<> Adding colour to kayak during build - advice please | Kayak Forum

Adding colour to kayak during build - advice please

Submitted by hullb on Fri, 08/10/2018 - 15:03

Having done a couple of woodstrip builds, for my next build wondered about making an all black sea kayak. Not sure yet if it will be cedar strip or S and G.

Anyone any advice on adding opaque colour to wooden kayaks. Staining the wood would not be sufficiently opaque. Do I add colour to all the resin layers, just the fill coats, the last varnish coats or simply paint on top?

Wondered what the effects of scratches on the finish would look like, especially the bottom, depending on how I did the colouring. Presumably adding paint last will scratch off easiest, but would be the easiest to touch up if needed.

Thanks in anticipation.


Fri, 08/10/2018 - 16:32

I have done fiberglass (black) seats and just add graphite to the epoxy mix. My seats are all laid up at once with many layers of cloth. The gloss is usually very nice with good opacity. It doesn't take much graphite to darken the epoxy. Many people on this forum have used alcohol based dye on the wood with no problems so why not do both.

Yes, it may scratch off more easily than a solid color, but it would be the easiest solution. Adding sufficient pigment to the resin to make it opaque would weaken the layup, and make it harder to do a quality layup. Since you would have trouble seeing any bubbles or poorly wetout areas through the resin the overall quality of the layup would likely suffer.

While a relatively solid color may not show scratches as much, they would still show.

Paint is good stuff, it is relatively easy to apply and easy to touch up.

John VanBuren

Sat, 08/11/2018 - 20:43

If I wanted to make a black kayak I would use black epoxy/gel coat tint from Jamestown Distributors in the epoxy And once the boat was ready for "Varnish" use a good gloss black paint like Interlux instead of varnish. I am not sure if graphite in the epoxy would impact its ability to have good adhesion with the paint, which is why I suggested using tint instead.

Paint usually lasts better than varnish and if you have a black tinted epoxy base scratches will be less visible.

Here is another thought:   In the past, I have found the advice of the technical people at Interlux to be very good.  So I think a good start might be to contact them.

Etienne Muller

Sun, 08/12/2018 - 03:35

Just an observation, but a black boat is going to get very hot in the sun, especially sitting on a roofrack for long periods.



Sun, 08/12/2018 - 20:42

I agree with Etienne about the heat issue, but I've done black hulls on 4 kayaks. Living in BC heat isn't much of an issue, usually.


I would recommend against using graphite additive - you need quite a lot of it

 and it changes the working properties of the epoxy mixture more than I like for laminating.

If you want to use a solid additive, black iron oxide powder is cheap and is more 'black' than graphite. Pottery suppliers sell it for glazes.

System Three black pigment (ground in epoxy) is the best I've found for adding to epoxy. It's very intense, so the expense will be spread out over a lot of work.

Use black epoxy primer from the autobody store, and top it off with a 2-part black enamel. Valspar LIC-50 is reasonably priced and with the right reducer can be rolled and tipped off with a brush. Or Interlux 2-part, but it is more expensive.

Finish the inside of the compartments clear (natural 'wood look') to prove to disbelievers that it's a wood boat.

Frej with black hull

I'll agree on the heat issue as well. I stained my hull with a dark green analine dye (before expoxy) with a natural finished deck and it looks sharp, but I had an issue with the roof rack in the hot summer sun even though I was trying to be careful. I have an inexpensive j hook rack and on one of the very hot days it melted the rubber padding a bit. I ended up wrapping the foam in white duct tape which solved that problem but isn't very durable. I'm looking for a better rack solution for next summer but everyone seems to use black foam.

I've never tried it but you might have trouble getting a consistent color with dying the epoxy. With different thicknesses over the boat you may have variations in shade.


Mon, 08/13/2018 - 11:05

Snowbound said:

I've never tried it but you might have trouble getting a consistent color with dying the epoxy. With different thicknesses over the boat you may have variations in shade.

I agree - on the outside of the boat the color in the epoxy really just helps to prevent scratches from 'showing through' so much. Paint is the real final 'show' finish. 

I've had good luck with black epoxy (no paint) on cockpit interiors where the area is small and color variations don't show.

David Poole

Wed, 08/22/2018 - 09:43

I have a kayak with a black seat.  At a lunch stop  the kayak was in the full Florida sun without a cockpit cover. 

After lunch I got in and pushed off realizing too late the heat of the seat.  Only slight blistering. 


Wed, 08/22/2018 - 12:04

David said: After lunch I got in and pushed off realizing too late the heat of the seat.  Only slight blistering. 

Nude paddling really hasn't yet caught on here in the Pacific Northwest, but with climate change......


Thanks very much for the time taken and advice given, some of it very thorough and technical.

Will see what the winter projects bring and may use some of the advice on some test pieces first.

Happy building / paddling