How to Paint Aluminum Canoe

Do you want to know how to paint aluminum canoe? If you answered yes, this post is for you. You can paint your aluminum canoe by following the steps we will cover in this post. It is pretty straightforward.

The first option is to paint your aluminum canoe by yourself. The other alternative is to use a professional service for repainting. If you choose the former, you will buy the materials, tools, and equipment and get your hands dirty.

Painting your aluminum canoe all by yourself is cheaper and more satisfying than seeking professional help. Read on to find out what you need to buy and how to do it!

Can You Paint an Aluminum Canoe?

Aluminum canoes are upside down
Aluminum canoes are upside down | Credit: Csfotoimages /

Yes. You can definitely paint an aluminum canoe to give it a new look. You can do it yourself if you are a DIYer or take it to the professionals for a more professional touch. They are more experienced in what they do.

Painting a canoe makes it look new and great again. It also offers additional protection to your canoe and makes it last longer. So, if you have a chance to paint your canoe, do it without hesitation.

What Kind of Paint Do You Use On an Aluminum Canoe?

Identifying the right paint for your aluminum canoe is challenging, especially if you are doing it for the first time. That is why we said you can also take it to a professional. But if you are determined, you can buy any of the following products:

The above products are formulated to give your canoe a protective coat that lasts for a long time. Once you buy the one you prefer, you need to choose the best method to do it.

If you want to paint an aluminum canoe by yourself, you will likely use a paintbrush or rolls. Skills may be required to spread the paint evenly on the canoe’s surface. Spray painting is another option that will give you the best finish.

How Much Will It Cost to Paint an Aluminum Canoe?

Towing Aluminum Canoe Across Lake
Towing Aluminum Canoe Across Lake | Credit: KellyvanDellen /

The cost of painting a canoe depends on many factors. The primary one is the canoe’s size. The bigger it is, the more paint it will take.

A professional canoe painting company may charge you between $1,000 and $5,000. Some will charge you $2 per linear foot, while others charge as high as $400 per linear foot. It all depends on where you get the service!

If you decide to do it yourself, the cost will depend on the coat you apply and the type of paint you buy. A 20-foot canoe will likely take about a gallon of paint.

8 Steps to Paint an Aluminum Canoe

Painting your aluminum canoe by yourself can help you save a few bucks. You can complete the process in a few quick steps, and you don’t need prior knowledge of boat painting.

However, brush or roll handling skills may be necessary.

Instead of taking your boat to a professional company for repainting, follow these steps to accomplish the task:

Prepare Tools and an Area

First thing first! You need to assemble all the tools, materials, and equipment. You can only successfully paint an aluminum canoe if you have the following items:

Burnishing Polishing Machine, ZFE 1200W 110V

Ideally, painting your boat outside is the best. However, you can be affected by weather elements. So, the first step in preparing the area is checking the focus and choosing a relatively sunny day when precipitation is least expected.

Set the area for painting work close to a shade or a garage. It will offer you quick cover if it unexpectedly rains. Also, you should ensure the shade or garage is well-ventilated.

Painting involves fumes getting into the air when you use a paint sprayer. You don’t want to inhale much of that.

Preparing the room involves covering the floor with canvas to avoid wet paint dripping directly on the floor. It is also helpful to create a painting booth to avoid paint sprays from ending up on your car or other items.

Lastly, wear your protective gear, including hand gloves, a respirator, and a disposable body suit. You also need a wet paint sign to warn anyone from leaning or touching the freshly-painted boat. 

Aluminum canoe lying on the grass
Aluminum canoe lying on the grass | Credit: Jonas Rönnbro /

Clean and Prepare the Canoe

The first step is to put your canoe in an appropriate location. That means you should take it out of the water to the dry dock and raise it off the ground.

You can support your canoe with wooden mounts or strong enough woodblocks that carry the entire weight.

Next, you need to clean the boat. This involves removing mud, previous paint, and any stickers on your canoe. Also, you can consider placing your boat close to a power source if you want to use an electric sander in the next step.

Sanding and Polish

A simple washing in the previous step can only remove mud and loose paints. To ensure the boat is clean and free from paint remnants, you should sand it. You can use an electric sander to make your work easier.

Scrap off all the previous paints from the canoe. Thoroughly clean the entire boat with soap and water before applying an aluminum polish.

These steps should result in a mirror-like finish, indicating that you are ready to move to the next step.

Add a few drops of acetone to help remove stubborn paints that cannot just come off. Apply the acetone on a rag and use it to rub off the surface to dislodge them.

Also, remove any hardware and flooring material in the boat to give you room to clean the interior.

Goof Off FG653 Professional Strength Remover, Pourable 16-Ounce,Liquid

Clean and Let Canoe Dry

This step is necessary to ensure that the paint will adhere to the aluminum surface of the canoe. Here, you will use a dewaxing solvent to remove any remnant wax to remain with a clean metal surface.

Next, you need warm water, mild soap, and vinegar. Mix these items and use a soft rag to clean the boat surface. This process removes grime, dust, debris, and oil from the surface. Even the toughest stains should give in to the vinegar solution

washed up canoe
Washed up canoe | Credit: Ablemark /

Lastly, you need to polish the boat. You can skip this section, but it is recommended to polish your aluminum boat before priming.

Use an aluminum-specific polish and a handheld rag or electrical buffer to apply the mixture to the metal surface. Start with small sections and move out until the entire surface is well-polished.

Let the polished canoe dry before priming in the next step. That can take 10-30 minutes, depending on the polish used. Once the polish dries, wipe the boat with a soft clean rug.

