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Boat Paint: A Guide to Protecting and Personalizing Your Vessel

When it comes to sailing, boat paint plays a crucial role in both aesthetics and preservation. Beyond its practical function of shielding vessels from the harsh marine environment, boat paint allows owners to express their style and create a unique maritime identity. In this article, we will explore the intricacies of boat paint, from its importance in protecting against the elements to its role in enhancing the overall allure of your vessel.

The primary purpose of boat paint is to provide robust protection against the relentless forces of the sea. The sun’s UV rays, corrosive saltwater, and harsh weather conditions can quickly deteriorate a boat’s surface. To combat these threats, a high-quality marine-grade paint acts as a resilient barrier, effectively preventing corrosion, fading, and ensuring the longevity of your vessel.

However, boat paint goes beyond its practical function; it is a canvas of possibilities that allows owners to personalize their boats. With a wide range of colors and finishes available, boat owners can make a distinct statement on the water. Whether you prefer a classic, pristine white for timeless elegance or a bold, vivid hue for a modern flair, boat paint becomes the brushstroke that defines your boat’s personality.

The choice of boat paint is not purely a matter of aesthetics; it is an expression of your style and personality. By carefully selecting the color and finish, you can create a unique maritime identity that reflects your taste and preference. Whether you aim for a sleek, polished appearance or a weathered, rugged charm, the right boat paint becomes your vessel’s visual identity.

However, the artistry involved in boat paint doesn’t end with color selection. The application process is equally important and requires precision and expertise. Proper surface preparation, including thorough cleaning and priming, sets the foundation for a durable finish. Skilled layering of multiple coats ensures a smooth and long-lasting result. A well-executed application not only enhances the boat’s aesthetic appeal but also ensures maximum protection against the elements.

In conclusion, boat paint goes beyond preservation; it is a means of creating a vessel that sails in style. Choosing the right boat paint allows you to protect your boat while expressing your personal style. By combining functionality and aesthetics, boat paint transforms your vessel into a floating work of art that is ready to weather the seas with grace and individuality.



a guide for selecting the right boat paint

How to select marine paint

Ahoy there, fellow seafarers! Are you ready to sail the high seas with style and pizzazz? Selecting the right marine paint is critical to the appearance, longevity, and performance of a boat. Marine paint not only adds an aesthetic appeal to the boat but also protects the hull from environmental elements such as water, sunlight, and salt. It can also help reduce the drag and improve fuel efficiency of the boat.

When choosing marine paint, there are several factors to consider such as the type of paint, the water conditions in which the boat will be used, the type of hull material, the application method, and the expected maintenance. These factors can affect the durability and effectiveness of the paint, as well as the overall appearance of the boat. So, don’t be like a sailor who forgot to batten down the hatches – take the time to select the right boat paint. Your boat (and your reputation as a savvy boater) will thank you.


  • Choosing the right marine paint is important for both the appearance and protection of your vessel.
  • There are different types of marine paints, such as antifouling paint, topside paint, and bottom paint, each with its own purpose and application.
  • When selecting marine paint, it’s important to consider factors such as water conditions, hull material, and application method.
  • Proper application of marine paint is crucial for achieving a smooth, even finish and ensuring the paint lasts as long as possible.
  • Maintaining your boat paint with regular cleaning and touch-ups can help preserve the value of your vessel and keep it looking great.

Types of marine paints

There are several types of marine paints available in the market, each designed for a specific purpose. Here are some of the most common types of boat paints:

Antifouling paint – Antifouling paint is designed to protect the hull of the boat from the growth of marine organisms, such as algae and barnacles. It contains biocides that inhibit the growth of these organisms, preventing them from attaching to the hull. Antifouling paint is best used in saltwater or brackish water environments.

Topside paint – Topside paint is used to protect the upper part of the boat above the waterline. It can be used on the deck, cabin, and other areas exposed to sunlight and harsh weather conditions. Topside paint comes in a variety of finishes, from matte to glossy, and can be customized to match the desired look of the boat.

Bottom paint – Bottom paint is designed to protect the hull of the boat below the waterline. It prevents the growth of marine organisms, such as barnacles and mussels, which can cause drag and reduce the boat’s performance. Bottom paint is best used in saltwater or freshwater environments.

Epoxy paint – Epoxy paint is a two-part paint system that is highly durable and resistant to water, chemicals, and abrasion. It is commonly used as a primer or barrier coat to protect the hull from moisture and corrosion. Epoxy paint can also be used as a topcoat for added protection and a glossy finish.

Varnish – Varnish is a clear, protective coating used to enhance the natural beauty of wood on the boat. It provides UV protection, moisture resistance, and durability to the wood, making it last longer and maintain its appearance.

