How to Paint a Boat? A Beginners Guide


There are many boaters out there who opt for painting their boats by themselves. Now, if you happen to be someone who wants to do it too, then there are a few things you have to know and understand before you can start your task.

And that's why we are here. In this post, we are going to tell you what things you will need to paint the boat yourself. Besides, we'll also show you how to paint different types of boats.

Let’s get started.

See Also: Best budget boat covers

How to Paint a Wooden Boat?

How to paint a wooden boat

Boats are made from different materials; for now, we are going to be talking about wooden boats, as they are the most common and frequently bought compared to the others.

Step 1: Place It on Your Preferred Place and Clean It

The very first thing that you have to do is - bring the boat up to a surface on which you can do your task. Once it is on the platform or surface, you have to give it a good clean. You have to ensure that you have removed all the dirt and pollutants from the boat.

That includes all the seaweed and any type of marine life stuck to it, for you to get the job with the most ease would be to use a hose at high power. This way, you will not need to use your hand to get all the things off the surface of the boat. After that, use an old rag to make your boat spotless.

Step 2: Remove All the Hardware

Next step for you would be to remove all the hardware from your boat. Whichever item can be taken off the boat should be removed, as otherwise the paint will get damaged by the water that gets into the cracks. Don’t let your efforts go to waste.

The articles which cannot be removed should be covered using some tape. This will make sure your hardware does not get coated with paint when you are working on the boat.

Step 3: Remove Wax-Like Substances

Once all the hardware has been removed, you have to get rid of the wax-like substance from the surface of the boat using a solvent. This step is not required for all of the boats, do it if you feel there are some type of waxy layer on your boat that will stop the paint from adhering.

Wooden Boat

So, just take a piece of sponge and the solvent for your boat and run it along the surface. After you have done that, just run your hand on the surface to determine whether there is any remainder of the wax on the boat. If so, then do it again.

Step 4: Use Fillers to Cover the Gaps

For your paint to go on in nice and even layers, you have to make sure that there are no cracks or holes on the wood. If your boat does have that, then you must cover them up using fillers. If you opt for skipping this step, then you will have a more difficult time painting, and the finish isn’t going to be good.

Thus, you should use marine-grade epoxy to fill up any of the holes or cracks on your boat. These fillers aren't hard to find; you can locate them at different hardware stores and even boating stores.

Step 5: Sand the Surface

Before you paint anything, a wall, a car or even a boat, you must sand the surface. This is a must and is done to remove the previous layer of paint. That layer is most likely to flake away, so when you put a new layer of paint on top of that, the old paint will flake away with the new one.

To stop that from happening, you have to take 80-grit sandpaper and get down to business. You can do this by hand, or you could also take help from a sander; the machine will make the work more comfortable for you and your hands will not hurt as much from holding on to the sandpaper for too long.

Just keep in mind that a lot of debris fly when you sand a surface, especially wood. So, don't forget to put on your safety gear for you to start working as you don't want the little particles to get in your eyes or lungs.

Step 6: Fix a Date and Decide on the Color

Now, before you get to the painting part, there are a few things you have to consider and decide upon. The first thing you have to select is the day you want to paint the boat; try to go for a cold and dry day, so there is less humidity in the air. The boat will not take as long to dry.

The next thing you will have to decide is the color and the type of paint you want to use on your boat. You can use the gel coats, which are easy to apply but fade quickly. Or you could use the polyurethane paint which lasts for a very long time, but you have to be skilled in the job to make it work right.

Step 7: Use Primer on the Boat

By this point, you are ready to paint the boat with one or two coatings of the primer. Many people think that the primer is of no use and is just a myth so that people don’t spend their money on it. That is not the case in real life. The primer really helps the paint to last much longer.

Before you prime the boat, make sure the primer you are using is compatible with the type of paint you have bought. Two layers of primer should be good enough. At first, paint the boat with a layer and then wait a while giving it some time to dry, once its dry use another coat.

Step 8: Employ Roller and the Brush

When the second layer of primer has dried, take a brush or a roller to paint the boat with the desired color. You might need to employ both the roller and the brush for the job, as there are some areas on which the roller would do a much faster job.

However, there are smaller areas on the surface of the boat where you will need more control and precision than speed. For those areas, a brush will be required.

Step 9: Once the Paint Dries, Lightly Sand the Surface Again

Let the first layer of paint dry thoroughly, then once you see that it is no longer wet or damp, take a sanding paper and go over the paint lightly. This will remove all the spots on the boat and will also get rid of the bubbles created by the paint.

Step 10: Repeat the Last Two Steps

Now you will only have to repeat the two previous steps twice. So basically, you will paint another layer, let that dry and then sand. Afterwards, paint over the top and lightly sand again. All these layers will make sure the color is beautiful and opaque and will ensure that it doesn't fade too quickly.

And with that, your work is complete. The task is not hard or complicated in any way; however, it does take a very long time to finish, and many might lose their patience.

How to Paint Aluminum Boats?

How to paint aluminum boat

People opt for an aluminium boat as they are lightweight compared to the others. They are also very durable, which makes them an advisable purchase. There is a process that is used to paint these boats.

Much like you would with a wooden boat, you have to clean this up properly and make sure there is nothing on the surface. You will also have to clean off the waxy layer from the boat. The next step would be to sand the boat. Here as well, you will need to do this to remove the old layer of paint, so the new one sticks better.

Make sure to wipe the boat clean of any debris left from the sand before adding your layer of primer. The primer is what makes this painting process a little different from the previous one. As the material of the boat is different, a different kind of primer needs to be used to make sure the paint lasts.

Look through the labels of the primer bottles to check if it will work on aluminium boats or not. If you use the wrong primer, then the chances are that the paint will fade much faster.

How to Paint Steel Boats?

This is much like the aluminium boats; the steps are pretty much the same. However, something you will have to do while painting a steel boat is to remove all sorts of rust from the surface. We all know that steel catches rust, so this has to be cleaned for the new paint to go in place.


A special kind of primer needs to be applied on the boat to make the paint last longer and also to make sure the steel does not start to rust too quickly. If the rusting starts, then you will have to clean it and then paint over it again, so you should take precautions and make sure the rusting comes much later.

Along with the primer, special paint should also be used in the process to make sure that the paint stays and does not fade too quickly.

How to Paint Fiberglass Boat?

How to paint a fiberglass boat

Right off the bat they don’t come painted with normal paint; rather special gel paint is used to paint them. So, if the paint starts fading, there is not much you can do to make them look beautiful and new without repainting it.

Step 1: Just like you would with the wooded boat, remove the hardware or tape them if they can’t be taken off.

Step 2: Repaint anything that needs to be fixed. Fill up all the cracks on the boat so that the paint goes on nice and smooth. Don’t forget to sand the surface to take away the old paint.

Step 3: Add a layer of primer on the boat, let it dry, then lightly sand the surface before adding another layer of primer.

Step 4: And finally, it is time for you to paint; use two-part urethane paint for the job, these boats favor them over any other type of paint. Here as well, you should let the paint dry before lightly sanding it and applying another layer of paint.

Whenever you sand any type of surface, you must wear safety glasses as well as a respirator to make sure the fumes and the dust particles don't go in your eyes or lungs as they might cause some severe problems.


For the most part, the steps you need to undertake to paint a boat are pretty much the same; however, special products might have to be used depending on what type of boat you are working on.

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Last Updated on March 9, 2021