Can You Paint A Kayak?

The short answer is yes, you can paint a kayak. But, there is a specific process for doing so. This is because of the material that kayaks are made from.

And also, of course, because the paint will need to stay in place when the kayak is in the water.

Can You Paint A Kayak

So, you can’t go slapping on any old paint you found in your attic. There is a specific kind of paint needed for a kayak. There is also a specific process to follow.

It isn’t wildly different from most other kinds of painting. But the process has a couple of differences that are very important.

So, check out our guide to painting kayaks to make sure you have the shiniest and smoothest finish.

How to Paint a Kayak – Step-By-Step Guide

When it comes to painting a kayak, you have two options. You can either paint it with a can of paint and a paintbrush. Or you can use spray paint. There are pros and cons to both. But there isn’t a huge difference. So the choice is yours. 

The processes for painting a kayak with either a paint brush or spray paint are pretty much the same. So, here is the step-by-step guide to painting a kayak with a paintbrush or with spray paint. 

Step One: Choose your paint. 

The kind of paint you use will of course need to be suitable for painting the material of your kayak. There are a number of different paints available that are specifically designed for painting a kayak. Unsurprisingly, we suggest that you choose one of these. 

The material of your kayak will likely be either polyethylene or fiberglass. This will depend on the style of kayak you have. But it will also depend on the age of your kayak. 

The coating used for a fiberglass kayak is usually a gelcoat, rather than paint or varnish.

The type of coating you use is very important. Otherwise, the coating can peel or flake off if it isn’t designed to attach itself to your kayak. So always make sure to read the description and intended use.

Step Two: Strip Your Kayak

Now you have your tools, you need to prepare your kayak. Remove anything that you don’t want to paint. This can be the seat but also any other accessories you have on your kayak.

Even if you’re only painting the exterior. This will stop you from accidentally spilling or splashing any paint. 

Step Three: Clean and Sand Down Your Kayak

When painting anything, it’s important to clean and sand it down. This will provide a completely bare surface to work on. The paint will adhere better to a sanded down surface.

And you reduce the risk of the finish being patchy or uneven. Cleaning and sanding will also just provide a cleaner finish.

It’s best to sand down the kayak with sandpaper. Anything more heavy duty will take too much off. It will also be difficult to control. Sandpaper will also be easier to move across the curves of the kayak.

Once you have finished sanding, you should also wipe down the surface of the kayak again. This will remove any small pieces left over. A microfiber cloth will be best for this. Microfiber cloths remove a lot of particles.

Then it’s a good idea to wipe down your kayak with acetone. This will further clean the kayak and remove any oils that can stop the paint from adhering properly.

Step Four: Paint Your Kayak

Now it’s time to actually paint your kayak. Due to the size of a kayak, there’s a good chance that you have already decided to paint it outdoors. But, it’s worth saying that, whichever paint you have chosen to use, it’s best to work outdoors.

But this is especially important if you use spray paint due to it being an aerosol. You should also wear a mask.

Make sure to place an old sheet or tarp underneath the kayak. This will prevent the paint from getting on the ground. But it will also stop the kayak from being scratched by the ground. Or picking up any dirt or grit that will spoil the paintwork. 

Take your paint and either spray or brush on a single even coat. It’s best to work in layers. So apply a thin layer first. Then let it dry. Don’t worry if it looks streaky or patchy. You can fix this with another coat. 

If you are painting a pattern or design onto your kayak, make sure you have applied all the layers first. And make sure that the final coat is completely dry. Otherwise, the paint will disturb the top coat. This will spoil the finish and the design as the paints mix together.

Step Five: Reassemble Your Kayak

Once your kayak has completely dried, it’s time to reassemble it. You can safely add back on the seat and other accessories. But it is super important that the kayak has completely dried.

Even if it looks as though it has dried, this can often be deceiving. The paint shouldn’t take more than a few hours. But it’s a good idea to leave it overnight just in case.

Step Six: Wash and Wax Your Kayak

Now it’s time to wash down your kayak again. You can just use water. But it’s a good idea to add in some soap as well. Dish soap will be the best. Once the kayak has dried, apply marine wax. This will add a shiny finish.

But it will also protect your paintwork. This is a really important step. It definitely cannot be skipped.


Overall, the answer is yes, you absolutely can paint a kayak. But, there is a specific process that is slightly different from most. This is because of the material kayaks are made from. And because they need to go on water.

The most important thing to remember is that using kayak paint will make the process a lot easier. And you can be sure that it will work well.

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