A fading color should not mean the end for your noble watery steed (or kayak). Instead of going out and buying a new one, what if you could apply a fresh coat of paint? In the following article, we will answer, can you spray paint a kayak, and furthermore, how can you do this? Keep reading below to find out more!
Kayaks can be made from an assortment of materials, which means that each DIY kayak paint job will be different. The good news is that if your kayak is polyethylene, fiberglass, or wood, then you can definitely restore it to its previous glory. Let's go over the different types and how hard it will be to apply paint.
Polyethylene Plastic Kayak
Polyethylene kayaks are prone to dust, built-up dirt, and other micro-particles. The spray painting process is not hard, but you’ll need to prep the surface before you get into the actual paint job.
Get a bucket of warm water and add some dishwasher soap. Dip your sponge inside, and start cleaning the plastic surface. Rinse the kayak with clean water, and leave it out to dry for a few minutes to hours, depending on your climate.
Once the plastic canoe is dry, you can initiate the sanding process. Fine grit sandpaper (120-grit) works best, as it will rough up the surface and give the paint something to hold on to. Don’t be afraid to rough up the surface, and try to get off as much much paint as possible.
Last but not least, use a microfiber or lint-free cloth to get rid of all the dirt, dust, and plastic particles from sanding. This will ensure the spray paint gets into the roughed-up polyethylene surface and sticks correctly.
It is also important to note that the right paint must be used for polyethylene, as the incorrect type could lead to flaking or blistering. Be on the lookout for spray paints that specifically state that they are formulated for plastic surfaces.
Before spray painting a fiberglass kayak, you’ll need to follow a similar preparation process as you would with a plastic one. Fiberglass is made from small glass fibers and is mixed together with a resin. The resin is often polyester-based, making it a great candidate for spray paint.
Similar to a polyethylene kayak, start by getting a bucket of water and dishwasher soap. Since fiberglass is durable, you can clean the surface using a sponge, or a soft soapy handheld brush. When the kayak is soaped up, you can then rinse it off with fresh water.
Once the fiberglass kayak is dry, you should then begin buffing away the shine. To buff fiberglass, you will need to sand it down gradually by starting at 150-grit sandpaper and making your way up to 400-grit sandpaper. When the surface has been sanded down, it should feel smooth and dull.
Clean off the fiberglass debris using a damp cloth. If the dust or dirt is stubborn, you can also wipe down the kayak using a rag dipped in mineral spirits. Again, let the area dry, and then you’ll be ready to apply your spray paint.
Fiberglass kayaks work best with polyurethane or epoxy paint because the surface will be in constant contact with the elements. Polyurethane paint can be used immediately, while epoxy paint must be mixed with a catalyst.
A wooden kayak can be the easiest type of material to spray paint. Unlike a plastic or fiberglass kayak, you'll be able to get straight into the sanding procedure without needing to wash the surface. It should therefore be clear that a wooden kayak should be completely dry before attempting any new paint job.
When applying a fresh coat of spray paint, it's a good idea to get rid of old paint if necessary. If you notice the previous coat has started peeling, use a putty knife and scrape away as much paint as you can. Alternatively, if the wood was previously treated with a finish or stain, you can apply TSP (Trisodium Phosphate), which will remove oil and de-gloss the surface.
Once you have scraped away all the old paint, you may notice a few nicks and gouges. You can fill in the gaps using wood putty and spackle. Apply generously, as you’ll be able to even everything out when you begin sanding.
A general rule when sanding a wood kayak is to start with coarse sandpaper and finish with fine sandpaper. The wood putty you applied earlier should also be dry before beginning your task. Always start by sanding down the wood putty so it is at an even level with the rest of the boat, and then move on.
Once the wood putty has been sanded down, you can start stripping away the old paint and dirt. When all uneven surfaces are gone, you can begin your kayak’s paint job.
What Paint Is Best To Use On A Kayak?
Do I Need Marine-Grade Paint?
Marine-grade paint is long-lasting, easy to apply, and provides a glossy finish. This makes it a favorite amongst paddlers and a better choice when compared to regular spray paint.
That's not to say regular paint won't do fine; you can still reinforce it by adding a clear finishing spray paint. Regular paint is also a good option if it's your first fun DIY project and you're working on a budget.
Oil-Based Vs Water-Based Paint
There are some misconceptions surrounding oil-based paint. Since it dries harder, many painting enthusiasts believe that it will provide better protection against wear and tear. However, this is false, as the hardened dryness of oil-based paints will lead to flaking and cracks.
Oil-based paint is also more at risk of the damage caused by UV rays, which is why water-based paint is the better option of the two. Not only does water-based paint provide extra UV resistance, but it is also more flexible, resulting in fewer cracks from wear and tear.
