Can You Paint a Kayak? Simple Kayak Tips

Image of kayak but Can You Paint a Kayak?You may select a kayak but are displeased with its colors, or you have used the vessel for quite some time and are tired of the color. Also, the current paint finish may start to chip off or crack. Hmmm, how unfortunate! But, hope is not lost because this article discusses a very interesting subject; can you paint a kayak?

The answer is yes! You can give your Kayak a fresh paint coat if you are not satisfied with what you have now. Also, painting the Kayak helps you customize it to your personal preferences, and it stands out on the water. 

However, the paint job is not something that takes a while. You will expend energy and time, and thus, it would be best to prepare sufficiently. For example, it is recommended practice to prepare the vessel and choose the most suitable paint. So, you cannot just rise one morning and decide to paint a kayak, whereas all you have is leftover paint from a previous project.

That said, let’s engage in this piece and see what you need to get a perfect paint job,

How to Paint a Kayak

How to paint a kayak varies based on its materials and the application method you intend to use. Also, you will consider the paint type that will deliver your desired results.

But, generally, as long as you have the correct supplies, you are good to begin! So, check out the following supplies list.

  • Sandpaper. This accessory sands the surface before painting. It creates a rougher surface and helps the paint to stick better.
  • Dish Soap. Mild dish soap and warm water will grant you success in the cleaning process. However, you can also use heavy-duty cleaning agents to remove tough stains.
  • Acetone. This solution is perfect if you have oil leftovers on the Kayak.
  • Cloths/Rags. These supplies help clean the Kayak and dry it before painting. Also, you can place the cloths and rags around during painting to keep the floor clean.
  • Marine Wax. A wax finish delivers a sleek and nice finish when the paint dries. Also, it protects the Kayak’s material from UV rays and keeps its color intact.
  • Painting Mask. It would be best to mask up to protect your lungs from spray paint. Also, ensure that it is of good quality to protect you from paint fumes.
  • Brush Set. You may have a detailed design that requires a brush. Therefore, even if you prefer working with spray paint. It would help to have a set of brushes just in case the design becomes more sophisticated.
  • Tarp. Ensure that you have a reasonably-sized tarp where you can set up your Kayak before painting. You don’t want to paint on the garage floor, front lawn, or driveway as the paint job may be messy.
  • Sawhorses. Although this accessory is optional, it would be much easier to work on and around the vessel once you set it up on sturdy sawhorses.
  • Gloves. Disposable gloves help you to keep your hands from getting paint stains. Also, they are a perfect accessory if you do not want to use abrasive soap or paint thinner to clean your hands later.

Once you have the above supplies, proceed with the following steps.

  • Pick the Painting Area

Always be keen on the working area because you will be applying wet paint formula to the Kayak. Also, it would be best to avoid moving the vessel too much once you begin the painting process.

In addition, you can consider putting a tarp on the ground as you prepare the work surface. Some kayak paints have smelly and toxic odors. Thus, you may also want to get an outdoor working space.

On top of that, you might find the paint job much easier if you set up the vessel on sawhorses. The attachments allow you to deliver a more consistent finish as you do not have to keep bending over during painting.

However, there is a possibility that the Kayak may fall as you paint. In a worst-case scenario, the wind may blow it over and mess up your work. Therefore, be gentle and careful if you opt to use the sawhorses.

Lastly, it would be an excellent idea to protect the vessel from the wind. This move will reduce the chances for anything to blow over or away, especially if you use spray paint. Also, you will achieve a more even finish.

  • Clean the Kayak

A thorough cleaning session is part of the preparation process. Also, it depends on the Kayak’s material. Therefore, it would be best to be keen not to ruin the vessel. In addition, ensure that you give the Kayak time to dry if you clean it with a wet rag.

Besides that, you can hose the Kayak and then wipe it gently with a dry cloth. But, the process may not eliminate the dirt particles. Instead, you will just be moving them around. Also, the vessel will require more drying time before you can go to the next step.

Nonetheless, we generally recommend that you wipe the vessel with water and a wet rag. You can also use mild dishwashing soap to help remove hard or sticky residue. On top of that, you may get a cleaning agent, but it may be a bit harsh on the surface. So, only consider it if you are dealing with large dirt and debris levels.

