How To Paint An Aluminum Boat

How To Paint An Aluminum Boat

If you are having a hard time painting your aluminum boat, maybe it’s because you are not using the right formula.

And with the look of things, there isn’t enough helpful information out there (on the internet) to talk you through the painting operation. You get to see conflicting advice and suggestions here and there.

Well, we have compiled a comprehensive step-by-step guide on how to paint an aluminum boat like an expert. Your level of experience won’t be a barrier because this post explains everything you need to know from scratch to finish.

So don’t let procrastination and fear hold you back!

Read Also: Best Paint For Boats

How To Paint An Aluminum Boat

How To Paint An Aluminum Boat

Before we process, there is a common misconception among boaters that painting an aluminum boat is rocket science, and only a professional painter or shipwright can flawlessly handle this hectic work. Thus, they prefer hiring a professional for the job.

Well, that is only half true and let this sentence sink deep inside your skull: “expert painters are put on a pedestal.”

Because the long for a professional finish get us hooked, just like a hungry dog blindly chasing after the moving bone (the result) controlled by a thread (the painter).

This baits you to their den – where they shuffle away a hefty sum of money from your pocket – only to give you a brilliant finish you can undoubtedly achieve by your hand.

If learning how to paint aluminum boats was so easy, why run to a professional?

Today you are going to turn the situation on its head with the formula we’re about showing you.

This strategy contains a little bit of everything from how to prep aluminum boat for paint, to how to paint an aluminum boat avoiding the embarrassing mistakes even experienced boat painters make when performing this procedure.

More importantly, these steps are so simple to implement. You only need to take them one step at a time.

So, can we proceed?

Things you may need for the job.

First thing first is to get these tools handy:

  • Bristle or foam brushes (2 – 3 inch)
  • Protective gloves and goggles (Check these goggles)
  • Eye and ear protection
  • Face mask or respirator
  • Plastic or metal scraper
  • Wire wheel
  • Fine steel wool
  • 40 or 80-grits sandpaper
  • Drop cloths
  • Plastic bags or plastic drop cloth
  • Clean rags
  • Aluminum self-etching primer (4 spray cans for bare aluminum)
  • UV protective clear coat (2 spray cans)
  • Aluminum boat paint

We wanted an easy painting procedure that wouldn’t cost you a fortune, yet produce the ideal you need.

So, we came up with this enormous list after conducting mountains of researches and comparing results. Don’t fret! They only cost a couple of bucks in the hardware store.

Once you’ve got these tools in place, buckle up because the next line of action is where all the work lies.

How to Prep Aluminum Boat For Painting

How to Prep Aluminum Boat For Painting

Prepare the surface area, so it accepts the paint is almost inevitable. And without the proper prep-work, the paint wouldn’t adhere, which may lead to a hideous result.

So, here is how to prep an aluminum boat for paint:

Find and prepare the right spot

Choose a location where you don’t have to wrestle with the weather while working – and I highly recommend the garage.

We also recommend not painting in winter because it puts a damper on the painting job, for instance, waiting for the temperatures to warm.

Next, you have to place the boat on a trailer – although it could be challenging to access the bottom part of the vessel.

Prepare the area by spreading out a larger piece of plastic or several layers of paper underneath the boat, as well as other areas within.

The plastics will help protect the floor and other properties from accidental damage when a spillage occurs.

Read Also: Best Paints for Fiberglass Boats

Suit up!

I can never stop emphasizing how critical it is to seek precautionary measures before working.

You do not want to work at the expense of your health because some of the equipment you’re about using throws up aluminum dust, as well as metal bristles, which are lethal to breathe.

For this reason, it is imperative to throw in a pair of protective gloves, eye, and ear protection, along with a face mask or respirator, beforehand.

Apply paint stripper (optional)

This step is only imperative when transitioning from old paint to a new one.

Paint stripper will save you a big chunk of time by removing the old paint quickly.

And the rightful stripper to use for this kind of task is a Citrus trip stripping gel. We discovered it was an affordable and reliable product that removes old paint from the aluminum boat in a blink of an eye.

Also, it doesn’t produce noxious fumes. Instead, it smells deliciously like oranges.

Secondly, you want to pour the gel into a mini-size container and feed it to the vessel with a bristle brush.

Apply the solution section by section across the hull, then cover the gel with a large piece of plastic and tape it still – after you have thoroughly coated that section.

You can either cut a plastic bag or drop cloth for the coverage.

It will prevent the stripper from drying out immediately – allowing the solution to break the bond of each layer of the paint to the bare vessel.

The longer it sits, the easier it is to remove. Wait for at least 2-3hours before scraping it off.

Remove stubborn paint with a wire wheel

When scraping the paint, you might have a hard time removing some layers. Or you may find it challenging to stripe those hard-to-reach areas. Either way, a wire wheel on an electric drill is the unsung heroes that save you from the hassle.

You can drive away stubborn paint with this unit faster than you ever thought possible. Besides, you can easily get Wire Wheel from a nearby hardware store.

Commence the sanding process

Sand the boat with a 40 or 80-grits sandpaper to remove any remnant, as well as to a smooth surface, to ensure better bonding between the mental and the paint.

You can use either an electric sander or regular pieces of sandpaper for the job.

If you are painting both the interior, start sanding inside before switching over to the exterior.

Wash the boat with soap and water

The last two steps must have left a lot of residues and dust behind. So, it is necessary to wash both in and out of the boat with soapy water.

Dip a hard-bristled brush inside the soapy water (in the container) and use it to scrub off any sanding debris or leftover dirt.

