9+ Best Travel Art Supplies for Painting Artists Who Travel

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A map of the world on a table with travel art supplies lying around it

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One of the perks of painting is that all of the necessary materials are fairly portable. This article will guide you through which travel art supplies are the easiest to pack and take with you.

We are lucky in this day and age to be able to carry our paints in small paint tubes and have easels that are light and foldable. However, there are a LOT of different materials out there and it can be hard to know what exactly you need to paint and travel. I will break down exactly what you will need, so that you can easily be a traveling artist, painting on the go!

Painting Surfaces Best for Travel

This is one of the more important of the travel art supplies you’ll need to remember to take with you. As wherever you paint you will always need something to paint on.

a hand with two rolled up canvas art supplies ready for travel
Rolled up canvas makes for an easy to travel with painting surface

I recommend using loose gessoed canvas that can be rolled up. Boards will take up more space than stretched canvas. Not to mention you have to be a little more careful not to puncture or damage stretch canvases!

You can gesso your own canvas or purchase it already primed and ready to paint on! When you are ready to start your painting, you will simply cut out a size that is appropriate for your project. Then attach the piece of canvas to a hard board with some masking tape. This hard board will act as a support for all of your paintings on your journey. You will be able to use both sides if you wish to do multiple paintings at a time! I do this often😉

Art Supplies for Storing Paintings and Canvas

To transport your canvas I recommend to roll it up and store it safely inside a mailing tube. This provides excellent protection for your painting surface and keeps it from getting any creases.

an artist holding a mailing tube that is being used as an art supply carrying case
Mailing tubes are a great way to protect travel paintings and canvas

In addition, I recommend for you to use the mailing tube to store your completed paintings on your travels (once they are dry). Again this is a wonderful way to protect your work from getting any folds or creases. When traveling we often accidentally drop things or stack things on top of one another. Therefore storing your work in a mailing tube alleviates a lot of worry about any damage that may incur to your work!

A quick tip about rolling up paintings – keep the painted side on the outside! I know this sounds odd but it is the best way to take care of your paintings while rolling them up. Rolling oil paintings inwards can cause them to chip or flake which will become visible when laid out flat again.

Travel Art Carrying Case

product image of a dark wood colored Sienna brand art carrying case
A good art carrying case, can keep your paintings that haven’t dried safe

What if your paintings are still wet and you need to continue your travels? Enter the wet panel art carrying case! You can purchase one or make your own. They allow you to store wet painting safely inside a box in such a way so that it won’t touch anything else. I personally keep my painting taped down to a board to allow for me to place my painting safely inside a carrier if I need to do so.

Art Supplies to Speed up Drying Time

If you are using oil paints and would rather not have to deal with wet paintings while traveling. There are specific travel art supplies that can help speed up the drying time.

Liquin for traveling artists

product image of a bottle of liquin
You can use Liquin (or other fast drying helpers) to help speed up drying time

Liquin will help a great deal to speed up the drying time! Using just a little will go a long way. Add it to your paint at times when you would normally use linseed oil to thin out your paint.

Whenever I use Liquin in a painting, I take out a small amount of it from the jar using a palette knife and place a little pile of it onto my palette. This way it is easy for me to add it as needed while I mix my oil paints.

Lightweight Travel Easels

An easel can be a little bit of a headache for artists who are traveling, as it is most likely the largest item out of all your travel art supplies. However, there are some great travel easel options out there for every budget!

Pochade boxes for travelers

an open pochade box sitting on a surface with a view of the city behind it
You can easily travel lightweight with a Pochade box, as you can set it on any surface while you paint.

A pochade box is one of the most popular easels for plein air painters and traveling artists. They are also quite historical as they came into popularity in the 19th century when artists started to paint out of doors. Pochade boxes tend to be small and are highly portable as you can store not just your materials inside them but also your painting. You can purchase one or make your own out of a cigar box!

pochade box mounted on a tripod, showing how to travel art supplies
You can use a tripod (tripod in the image above) to mount your Pochade box, for a more traditional easel type of feel.

French easel travel supplies

I personally use a French easel when I travel as well as in my studio. So, it is nice to be able to use the same easel that I always use when on the go. Similar to the pochade box, it allows you to store a lot of supplies inside the easel including your palette. It can be folded up smaller which makes it easy to carry and transport.

Travel easel in a room with art supplies on the easel's palette tray
I travel with my french easel often when I’m traveling, as is fairly lightweight and easy to move around an airbnb or hotel room with.

However, the downside to a French easel however is that it can be a bit heavier than other options, due to its wood construction. So, if you are looking for something particularly lightweight, this might not be the best option for you.