  • Preparing the Surface of the Kayak

This stage involves getting the surface ready for the paint. The idea is that most paints adhere properly to slightly rougher surfaces. Therefore, get ready to do some sanding. But, ensure that you remove the vessel’s parts that you do not want to paint. Like, screws, the seat, and handles.

Get your sandpaper and sand the entire surface of the vessel. Also, it would be best to use medium or fine grit sandpaper as it does not take off too much material from the Kayak.

Wipe the surface clean with a cloth or use a fan to get rid of the loose material. This exercise helps to keep the surface clean, and you will not paint the sanding residue back in place. In addition, keep the vessel as dry as you can. So, you can get a dry rag or a small blot of acetone.

Acetone helps remove oil leftovers and ensures an enhanced bond between the surface and the paint. The solvent also dries relatively quickly, and you will not twiddle your thumbs for too long before you proceed.

  • Paint the Kayak

Grab your face mask and decide on whether you will use a brush, spray, or roll. The chosen application technique depends on the size and nature of the Kayak. For instance, it is tedious to use spray paint for longer kayaks as it is hard to get an even coat.

On the other hand, liquid paint poses a challenge when painting Kayaks. The curved nature of the vessels makes the formula run and dry in clamps. So, it is easier to use a spray-on method as long as you estimate the total square footage of the Kayak. The process will help you procure the right paint amount.

Besides that, please note that you may need at least two solid paint coats. This aspect ensures that the finish will not flake or chip easily. Also, if you want to add a design or pattern to the Kayak, do so after achieving at least two base coats.

In addition, it would be best to get a paintbrush for more detailed and specific patterns. You can use Sharpie to create the pattern when the base coat dries.

How Do You Stick Paint to a Plastic Kayak?

The first stage is to scuff the Kayak’s surface with sandpaper or Scotch Brite to knock off the sheen. Then, rub the Kayak’s surface with a no residue solvent like alcohol. Also, you can use an adhesion promoter or a plastic primer.

Finally, hit the surface with plastics spray paint!

How Do I Restore the Color on my Kayak?

UV rays damage or fade the Kayak’s color, especially if the vessel is plastic or fiberglass. Therefore, applying protective coats and proper cleaning is crucial in increasing the vessel’s durability.

However, sometimes you were unaware of the above preventive strategies, eventually getting a faded kayak. Don’t stress! Restoring the vessel’s color is a relatively easy procedure. 

All you need is water, soap, a gel coat, a towel, colored automotive polish, and a plastic protectant. Then, follow the steps below.

  • Clean the Kayak’s surface with soapy water to eliminate debris, dirt, and mildew. Then, dry it well with a towel.
  • Get a colored automotive polish that suits the vessel’s color and apply it. The polish restores the lost Kayak’s color. Also, follow the manufacturer’s instructions as you apply the product.
  • Prime the surface and apply a plastic gel protectant coat. It seals the color and protects the hull from damaging UV rays.
  • Lastly, give the Kayak at least three days to dry before use. Also, ensure that it does not feel sticky before placing it on the water.

Can I Paint a Rotomolded Kayak?

It would not be prudent to paint a rotomolded kayak. The vessel consists of a polyethylene material that may not bond well with a do-it-yourself paint job. Also, the paint coat will chip, peel, and look unattractive within a very short time duration.

How Do You Refurbish a Plastic Kayak?

You can refurbish a plastic kayak by putting a small hole at the end of the cracks. Then, use plastic to weld the crack. Also, please ensure that you drill the holes carefully to prevent the cracks from spreading. 

On top of that, invest in a plastic welding kit with HDPE welding rods as it works as a plastic gun.

Plastic kayaks and canoes have high-density polyurethane (HDPE) material, which keeps the vessels durable and flexible. These components also keep the surface from bonding with other materials. But, they are extremely difficult to repair, and it would be best to explore various guidelines on how to do it.

Kayaks get gouges, holes, and scratches as you drag them along shorelines or paddle them over shallow rocks. Also, you may accidentally bang the vessel into various objects as you move them from place to place.

Scratches are nothing to give you worries. But, if they accompany plastic fraying or peeling, it would be best to trim them with a razor. Thick scratches may peel back the plastic, and thus, you need to take action as soon as possible.

