Narrowboat Paint Colour Schemes (Which Ones Are Best?)

One of the outstanding features of canal boats are the beautiful array of colours and themes. There is nothing nicer than seeing a well painted narrowboat leisurely gliding past. However, in order to achieve the desired effect, a narrowboat paint colour scheme may require careful thought. In this article we are going to look at some ideas so that you, and your boat look great when cruising.

Narrowboat Paint Colour Schemes

Well, before we get into the schemes themselves there are a few things that we should consider before dashing out to buy some paint. There is a hint of practicality required prior to us going all flamboyant.

The sun has a great effect for a couple of reasons. You will need to pick a paint scheme that will stay looking good for a while. After all, painting a boat, or having someone paint it for you is not a small job.

Avoid Reds if Possible

You will tend to find that excessive use of the colour red will be a little fraught. It may look really good and eye-catching to start with. But reds tend to degrade relatively quickly as a result of being exposed to sunlight. So, whilst you might start with something that looks like a polished ruby, you may very well end up with something that looks a little more flamingo coloured.

Avoid Dark Roof Colours

Another thing you need to think about when it comes to the sun is heat. Bear in mind that the roof of your cabin will occupy around one-quarter of your boat surface area, that is quite a lot of upward-facing panels. If these are painted in a dark colour you could find that the cabin becomes unbearably warm in direct sunlight. Dark colours tend to absorb light leading to a baking hot roof… Unfortunately, this advantage is not transmitted to winter!

Avoid Going Too White

You may therefore be inclined to think that white is the answer. But you might be disappointed if you go down this route. White does keep your cabin cooler in sunlight for sure. However, it also shows absolutely every single speck of dirt and grime… A flock of badly intentioned Canada geese can make your pride and joy look like a car crash!

Traditional Narrowboat Colours

Ok so you have decided against the red, soon to be pink. That’s a good start. If you want to keep it traditional then the main colours you will want to feature are dark blues, burgundies and dark greens. British racing green and navy blue are considered very much traditional. When paired with gold piping, lines and whites they are really eye catching.

Choosing Narrowboat Paint Scheme Colours

Ok so you don’t want to go super traditional? That’s OK. We would advise however that you keep the colours the right side of conservative.

The reason for this?

Two words. Resale value. Did you know people make an impression of most things visually within about 6 seconds? Regardless of how nice your boat is inside, if you think that one day you might trade it in or sell it, then it pays to choose a colour that won’t have viewers recoiling in disgust. You can have your boat any colour you like, odd colours can be a source of amusement amongst the boating community, but you want people to be smiling with you, not laughing at you.

To choose colours correctly it is well worth paying a visit to a hardware store. Often, they will have what is known as a ‘colour wheel’. This is as the name suggests, a wheel in which each spoke is a different colour.

As a general rule colours that work well are either next to each other, or opposite each other, Provided you stick to these rules you will be able to accurately and effectively gauge what works and what doesn’t. Essentially you will have to decide between contrasting colours or complimentary colours. If you haven’t seen a colour wheel before take a look at this example.

If you are handy on a computer you will find an easy way to try out different schemes. Take a digital picture of you boat and open it in an application such as Photoshop (or Gimp if you are prefer spending less). You should be able to select and change the colours to give you a good general idea of how your boat will look.

If you aren’t technically minded then you can still achieve success. Take a picture of your boat and trace around the picture. Once you have an outline, a really nice way to spend the afternoon is colouring in blank templates until you find a winning combination.


If you are looking at narrowboat paint colour schemes then you are probably looking to put your own personal stamp on your pride and joy. Before you get all ‘Andy Warhol’ remember that a picture paints a thousand words. What do you want your picture to say about you?


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