Best Narrowboat Paint

If you’ve taken the plunge and invested in a canal boat, you are going to want it to look its best. Canal boats are famous for their garish, eye catching colours. In order to literally make it shine, you are going to need the best narrowboat paint. In this article we are going to look at a couple of ideas to help get your narrowboat looking picture perfect.

Where to Get the Best Narrowboat Paint

Well commercial marinas may have a chandlery. And that will mean one thing. You are a captive audience and you will probably pay through the nose. We haven’t seen many hardware stores along the side of a canal. However, in today’s modern world you could maybe take advantage of the proliferation of Amazon lockers? Most large towns have at least one, so it could be a good idea to save yourself the bother of having to make your way to a busy city and just order your paint to a locker, wherever you may be. Convenience at a click!

Here are a few suggestions that you could consider: –

Best Narrowboat Paint

Dulux Weather Shield Quick Dry Satin Paint

Dulux Weather Shield Quick Dry Satin Paint, 2.5 L - Black
  • Long lasting protection
  • Quick drying
  • Flexible paint film
  • Water based

Dulux are a well-known household name. Weather Shield is available in a variety of colours and with a name like this you could expect it to be pretty durable. It only takes around 2 hours to dry, which is optimum for saving you time, but also giving you the flexibility to ‘retouch’ areas that haven’t gone on quite right. The paint is flexible when it dries meaning that you will get less cracking and bubbling especially in areas that might be subject to any footfall.

Teamac Bilge Paint Grey 2.5 Litre

Teamac Bilge Paint Grey 2.5 Litre
  • Surfaces: Metal, Wood, Glass Fibre
  • Application: Brush or Roller
  • Finish: Off Gloss
  • Coverage: 10 - 12 sq metres per litre

The inside of your boat might very well be as important as the outside when it comes to painting. In particular bilges and areas that are below the water line. For things such as engine compartments you will still need to protect them against water ingress, this paint is a great solution.

TA Paints Anti/Non Slip Marine Deck Paint

TA Paints Non-Slip Marine Deck Paint (2.5 Litres, BS 00 A 05, Goosewing Grey) Highly Durable, Anti-Slip Boat Paint - Ideal For Boats & Barges - Ideal for Wood, Metal, Concrete, Plywood & Timber
  • MULTI-PURPOSE - Universal, non-slip marine deck paint. Ideal for use on boats and barges
  • MULTI-SURFACE - High quality, anti-slip, solvent based polyurethane marine deck paint. Perfect for painting wood, timber, plywood, stone, brick, concrete & suitably primed and prepared fiberglass or metal
  • EASY APPLICATION - Hardwearing and versatile marine enamel coating that you can easily apply via brush, roller or spray
  • TOUGH & DURABLE - High performance, weather-proof paint that is resistant to industrial and domestic chemicals
  • PRODUCT DETAILS - This product has a coverage of 10m2 per litre. Touch dry in 2-4 hours, overcoat in 12-24 hours, full protection in 7 days. We recommend two coats for best results

If you are looking for a high gloss finish (without the risk of slipping on it) then this paint could be a really great choice. It is available in a range of sizes and colours. One feature that is really great about it is that it is entirely waterproof. It is also touch dries in under 2 hours! It goes on really easily which is vital to ensuring a silky-smooth finish. As the name suggests you should be able to use this to create grippy surfaces where you need it most.

Boat Barge Narrowboat Marine Paint

Boat Barge Narrowboat Marine Paint - Gloss - White - 5 Litre
  • Ultimate high gloss.
  • Excellent water resistance and durability.
  • High build scratch filling properties.
  • U.V Resistant

Another great suggestion if you are looking for something that goes on well and dries quickly. What this paint offers is a touch of versatility. Its consistency allows you to apply it with a brush, a roller, or even a spray gun. When dry the paint dries to a high gloss finish. One really nice feature is that it is thick enough to fill minor blemishes such as scratches and small pits.

Painting a Narrowboat

DIY or Professional for Painting Your Canal Boat?

Let’s be honest, if you want a really professional looking finish then it is best to hire a professional boat painter. It’s literally an artisanal endeavour, and they are craftsmen. However maybe you don’t have the funds to splash out on a professional painter. Or perhaps you just enjoy rolling up your sleeves and making it truly yours?

Equipment Needed for Painting a Narrowboat

As a bare minimum you will need the following

  • A good quality set of rollers and brushes.
  • A dust sheet.
  • A dust mask.
  • An orbital sander.
  • Lots of paint…
  • Oh and time, lots of time.

Weather for Painting a Canal Boat

OK well, we hope it is obvious, but it is going to have to be dry. We would suggest picking the time of year wisely. However, this isn’t just because of downpours (as we all know these happen in the summer as well as the winter). Temperature can play a massive part in achieving a quality finish.