The type of marine paint to use depends on the intended use of the boat and the environmental conditions in which it will be used. For example, antifouling paint* is best used in saltwater environments to prevent marine growth, while topside paint can be used to enhance the boat’s appearance and protect it from UV rays. Bottom paint is ideal for boats that spend a lot of time in the water, while varnish is suitable for boats with wooden surfaces that need protection and a glossy finish.

Factors to consider when selecting marine paint

When selecting the right marine paint, there are several factors that should be taken into account. Here are some of the most important factors to consider:

Water conditions – The type of water in which the boat will be used is a critical factor to consider when choosing boat paint. Saltwater, freshwater, and brackish water each have different environmental conditions that can affect the performance and durability of the paint. Saltwater, for example, can be corrosive and requires a more durable paint that can withstand the harsh environment.

Hull material – The material of the boat’s hull is another important factor to consider when selecting boat paint. Different types of paint are designed to adhere to specific materials, such as fiberglass, aluminum, or wood. It’s important to choose a paint that is compatible with the hull material to ensure proper adhesion and maximum protection.

Application method – The application method of the paint can also affect the final appearance and performance of the paint. Some types of paint, such as epoxy paint, require a specific application method, while others, such as topside paint, can be applied using a brush, roller, or spray. It’s important to choose a paint that can be applied using the desired method and to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.

Expected maintenance – The expected maintenance of the boat paint is another factor to consider when selecting boat paint. Some types of paint, such as antifouling paint**, require more frequent maintenance, such as cleaning and touch-ups, to maintain their effectiveness. It’s important to choose a paint that fits your maintenance schedule and skill level.

Tips for evaluating these factors and making an informed decision

Consult with a professional or a trusted boat maintenance expert, such as Bottom Paint Store, to help you evaluate the different factors and choose the right boat paint for your needs. offers free technical assistance.

Research different brands and types of marine paint to compare their performance, durability, and cost-effectiveness.

Check the manufacturer’s recommendations and application instructions to ensure compatibility with your boat’s hull material and the intended application method.

Consider the expected lifespan of the paint and the frequency of maintenance required to ensure the paint remains effective.

Finally, remember that selecting the right marine paint is an investment in the long-term performance and appearance of your boat, so take the time to make an informed decision.

Applying marine paint

Properly applying marine paint is crucial to achieving a smooth, durable finish that protects your boat from the harsh marine environment. Here’s why it’s important and how to do it:

A proper application ensures the paint adheres to the surface and forms a protective barrier against the elements.

Applying paint unevenly or too thinly can result in a weak bond that can crack, peel, or fade prematurely.

Proper application also ensures the paint dries evenly and maintains its color and gloss for longer.

Step-by-step instructions for applying marine paint

Surface Preparation: Before applying any paint, clean the surface thoroughly to remove any dirt, grease, or other contaminants. Sand the surface to create a rough texture that promotes adhesion.

Primer: Apply a primer to the surface to promote adhesion and provide a smooth base for the paint. Allow the primer to dry completely before applying the paint.

Application: Apply the paint using a brush, roller, or spray gun, depending on the type of paint and the desired finish. Apply the paint in thin, even coats, and avoid overloading the brush or roller.

Drying: Allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next coat. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the recommended drying time between coats.

Sanding: Sand the surface lightly between coats to create a smooth texture and promote adhesion.

Final Coat: Apply the final coat of paint using the same technique as the previous coats. Allow the final coat to dry completely before using the boat.

Tips for achieving a smooth, even finish:

Use high-quality paint and tools to achieve a professional-looking finish.

Apply the paint in thin, even coats to prevent runs and drips.

Avoid painting in direct sunlight or high humidity to prevent the paint from drying too quickly or not drying properly.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the recommended number of coats and drying time between coats.

Sand the surface lightly between coats to create a smooth texture and promote adhesion.

Use a high-quality brush or roller to ensure the paint goes on evenly.

Keep the paint mixed well to maintain consistency throughout the application process.

Maintaining marine paint

Properly applying marine paint is crucial to achieving a smooth, durable finish that protects your boat from the harsh marine environment. A proper application ensures the paint adheres to the surface and forms a protective barrier against the elements. Applying paint unevenly or too thinly can result in a weak bond that can crack, peel, or fade prematurely. It also ensures the paint dries evenly and maintains its color and gloss for longer.

Where to buy marine paint

In summary, choosing the right marine paint is essential for protecting your vessel from the harsh marine environment and ensuring it looks its best. Factors like water conditions, hull material, and application method should all be taken into account when selecting the right paint for your boat. Once you’ve chosen the right paint, be sure to apply it properly to achieve a smooth, even finish. And remember, a well-maintained paint job not only looks great but can also help preserve the value of your boat.