Lastly, you should rinse the boat off with a hose.

Take a break!

Let the boat dry completely before proceeding to the next step: prime or paint.

You can let it air dry by its hand or apply a dry towel on it to help facilitate the drying process.

Although, we recommend letting the boat air dry if it’s sunny outside – because it guarantees there wouldn’t be any damp spots left behind.

Applying Primer (optional)

For some reason, not many boaters do prime their aluminum boat before painting it, even if it’s helpful.

But priming does two things to your vessel: it helps protect the surface and assist in terms of paint adhesion.

If you’re priming, it’s always advisable to opt for a self-etching primer that is compatible with an aluminum vessel. An oil-based primer is a go-to option excellent.

And, you can get them at a home improvement store or online.

After you’ve gotten your desired primer, you should apply the solution to the interior part (make sure it gets to the cracks and corners) of the boat in an even layer.

Additionally, you can mix a little bit of paint thinner with the primer to help hide any surface imperfection (like scratches) on the metal if you want.

You can spray the primer on or use a roller, or a paintbrush. But, ensure to apply the solution in an even, thin layer.

Wait for several hours, as recommended by the manufacturer, before priming the exterior. Prime the outer part the same way you did the interior – spreading the primer in an even layer.

Take a Break (letting the primer Dry)

Learning how to prep an aluminum boat for paint requires patience because the primer requires enough time for it to dry before you start painting.

Let it dry for about 10 to 12hours, or overnight.

Painting Your Aluminum Boat

Painting Your Aluminum Boat

If you’ve made it up to this point, congratulations, you are only a few steps away.

The first thing is to choose a good aluminum boat paint – choosing the color of your choice.

Then paint the interior with either a sprayer, paintbrush, or a roller.

After that, let the solution dry for about 10 hours before painting the exterior of the boat. You can also check the prints on the can for the drying time.

Slowly apply even strokes when painting the exterior. Let the first layer dry completely before painting a second coat – if necessary.

Lastly, leave the boat to dry overnight before adding a clear coat – using a roller or a paintbrush to spread the solution across the interior/exterior of the vessel.

The strokes should be thin and even.

What kind of paint do you use on an aluminum boat?

The easiest and most popular paint for your boat is the aluminum boat paint green or Aluma Hawk (white, blue, Jon boat green, black, aluminum grey, sand). These are both a paint/primer in one that can be applied to most surfaces with little preparation needed.

What is the best way to paint an aluminum boat?

Here are the steps to follow:

  • Dry dock your boat. Pull your boat out of the water and prep a work area in a garage or a place where you have plenty of space.
  • Sand off loose paint and rust.
  • Wash the boat.
  • Rinse the boat.
  • Use aluminum boat polish.
  • Applying the polish.
  • Work in small sections.
  • Check the boat.

Do you have to sand aluminum boat before painting?

Sanding the boat completely is a crucial step to a job well done. For example, if the inside of the boat is painted, you’ll need to scuff up the aluminum with 80 grit sandpaper. If your inside of the boat is bare aluminum, you can rough it up aggressively with 40 grit sandpaper.

What is the best paint to use on aluminum?

acrylic paints
Latex or acrylic paints are the best for painting aluminum. Choose the ones designed for use on metal. If you’re handling an outdoor project like patio furniture, ensure the paint is exterior grade. Tempting as it might be, don’t go for high-gloss paints because they will highlight imperfections on the surface.

Can I use rustoleum on aluminum?

For longer-lasting, better-looking paint on aluminum and galvanized surfaces choose Rust-Oleum® Professional Aluminum Primer. This durable base coat ensures a tight-binding top coat that eliminates the usual problems of blistering, flaking and peeling.

Do aluminum boats need bottom paint?

Aluminum Can Do Well in Salt and Freshwater

When not in contact with other metals, aluminum can do quite well in both fresh and saltwater, needing only bottom paint for aluminum boats to prevent fouling.

Can I spray paint my boat?

Painting Your Boat with Spray Paint

Topside boat spray paint protects your boat from the elements such as water, sunshine and sand. Two-Part Polyurethane Spray Paint: The hard and glossy finish of this spray paint is extremely sturdy. It’s best suited for fiberglass and may crack if painted onto other materials.

Should I paint my aluminum boat?

If you want to leave your aluminum boat in the water for extended periods of time, anti-fouling paint may be necessary to prevent growth on the bottom. And regular paint and clear coat isn’t intended to do this job – you need a paint specifically formulated to be anti-fouling.

How do you prep aluminum for paint?

Project Summary

  • Thoroughly clean the aluminum and let dry.
  • Sand the metal surface with coarse-, then fine-grit sandpaper.
  • Apply self-etching primer, let dry, then sand again.
  • Apply paint (multiple coats, and sanding between coats, may be necessary).
  • Apply enamel sealer.

Is salt water bad for aluminum boats?

Yes, salt water corrosion does damage aluminum boats. Over time, aluminum slowly oxidates in saltwater. The electrochemical inside the aluminum of the boat isn’t strong enough to handle the harsh effects of corrosion caused by the saltwater. Aluminum does a great job of resisting corrosion most of the time.


So, that is how to paint an aluminum boat. Now you know how easy it is to perform this procedure by yourself, regardless of your level of painting knowledge.

Although prior knowledge of the subject can help soften the learning process when following these steps. But, if you’re a novice, ensure you stick to these steps one at a time.

And once it dries, it could protect your aluminum boat for up to 10 years.