How to paint your boat

Let’s start with the basics

  • Painting on top of badly prepared surfaces is a waste of time and money
  • Always use the right material for the job, using cheap alternatives will cost more in the long term
  • Always apply the number of coats specified by the manufacturer
  • Only use products specified for underwater use on yacht bottoms
  • Always read and follow the manufacturers instructions, they are there for a reason!

Paint removal

Paint strippers have vastly improved over the last few years, and can quickly and effectively remove paint and varnish without any of the environmental and safety issues linked with older traditional methods. However, even the most powerful paint strippers can be slow or inappropriate. In these cases, sanding or blast cleaning may be the only option.

Preparing the surface

The aim of good surface preparation is to ensure maximum bond. This will ensure high performance and a long lasting finish. While preparation methods vary, the requirements are the same; to remove corrosion products, such as rust any soluble materials like sea salt, and any surface oil, grease or wax.

Matching colours

For all the shades on offer, there will always be a time when something different is required. Mixing different shades of the same type of paint is acceptable but this can be difficult.

Colour matching is a highly skilled job and best left to the experts. If you are attempting to colour match, you will need:

  • A clean mixing container
  • A palate knife for stirring
  • A selection of different coloured paints

Start with the colour nearest the required shade and slowly add the other colours. Remember to make a note of the amounts used and stir the paints thoroughly before adding more colours.

Temperature and humidity

Paint dries by chemical reaction and so temperature and humidity will influence this process. Traditional coatings are tolerant to poor application conditions, and most can be applied at low temperatures, although this is not recommended. Ideally, temperatures should be checked with a thermometer before painting. Remember that the temperature should be at least 4 degrees Celsius above the dew point temperature throughout the painting process.


If you’re spending a lot of money, and effort, on paints and varnishes, it makes sense to use the best application equipment. Picking bristles out of a newly painted surface is frustrating. And trying to achieve a good finish with a poor brush is equally disheartening. Most yacht paints are formulated for application with a brush. While antifoulings and primers can be applied with cheap and disposable brushes, all other materials should be applied with a good quality brush.

Be safe

  • Protect your eyes when using paints or solvents
  • Use the paint in a well ventilated area or use respiratory protection
  • Protect your hands by using protective gloves
  • Never touch your mouth or eyes when wearing your gloves or without washing your hands
  • Never use solvents for hand washing, instead use a hand cleaner from your chandler
  • When painting is complete, there will almost certainly be some waste paint. Dispose of the paint safely, as it’s toxic and can be a fire hazard

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