Can You Spray Paint A Kayak? (7 Step Beginners Guide)

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 paint a kayak? Keep reading below to find out more!

Kayaks can be made from an assortment of materials [1], 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.  

kayaks parked for painting

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 messy paint job.

Get a bucket of warm water and add some dishwasher soap. Sponge dipped inside, and start cleaning the plastic surface.

Rinse the kayak with clean water, and leave wet paint 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 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.

Fiberglass Kayak

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 a kayak.

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 or foam paint rollers. 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 with fine grit sandpaper, 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 a kayak.

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.

Wood Kayak

A wooden kayak can be the easiest type of material to spray paint a kayak.

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 a kayak 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 plastic paint sandpaper.

The wood putty you applied earlier should also be completely 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 effective paint job.

Kayak Painting Supplies List

  • Marine-Grade Polyurethane Paint
    If you have a plastic or fiberglass kayak, then you should be on the lookout for brands such as Rustoleum, Krylon, and Valspar for kayak painting. Alternatively, if your kayak is made of wood, you can also use an oil-based acrylic or latex paint.
  • Sandpaper
    Depending on the type of kayak you have, you will need 80 to 400-grit sandpaper. Plastic or fiberglass kayaks require light sanding, while wood kayaks will need a rough application, followed by a light one.
  • Dishwashing Liquid and Soap
    Although you can use a boat cleaner, dishwashing liquid or soap will work perfectly fine.
  • Acetone
    Acetone is great at removing any leftover oil when you’re done washing your kayak. An industrial-sized spray bottle will be best, but you can use some leftover acetone nail polish remover instead.
  • Microfibre or Tack Cloth
    When you are finished sanding your kayak, you will need to get rid of the additional dirt, dust, and particles. A microfibre or tack cloth or clean cloth is best, but you can also use an old cloth.
  • Water Hose
    A fresh supply of water is needed so you can rinse off debris before starting the spray painting process.
  • Protective Mask and Disposable Protective Gloves
    Safeguard your lungs by making use of a protective mask. Fresh paint can be dangerous if fumes are inhaled. Additionally, avoid paint spills on your hand by using protective gloves for an easy-after clean-up. You might want to use disposable protective gloves and a reasonably sized tarp for this.
  • Clear Coat Spray
    Clear coat paint or coat spray adds an extra layer of protection to your finishing paint. It is handy against unwanted scratches and extreme weather conditions.
  • Marine Wax Cleaner
    A marine wax cleaner adds a sleek finish to your new coat of new paint. This step is optional but worthwhile for an already time-consuming process.

Prepping Your Kayak For Its New Look

Take The Kayak Outside If Possible

As mentioned above, spray paint a kayak can be dangerous when inhaled. You should therefore take the kayak outside before you start painting a kayak.

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 a kayak is between 65 to 90 °F (18 to 32 °C), while humidity should remain below 60%.

Strip The Kayak

Before painting a 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.

prepping kayaks for painting

How To Spray Paint Your Kayak In 7 Easy Steps

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 paints 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 grit 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 finishing 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 Paint Coating

The third and final coat should be a clear coat spray. Clear coating protective layer should be applied 24 hours after your second coat of suitable paint to ensure a successful custom 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.

Benefits of Re-Painting Your Kayak

Covers Scratches and Dents

Whether it's underwater obstacles, dragging your entire kayak along the shore, or transporting it, scratches and dents will occur.

Regularly sanding, priming, and painting will make sure your entire 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 surface original colors.

A UV protectant base color 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 and duck 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!

kayak for fishing and hunting

What Paint Is Best To Use On A Kayak?

Do I Need Marine-Grade Paint?

Goos marine-grade paint a kayak 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 job. Regular paint is also a good option if it's your first fun diy project or painting 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 surface 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 [2]. 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 paint brush 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 with spray gun will increase productivity and spray gun offer more control than brush painting a kayak if it's your first kayak paint job.

Frequently Asked Kayak Painting Questions

Can you change the color of a kayak?

Yes, you can change the color of a kayak. 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?

Using a kayak stand for spray painting is optional but recommended to avoid strain from constantly turning over the kayak for fresh coats of paint.

How many coats of spray paint should you use?

Optimal results require a minimum of two coats of spray paint. Additional layers can be added to achieve the desired shade and add personal flair.


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!