How To Paint a Kayak – Options and Guide

Kayaks are utility objects–they take you where you want to go. However, that doesn’t mean that your kayak has to look dull. From covering repairs to adding striking designs, there are tons of ways you can customize and paint your kayak, leaving it looking better than ever.


Here’s how to paint a kayak:


  1. Pick your colors or designs.
  2. Find the right paint and protection.
  3. Remove the hardware.
  4. Set up your area.
  5. Sand and clean the kayak.
  6. Paint your kayak.
  7. Apply your sealant.
  8. Replace your kayak’s hardware.


So, let’s go through the entire process together and talk about the best way to paint your kayak. I’ll teach you how to do a good job and make your paint job last so that you can enjoy your custom kayak for many years to come.

1. Pick Your Colors or Designs

There are tons of different patterns, colors, and designs that you can use to paint your kayak, and nothing is stopping you from finding the perfect one for you!


Some of the most popular ways to paint kayaks include:


  • Covering repairs, scrapes, and cracks. Over time and use, kayaks can start to look scruffy. Whether you have noticeable repair marks, scrapes along the bottom, scratches, or damage on your kayak, refinishing it with a fresh coat of paint will leave it looking brand new again.
  • Camouflage kayaks are fantastic for hunters, birdwatchers, anglers, and anyone who wants to catch a glimpse of the local wildlife. You can paint your kayak to match the natural scenery of your area, using greens, browns, oranges, blues, and greys to blend into the surroundings.
  • Fade designs. One of the most popular kayak painting techniques is to create a multicolor ombre-like effect using all of your favorite colors. You can choose to use camouflage colors or bright hues that look like a scenic sunset.
  • If you feel artistic and want your kayak to make a statement, painting is a fantastic way to customize your craft. You can paint anything on it, from funky designs to your favorite animals, so go wild and let your creativity take the reins! You can even use stencils to make the process easier and to get smooth, clean lines.

2. Find the Right Paint and Protection

There are two types of paint to choose from when painting a Kayak, although you’ll always need to use a UV-protective sealant to keep the color from chipping or cracking.


To find the correct paint and protection for your kayak, you’ll need to choose between using marine-grade paint or spray paint. Still, you’ll need to use some UV sealant to waterproof your kayak’s paint and protect it from the elements.


Marine-grade paint will last longer than standard spray paint, but it usually comes at a higher price. Since marine-grade paint is made for boats such as kayaks, it’ll also adhere to your craft better than other paints, so if you want an extremely durable finish, go with marine-grade paint.


For a better budget option, you can always use standard spray paint. Just be sure that you get waterproof spray paint that’ll stick to plastic. Eventually, you’ll need to seal this paint anyway, and it’ll become more durable if you add extra coats and a heavy-duty seal.


Still, choosing between spray paint and a paintbrush can be challenging. Spray paint will never be as durable as paints you apply with a brush, but it’ll have a much smoother finish. So, if you’re nervous about painting and have no experience working with paintbrushes, you may want to opt for the less-resilient spray paint option.


You should always coat your paint job with a waterproof UV protectant, no matter what kind of paint you use. These paints will even out the finish of your paint job, protect the colors from sun damage, and make the paint less likely to crack or scrape off.

3. Remove the Hardware

Before painting, you need to remove all of the components of your kayak that you don’t want to paint.


To remove the hardware, unscrew and remove the seat, foot braces, mounting equipment, rod holders, and other removable parts that you don’t want to paint. You may also choose to use painter’s tape to tape off areas of your kayak that you want to protect from paint splashes and spills.


Be sure to put these parts somewhere far-off, especially if you’re using spray paint, to ensure that they don’t get a downwind spray of paint.

4. Set Up Your Area

Painting a kayak will take many coats, and the entire process can take several days to complete, so you should ensure that your work area is well-suited for the job.


To set up the area you want to paint your kayak in, find a palace that’s protected from rain and lay out some tarps. You may also choose to use sawhorses or other props to keep your kayak from touching the ground while it dries.


When I paint kayaks, I keep them in my garage, lifted on top of two plastic totes with a tarp underneath them. However, if you have sawhorses, they can keep you from having to bend over or squat during the painting process.

5. Sand and Clean the Kayak

Sanding and cleaning your kayak before you paint it is the most crucial step in this project. Without sanding, your paint won’t stick to the rigid polyethylene plastic that most kayaks are made out of, resulting in a flaky, peeling paint job.


To sand and clean your kayak, sand the entire surface of the kayak lightly with coarse-grit sandpaper, then heavily sand it with some fine-grit sandpaper. Then, wipe off the kayak with a rag and some dishwashing detergent to ensure that all dust and residue are gone.


When sanding, a sanding tool is beneficial since completing this process by hand can take hours.


Be sure that the surface of your kayak looks misty and scratched before you move on. That way, you can be sure that there are plenty of scratches and gaps that your paint can stick to.

6. Paint Your Kayak

Now, it is finally time to paint your kayak.


When you paint your kayak, apply multiple thin coats of paint, allowing each coat to cure between coats. Be sure to wear safety gear such as a mask and safety goggles during painting to protect yourself from fumes and airborne paint.


It’s crucial to be patient during the painting process, although it can be challenging to wait between coats. However, if you want the paint to last as long as possible, you’ll need to take your time.


After applying your base coat, you can add hand-painted details, decals, and permanent-marker drawings to your boat.

7. Apply Your Sealant

Once the painting process is complete, you can apply your sealant to protect the colors from sunlight and keep your paint from chipping.


When you apply your sealant, apply two or more thin coats, being sure to flip the kayak over and thoroughly seal the bottom to protect the paint from getting scraped off. Allow the sealant to cure completely between coats.


Once the sealant is fully cured and feels durable to the touch, the most challenging part is over!

8. Replace Your Kayak’s Hardware

Last but not least, it’s time to replace all of the hardware on your kayak.


The final step of painting your kayak is to replace the kayak’s hardware. Be sure to screw all of the hardware, such as the seat, back in tightly to ensure that your kayak is waterproof. Then you’re all finished!


Now that you’ve reassembled your kayak, it’s time to hit the water and show off your brand new paint job.

Final Thoughts

If you aren’t happy with the way your kayak looks, you can always repaint it. Painting a kayak takes some time and patience, but at the end of the day, with some sanding and a few coats of paint, you can enjoy a completely custom kayak with a durable finish that fits all of your needs.

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