Traveling Light as A Painter


Armand Cabrera

I paint from 4 x 6 up to 36 x 48 outdoors. There is no single system that is the perfect easel or Pochade box. That’s why I have different equipment for traveling as light as possible. The recent popularity of outdoor painting has made equipment more affordable. Whatever your preferred medium—whether it is watercolor, pastels, acrylic or oil painting—there are great solutions for your outdoor painting needs.

I originally published this article on five years ago. I have updated it with current information for today’s air travel restrictions.


Painting trips are a great way to renew the spark of creativity. When I travel to a painting spot for a week to ten days, I streamline my painting setup. I make sure I get all my equipment and clothes in my carry-on luggage. This minimizes loss and or damage to my painting gear. If carrying on your luggage is not an option, I recommend shipping it to the destination in advance. Airlines will not be responsible for damages to your expensive gear in checked luggage.

Solvents are prohibited on planes. I usually switch to water-based oils, acrylics or watercolors for my trips, unless I’ve got a contact at my destination who will supply my Gamsol. The new TSA rules allow liquid containers 3.4 ounces or less when placed in a clear zip-top quart-sized bag. A normal 37 ml tube is equal to 1.25 ounces. Large tubes of paint are more than 3.4 ounces, so remember to swap your big tube of white paint for a 37 ml tube. Otherwise the TSA will dispose of it. Remember, this quart bag must contain all your liquids, not just your paints, so leave room for bug spray, hand cream, toothpaste, and deodorant. Also, do not bring a paint scraper as the TSA does not allow sharp objects on planes anymore.

As long as you follow the 3-1-1 rule, you should be fine. The rule is as follows, and I quote from the TSA website:

“3-1-1 for carry-ons = 3.4 ounce bottle or less (by volume); 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. One-quart bag per person limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring. 3.4 oz. container size is a security measure.”

A collapsible brush holder works great for cleaning brushes. If it starts to leak, just place a Ziploc in it to hold the water.

I limit the size of my sketches to 12 x 16 or smaller when I fly. I cut a number of pieces of oil primed linen to size and only bring one board to clip my paintings onto, saving on weight and space. I use clips, rather than tape, because weather can make the adhesive on tape unreliable.

I place the blank panel in the Pochade box.

My collapsible brush holder slides under the panel in my Pochade box.

I roll my linen and place it in a clear mailing tube. When paintings are finished and dry, I roll them and replace them in the tube.
All my brushes and clips go into the tube also. I do this to make it easy for inspection at the airport.

The mailing tube and Pochade go into a high impact plastic briefcase. A pistol case is perfect for this. You can buy thin rolls of foam rubber to line the inside of the case to cushion the equipment.

In my small luggage bag, I place all my clothes, toiletries, cell phone, camera and tripod. Airlines allow one briefcase and one small piece of luggage as carry-on items. I’m ready to go.

Resource List
Below are the vendors I used to purchase the equipment for this article. Please mention my name when purchasing from vendors.

Water soluble oil paints
Water soluble oil paints are manufactured by the following companies:
Windsor Newton Artisan
Holbein Duo
Holbein also makes the collapsible brush washer

AcrylicsGolden Acrylics makes a line of slow drying acrylics called Open. They are not quite the same as oils, but might be a solution for some people.

Paints and SolventPaint, turpentine and other art supplies, including the collapsible brush washer, can be purchased from most art stores. I use these national art supply distributors:

Cheap Joes

Daniel Smith 1-800-426-7923

Jack Richeson
(800) 233-2404

Utretcht 1-800-223-9132

Art Supply Warehouse

I use Gamblin Oils and Gamsol odorless turpentine by Gamblin when I am painting with regular oil paints.

Canvas and Panels
I buy my linen panels and panel blanks from SourceTek.

Pochade BoxesPochade boxes come in many sizes and configurations.
The following vendors make quality products. It’s best to speak with them to see if their products will satisfy your specific painting needs and budget.

Open Box M

Artwork Essentials

Wet Panel Carriers
Wet panel carriers are as varied as Pochade boxes. The Pochade vendors and Sourcetek offer wet panel carriers as part of their product line. A lightweight panel carrier is made by Raymar.

Miscellaneous Gear

Extreme weather gear, clothing, backpacks and pistol cases can be purchased from a local sporting goods store or from an online store, such as Cabela’s.

The plastic totes are available from Home Depot, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target, etc. The 35 gallon tote I purchased cost about 8 dollars.






Traveling Light Part 2

Armand Cabrera

Road Trips

Automobile trips usually allow for more gear and a better variety of panel options. I like to keep a plastic tote box in the back of my CRV. In this box goes all of my gear with wet panel carriers, turpentine and extra clothing in case of changes in the weather.

I keep my gear in a backpack. I find the after market packs are better than the ones from the pochade companies but do your research and find a pack that is comfortable for you with all your gear in it.

The bottom compartment of the pack has my brush washer, garbage bags paper towels bug repellant and sunscreen.

The Pochade box with all my paints and brushes go into the top compartment of the pack.

The tripod and lightweight wet panel carrier strap to the outside of the pack. This setup allows me to hike for miles if need be with up to ten panels and all of my painting gear.

The bottom of the tote box has extra clothing for extreme weather, paper towels, water and turpentine. I also have a wet panel box to put my finished paintings in.

My backpack goes on top of my other supplies and I secure it with cargo netting. Using cargo netting over the top of the tote I can pack things higher than with the lid on and still have them secure.

The plastic tote helps keep everything together and keeps me from getting paint all over the car.