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How to Paint a Boat

Posted by Boat Lover's Towel on

How to Paint a Boat

Painting a Boat Step-By-Step

Your boat used to be the queen of the harbor, but now it’s looking a little washed up. Give it a refresh with a new DIY paint job!

The process of how to paint a boat doesn’t have to be hard! Follow these tips to keep the work simple and your boat pristine:

  1. Read paint supply labels
  2. Remove boat trim, rails, cleats, and vents
  3. Smooth out any surface flaws
  4. Put on protective gear
  5. Wash, de-wax, and sand the surface
  6. Apply primer and let it dry
  7. Apply paint and let it dry
  8. Wax all freshly painted surfaces

Now your boat is sure to shine out on the waters! Just be mindful of following up your work with regular cleaning and washing after it’s out in corrosive saltwater. This should maintain the lifespan of the paint job for a while!

Types of Boat Surfaces

The specific technique you use to coat your boat in paint will change depending on the surface texture. Here’s some additional advice to have your vessel looking ship-shape. Don’t forget to read all warning labels and wear protective equipment to stay safe.


Fiberglass boats should be painted using the “roll and tip” method. Grab your first mate and one of you can roll on a thin, even coating of paint as the other uses a brush to lightly stroke it out. Allow plenty of time between drying: three coats will be your best bet for a consistent fiberglass-surface finish!


Unlike the top of your boat, the bottom is susceptible to the growth of barnacles and other marine organisms. This means you’ll need to utilize some form of anti-fouling paint to keep them at bay.

If the bottom of your boat is well-covered by a layer of gel coat, you’ll need to de-wax it before sanding. Otherwise, if you’re just painting over an existing coat, you can go straight to sanding or power washing away loose paint. Since no one looks at a boat bottom up close, you can skip out on tipping the paint and just roll instead.

Please note: you may need to launch your boat by a certain time frame depending on the bottom paint you use.


Lucky for you—painting the smooth surface of the hull should be relatively straightforward! Remove, cover, or tape up any pieces of hardware. Although you won’t be dealing with angles and corners, you should realize that the hull runs fairly vertically. This means that you’ll need to be particularly cautious when applying the paint, so it doesn’t run or drip down. Light, consistent application is key here!


Unfortunately, freshening up any non-slip or non-skid boat surfaces isn’t as simple as the hull (or the fiberglass topside and bottom). To paint over it, you’ll need to buy a textured compound that contains tiny abrasives. This way, it doesn’t lose its non-skid properties.

Carefully read through the directions of your product, complete all prep work as directed, and apply several coats of a compound using a specialized roller. Now you’re sure to get it right!

Types of Paints

The types of paint used on boats can vary dramatically depending on the surface. Diving deeper into your fiberglass topsides, you’ll mainly see the following types when shopping for paint.


Painting with a single-part enamel is the easiest to apply for beginners. The drawback is they can become sun-bleached and lose their shine over time without persistent waxing and upkeep. Polyurethane is the most prevalent form of one-part paint because its long-lasting gloss is less expensive than that of two-part paint. This can be “rolled and tipped” or sprayed onto the boat’s fiberglass surface.


When you get two-part polyurethane paint, you’re investing in coverage and shine that will stand the test of time. This thin paint hardens with multiple coats, so generally, it’s best left to the professionals. Especially when it warrants wearing a positive pressure mask and using a spray booth! While some two-part paints have been formulated to be water-based and rolled and tipped on, don’t expect it to cover any fiberglass surface flaws. Take care of those before starting the application.

Remember—the paint only lasts as well as you take care of it afterward! Be sure to wash your beloved boat with premium cleaning accessories and dry it with The Absorber®. The Absorber® is a PVA towel bringing your ship unmatched drying action to soak up water quicker and better. Save time cleaning so you can spend more time out on the water with your friends and family.

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