So, don’t be like a bad paint job – sloppy, uneven, and ultimately disappointing. Take the time to select the right paint and apply it properly. Your boat (and your wallet) will thank you. Bottom Paint Store has a huge selection of marine paint at discounted prices and if you need technical assistance, feel free to contact us Monday to Friday 9am-5pm EST 888.505.2313.


*Wikipedia Anti-fouling paint

** Marine fouling and its prevention ; prepared for Bureau of Ships, Navy Dept.

How to Identify the Type of Paint on My Boat

Our customer service team often receives phone calls from customers asking how to identify the type of paint on my boat? The paint label should indicate the type of paint it is, as well as any other information about the paint. However, that may not be available.

In this case, you will need to know the surface of your vessel, for example is it aluminum, wood or fiberglass?

Once you have identified the surface, the type of boat paint can be narrowed down.

If you are looking at the topside area of a boat, and the surface has a gloss/shiny finish, the options are mainly Gelcoat or marine paint.

To tell these apart, you can use a couple of methods:

One method is to use rubbing alcohol on a white cloth and rub it over an inconspicuous area of the hull. If the surface starts to shine, then it’s likely that you have Gelcoat. Another option is to take a piece of sandpaper and gently rub it over an area where the finish appears smooth. If the paper doesn’t snag and pull up any fibers from the surface, then it’s most likely Gelcoat as well. 

If you are looking at the bottom of the boat, and the surface has a dull, flat sheen finish you most likely have some type of antifouling bottom paint. The two most popular bottom paints are self-polishing ablative and hard bottom paint.

The self-polishing ablative bottom paints work like a bar of soap, once the boat moves in the water or there is a current and or tide, the outer layer slowly wears away. It is easy to tell when a boat is painted with ablative bottom paint, simply rub it with a dry rag in an inconspicuous area of the hull. If the paint easily rubs off, you most likely have a self-polishing ablative bottom paint.

Note: compatibility within bottom paints can be tricky, we recommend checking the compatibility chart of the new bottom paint you are interested in applying, to ensure you prepare the surface correctly.

Here are the bottom paint compatibility and cross-references charts by bottom paint manufacturer:

It is important to determine the age of the paint. Again, you can look at the label on the can of paint for a date or call the source you ordered from to see if they have a record of your order. Bottom Paint Store has order records that span several years.

The final step is to evaluate the condition of the paint. If the paint is peeling, flaking, or otherwise showing signs of wear, it will need to be replaced. However, if the paint is in good condition and there are no visible signs of wear, you may be able to simply touch up any areas that are damaged.

Related Articles:

How do I know if my boat has Gelcoat on it or paint?
How to Apply Bottom Paint Over Existing Bottom Paint

The Different Types of Boat Paint

In this article, we will briefly describe some of the different types of boat paint that can be used to repair, restore, protect, and make your boat looks its best.

Topside boat paint is a type of paint you apply above the waterline of a boat. This can include the sides of the hull, deck, as well as interior. Marine topside paints usually consist of one-part polyurethane, two-part polyurethane, and alkyd marine enamel. There are also buffable, two-part acrylic urethanes. Due to the sun’s rays, your boat is vulnerable to UV damage so coating your upper hull and deck with good topside paint can go a long way to protecting your boat.

Blue Water Marine Topside Paints are superior in quality, higher in value and typically, priced better than store brands

Aluminum boat paint can be used for many purposes including to camouflage, decorate, refurbish, or restore and touch up aluminum boat surfaces. Paint that is safe for aluminum and can be applied without a primer and can be used below or above the waterline. If you don’t take care of your aluminum boat, it will eventually start to show its age. One way to keep your aluminum boat looking new is to touch up the paint when it starts to fade or chip. Touching up the paint on your aluminum boat is a relatively simple process.

Aluma Hawk is a high-solids, quick drying corrosion inhibiting coating designed for use on aluminum. It requires no primer and can be applied below or above the waterline with no antifouling characteristics; it also contains dual purpose phenolic resin which makes it possible to use as both primer (for metals) AND topcoat if needed!

Aluma Hawk Paint
Aluma Hawk is a fast drying, high-solids, corrosion-inhibiting coating designed for use on aluminum with no need for a primer.

Duralux Paint is available in a variety of colors to satisfy the most discriminating boat owner’s eye, Duralux offers a complete line of products including enamels and spar varnish. Duralux aluminum boat paint is a solid choice for those who want great protection for their aluminum boat.

Duralux Aluminum Boat Green
Duralux Aluminum Boat Green

Fiberglass coatings usually consist of gelcoat, gelcoat putties, resins, restoration solutions, repair kits, and tools/materials. Gel coats are often used to touch up or repair a boat’s finish. They have a much shorter shelf life and can be a lot more difficult to apply than paint so the manufacturer’s instructions must be carefully followed to ensure a successful result.

Gelcoat can be used to patch existing gel coat, fiberglass repairs, and new construction and projects.

