View Full Version : Pastels & Airlines...

03-03-2002, 06:02 PM
Hi All,

I know it's been awhile, I've been away then ill but hopefully will be in and out to visit with you.

Just wanted to drop a line about pastels on airline trips, particularly abroad this year.

On my recent trip I hand carried my pastels in carry-on luggage. Every gate going to and from my destination I was stopped for "ambiguous" looking items in my baggage. I have never been checked for pastels (and I'm not at all complaining.) They did a thorough job of examining my bags. The pastels showed up similar to solid explosives through the machines. I'm just pleased they did not confiscate anything as pastels are particularly hard to get when traveling to some destinations.

I recommend if you travel this year to secure your pastels in your regular check-through baggage rather than carry-on.

Happy traveling!

P.S. Here's a pic of a demo I did for my workshop group...


03-03-2002, 07:48 PM
I wonder what would happen if I travel with a pastel painting on the airlines. I will remember to keep my pastels in the check through luggage. Thanks for the heads up on that one!

03-03-2002, 08:09 PM
Dear light,

I don't think you should experience any problems with a pastel painting itself. It seems to be the many opaque sticks that show up on the scanners which cause the biggest problem.

But if you do transport a painting and something happens, please let us know! We want to maintain good communications so artists have as easy a time as possible getting around. :)


03-03-2002, 11:59 PM
I may be putting a painting into the San Diego City Council Show in April, and if I do I will be flying there. I wouldn't dare ship a pastel in a frame and glass much less Plexiglas! I will let you know how it goes, if I do finish this pastel I am working on and get the slide done and mailed. If, if, if...

I will keep informed, though.:)

01-07-2004, 07:59 AM
Okay, so here it is, post-9/11, and the terror alert is again blazing, blinding orange and the security folks at airports are jittery. How would you all recommend I fly my pastels and easel in these times? Any changes from earlier posts?

I have to fly within the USA with the following items: a 3-tray ArtBin pastel box full of hardy NuPastels, a large wooden pastel carrier (from Willowwisp Farms, and a very good box!) full of pastels so soft they crumble if you look at them wrong, and finally, a full French easel.

Or heck, may I should just take AmTrak? ;)

01-07-2004, 08:12 AM

I haven't changed my pastel strategy. I still either hand-carry them fully prepared to be checked through the scanners by hand, or pack them in my luggage. If your Willow Wisp-made box and especially pastels are fragile I would hand carry them. However, take an extra, smaller, well-packed set in your checked luggage to assure you have pastels wherever you go. I've not heard of a pastel painter's sticks being confiscated, but be prepared in any event.


01-07-2004, 08:32 AM
How about scissors and, er, boxcutters? I use these tools quite frequently. Will they make it through if they are packed in checked bags? Or are they confiscating these if they are checked?

01-07-2004, 08:53 AM

Anything and everything is "suspect" these days. I can recommend that no box cutters, or sharp objects should be on your person or in your carry-on bags. I've had a tiny set of sissors which I forgot was in my purse to help a friend with was taken at the airport without comment whisked away by airport security.

As for including these items in your checked luggage...call or vist the given airlines' web site for the most current listing of allowable checked baggage items -- that's your best bet.

And if in doubt or you really need to take particular tools with you, place the objects in your checked baggage. That's the best place for any sharp items or tools if you hope to keep them.


Kathryn Wilson
01-07-2004, 10:08 AM
Hi Diane: Sorry to hear you've been ill - hope you're feeling better?

Thanks for the heads up on this little "bump in the road" to traveling with pastels these days. We are planning a trip to the southwest and will be prepared. What happens if they confiscate the pastels - do you ever get them back?? That an expense I can't afford.

Wheezard - you might want to consider mailing or shipping them to an address ahead of time - they will most certainly be confiscated.

01-07-2004, 10:52 AM
Flying to Arizona tomorrow....I was going to carry on a small box but I think I will check it....having a large tin of pencils delivered there so I will have to bring them back

Thanks for the heads up...in November when I travelled, there was no problem.

