How To Paint A Boat- (Steps & Tips)

Owning a boat comes with a lot of fun and entertaining activities like painting it, adding new interiors, and also upgrading accessories. From fixing dents to repairing minor scratches, you need to master the concept of painting to give your boat a refreshing look. So, how to paint a boat like a pro?

To paint a boat, follow the steps below:

  1. Clean the boat and remove any hardware on it. 
  2. Assess imperfections and prep the boat’s base by sanding it.
  3. Apply primer. 
  4. With a roller and brush, paint a coat. 
  5. After it dries completely, sand it slightly (if required) and apply another coat. Apply as many coats as necessary 2-3 should be good.
  6. Wax the boat to retain the glowing finish. 

It may sound easy to paint it, but it does need a partner to give a proper coat. Further, two pairs of eyes are always better for addressing imperfections on the go. 

If you want to get this process right, this article is for you. 

Let’s get into the details of painting a boat, prepping the surface, and experimenting with paint types. 

How To Paint A Boat?

Painting a boat is interesting. However, the choice of paint and approach can vary significantly depending on the type of boat. 

Painting the bottom or top, or deck have similar processes (with slight variations). Let’s look at the standard steps to paint a boat. 

  1. To paint a deck or the top portion of a boat, start with draping and then continue with taping and sanding. Repeat these steps multiple times until the physical appearance is neat and clear. 
  2. Choose the ideal environment to paint your boat. Irrespective of the portion, you should place your boat under a roof. This is to protect the boat from debris and other external environmental hazards. 

Tip: Don’t paint at the hottest/coolest time of the day. It’s ideal for painting from morning until early afternoon.

  1. You can also use masking tapes to avoid residue sticking on the boat’s surface. 
  2. Before you get hold of the paint, read the label multiple times and follow the directions exactly. 
  3. If you’re painting the hull, check for holes and other dips. You should sand and assess the fairness. Give ample time to repeat the sanding process. 
  4. Start with tiny strokes of paint. Of course, you can apply an undercoat but ensure that it matches with the topcoat. 

Note: Heavily sanded areas need a second coat. 

  1. While you paint, ensure that the area is already wet, and the temperature is in the range of 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit. 

I’d recommend transferring the paint to a smaller container as per the need and stir it regularly. 

  1. Let your boat dry. Then, assess the surface to confirm the smoothness. Topsides generally require multiple coats, and the gap between two coats needs to be at least 24 hours. 

Some boaters enjoy playing with multiple colors. Perhaps, you can do it too but ensure that you have appropriate containers to mix them. Read the labels and confirm that the paints have been properly mixed. 

Types of Paint

There are different paint types for your boat, including one-part, two-part, alkyd, and enamel paints. If you’re a fan of DIY projects, engineered marine coatings are available but these work best for smaller boats. 

New to these paint types? This is what you should know. 

One-partBeginner-friendly but turns sun-bleached and loses shine sooner. Roll and tip is the approach to use this paint on the boat’s surface.
Two-partThese are water-based and the thickness increases as the number of coats increases. Two-part paints are glossy. 
EnamelEnamel paints are more fragile than polyurethanes and deliver lesser gloss. 
AlkydHighly durable and also remains resistant to peeling, fading, and chalking scenarios. 

How To Prepare The Surface Before Painting?

To prepare the boat’s surface before painting, you should know that there are variations. Every boat has a different surface, and there’s no one-size-fits-all with it. Likewise, the painting process includes handling the hull, top, bottom, and sides. 

Let’s take a look at each surface along with measures to take. 

Painting The Top

All of us love to see the boat’s top glowing and flying in colors. Chalky colors are a sad siight. You have two options for paints: two-part (for durable outcomes) or one-part (for DIY/less expensive models). 

To prepare the surface, you should use a range of materials, including primer, sander, solvent, and rubbing elements. This is meant to sand it as much as possible. 

Note: Stay extra cautious if your materials contain chemicals. 

Painting The Deck

Decks can contain wood or fiberglass surfaces. If you have a fiberglass boat, here are your paint options: one-part/two-part, polyurethane paints and one-part enamel paint. 

Use a dedicated wax stripper to eliminate the wax from the surface. Remove any handrails or hardware on the surface. 

If the deck has a non-skid surface, you need a textured compound to give it a fresh look. This type of surface is time-consuming and incurs multiple coats. If you’re doing it by yourself, be prepared to spend more time and effort on it. 

Labor Tip – I helped a lady paint her boat once in exchange for sailing time on her boat. Its a good way to get free labor.

Painting The Bottom

The water-exposed surface is highly vulnerable to salt and other harmful substances. Most paints that you choose to paint the bottom area contain copper and this ingredient is to deter marine growth. However, you can go with alternatives to deter hard growth. 

De-waxing the bottom surface is the first step. Once it’s done, sand it wherever essential. 

I have a guide that will show you what to check and when, if you want to keep your boat running smooth. Click below!

Final Thoughts

Painting a boat isn’t hard. When you’re choosing a DIY painting job, you should be cautious of paint types and surfaces available. This will help in achieving desired outcomes. Having said that, every boat (no matter the surface) needs sanding and cleaning to give a cleaner look. 

If you don’t spend enough time sanding the surface, you’ll end up getting an uneven outcome that can wear out quickly. It’s time to shine! Get that boat painted and all eyes will be on you! Cheers!


Boatlifehq owner and author/editor of this article.

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