Paintbrush Vs Spray Paint
A paintbrush can turn a simple paint job into a labor-intensive task. No matter how fast you get those brush lines down, you will not be able to compete with the speed of spray paint.
Having said that, spray paint fumes are dangerous and will require some safety equipment. There is no wrong option here, both methods will get the job done, but spray paint will increase productivity and offer more control if it's your first kayak paint job.
Kayak Painting Supplies List
Prepping Your Kayak For Its New Look
Take The Kayak Outside If Possible
As mentioned above, spray paint can be dangerous when inhaled. You should therefore take the kayak outside before you start painting. The outside area should be relatively clear, without any dust, leaves, or grass flying around.
Check The Temperature And Humidity
If it is too cold or humid, the spray paint will not cure or dry correctly. This can make the kayak’s painted surface tacky. Generally, the optimal temperature while spray painting is between 65 to 90 °F (18 to 32 °C), while humidity should remain below 60%.
Strip The Kayak
Before painting the kayak, you’ll need to strip it down to its bare shell. The seat, rod holders, foot braces, and mounting hardware should all be removed. In other words, anything you don't plan to paint should be taken out.
How To Spray Paint Your Kayak: Step-By-Step Guide
1. Clean The Kayak
This step only applies to plastic or fiberglass kayaks.
Using dishwashing liquid, clean the surface and get rid of all dirt and existing oils. Allow the kayak to dry before moving on.
2. Sand The Kayak
This step applies to plastic, fiberglass, and wood kayaks.
Sand the plastic kayak using only 120-grit sandpaper until the body is roughed up.
Fiberglass will require 150-grit sandpaper at the start to get rid of the shine, and then 400-grit until the entire surface is smooth and dull.
Wood needs fine-grade sandpaper anywhere between 80 to 100-grit initially, and then 150-grit or higher to smooth out the remaining flakes. As always, when working with a wood kayak, you should sand with the grain and not against it.
3. Wipe The Kayak
When you have finished sanding, use the microfibre or tack cloth to wipe down the kayak's surface. Additionally, use some acetone to get rid of any remaining oils on the hull's surface, as this can prevent the spray paint from sticking.
4. Apply The Spray Paint
Before applying the spray paint, make sure you’re wearing your protective gloves and mask.
Shake the spray paint and hold it 12 to 18 inches from the kayak. Apply the spray paint evenly by going in a horizontal or vertical motion, backward or forwards, over the entire kayak.
When you’re done with the first coat, leave it to dry completely for 10 to 30 minutes. Once the spray paint has dried, you can apply another coat of paint using the same method as above.
Once you have finished the second coat, allow the spray paint to cure for a few hours before moving on to the next step.
5. Apply A Clear Coating
The third and final coat should be a clear coat spray. This protective layer should be applied 24 hours after your second coat of paint to ensure a successful paint job.
6. Wait Before Waxing Your New Kayak (Optional)
Before applying your wax, let the paint cure again for 24 hours. Waxing is optional but does add a great shine to the kayak's hull and additional wear and tear resistance.
7. Assemble Your Kayak
After waxing, your trusty kayak should be ready, and you can start the assemble process by putting everything back together.
Why You Should Paint Your Kayak (Benefits)
Covers Scratches and Dents
Whether it's underwater obstacles, dragging your kayak along the shore, or transporting it, scratches and dents will occur. Regularly sanding, priming, and painting will make sure your kayak has an extended lifespan.
Freshens UV Fading & Damage
Direct sun exposure and heat can lead to UV damage and eventually fade your kayak's original colors. A UV protectant spray paint can restore the bright colors of your kayak and prevent any further damage associated with heat, such as air bubbles.
Camouflage Paint For Fishing + Hunting
If you’re using your kayak for fishing or hunting, then a brightly colored vessel might not be ideal. Before buying a new camouflage print kayak, save some money, and try a DIY camouflage paint job instead!
Frequently Asked Kayak Painting Questions
Can you change the color of a kayak?
Yes, you can change the color of a kayak or try repainting if you have all the necessary tools! With enough effort, you can even apply custom paint on designs using a combination of spray cans and brushes.
Should you use a kayak stand when spray painting?
To make things easier, you can place your kayak on a portable folding sawhorse. This is optional, but it does avoid the strain of constantly turning over the kayak when applying fresh coats of paint.
How many coats of spray paint should you use?
For the best results, you should use at least two coats of spray paint. You could apply more to reach your desired shade, so don’t be afraid to add personal touches.
You can spray paint a kayak using the correct steps and the right paint. Whether it's a plastic, fiberglass, or wood kayak, the preparation may vary, but the actual painting method will be the same. Refurbish that old kayak, save money, and let your artistic flair out!