On top of that, the gouges may be larger and deeper than usual. Thus, the best remedy is to drip melted plastic into the crack and fill it. Use a screwdriver or spoon to smear the plastic drips in the groove. Then, trim off or sand any excess plastic and even out the surface.

Also, ensure that you use plastic similar to the Kayak’s material. Otherwise, you can buy HDPE weld rods or use containers made with HDPE material.

NB: It would be best to contact a professional if you have a serious crack. You do not want to damage your Kayak further and spend more money than expected.

What Paint Will Stick to a Kayak?

You can use marine-grade paint for the project. It is easier to apply, more durable, and leaves a beautiful, glossy finish. Also, if you want to do justice on a high-end kayak, then yes, this high-quality marine-grade formula is the best option.

In addition, we have two categories of marine-grade paint: One part and two-part paint formulas. Also, you will find some suppliers with marine enamels or water-based marine formulas.

But, even so, most painters prefer to use a one-part marine-grade polyurethane formula for kayak refurbishing or other marine watercraft painting projects. These paints provide more durability and thus, assure you of longevity.

Marine-grade paint tends to be more pricey than regular spray paints. So, unless you are working with a super high-end vessel, it would be prudent to get a standard spray for regular painting projects. Also, regular paint will help you a lot if you want to complete the job with a clear finishing spray formula.

Besides that, we have the oil-based and water-based paints conundrum. You might think that water-based products will collapse as soon as the Kayak hits the water surface. But, surprisingly, the formulas hold up pretty well for outdoor applications and maintain their gloss for an extended duration.

However, oil-based paints also have their benefit. They have a longer curing time and thus, offer more resistance to wear and tear.

But, we recommend water-based paints for your Kayak. Because unlike oil-based formulas, they work well with rounded or curved surfaces and do not crack after application. They also offer UV resistance qualities to the vessels and keeps their color intact.

Should I Wax Plastic Kayak?

Yes. It would be best to wax a kayak. The wax delivers a protective layer that keeps the vessel safe from harmful UV rays. It also protects the hull’s color and increases its useful life. However, unlike composite kayaks, vessels with a plastic hull do not require waxing.

But, even so, cleaning and apply the wax is still an essential practice. It helps the kayak glide through the water for years without a scratch or dent on its hull. So, get some wax for your maintenance routine.

Can You Use Car Wax on a Kayak?

Any good-quality auto wax will always deliver a perfect protection coat on the vessel. More specifically, you can consider Turtle Wax, suitable for Surfskis, prone paddleboards, surfboards, and outrigger canoes. Also, although it can ‘re-formulate in salty water, the formula is affordable and easy to apply.

How Do You Spray Paint a Kayak Camo?

Spraying is an easy application technique as it is less tedious as it covers a larger area at one time. In addition, it gives you a more uniform coat without brush lines. Therefore, you get a perfect finish.

The spraying process begins with a thorough wash, where you remove all dirt that can interfere with the paint formula’s adhesion. You can use a pressure washer, but a hand wash is sufficient if you cannot access one.

Then, install a paint removal wheel into a cordless drill and use it to rough up the Kayak’s surface. Ensure that you use a low RPM to preserve the vessel from damage. Also, it would be best to avoid dedicated sanders and grinders as they spin too fast. They generate heat that may weaken the plastic’s structural integrity.

Next, Wipe the surface with acetone or a clean, dry cloth. Be sure to remove sanding dust and films or grease that may lead to adhesion problems.

Spray the Kayak’s surface with an adhesion promoter using a side-to-side motion. Also, ensure that you move in even bands to facilitate a uniform finish. Apply the topcoat with your spray paint after one hour and allow it to dry.

Finally, use a sponge to add another color to the primary color. But, ensure that you dap it in a random design or pattern. Also, be careful not to go too heavy on the surface or press it strongly. You may end up creating dents or an uneven surface.

Besides that, it would be best to spray paint in a large work area to avoid staining other objects. Also, you can cover all the zones that you do not want to stain, including yourself. In addition, ensure that you are in an open space or a well-ventilated area to keep you safe from paint fumes.

How Do You Sand a Kayak?

