Painting Techniques For Canal Boats


Firstly, let me start by saying that canal boat painting is an art. Just walking in a marina full of canal boats will show traditional designs and varying colour schemes, which have likely evolved over 250 years.

There are no ‘set’ colour schemes or designs for canal boats, you can really use your imagination – the sky really is the limit.

One thing you need to remember though, taking on the task of painting a canal boat is not an inexpensive task. Whether you’re planning to paint the boat yourself or get experts involved, the cost will always be considerable – unless of course you use mid-range builders who will usually adopt spray type paint (nothing wrong with that if you like it!)

For a DIY job you should factor in around £500 and for a professional job that sum would be a lot more – however, you’re getting the benefit of having an expert on your team that knows the ins and outs and an excellent paint job.

Painting Techniques – Have a go at painting!

If you decide to DIY paint your canal boat yourself, you’ll need some basic kit to get started. Buy the best brushes you can find. I recommend a 6 inch bristle brush as it’ll make ‘laying-off’ a breeze.

Consider booking your canal boat into a covered dock. Ideal painting conditions would be no breeze, no insects and not too hot, not too cold – just the right middle ground will be perfect.

Make sure you first remove all fittings and fixtures that you don’t want to be painted – and if they can’t be removed, make sure you use painters tape to cover them and protect them from the new paint.

At this point, you’re ready to sand down your boat. Make sure you wear protective clothing at this point, as chippings can be toxic. Sand the boat down with an orbital grinder until you have the perfect surface of which to lay your paint on.

You’re ready for the fun part

Now you’re ready to get on to actually painting your boat. Synthetic mohair rollers around 7 inches wide are the best. Be sure to not apply too much too fast or it’ll run – do thin layers.

It’s best to work on small sections around 70-100cm in area so that you can concentrate on an area and ensure the best possible coat is applied.  Do this horizontally and then vertically to get a nice even finish.

At this juncture, it’s worth noting, if you’re new to painting the first coat may be somewhat … awful. In which case your new best friend is the DA sander. 400 grit will help remove any imperfections so that you can start again in an area if required.

Keep going until you get your own technique that you’re comfortable working with. Before long, you will have a beautiful coat for your canal boat that you can be truly proud of – as with everything though, practice makes perfect.