Can You Paint Over Gelcoat: Easy Tips to Painting Over Gelcoat

When it comes to painting boats, cars, and other exterior items, Gelcoat is a popular choice. It is easy to apply, looks great, and is durable. But what happens when you want to change the color or design of your gelcoat? Can you paint over gelcoat?

You can paint over gelcoat as long as there is no crack or damage. Painting over it is not difficult, but it does require good cleaning and preparation. Apply primer, and sanding is mandatory to ensure a smooth, even coating.

Read this article to learn easy tips for painting over gelcoat. Here I’ll discuss the importance of surface preparation, the best paint and primer options, and how to apply the paint. So, let’s dive into the basics of painting over gelcoat!

Can You Paint Over Gelcoat

Which Paint Can Be Used to Paint Over Gelcoat?

Gelcoat is a type of resin material that is often used on boats and other watercraft. It is a tough, durable paint that can withstand the elements and protect the underlying surface from damage. However, gelcoat can be difficult to apply evenly and susceptible to chipping and peeling over time.

For these reasons, many boat owners like to use a different type of paint over gelcoat. Paint options for boats include Marine Grade Polyurethane (MGP), Tuff Stuff Multi-Purpose Coating (TSMP), and Awl grip Topside Paint (ATP).

MGP is a two-part polyurethane that cures a hard, glossy finish. It is highly resistant to abrasion, UV light, and chemicals.

TSMP is a one-part acrylic urethane used for a hard, glossy finish. It also offers good resistance against abrasion, UV light, and chemicals.

ATP is a two-part epoxy that cures to a matte finish. It provides excellent resistance against saltwater, abrasion, UV light, and chemicals.

When choosing a paint for your boat, it is essential to consider its intended use and the environment in which it will be used. For example, if you are planning on using your boat in saltwater or harsh conditions, ATP would be the best option as it offers superior protection against these elements.

What Should You Consider When Using Automotive Paint Over Gelcoat?

If you want to upgrade your boat’s look, one option is to paint over the gelcoat. This can be a difficult and time-consuming process, but it can completely change the appearance of your vessel. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are considering automotive paint over gelcoat for your boat:

Preparation Is Key

Preparation is an important part of any painting job, but it is especially important when painting a gelcoat surface. The process can be lengthy, so you have to be patient. It is also necessary to thoroughly clean and repair any cracks and chips in the surface. Proper safety precautions must be taken to avoid any health issues.


Once the surface is clean and dried, you must apply a primer designed specifically for fiberglass surfaces. This step is vital to ensure that the paint adheres properly and provides a stable base for the new finish.

The primer helps ensure that the gelcoat has no flaws and gives the paint a smooth surface to stick. It also adds an extra layer of protection to the surface, helping to extend its life and preserve its color.


Boat surfaces coated with gelcoat must be lightly sanded before paint application to promote better adhesion and a smoother and more even finish. A medium- to fine-grit sandpaper should be used for this process. Start by lightly sanding the surface in a smooth and even fashion. Once the entire surface has been lightly sanded, use a damp cloth to clean it.

Paint Preparation

When selecting automotive-grade paint, select one specifically designed for marine surfaces. These paints usually require special thinners and reducers, so follow all mixing and application instructions carefully.

You can use spray paint over gelcoat, but it is not recommended. Because this coating is designed as a protective layer, spraying paint over it creates a barrier between the gelcoat and the surface it is supposed to protect. This can lead to premature degradation of the gelcoat and ultimately cause it to fail.


After applying the paint, you can apply a clear coat of layer for extra protection against UV rays and abrasion.

How Do You Paint Gel Coated Fiberglass?

Gel-coated fiberglass is a composite material often used to construct boats and other watercraft. It is made by combining chopped glass fibers with resin, which is then cured to create a strong and lightweight material.

Gel coating adds an extra layer of protection to the fiberglass and makes it more resistant to UV damage and other environmental factors.

To paint gel-coated fiberglass, you will need to use a particular type of paint designed for this surface. You can find these paints at most marine supply stores or online retailers.

When choosing a paint, be sure to select one that is compatible with the gel coat on your fiberglass. Once you have the appropriate color, simply follow the instructions on the label for the best results.

Should I Paint Over Gelcoat Before or After Installing?

When considering paint trim installation sequence over gelcoat, it’s best to paint before installing. This ensures that the gelcoat and underlying surface are fully covered with paint, providing a more seamless and durable finish. Waiting until after installation could result in uneven or incomplete coverage.

Can You Put Gelcoat on Top of the Old Gelcoat?

It is possible to put the gelcoat on top of the old gelcoat, but it is not recommended due to potential problems that could arise. Gelcoat is the top layer of protection for your boat and is designed to protect it from the elements and wear-tear.

When an additional layer of gelcoat is put on top, it has the potential to reduce its efficiency and protection, as the two layers can be too thick and create bubbles and other imperfections.

If you choose to put gelcoat on top of gelcoat, ensure that it is applied correctly and with the correct procedures. This includes cleaning and sanding the existing gelcoat to ensure that it is free of any contaminants or debris that could interfere with the application.

Gelcoat VS Paint? Which Should You Use For Boat Restoration?


Painting over gelcoat is a great way to spruce up the look of your boat, RV, or other marine vessels. Use the right primer, sand the surface thoroughly, and use top-quality paint designed for marine use. With the right preparation and materials, it’s easy to paint over gelcoat and get a beautiful finish that looks like it was done by a professional.

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