If it is too hot, you will find that your choice of canal boat paint will start to dry too quickly, this can leave drag marks and brush marks, which ultimately will look a shoddy job. In counter to this if it is too cold then you will find that your paint will thicken and not spread evenly with the same results. A mild, dry day with temperatures between 10 – 20 degrees Celsius is ideal.

If you want to be super optimal it is worth considering doing your painting in the morning. As the day goes on the surface of the cabin will heat up in sunlight. For those who have the means, a covered dock could be the best solution.

Preparing a narrowboat for painting

Leonardo da Vinci didn’t paint the Mona Lisa on a piece of scrap paper. To achieve great results, you are going to want a ‘clean canvas’. This means that you will have some work to do prior to actually beginning painting. You can’t simply paint over the cracks.

It is vital that you create a smooth and clean surface ready for painting. Flaky paint and muck should be removed with a sander. Any rusty areas should also be sanded back. This can take some time and can also be pretty dusty so ensure that you wear a mask and maybe even goggles, to avoid dust and chips getting somewhere they shouldn’t.

The use of a primer is highly recommended, it ensures that you don’t end up with dark or light spots and creates a consistent surface for painting. It is also important to make sure that anywhere there is to be a straight line or a change of colour is masked with good quality tape.

Painting Your Narrowboat

Once you have prepped all surfaces it is time to begin painting your boat. This can be very time consuming and will definitely take more than one day, so ensure that you have sufficient time planned.

Using a roller is the most effective way to get an even coat and is much quicker than using a brush. Brushes are generally best for finer work such as edges and corners. It may also be worth working in small sections at a time. Apply a coat with the roller and then use a soft brush to work out any imperfections.

You should expect to have to apply more than one coat. If, after the first coat, you are not happy with the finish, sand away areas that are substandard and reapply a layer of paint to achieve a better finish.

Depending on the canal boat paint that you have chosen, you may need to apply a little paint thinner to get a good consistency.

Choosing the Best Narrowboat Paint

There are several things that you should look for when choosing the best canal boat paint.

Consider the Best Finish of Narrowboat Paint

You will want a paint that is easy to apply and goes on in a smooth coat. Whether you want a gloss finish or something matte is entirely up to personal preference.

Choose a Quick Drying Canal Boat Paint

Ideally you will also want a paint that dries relatively quickly. As you are undoubtably aware, the UK weather can be a little fickle, and it would be a shame to get a perfect result, only for it to be degraded when it gets wet with a sudden downpour.

Anti-Slip Narrowboat Paint

Depending on where you use the paint, you may want it to have other qualities. When painting decks and boards where you will be walking you should look for things such as anti-slip paint.

Make It Durable

Durability is also quite important. In areas that see heavy footfall, you don’t want the paint to wear away or crack the first time somebody sets foot on it. Cabin roofs and walls also need to be covered by something durable. If you end up with cracks or deterioration, water can seep into surfaces causing corrosion and damage.

When speaking generally about durability, pick a paint that is going to last a while before you need to ‘redecorate’. Painting your canal boat is going to take a little time, and chances are that you will not want to have to repeat what is actually a mammoth task, six months down the line.

UV Boat Paint

For half of its life, the boat is going to be sat in the sunshine. All day, every day. Ultra violet light can be more detrimental than you think. A good option is to try and choose paint that is offers a degree of UV resistance.

Boat Paint or standard Paint for Painting a Boat?

Now you will hear a variety of opinions on what is the best paint for narrowboats. Some swear by using boat paint, whilst others will say that ‘standard’ paint is just as good. What we will say is this. Standard paint is cheaper. As to the quality, well, if you think that many standard outdoor paints are designed to be used in exactly the climate in which your boat will sit,  there is no reason why you can’t use it.

If this is your first time painting a boat you have two options. You can pay for very expensive paint and hope that you get it right first time. Or, you could go for a cheaper (yet hopefully still good quality) paint, and be able to learn a little without breaking the bank?

One of the reasons for the belief that “boat paint” is better stems from ties to the nautical world, where saltwater can be extremely corrosive so requires something a little stronger.

In our research we’ve seen all sorts of suggestions and brands. The brands we’ve seen used most extensively are Trade paints, Craftmaster, Epifanes paint, Rylard, Blakes and Rapid Narrowboat paint and finally, Masons. However, some swear by Dulux or even JCB paint!


Essentially what you are looking for is exactly the same qualities that you are trying to find in any outdoor paint worth its salt. That said painting a shed is slightly different than painting your floating pride and joy. Part of the appeal to painting your own boat is to create something eye catching, and for that you want to get your hands on the best narrowboat paint that you can. If you have any tips or suggestions with regards to narrowboat paint, by all means let us know!

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