01-07-2004, 11:14 AM
Shipping ahead might be a good tip, and thanks.

If I insure things right...and if the delivery service loses them...hey, I might be able to buy that full set of Senneliers in the wooden case I've always wanted! ;)

01-07-2004, 12:06 PM
Interesting topic for sure! I am travelling from Toronto to California next week and plan on taking ONLY carry-on luggage with my pastels in an artbin box. I don't mind being searched, but they CAN'T take my pastels...I'd be heartbroken! Thanks for the heads up on what to expect!


01-07-2004, 12:44 PM
Fabulous thread. I too am glad you are back to health now and thanks so much for sharing the lovely image of your demonstration. It's beautiful and I imagine it was a wonderful area you worked in. More details if you please....

The last time I traveled with my box of pastels I was stopped and couldn't stop the inspector soon enough to gently open the box completely so the velcro holding them it wouldn't let go... Alas - pastels across the counter where the bags where inspected and lo and behold, he became an instant artist.

I think I'll opt for the check in method myself on my next trip.

Thanks for the tips

Barb (This was a domestic flight during yellow alert- not orange)

01-07-2004, 01:36 PM

The bigger concern I have is when traveling abroad, not within the country. But nonetheless, it's a good idea to have two sets, one with you and one in your checked bags.

And once they do take anything from you you do not get it back...unfortunately.


This is an excellent alternative given enough time to ship and someone on the other end to receive them. This is particularly true of traveling overseas. Good tip!


Vegas Art Guy
01-07-2004, 03:42 PM
When I went to Mexico last year (and Florida the year before). I had my paints and brushes in my traveling easel. I had to pop that open a couple of times, though I think it was curiousity not safety the guards had in mind. I packed my knife, painting knives and my conte crayons in my checked luggage with my paper, canvas panels etc, and had no problem with getting them through the checks.


01-07-2004, 04:37 PM

The bigger concern I have is when traveling abroad, not within the country. But nonetheless, it's a good idea to have two sets, one with you and one in your checked bags.

And once they do take anything from you you do not get it back...unfortunately.


This is an excellent alternative given enough time to ship and someone on the other end to receive them. This is particularly true of traveling overseas. Good tip!


I know....we travel internationally a great deal.....and I only took watercolors before...so this is new for me

We'll see...since we are in ORANGE mode.....

Katherine J
01-07-2004, 07:27 PM
As others have said, Diane, this is a great thread and I also thank you for the heads up. I'm hoping to go to Italy in the spring.

What I'm wondering is, do they scan the checked baggage? Surely if the pastels show up like explosives, they'd want to search the checked baggage.


01-08-2004, 08:47 AM
Good thread -

I travelled to Jamaica this past October. Carried two large flat boxes I made out of foam core and cushioning -- with loads of pastels in each. These boxes were about 12 x 16 each and about 2 inches deep. I had two checked bags with one box in each in the middle, cushioned by clothing. When I arrived in Jamaica - one bag had been searched - they put a piece of paper on the inside telling you that it has been searched. The boxes looked okay, but I had a small amount of breakage. No problem.

But -- on the return trip home. I did the same thing. When I opened them at home - one bag had been searched again. This time, though both boxes had many crushed and broken pastels.

So - I don't know if it was my packaging that did not do a good job or if the airlines opened the boxes and did not close them properly. I had ribbons glued to the boxes and tied at the opening so it would be easy to open and close. Though thankfully I had inserted each box into a plastic bag and used a twist-tie, so if they did come open, no pastel would get on the clothes and such.

Next time, I will build a more cushioned box. I used cushion foam and cut it to fit the top of the box, but I only used the plastic thin foam that comes in some of our boxes of pastel (though I did double it) underneath the sticks of pastel. All this was inside foam core boxes that I cut and taped together - very sturdy boxes. Next time I will use cushion foam on both sides and see what happens - though at the moment I don't have plans to fly anywhere soon.

When traveling inside the US - I think the best solution is ship ahead of time. Then you don't have to worry. Though traveling outside the US, sometimes this is not an option.

