Tips for Topside Boat Paint

Tips for Topside Boat Paint – Learn How Experts Do the Topside Painting

Topside boat painting is a very complex job if you don’t know the right way! There are some people who know the way but still end up in a mess. One thing that most beginner painter lacks is accurate advice from experienced people. There are a lot of "do and don’t" when it comes down to topside boat painting and if you want a smooth and effective painting experience, then knowing those is a must.

Since you are here, I am assuming you as a novice painter but going through this guide will get you a good hang on proper topside boat painting. I have aligned some expert tips for topside boat paint, these tips have proven to be extremely beneficial since a lot of people have followed the advice.

However, without further ado, let’s get down to the point!

What is Topside Paint?

Basically, topside boat paint is the paint that is applied above the waterline, paint that is applied on the upper side of the boat. Topside boat paint can be applied anywhere except the boat portion that remains underwater, the bottom side of the boat. Except for the bottom side, the paint can be applied to the interior, exterior, the bridge, and anywhere else.

There are different types of topside paints such as skid paint, non-skid paint, there are boot stripe paints which are used to make stripes, etc. Actually, there is a lot to discuss topside paint but for now let’s go to the point.

Easy Techniques and Expert Tips for Topside Painting

Before we get started with expert advice, there are a bunch of basic things that you need to ensure. First make sure you pick the right and suitable topside paint for your boat, compatibility and the quality of the paint will play a major role. The previous paint of the boat needs to be compatible with the new paint, this is extremely necessary if you want an effective and efficient top-side painting.

Then comes the equipment, without the right equipment you won’t be able to do the topside painting properly. By equipment I mean, the sprayer, brush, eye-protective gear, cartridge type respirator, sander, masking tape, primer, etc. Make sure you have all the items.

And the last thing you need to consider is the environment within which you will be doing the painting. You must have enough light. And before painting damp the floor if that is dusty.

However, there are a bunch of topside painting methods which people use. But among them there are two that have proven to be very effective and most experts follows these two methods.

  • Thinning Topside Paint for Rolling & Tipping
  • Rolling & Tipping Topside Paint Like a Pro
  • Thinning & Spraying Topside Paint

That’s pretty much all you need to think about before getting started with the topside paint.

Thinning Topside Paint for Rolling & Tipping

Topsides paints come thicker and applying the paint on the thickest form would be messy since it wouldn’t lay down or flow around easily. And when the paint is stubborn to lay smoothly, the brush or roller you use will start dragging and that will get you an uneven, unsatisfying finish. So thinning the topside paint before applying it must according to the experts.

There are different ways in which you can thin down the paint that will enhance the consistency of the paint and will enable you to apply easily. Different people use different kinds of thinners, but which one should you use that will depend on the paint you want to thin. There will definitely be a manufacturer recommendation, whether labeled in the paint bucked or in the manual (that small book or page comes with the paint).

The manufacturer recommends a suitable thinner along with the suitable amount. Not only that, but the manufacturer also recommends the right temperature as well within which the thinning will be much better. So don’t hurry, read the manufacturers recommendation with patience and if there is anything you are confused about, reach to the manufacturer through the customer service.

Once the thinning task is done with the right thinner, most people would put the thinner aside and get started with the painting. But the experts suggest keeping the thinner during the staging process.

It doesn’t matter how well you thin a paint when painting you will be required to do little more thinning, you will feel the need of thinning suddenly when the brush or roller will start dragging. That being said, do not over-thin, otherwise, the paint will streak.

Rolling & Tipping Topside Paint Like a Pro

There are different methods of applying the paint but among all of them the most effective one is Roll and Tip. Most of the experts follow this method since it is the most effective one. The roll and tip painting method requires two people. One will keep applying a thin paint coat with the roller and the other one will remove the roller stipples right after the roller passes.

When you do coating with the roller that leaves some texture like orange peel, the second person’s responsibility is to remove those textures.

Make sure the roller tray is filled with enough paint so that you can cover a large portion. If you have chosen the Roll and Tip method, one thing you should keep in mind is, you have to keep painting, you can’t stop otherwise the paint will get dried. And when the paint is dry, the brush will start dragging. So make sure you start with full preparation so that you don’t need to stop in between.

