of course, but you should be prepared. Here's how I handle the TSA.

I double-bag my tubes in plastic bags and put them in my checked luggage along with the appropriate MSDS (Manufacturer Safety Data Sheet) documents. These data sheets will note a particular color's flash point, which is an indication of its degree of flammability.

The data sheet is handy for the TSA agent who may inspect your luggage, because it should indicate to him that the colors are non-flammable and therefore permitted. By the way, if you speak to the agent, let him know these are "artist's oil colors made with vegetable oil" and not "oil paints." It's less confusing to them.

I've found a site that has a good list of manufacturers and specific colors along with links to their MSDS documents:

So what does define flammable?

The TSA site notes that a "flammable liquid, gel or aerosol paint" is not permitted in checked luggage. It does not, however, define "flammable." The Occupational Health and Safety Administration site, on the other hand, does.

OSHA defines a flammable liquid as "any liquid having a flash point below 100 deg. F. (37.8 deg. C.), except any mixture having components with flash points of 100 deg. F. (37.8 deg. C.) or higher, the total of which make up 99 percent or more of the total volume of the mixture." (From If you study the manufacturer's safety data sheets, you'll see that the colors cannot be classified as flammable.

With the data sheets packed with the paint in your checked luggage, your luggage should breeze through security with no problems. I've flown many times with oil paint and have had no issues. Sometimes I open a suitcase to find a little note from TSA saying the luggage was inspected, but I'm pleased to find that the paint is always still there. So, enjoy your trip!


Linda Warner Constantino said...

I concur that this works well. I have even brought Gamsol solvent over to Italy in my luggage with no problem as long as it has the msds sheet right with it.

Pam Holnback said...

Thanks so much for this info. I've flown w/out the msds sheet. Guess I was lucky.

Ed Terpening said...

I also pack my Safety information with my paints, and it seems to work fine. No issues. I do tend to ground ship my gear in advance, it's a lot easier