How to match gel coat colors

Written by kimberly johnson
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The term gel coat refers to any resin-based paint that is applied to items constructed of fibreglass. Gel coat is most frequently used in the marine industry to repair and restore the exterior surfaces of boats, jet skis and other water vehicles. According to Boatus.com, matching the gel coat colour is one of the hardest parts of repairing a boat. Properly matching the exterior colour of the boat with the gel coat colour is a process of trial and error.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Sandpaper (320, 400, 500 and 600 grit)
  • Water
  • Cloth
  • Gel coat repair kit
  • Acetone
  • Small paint stirrer
  • Gloves

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Pour water over the area that needs to be painted, and lightly wet-sand it with 320-grit sandpaper. Sand off only enough of the existing paint to remove sun damage.

  2. 2

    Sand the surface with 400-, 500- or 600-grit sandpaper to smooth the surface of the repair area.

  3. 3

    Buff the surface with a clean cloth to remove all moisture, dust and paint particles.

  4. 4

    Pour acetone into the container of gel coat that came with the repair kit until the gel coat is the consistency of water.

  5. 5

    Allow the container of gel coat to sit uncovered for several hours to allow some of the acetone to evaporate. Evaporation may take as long as overnight, depending on humidity.

  6. 6

    Select the pigment from the repair kit that best matches the boat colour that you want to achieve. For example, if the boat is red, select the nearest red pigment, even if the colour is not a perfect match. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the pigment to the gel coat and stir with a small paint stirrer until well mixed.

  7. 7

    Put on gloves and place the tip of your finger into the gel coat mixture. Wipe a thin layer of colour onto the sanded area of the boat.

  8. 8

    Examine the colour carefully from directly in front of the repair area to determine what other pigments you should add. For example, if the colour is too light, add more of the same pigment, or a small bit of black. If the colour is too dark, add small amounts of white pigment until the colour lightens sufficiently.

  9. 9

    Continue adding and testing colours until you achieve the desired colour.

  10. 10

    Pour the prepared gel coat mixture into a paint gun and spray onto the entire surface of the repair area.

Tips and warnings

  • Even if you know the name and brand of the original boat paint, do not buy it without testing it first. The colour of the boat may have faded due to sunlight exposure, necessitating a different shade.
  • Wait until morning or mid afternoon to colour-match the gel coat, at which times the sunlight allows you to best judge the match.
  • Gel coat does not lighten or darken as it dries. Therefore, if the colour matches when wet, it will still match when dry.
  • Do not attempt to match gel coat colours on a cloudy day.

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