Tripod easel with palette box

The tripod easel and palette box can sometimes be a good alternative to the traditional French easel. The versions made out of aluminum can be lighter weight and less prone to breakage. In addition, this variety gives you a good distance between the painting and the palette – something missing with a pochade box.

tripod easel with palette box tray pictured in a white room and a blue travel case resting on the floor
A tripod easel can be great as a lightweight more traditional type of easel

A good camera tripod easel with a palette box can be a little pricey. However, if you are planning to do a lot of plein air painting or walking with your painting supplies. It is really worth it to get a lightweight easel, as your back will thank you! 🙂

Brushes and Brush Cleaner

For traveling I recommend the Guerilla ‘mighty mite brush washer’. It is leak proof, you don’t have to worry about soiling things when traveling with with linseed oil or turpenoid. In addition, it works as a terrific brush cleaner that lasts a long time.

the 4 oz Mighty Mite Brush Washer travel art supplies container
Showing the Mighty Mite Brush Washer 4 oz, there is also the 2 oz Jr. washer

Palette cups

You could also use oil painting palette cups. These are small metal cups that you can clip onto your palette. They are not meant to be a brush cleaners however. So you can’t clean your brush in this as thoroughly as you could in a regular brush cleaner. However, these make for super useful travel art supplies. As they work great as receptacles to keep your linseed oil and or turpenoid in – when you need to use those in your painting.

image of the Guerrilla Painter Large Mouth Double Palette Cups
This double palette cup set can come in super handy on the road and even as an everyday painting cup.

Paints for Travel

Most paint tubes come in a large or small size – typically 37 ml or 150 ml size tubes. So, when traveling with your painting supplies it is best to use small sized tubes. As this will help a great deal with keeping the weight down.

a large blue tube of oil paint next to a smaller orange tube of paint
Smaller oil paint tubes – especially if you’re taking quite a few colors, can really save space for your art supplies.

If small sized paint tubes are still too heavy and you don’t need to take that much paint with you… Then you could purchase small containers to store your paint in. Just keep in mind, that the paint will dry quicker in such containers than if it remained in a tube!

So, if you are planning to travel and paint for just a few days then small containers work nicely. However, not if you will be on the go with your travel art supplies for a couple of weeks or longer. As the paint will likely dry out over that period time.

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several small travel art supplies paint containers filled with oil paint
Small paint containers make for wonderful (shorter term) travel art supplies

Traveling with Oil Paints on an Airplane

It is possible to travel with your oil painting supplies on an airplane. However, there are a few things that are valuable to know before you start packing your travel art supplies! After traveling many times with oil paints – believe me when I say that you will appreciate knowing how to fly with oil paints!

Airport security checkpoints can be stressful with oil paints, make sure you pack correctly

Start Taking your Travel Art Supplies with you!

Whether you are traveling by car or plane, all of the tips for painting above will help a great deal. As you now have a good base of which are the best travel art supplies to take with you. So that you can have a smooth experience as a traveling artist.

It can be extra work to carry your painting supplies with you on the move – but doing so is deeply rewarding and more than worth it…

The experience of getting to paint the places you visit is very rich. You notice and experience things you would not have otherwise. And, you have the extra perk of having a recorded visual memory of your travels!

Have you ever painted while traveling before? If so, I would love to hear how your experience went! What travel art supplies do you wish you had brought with you or maybe left behind?

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9+ best travel art supplies for painting artists who love to travel. Read more at ArtStudioLife.com

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Elisabeth Larson Koehler creator of art studio life

Hi! I am Elisabeth

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    4 thoughts on “9+ Best Travel Art Supplies for Painting Artists Who Travel”

    1. I am not traveling very far but when I do travel I have a few art supplies! And I have taken a couple of trips to Yosemite National Park, and Big Sur, and even Lake Tahoe it was beautiful with so much to paint! I have a few travel watercolor sets! And I have gotten good at scouting out a spot with natural beauty as well as shade!

      1. Hi Abbi – oh that is wonderful that you have taken your art supplies with you to some of those beautiful places! Watercolor sets are the best for traveling as they don’t require many materials. I have found that painting in different places does make you better at being able to scout good painting locations – and its wonderful when shade accompanies a good painting view 😉

    2. Sandy J. Schmidt

      Hi Elizabeth! I have been Plein Aire painting for years. Since I paint locally one of the best aids is my garden wagon. It collapses and stays in the car trunk ready to load up and head into nature filled up with all the painting supplies mentioned. It is better than using a backpack!

      1. Hi Sandy! Oh that is a really good tip. What a great setup to be able to collapse it and keep it in your car. I completely agree – Carrying everything in a backpack can be quite exhausting as once you reach your destination you are a bit too tired to paint! 😉

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