How to Paint a Fiberglass Boat

by Jenny Carver

Fiberglass boats come new with a colored gel coat, not actual paint. Gel coats eventually fade and can not be cleaned or waxed to look new. Painting the fiberglass is the only way to get the boat looking new again. Preparing and painting fiberglass is unlike preparing and painting metal or aluminum. Special steps should be followed to get the best paint job possible without damaging the fiberglass in the process. Learn how to paint a fiberglass boat and get your boat looking like new.

Step 1

Remove or tape over any parts or hardware that won't be painted such as the bang irons, ventilators, name plates and registration numbers. Use a clean cloth pad to wipe the boat down with a wax removing solvent. This removes any residue left from any polishes that were ever applied to the boat's surface.

Step 2

Look for any scrapes, dings or gouges on the boat's surface that need repair. Fill these areas with an epoxy filler and allow to dry. Sand the filler down with 60-grit sand paper and a dual action sander. Sand again with 80-grit sand paper to smooth the scratches made with the 60-grit paper.

Step 3

Apply a thin coat of primer to the boat's surface with a roller or brush. Cover the entire area of the boat that will be painted. The primer won't look great at this point, but as long as the entire surface is covered with a thin coat it will look good after paint is applied. Begin painting within 2 hours of applying the primer so that the primer is still fresh.

Paint the boat with the 2-part urethane paint. Apply the first thin coat of paint with a paint roller. Immediately follow this with another thin coat applied with a foam brush to smooth the marks left by the roller.


  • Always wear protective gear, such as a respirator mask and safety glasses, when sanding or working with primer and paint. Make sure the roller and foam brushes are compatible with the primer and paints being used. Some brushes and rollers won't hold up to being used with the chemicals in the paint and primer.


  • Do not use automotive primer and paint for a fiberglass boat. These products are not made to adhere to the gel coat on a fiberglass suface.

Items you will need

  • Wax removing solvent
  • Clean cloth pads
  • Epoxy putty
  • Dual action sander
  • Sand paper (60 and 80 grit)
  • Fiberglass primer
  • Paint roller and covers
  • Foam brush
  • 2-part urethane paint for boats
  • Chemical respirator mask
  • Gloves
  • Safety glasses

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