painting a surfboard
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How to Paint a Surfboard After Glassing

Shaping your own board is great, but when you ornament it with your own art, it’s even better. Learn how you can do it with the OMBE guide.

colorful surfboards

You followed all the steps in our guide on how to make surfboards to perfection, and now it’s time to give the surfboard of your dreams a look that’s befitting you, your imagination, aspirations, and creativity? Nobody can fault you for that. Just checking out the boards displayed on Catch Surf or Creative Army can give us joy; after all, we know that it’s important to leave your creative signature.

But how are you going to do that? Can you just spray paint cans over your EPS foam surfboard? Can you just go Van Gogh on it with a nice little selection of oil paint? What if you make mistakes and ruin a perfectly fine surfboard foam blank? Should you just practice a bit before on your old surfboard first? Do you need to employ a different painting process depending on whether you have a fiberglass or epoxy surfboard?

Well, these aren’t difficult questions to answer, but if you don’t ask before you jump to the task, you might get a couple of things wrong, and all your good work shaping, tapering, and glassing might go to waste.

Don’t worry, though; the OMBE crew is here, led by legendary board-shaper Clayton Nienaber, and we’re going to walk you through it.

How to Paint a Surfboard After Glassing: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step #1: Prepare Your Tools and Yourself

spray paints

Needless to say, you cannot just furnish your surfboard with paints that’ll dissolve into the water. Therefore, spray painting with waterproof paint is the most preferred option. It’s even better if you can find water-based spray paint since the oil-based ones aren’t eco-friendly. Enamel-based paints might be a worthy alternative as well.

Yet, from an artistic point of view, it’s not really easy to be precise with spray paints, and the artwork in your mind might not be suitable for that method. In that case, you have water-based acrylic paints and paint pens as an alternative.

For example, one of the most trusted surfboard brands, South Bay Board Co., also produces a set of paint pens specifically made for customizing surfboards. We can recommend those. 

If you want to go old-school, you can also use boat paint as they’re quite compatible with polyurethane blanks. Of course, a brush-on acrylic is always an option if you want to do some intricate designs.

That being said, you’ll need a couple of other tools and materials to paint your surfboard:

  • Sandpaper
  • Acrylic clear coat spray
  • Painter’s tape or masking tape
  • Pencil
  • SunCure Epoxy Repair Kit
  • Old fabric
  • Painting gloves
  • Paintbrushes (if you’re going to use brush-on acrylic)

In addition to preparing all the necessary tools and materials, you need to prepare yourself for the process as well. You probably don’t want to spray paint all over your favorite pieces of clothing; so, change into something old yet comfortable.

Step #2: Sand the Surfboard

First, you need to cut the surfboard blank in accordance with your template. Then you need to glass it and add fin boxes and leash plug. After all that strain and three long days of waiting for the resin to vulcanize, it is time to sand it carefully, bit by bit. To that end, you need lots of sandpaper with different sizes of grit since the thickness levels of your board will differ from its nose to tail and stringer to rail.

The most important part of sanding your surfboard is that you need to make sure that it’s all smooth, shiny, and soft to your touch. Of course, dings might always happen no matter how carefully you sand the board. Remember that you have your SunCure Epoxy Repair Kit by your side for that. Cover the dings with it and keep on sanding until you achieve the ultimate smoothness.

Step #3: Mark the Area You Want to Paint

Some tend to paint the whole surfboard as if it’s a canvas and they’re an aspiring painter. For others, a specific design on some corner of their board is enough, like a tiny icon for their individual branding or a badass tattoo. 

If you belong to the former group, you just need to put painter’s tape all over your surfboard. If you’re one of the latter, you only need to cover the painting area with tape, which will ensure that your paint stays where it’s supposed to be. For the rest of the board, you’re going to use the old fabric so that no stray paint finds its way there and ruins your meticulously designed personal sign.

Moreover, make sure that you’re working on a clean and smooth surface so that your surfboard doesn’t suffer from any dirt or ding.

Step #4: Start Painting

If you have a clear idea about what you want to paint, we have no art tips to give you. However, there are still a couple of points to heed.

If you’re going to use only one color of spray or acrylic paint for your design, you can just go on and outline your design by using a pencil. Make sure you don’t apply too much pressure when outlining, though, since it may damage your surfboard.

If your design is complex and it has layers, on the other hand, you need to wait for the first coat of paint to dry before moving on to the next. Otherwise, you’ll mess up the painting. The result might be considered good abstract art by certain cliques of society, but it might bother you if that’s not what you’re going for.

Step #5: Spray Acrylic Clear Coat

Acrylic clear is called clear because it’s clear; more intelligibly put, it’s colorless. However, once you apply it, it’ll do a great job making your design shinier and more fabulous. Similar to applying the second coat of paint on top of the first layer, you need to do it only after the paint dries.

Of course, the fact that it makes your painting look glossy is worthy enough a reason to apply the acrylic clear, but that’s not its only contribution either. It’s also going to protect your board and painting from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. If you don’t apply it, no matter how little you ride it, your board will quickly start looking old.

How to Paint an Old Surfboard

old surfboard

You might think that painting an old surfboard is much different than painting a new one. You’d be wrong. The steps are almost identical with the exception of the first one:

  1. Clean all the wax from your surfboard.
  2. Prepare yourself, your tools, workspace, and gather your materials.
  3. Sand the surfboard to make it look even newer.
  4. Start painting by drawing the outlines of your design, applying paint, and waiting for the first coat to dry before moving on to the next.
  5. Spray the acrylic clear so that nobody can tell that it’s your old board.

Wrapping Up…

Surfing already provides great fun by itself, but when you do it on a board of your own shaping, embellished with your artwork on it, it’s all the more fun. Of course, there’s a chance that it might go wrong, and you end up not wanting to ride that board any more, but even when that’s the case, it may end up as a cool experimental art project hung in your garage.

Written by
Jeremy Dean
surf coaching