How to Paint an Aluminum Boat (DIY Guide)

Your aluminum boat is vulnerable to a lot of abuse out on the water, this is especially so if you’re boating in saltwater. Elements such as UV radiation and sea life also have a negative effect on your boat.

If you’ve had your boat for years, you’d probably have noticed your boats paint job slowly decaying. Worn out paint doesn’t look very appealing, and therefore a repaint may be in order.

Perhaps you’ve just bought an aluminum boat and you’re just not a fan of the color. Many cheaper aluminum boats will have a default dull gray appearance.

Regardless of your situation, you want to paint your aluminum boat.

But how do you go about painting an aluminum boat?

In this guide, I’ll be explaining exactly how to prep an aluminum boat for paint and the exact process behind how to paint an aluminum boat.

Sand Away Old Layer of Paint

Aluminum is notorious for flaking. Generally, overtime you’ll notice your aluminum paint will start to flake and fall off. It’d be a bad idea to paint over a flakey layer of paint. Therefore, you should sand away at the old layer of paint so that you have a smooth surface to paint on.

Depending on the size of your boat, you could do the job manually with sandpaper or you could use an electric sander. Sanding a large boat can take a lot of time and effort so I’d recommend using an electric sander in this case.

Start off with 80-grit sandpaper till all the old paint job is taken off. Once all the old paint job is sanded off, you should switch to a 40-grit sandpaper to smoothen out the surface. This will provide you with a nice smooth surface to paint on.

Wash Your Boat

Next you should clean your boat in preparation for priming. It’s best to use a pressure washer however you could also use a high-powered water hose. I’d recommend this pressure washer from Amazon. This will get rid of all the debris stuck to your boat though it won’t wash every little bit off dirt off.

This may be enough for some however if your boat still looks a bit rough or If you want to give your boat the highest quality paint job possible you should wash your boat thoroughly. For the best wash possible check out my guide on cleaning an aluminum boat

Alternatively, you could use a product such as Boat Bling Hot Sauce

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If you happen to have any decals on your boat that you’d like to remove then you should check out my guide on how to remove boat decals easily. Boat decals will begin to fade away and loose their charm or perhaps you just want to switch out your decal for something new.

Applying Primer

Now that your boat is as clean as possible, it’s time to apply primer. Primer is a must as it helps the paint attach to the vessel. Not only this, but it provides another layer of protection to the aluminum, helping prevent against oxidation and corrosion.

Applying primer is straightforward. You can apply it using a brush or a sprayer. I’d always recommend a spray application as it allows for an even distribution.

You may only need one layer of primer, though a second coat is always recommended.

After you’ve applied your primer you will need to wait for it to cure being painting, you should see the instructions on your bucket of primer. Different primers will have specific requirements. Some primer can be painted on only an hour after application, whereas others may need a few days.  

If you don’t already have a suitable primer, you can purchase one from Amazon. I like this Aluminum Primer by Eastwood. It works perfectly on aluminum boats and acts as a sealer.

Painting your Aluminum Boat

Now it’s finally time to start painting your boat.

But what’s the best paint for an aluminum boat?

If you intend on leaving your boat in the water for long periods, then you boat is at great risk. In which case an anti-fouling paint may be the best option. Though, you’ll have to be careful with your choice of paint and only use one that it marked as aluminum safe.

Otherwise, there’s plenty of aluminum boat paint options available. You can find them at your local boat shop or browse from a wider variety from Amazon.

How to repaint an aluminum boat

Tape up any parts on your boat that you don’t want to get paint on.

Again, you have a few different options of application tools. A brush, a sprayer or a roller.

A sprayer is my choice of weapon for an even distribution. If you use a sprayer, make sure you use consistent motions and don’t overspray. Over spraying will lead to dripping and uneven coats.

If you decide to use a roller then you’ll also want to use a brush so that you can reach the tough to reach areas. Also, you’ll want to make sure you don’t overload the brushers and rollers as this will also lead to drips.

You’ll want to make at least 2 coats of paint. The second coat will

If you have access to one, you can use a heat gun to speed up the dry process in between coats.

Here’s a great video on how to paint an aluminum boat. Tom Kent walks you through the whole process of prepping your boat and then painting it. As you’ll see, painting an aluminum boat isn’t a whole lot different from painting any other type of boat.

Applying Clear Coat

The final step in painting your aluminum boat is applying a clear coat.

This is how you give your paint job that nice glossy shine like a brand-new boat.

Clear coat also has functional benefits such as protection against the elements. A clear coat will help defend your boat against damaging UV rays and corrosion caused by saltwater.

This makes it very important that you take the time to apply a clear coat.

As always, you have the option of applying clear coat with a brush or sprayer.

And as I’ve mentioned previously, I always prefer spray-on application as it requires less effort and it allows for a more even application.

If you do decide to use a brush, then keep in mind that foam brushes tend to be more effective than bristle brushes. This is because a foam brush will not show the strokes so the application will look smoother. The downside to using a foam brush is that it holds less paint, so you may need an extra coat.

You should always see the instructions that come with your clear coat product. Some products may have specific requirements and instructions.


There you have it, that’s how you paint an aluminum boat.

Your boat should now look reborn and fresh.

You should now focus on the interior of your boat to ensure that it looks just as good on the inside as it looks on the outside. If you have vinyl seating then you should checkout my article on how to clean vinyl boat seats.

I’m more than happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have, so feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below. I love to interact with my readers.

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