Wood boat paint typically includes traditional types of oil-based finishes, as two-part paints tend to be less flexible. Because wood can flex and swell, especially along seams, expensive finishes will not last any longer than traditional stain or paint. Teak can be used to prevent fading on a boat’s wood finish. If left untreated, it will often fade which leads to the need to clean or treat the wood so it is not susceptible to rot, mildew, and discoloration.

Teak wood cleaner
Just Teak is a simple solution to clean, brighten & protect your teak.

Bottom boat paint is antifouling paint or coating designed to diminish weeds, barnacles, and other aquatic organisms that can attach below the waterline of a boat and cause damage. Bottom paint includes ablative bottom paint, hard boat bottom paint, aluminum safe bottom paint, primers for bottom paint, and boat bottom paint remover.

Biocop bottom paint uses the newest biocide technology which is safe for the environment.

If you need assistance selecting the right marine boat paint for your next project see Bottom Paint Store’s how-to articles or call our technical support department Monday-Friday from 8:30-5:00 pm EST 888-505-2313.

Choosing the Right Boat Paint

There are many different boat paints and qualities, generally the more you spend the better the results. There are a variety of types including topside and bottom paints. Topside paints are meant to be used above the waterline and will not hold up under water. Bottom Paints (also called antifoulants or antifouling coatings) are pesticides that are only used below the waterline when you are trying to stop growth from occurring while your boat stays in the water over long periods of time.  See Related Article>: Do I need Bottom Paint?

The type of paint you choose for your boat will depend on the type of boat you have and the environment in which it will be used.

There are two main types of boat paint: antifouling and topside. Antifouling paint is designed to prevent marine growth from attaching to the hull of the boat, while topside paint is designed for the superstructure of the boat, such as the deck and cabin.

If you plan on using your boat in saltwater, it is important to choose a paint that is specifically designed for saltwater use. Saltwater is much more corrosive than fresh water, so a saltwater-specific paint will be more durable and longer lasting.

Using your boat in freshwater, will require a different paint. There are a few different types of paint you can choose from. Freshwater-specific paints are available, but they are not necessary if you do not plan on using your boat in saltwater.

Boat Paints

Duralux High Gloss Marine Enamel is affordable and easy to apply and only recommended for above the waterline or moderate use on the bottom (a day or so in the water, not extended periods). This topside paint works best in very thin coats; see the prep recommendations found on product page on “how to use” tab. Duralux marine enamels do have a color offering in a flat finish, those are limited to their camouflage paint colors. Marine Alkyd Enamels like Duralux are effective and low cost.

A step up from the marine enamels are polyurethane enamels. These products such as Blue Water Marine Mega Gloss Polyurethane,  Interlux Brightside,  and Pettit Easypoxy have a better flow and gloss.

The best performing and hardest application is either Awlgrip or Awlcraft 2000. These require a more technical application and require the use of proper primers, catalyst and thinners with each application.

Typically when people discuss bottom paint on a boat they are referring to Antifouling paint. Bottom paint prevents growth of organisms that attach to the hull and can affect a vessels speed, performance, and durability when boat is kept in the water for extended periods of time.  If you don’t have that problem, you may not need bottom paint. Antifouling bottom paint typically has a flat, dull finish that is used below the waterline.

CUKOTE 2013There are generally two types of bottom paint both of which have several variations that create a multitude of products in the market place. The two different types or categories of bottom paint include hard bottom paint and ablative bottom paint. Related Article> What is the Difference Between Hard and Ablative Bottom Paint.

Once you have selected the type of paint you need, you will need to select a color. The color of your boat should be based on personal preference, but it is important to keep in mind that darker colors will absorb more heat than lighter colors.

Your boat paint choice ultimately depends on your budget and which boat paint colors meet the needs of your boat and usage.

What is the best paint for my boat?

A lot of factors contribute to what paint is best for your boat:

Are you painting the entire boat, or just the bottom? Is the boat in fresh water or salt water? Is your boat trailered?

What is on the bottom of the boat now: bottom paint, topside paint or gelcoat? Once an antifouling bottom paint has been applied only antifouling paint can go over it (unless you remove it). Gelcoat application is recommended over fiberglass, most resins and gelcoat. It can have difficulty adhering to other surfaces.

For topside only the Duralux Marine Enamel is an economical choice. It has several colors to choose from and features easy application.

Gelcoat is usually what is “original” to most boats; a bass boat will have metal flake mixed in. We sell metal flake that can be added to gelcoat or paint but we don’t sell any with it already mixed in.

Ablative bottom paint can help with the slime, will wear away slowly over time,  and it is suitable for trailered boats. Bottom paint is applied below the waterline only.

If you need assistance selecting the right boat paint for your needs feel free to call our technical support team Monday-Friday 9am-5pm EST 888-505-2313.