How To Paint a Canoe ?

The season is drawing near and you’re excited to get your canoe out to the water. But when you look at it, it’s either new and unpainted, or it’s old, scratched, and needs a new coat. Maybe you just want a new look for it, but how can you paint it?


Here’s how to paint a canoe:


  1. Plan for the painting session.
  2. Select proper paint.
  3. Setup the workstation.
  4. Clean the canoe.
  5. Repair the canoe.
  6. Remove stickers and wax.
  7. Sand, wipe, paint, and repeat.
  8. Dry the canoe.
  9. Wax or stain the canoe.


In painting a canoe, it’s important to consider its material. Canoes can be fiberglass, wood, aluminum, plastic, or covered with canvas, and some types can be trickier to paint, like aluminum. Specifics about each type may be detailed per step so read on to know more!

1. Plan for the Painting Session

Before you start painting, you need to plan when, where, how, and what you would need to paint your canoe. Having a clear outline of all the necessities would help lessen mistakes and make sure your painting process doesn’t get interrupted.


There are two questions you should ask yourself when you’re planning your session. Let’s look at them now.

Where and When You Should Paint

Look at your local forecast and identify at least three consecutive days of sun. It’s important that you avoid rain because you would need to dry your canoe often. Also, it’s recommended to work outside because it can get messy and for better ventilation.

What You Need

Get all of the things you would need beforehand, such as:


  • Protective equipment, such as eyewear, masks, gloves.
  • Paint
  • Power washer
  • Sawhorses
  • Repair kit
  • Utility knife or acetone
  • Paint rollers and brushes
  • Paint thinner
  • Masking tape
  • Newspapers or other covering
  • 120 grit sandpaper
  • Orbital sander
  • Tack cloth
  • Wax or stain


There are a lot of things you would need so it’s a good move to visit your local hardware store and see if they have everything you need. For the power washer, you don’t need to buy one if there are places near that have them for rent.

2. Select Proper Paint

The type of paint you need depends on your canoe material and the look you’re going for. But generally, most paints used for canoe painting are oil-based paints or marine paints since they’re suited for the water. Water-based paints can be used too.


Some paints also have additional features like UV protection and anti-corrosion. There are also paints that are specific like aluminum boat paint, which can be used for aluminum canoes.


For wood canoes, you may also use clear paint or stain if you want to preserve the natural look. There are also some that use varnish.


One of the most recommended and affordable marine paints for canoes is the Rust-Oleum Marine Paint (available on, as it’s often used for fiberglass canoes.

3. Setup the Workstation

To start your painting process, set up your workstation.


You can work inside your garage if it’s well-ventilated and good for drying, although it’s highly recommended to paint your canoe outside since you have to wash it and dry it.


You may also lay down newspapers or other protective coverings on the floor or ground before the actual painting process. You’d also need to put your boat upside down on an elevated area, preferably on top of two sawhorses.

4. Clean the Canoe

Once the canoe is elevated, you can start cleaning it. You may do it manually first using soap, sponge, and water to get the bigger dirt and grime.


But to really get all the nooks and crannies, you’ll have to use a power washer.


After washing down the canoe, allow it to dry overnight. You may speed up the drying process by wiping it with a towel, but you’ll still have to air dry it for a few hours. The canoe must be absolutely dry to the touch before proceeding to the next step.

5. Repair the Canoe

If your canoe has deep scratches or gouges on it, you’ll have to repair or cover them up using a repair kit, or putty. Most recommend using a gel coat, epoxy, or fiberglass repair kit. Follow the instructions provided with the kit.


Afterward, allow it to cure. Curing times differ but for Gelcoat, it’s around 8 hours.

6. Remove Stickers and Wax

While letting the Gelcoat or repair material cure, you may start removing stickers and wax that the canoe may have. A wax remover can be used to take off the wax from the hull. For the stickers, you can use a utility knife to peel them off. You may also use acetone for harder to remove stickers.

7. Sand, Wipe, Paint, and Repeat

After the repairs have been cured and everything is dry, you can start the painting process.


Here are the steps:


  1. Sanding: Before getting started, wear protection, especially for the eyes. Then, sand the canoe using 120 grit sandpaper. You need to remove as much old paint as you can and get the surface as even as possible.
  2. Wiping and covering: Wipe the canoe with a tack cloth. After that, cover the parts you don’t want to be painted on with tape.
  3. Mixing paint: Mix your paint with thinner. For fiberglass canoes, the ratio is 9 parts paint with 1 part thinner, or the solution should be at most 10% thinner. For wood canoes, the solution should be 12% thinner.
  4. Painting the canoe: Use a paint roller for the large surfaces of the canoe, and try to get as much even coverage as possible. It doesn’t have to be thick since you’ll be painting 2-3 coats. Use a paintbrush for the keel and other parts the roller can’t reach.
  5. Dry: Allow the paint to dry for around a couple of hours.
  6. Repeat: Allow the paint to dry for around a couple of hours. After that, you can sand, wipe, paint, and dry it again. You can do this 1 or 2 more times to get 2-3 coats.

8. Dry the Canoe

For this final stage, you need to dry the canoe for at least 48 hours. You can actually stop at this stage already. When the 48 hours are up, you can use the canoe but if you want to protect your work, you can proceed to the next step.

9. Wax or Stain the Canoe

Waxing or staining the canoe is a way to preserve the work. For a wood-canvas canoe, carnauba wax can be used. Some paints also need a clear stain after drying, so you’ll need to find the right type for your canoe. To find the best type, make sure you research this online before you get started.

Final Thoughts

Painting a canoe has a general, easy process you can do yourself. However, make sure to check out if there are specific things you need to take note of based on your canoe’s type. Also, you’ll want to have several consecutive days in a row that are sunny and warm, or this project won’t work.

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