01-08-2004, 09:10 AM
Hi, Marsha! Good to see you here. I'd lost track of you.

01-08-2004, 09:26 AM
Hi, Marsha! Good to see you here. I'd lost track of you.

Thanks Michael! Nice to be missed.

I have been trying to spend more time painting, teaching, and marketing than on the computer. And - lots of times - someone beats me to what I would have said regarding someone's post. Though sometimes I feel strongly enough to reply.

Let us know how you fare when you travel with your pastels and other mediums. These are such important things to know.

Good to see you posting also!

01-20-2004, 05:03 PM

Just travelled to and from Phoenix...through SEattle....one way with pastels in the checked bag and one way with pencils and soft pastels in the carry one

NO PROBLEM, no bells and whistles

and the security was higher one way

Marc Hanson
02-25-2007, 07:36 PM
In searching the topic of the best way to fly with pastels and get them to where you want to be, I found this thread.
Sounds like shipping is best domestically, and checking the pastel palette is best internationally.

Has anyone had any more experience recently with either that they would mind adding to this thread?

I'm going to be doing a lot of both this spring and summer and for the first time will be taking the pastels with.

I've figured out the traveling with oil paints thing pretty well, but the pastels in tote will be new for me. Thanks for any help.

02-25-2007, 07:44 PM
Hi Marc,
I traveled to France this past summer. On the way from Atlanta to Charles DeGaulle, I carried the pastel box on in my carry luggage. The security asked me what was in the box when it went through the x-ray machine. I told them it was chalks for drawing. He said okay and did not even open it.

One the way back (3 weeks later), I had to check it. Mainly because we were flying on Monday after the incident at Heathrow on the previous Thursday -- this was in August - about the 12th last summer. The pastels made it just fine in the checked luggage also.

I would rather travel with it in my hand and not check it. If they open the box in the checked luggage, how am I to know they will close it the correct way. My box is basically like the Heilman box, with a piece of thin wood on top of each side of pastels. They could crush them if they get them toppled to one side, etc.

So . . . that is my story of traveling internationally with them.

02-25-2007, 07:50 PM
Over the holidays I flew back and forth to UK with a brand new box of 80 Sennelier half sticks in my checked bag. Both times the bag was searched, pastel dust everywhere, and worst of all - on the way out the inpsectors methodically broke each and every one in half, looking to see what was inside!

Karen Margulis
02-25-2007, 07:51 PM
I've carried on my box of pastels several times in the last year. Only once did they inspect the box and I was there to make sure they closed it properly. I was flying domestically.

Kathryn Wilson
02-25-2007, 10:34 PM
Mark, I would strongly suggest you take them on board with you - you can be there when they inspect the box, explain what they are, and see that they don't crush or break. BTW, don't try to show them anything, they want to do it themselves.

02-26-2007, 05:14 PM
It remains difficult. Travelled back from Greece via the UK to Holland with pastels in my hand luggage. In the UK I got treated like a criminal smuggling drugs and that a three o'clock in the morning after two hours sleep. It all depends on the officer on duty.

02-27-2007, 09:57 PM
There is no reason not to take pastels in carryon luggage. Unfortunately, like pigments in oil or alkyd they are very radio opaque standing out as pure white in the Xray. They look like bullets or explosives . Someone will have to take a look at them and pass them, so just have them separate or on top.

I had an interesting experience at JFK when the person inspecting my Rembrandt soft Pastels asked me what they were. I said, "pastels". "What's that?" "Pigment sticks" Huh? I tried several other words and finally the inspector said, "You mean crayons!"

Anyway the proof that they are safe is in something called a Material Safety Data Sheet which is available from Dick Blick, for example. There is a little icon next to the individual sticks of pastel on his website which will get you this document. Every chemical used in industry, schools, hospital, offices, etc most have one of these MSDS on hand in case someone wants to know if they have had a dangerous exposure to it. There is one for just about every substance used in art. I had one along but the inspector was very reassured by the term "crayons" and didn't want to look at it.

I think it's important not to put stuff in checked luggage when it is legal to take on board. We have to educate them.