Sanding a kayak before painting is an essential exercise as it prepares the surface and helps the paint adhere properly. The process also smooths out the surface and enhances a perfectly smooth finish.

So, consider 100 or 200 grit sandpaper for the project and assess whether the Kayak is dry. Sand it down gently and ensure that you cover all the areas that you will paint. Then, wipe the surface gently with a clean cloth once you get an even finish.

Can I Stick a Decal On My Kayak?

You can stick a decal on your Kayak if you do not want to repaint it. Also, it is a perfect strategy to add a flashy new decal to represent your favorite kayaking brands or companies. Therefore, the only challenging bit would be to get your desired pattern or design.

How to Stick A Decal On Your Kayak

The first step is to prepare the spot by sanding. Use fine-grit sandpaper to achieve an even surface. Also, ensure that you wipe it with a cloth dipped in acetone or alcohol. The exercise creates a rough surface and eliminates debris. Therefore, the decal will stick better on the Kayak.

Heat the spot and wet it. It would help to use a hairdryer to heat the area where you’ll stick the decal. The heating process helps the decal stick better on the surface, and thus, will last longer. Also, use a damp rag or cloth and wet the area without making it dripping wet. 

Apply the decal in the desired spot. Also, start from the center and move towards the sides. This move helps to avoid air bubbles build-up as you push the air towards the edges. Ensure that you use a flat-edged accessory like a squeegee or credit card to push the air out even;y and smoothly.

Finally, allow the decal around 30 minutes before you remove the backing. In addition, start from one of the edges, then peel back, moving to the opposite corner. This practice ensures that you remove the backing evenly and neatly. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the questions that kayak owners and enthusiasts ask about almost every other time:

  • How Long Does a Kayak Need To Dry?

There is no specific duration because various paints work differently. For example, spray paint requires a minimum of one to two hours before you apply the second coat. Then, you need another 24 hours for the paint job to completely dry.

On the other hand, an oil-based formula takes a longer period to dry, especially if you use a brush or roller. Expect to wait for approximately six to eight hours to get a dry surface. Also, give about 24 hours for the final coat to settle before putting the Kayak in the water.

  • Does Waxing My Kayak Improve Its Speed?

Kayak waxing can boost its speed. The wax usually creates a smoother surface, and thus, the vessel glides more efficiently through the water. Please note that the speed increase may not be observable. But, the vessel will move more effortlessly on the water.

  • How Hard Is It to Paint a Kayak?

Painting a kayak is quite easy, especially if you have the correct supplies and follow the correct preparation procedure. However, the paint job will be demanding if you have a longer kayak. The large surface makes spraying difficult, and you will struggle to get a uniform finish.

Also, kayaks have a curved nature that is not welcoming to liquid paint. The formula runs and then dries in clamps. Thus, you get clumps rather than a uniform coat.

  • Can I Put Stickers On a Kayak?

Yes. You can have stickers on your Kayak. They customize the vessels and helps you add a personal flair on the surface. But, many Rotomolded vessels have a textured surface that cannot hold stickers for a long time. Therefore, do not be disappointed if the additions do not stick for long.

  • How Do I Maintain a Kayak After Painting?

Storage is essential in maintaining a kayak, especially after painting. A suitable storage space keeps the vessel from harmful UV rays that cause fading or discoloration. Also, you will protect the hull from accidents when not.

It is also a good practice to keep the Kayak clean and dry. You will protect it from accumulated dirt, which eventually compromises the vessel’s shine. In addition, keeping the Kayak dry will enhance its life, and you will not experience rot or decay from excess moisture.


A kayak’s color represents a lot of things. For instance, it may showcase the vessel’s brand or company. You may also use specific color patterns to bring out your tastes and personality. Therefore, the vessel sends a message as it floats on water. But, what can you do if the Kayak’s color fades off over time or you generally do not like its original color? Well, fortunately, we have a positive response to the query:

Can You Paint a Kayak?

It is possible to paint your Kayak. You do not have to be stuck with an undesirable color or pattern. Simply get the correct paint and use the right procedure. Also, ensure that you do not hurry to complete the work as it may take some time.

In addition, you can personalize the Kayak as much as you want. Therefore, your efforts will pay off, and you will have a personal signature on your vessel.