At The Art Treehouse, one very common question asked by artists concerns the shipping of art materials by air, or travelling with art materials on commercial airlines.  This is a topic that can be confusing for artists, since it involves international regulations – and too often shipping agencies and airline security agents do not fully understand the requirements themselves. So, here are a few tips for the flying artist….

1) The most important thing to know about travelling or shipping art materials by air is that the IATA (International Air Transport Association) regulates it.  According to their guidelines, anything that has a flash point under 140 F degrees (60 degrees C) is not allowed on the plane.  This means that most oil paints are acceptable, but many turpentines and petroleum-based thinners will be questioned.

2) All Art Treehouse Oil Colours are acceptable.  Biobased Artist Thinner has a flash point greater than 217° F (102.78° C), so it is permitted by the IATA guidelines.  Art Treehouse Oil of Spike Lavender (from France) has a flash point of 141.01° F (60.56° C), so it is permitted.  However, some other spike lavenders have a lower flash point (and synthetic adulterants) – including those from Spain.

3) The word “paint” is a trigger for restrictions, both at the airport and the post office.  That’s because paint is often made with petroleum solvents that move the flash point below the limit.  Art Treehouse Oil Colours are made with walnut oil, and have a flash point of 320°F (160° C) – well above the limit.  For this reason, it is often suggested that travelling artists simply refer to their paints as “Artist Colours”.  If asked, just say the oil is a vegetable oil. 

4) At this point, The Art Treehouse only sells one product that has a flash point below 140° F degrees (60 degrees C) – Oil of Rosemary.  For this reason, we only ship this oil by ground to the continental United States and Canada. Items that have a flash point between 141°F and 200°F are generally shippable by air — however USPS, Fedex, and UPS all have different paperwork and labelling requirements for them.  For this reason, as well as cost savings, our standard shipping is by ground.

5) Sometimes it is suggested that artists bring an SDS (Safety Data Sheet) with them when preparing for flight screening, or when meeting with shipping clerks.  The Art Treehouse has these sheets on the web site.  However, airline screening folks might not feel qualified or interested in reading a 9 page detailed analysis of each of your art materials.  In general, it may be just as helpful to simply and honestly refer to your Oil Colours as “non-hazardous” art materials made from vegetable oils and plants. 

Enjoy the flight!