With this method, the painting will be done quickly and there will be less chance of over-doing. However, if you are a beginner, have never done this, you can do some practice painting on any coated plywood.

Enter a rhythm no matter what style you choose and keep going or the paint will dry out and pull the brush.  A few more things to keep in mind:

  • Your roller and brush will be solvent resistant, or paint solvents will destroy them, and they will separate.
  • Large cell foam rollers or other types of rollers create other texture problems, including bubbles and sags.
  • Mix enough paint to do the entire section at once to plan for logical stopping points.
  • Holidays are no picnic when you’re doing a rolling and tipping session, but they happen. If you get them, leave them alone. Touching them up will make them worse. After sanding, you’ll cover them with the next coat.
  • Touching of anyone will make your paints worse. After sanding, you cover them with the next coat.
  • Rolling the paint too often should be avoided. Solvents can get stuck to the bottom of the film by eliminating the possibility of run and sags in the paint when it becomes skin and affects the healing time.
  • Apply 2-3 coats in this manner for proper healing and allows any necessary growth in the coat.
  • Wipe again with a damp-free rag with the paint manufacturer’s recommended solvent. Allow the solvent to flash before applying the next coat.
  • After the last coat, remove the masking tape afterward and for the best-looking line - no more than 1 hour earlier.

Thinning & Spraying Topside Paint

Another convenient topside painting method is spray. Spraying the paint is easier and it is fun as well. But when using polyurethane paint you have thin one part of that with the recommended thinner by the manufacturer.

And also you have to be very careful about the weather condition as well. The temperature and humidity need to be according to the manufacturer's recommendation.

How much thinning you need to do that will depend on the paint. Do not over thin, that can cause sagging. However, before you start painting with a sprayer you have to ensure you are in a well-ventilated area. The wind needs to be moderate, otherwise, the painting would be very awful.

The proper spray technique concentrates on three things: spray patterns, trigger technique, and overlapping technique.

The target for the spray pattern

When spraying, hold the gun at an uninterrupted distance from the surface and keep the arm straight, even at the target surface for the finish. Instead, take it, but the end will be unequal.

Press and release the spray trigger

Start firing the gun before you press the trigger and continue your arm motion after releasing the trigger to avoid the added concentration at the beginning and end of each stroke.

Proper overlapping technique

Covering the paint overlaps by 50% each time the spray passes. Point the spray tip at the bottom end of the previous spray pass to ensure efficient overlap.

One most important thing, you have to choose the right sprayer. There are different types of sprayer and you have to go with the one that the paint manufacturer recommends. There will be a recommended angle of spray, pressure, spray tip size, spray tip type, and flow, for the best result you have to go follow that.


Can I use topside paint on the bottom of my boat?

You can only use topside paint on the bottom of the boat if that doesn’t require anti-fouling properties. Otherwise, you can’t. But the bottom side of the boat that remains underwater that needs anti-fouling properties for preventing marine growth. Topside paint cannot inhibit that growth which is why there is no point of using topside paint at the bottom.

How do you apply topside paint?

There are different methods of applying top-side boat paint, Rolling and Tipping, and Thinning and Spraying. Both methods are convenient and effective compared to other methods. These two methods are suggested by the experts and many people have got good results using these. But before you get started make sure you learn the method properly and act as suggested.

Can you gelcoat over gelcoat?

If you want, you can but that wouldn’t be beneficial. You can apply Gelcoat after sanding the paint or other coating.


So these are the expert tips for topside boat painting. If you know the right way, topside boat painting will be easier for you, otherwise it will be really daunting. Along with good knowledge of painting method, you need to make sure you have the right accessories as well. Every single part plays major role, you can’t overlook anything.

And most importantly, do not forget to get the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Wear eye glass, gloves, proper mask (especially when you are spraying the paint) and apron. Paints are made of rough chemicals, they could be harmful if they come in contact with eyes or goes inside mouth.

Well, time to wrap up! I have tried to cover every part so that you can have a better understanding. However, I hope this helps! And if there is anything that you are confused about, don’t hesitate to hit me through the comment section.

Happy topside boat painting!

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below to subscribe to our newsletter

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.