How to Paint Boot Stripes

Updated February 21, 2017

The boot stripe is a narrow stripe of paint that separates the topside of a boat from the bottom and lends a finished look to the boat. Boot stripe tape is available in a variety of colours and widths. However, unless a boat has a slab side, the boot stripe must be painted in order to achieve the appearance of a uniform width.

Find and score the waterline. Do this on a calm morning. Ensure there is no list and mark the actual waterline at both corners of the transom and on the bow.

Remove the boat from the water and let it thoroughly dry.

De-wax the hull in the boot-stripe area.

Pencil a line along the waterline. Use a laser transit to locate the line that joins the score marks. If this technology is unavailable, cut a 3-foot length of vinyl hose in half, attach the two pieces to each end of a garden hose using hose fittings, and hang one end from the boat so that a score mark is behind the length of clear vinyl hose. Hang the other end near another score mark. Fill the hose with water so that the water in the hose is level with the score marks. Walk around the boat with this hose, making frequent marks.

Add at least one inch of water to the hose and repeat the marking process. The resulting stripe should be located above the actual waterline and may vary in width. If the boot stripe is to be a few inches above the waterline, add more water to the hose, and pencil the top and bottom marks for the boot stripe accordingly.

Use tape suitable for the boat's surface and join the pencil marks. If the bottom must be painted, tape along the top of the bottom boot-stripe pencilling and paint the bottom. Let the bottom dry overnight or according to manufacturer's directions before continuing.

Apply a strip of tape underneath and abutting the first strip of tape.

Remove the first strip of tape.

Apply a length of tape above the top lines of the pencilled boot stripe.

Inspect the tape for any mistakes, unevenness or other irregularities. Use a plastic spoon to press down the interior edges of the tape. This grants a sharper edge to the paint.

Paint the boot stripe. Use paint suited for the specific type of boat surface and follow the manufacturer's directions. It is typical to apply two coats, especially if a two-part polyurethane is the substance being utilised.

When the painted stripe has dried, remove the tape.

Wax the boat as required for preservation and maintenance purposes.


Solvents for de-waxing are available commercially.

Things You'll Need

  • Knife or scraper
  • De-waxing solvent
  • Pencil
  • Laser transit
  • Clear vinyl hosing, 3 feet
  • Hose fittings
  • Garden hose
  • Tape
  • Paint
  • Plastic spoon
  • Wax
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About the Author

Angela Ryczkowski is a professional writer who has served as a greenhouse manager and certified wildland firefighter. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in urban and regional studies.