Apply Primer

Priming is done to ensure the paint can adhere to the aluminum surface for a longer time. This step is crucial because it can differentiate a professionally done job from substandard work.

Use a suitable primer for your aluminum canoe. An oil-based primer is preferred over a water-based one.

Also, consider mixing a small quantity of thinner paint with the primer gallon to help hide scratches on the metal surface. That will give you a smoother finish when you finally apply the paint.

You can use a brush, roll, or paint sprayer to apply primer. Start with the interior and proceed to the exterior. Also, ensure you cover all the unusual spots often missed by people.

As mentioned, start with the interior and let the primer dry before you move to the exterior. Ensure you evenly apply the primer to all sections of your canoe and let it dry before an actual painting.

Use long, heavy strokes when painting the exterior and maintain the same direction. Move the brush or roller horizontally along the hull. That is called painting along the grain, which gives an even and smoother finish. It also makes the painting work easier.

Rust-Oleum 7715730 Protective Enamel 1/2 Pint Oil Base Paint, Aluminum

Let it Dry

You should not paint your canoe immediately after priming. Instead, let it dry overnight to give primer time to be absorbed into the aluminum metal and dry.

You should only paint the canoe after the primer has dried to get the best adhesion for long-lasting paint.

Paint the Aluminum Canoe

This must have been the step you have been waiting for. The clean, primed metal surface is ready to receive paint at this stage. But before you get to the paint application, there is one more thing you need to do.

Cover the sections or components of the canoe that you don’t want to paint with a newspaper or any other appropriate material. It is better to do it now than struggling to remove paints from mistakenly painted areas.

Get the best paint for your canoe. One with water-resistance property is preferred because it will not chip away when the canoe touches water, ensuring longevity. Mix the paint well, and don’t paint thick layers.

Paint the interior first. Apply the paint to unusual and hidden areas that you are likely to overlook when painting. You may need a paintbrush to reach the small and hidden places that are otherwise unreachable with a roll.

Let the boat dry and apply a second coat. Once again, let the second coat dry before you move to the exterior. Apply long, complete, horizontal strokes to achieve an excellent texture and smooth finish. Also, give time to dry before you apply a second coat.

After the second layer, allow the boat to dry for at least 12 hours or overnight. Ensure the paint dries completely before moving to this last step!

Duralux Camouflage Paint – Duckboat Drab, 1 Gallon

Apply a Clear Coat

A clear coat is a protective layer that prevents the paint from scratching and makes it last longer. You can use a protective wax of choice, but you should read the manufacturer’s instructions on how to apply it and how long it needs to dry. Buy high-quality wax that offers long-lasting protection.

Congratulations! You now have a shining boat with a fresh coat of paint. It looks as good as new.

Pro Tips to Paint Aluminum Canoe

Painting an aluminum canoe can be challenging for a first-timer. Do not feel intimidated by the task before you because we have tips to ensure you do it like a professional. Consider the following:

  • Move your canoe to a dry dock or a shade where you will not be worried about weather elements.
  • Buy high-quality oil-based paint and use a professional gun to apply it. It will give you a better finish than a roll or paintbrush.
  • Always use an aluminum polishing compound or brightener to polish the metal surface of the canoe.
  • Apply one last clear coat on top of the paint to protect your fresh paint from scratches and other elements that can ruin it.
  • Use protective gear, such as eye protection and a respirator, especially when using a sprayer. Also, protect your hands with gloves.
new and old aluminum canoe
New and old aluminum canoe | Credit: RiverNorthPhotography, Aaron Hawkins /


How to paint an aluminum boat for saltwater?

Saltwater can be aggressive on your boat. But with proper painting, you can protect it. Proceed as follows:
1. Pressure-wash the canoe to remove mud and other non-sticky dirt.
2.Scrub and sand the aluminum clean
3. Rinse it off thoroughly to remove all dust and contaminants and allow time to dry.
4. Apply a primer coat and let the canoe dry overnight.
5. Paint the aluminum with at least two coats of oil-based, water-resistant paint and let dry for at least 12 hours or overnight
6. Apply a clear coat or a protective wax and let dry before you take your canoe to the water.

What grit sandpaper is for an aluminum boat?

Sanding an aluminum boat requires 80 or 100 grit sandpaper. That will leave nothing behind, but you can expect scuff marks. Sanding can be done manually by hand or use an electric sander to save time.

Can I spray paint an aluminum canoe?

Yes. Spray-painting is the most recommended method because of the uniform coat that results. It is also fast and reliable. However, you should wear your protective gear for eye protection and against inhaling paint particles.

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

An aluminum boat requires oil-based paint that is also resistant to water. Other options can easily chip or flake just after your first adventure or fishing trip. The water-resistant one can last for several months or years.

Will Rustoleum paint stick to aluminum?

Yes. Rust-Oleum is a professionally formulated primer to act as a base coat for aluminum surfaces. It tightly bonds the paint and the metal surface, preventing common problems such as paint peeling, flaking, or blistering.  

What paint sticks best to aluminum?

You can choose latex or acrylic paints for painting aluminum surfaces. Buy the one specifically formulated for metal, and you can paint them using a roll, paintbrush, or spray. But ensure you have applied the correct primer.

Wrapping Up

Painting your aluminum canoe makes it look new again. The paint and protective wax are not only aesthetically appealing but also protect the canoe against elements such as scratches and corrosion.

You only need to buy an oil-based latex or acrylic paint designed for metal and follow the steps outlined here to do it yourself. Alternatively, you can take your canoe to professionals for repainting.

Thank you for your time at Windpaddle. We appreciate your time reading this article, and we hope you now have the information you wanted. Kindly share this article with your friends, and we also invite you to explore the website for related content.

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