Custom Painting Your Boat
  |  First Published: April 2003

TWO and half years ago I first slipped Blue Dreams, my pride and joy 6.2m plate boat, into the water. The many articles we did on the boat during its construction – from layout to the solar power fridge/freezers generated a lot of interest. With some things, though, the test of time will reveal just how well they stand up to salt water. As far as the custom paint job on the boat goes… I couldn’t be happier.

A custom built boat is a big investment and part of protecting that investment is a first class paint job. If there is one man around that has the reputation for excellence in finishing off aluminium boats, it’s Paul Burton of Marine Refinishing Services. While the company does plenty of production paint jobs on well-known brand names, it specialise sin custom finishes.

Paul has gained a reputation as the master of the coloured sides. It’s nice to have a boat painted in the colour of your choice and the deep midnight blue colour I chose for the sides of mine fitted the name Blue Dreams perfectly.

The only downfall with coloured sides, particularly on dark-coloured sides, is they show up chips easily, as the undercoat is white. A periodic touch up soon gets rid of these. It doesn’t pay to leave chips unattended for too long either, as the seal and the protection that paint gives from the saltwater can be broken.

After many fishing trips to all sorts of places, the finish on my boat still retains its original shine, colour and lustre – but that’s for good reason.

The process starts when the boat leaves the boat builder. Once at the paint shop, all foreign materials are removed such as swill from the drill holes, masking tape, etc, and then the boat is washed with a prep wash solution that not only cleans the aluminium back to a shinny finish, it strips it of trace elements such as silicon, which can affect the final finish of the paint job.

Like most quality products the finish on a custom paint job is a culmination of attention to detail in a lot of different areas. Immediately after the prep wash, a chromate marine protection coat is applied to the clean aluminium and is left to cure overnight. Next up, the labour intensive process of faring the boat begins, filling the sides and covering welds around rails, seams, ladders, etc, to be sanded for that nice smooth finish that you often don’t even realise has a weld underneath.

On a boat like mine, this can take the best part of a few big days and it is a very time consuming and fiddly job to achieve the perfect result. Have you ever looked at a boat and had to give it a tap on the side to see weather it was made of fibreglass or aluminium?

The quality of the faring job plays a big part in this. With the sides all smooth and straight, a two pack epoxy marine etch primer is used, followed by a high build under coat.

It’s into the temperature controlled spray both from here and the transformation begins. The white top, and in my case bottom, goes on first. Once this has cured it’s masked up to cover the white and then back into the spray booth. Four coats of Pro Tec marine linear based paint in midnight blue went onto the sides.

It’s baked in an oven for one hour at 65 degree Celsius, then given another eight hours to air dry. The finished product is a work of art to be admired. Later down the track, when you’ve finished fitting out the boat, some smart graphics add the finishing touches.

Like a good painter, the graphics are only as good and creative as the person doing the job. Rob from Rob’s Graphics does an excellent job, not just in standard stripes but creating your own custom graphics for the side of the boat.


You don’t get a custom paint job done on your car then never wash or polish it. On a boat it is even more vital that you look after it, as the boat is constantly being sprayed with salt water.

Before you wash the boat, hose it down with fresh water to remove most of the salt. From here, use a soft sponge and a good car wash which will not only remove the grime, but help maintain the shine on the boat.

I also chamois the sides, just like you would a car, to remove all the streaks. Once a year the boat is polished. All of that is what helps keep that custom paint job sparking.

It’s not just new boats that can be custom painted either. I’ve seen Paul convert some really old boats to near new condition, extending the life and the value of the boat. It’s worth having a chat to him about fitting out a boat too, as there are so many little tricks that are involved in creating long-term corrosion resistance.

Based at Redcliffe you can give Paul a call on (07) 3883 3373 or mobile 0409 649778 to enquire either about a new paint job or a re-spray.

1) The bare boat is first thoroughly cleaned with prep wash.

2) You don’t really appreciate how much work goes into the faring – preparing all those corners, welds, etc, for the final finish.

3) The two pack marine etch primer goes on before the high build.

4) Under temperature-controlled conditions the coloured sides go on.

5) The end result along with a few graphics is your own – a one of a kind boat.

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