I travel over 100 days a year. In most cases I have oil paint, a small wood palette, and a few brushes packed in my carry-on bag. It would be easier in some ways to check the bag, but I prefer to take it with me. Last weekend when having my bags checked for a return flight, I was informed for the first time in months that I could not carry my small tubes of oil paint on board. In today's climate of airport security you hate to cause a fuss, but I knew that I could take them with me under current regulations. After mentioning the TSA rules for artists paint to the head screener, she reminded me that she was in charge and said "It sounds like to me that you think you are an expert on our policies..." I replied "No mam... just on the section related to artists paints." Eventually, after checking the paint with further screening, she let it through. By the way, make sure it will fit in a quart size zip lock bag!
Thanks to my friend Katy, here are the particulars:
The US Dept. of Transportation defines "flammable liquids" as those having flash points of 140 degrees F/61 degrees C or below. Artists oil paints are based on vegetable type oils. They are not hazardous for air travel. While many products that are used to clean brushes may not be taken on a plane such as turp or mineral spirits, small oil tube colors with a flash point above 140 degrees F (most are at about 440 degrees F) are not dangerous for air travel.
Check the website of your particular brand of paint you are carrying to see if they provide a MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) data sheet. Print that and take it with you. I would even encourage you to put it with your paints if you check your bags. Highlight relevant material for the screener. Hopefully you will not arrive at your destination with no paint and one of those slips of paper saying hazardous material was removed from your bag!
To confirm this, you may call the TSA at 1-866-289-9673.