How To Paint A Jet Ski

A jet ski or PWC, like any other watercraft, can be painted to the match any owner’s preferences.

Many owners may choose to paint their watercraft, as the manufacturers have limited color choices. Some buyers do not want their personal watercraft to look exactly the same as everyone else’s on the water. 

Everyone has a unique sense of style, and custom watercraft designs are a popular way to express that individualism. And buyers of used skis may need to repaint to bring back that fresh new look.

Can a personal watercraft be painted? Yes, a Jet Ski or any other brand of personal watercraft can be painted. The owner of the PWC should consider the type and color of paint to use, the purpose of the paint job, and how they wish to prepare the ski. Then they can plan for the job.

Other reasons a person may decide to take on a project such as this would be for damage repair or the simple desire to add personal touches to the existing paint.

Whether you are looking to fix scratches, add decorative flames, or simply change the color from pink to red, anything is possible.

You have come to the right place to make an educated decision on the matter.

What Parts of a Jet Ski Can Be Painted?

Hull

The two main components of a personal watercraft that consumers usually repaint are the hull and the top deck.

These components cover most of the surface area on the craft, so you should be positive that the color choice is something you will be happy with for at least few years before investing time and money into it.

When painting the hull, you can either turn the ski on its side, flip it completely over or use a hoist or suspension straps. Make sure your ceiling or beams can support the weight if you use a suspended strap system.

Flipping it will be the cheapest solution for sure. However, the Prohoist 2,000 lb strap lift system shown below can be used for painting, storage and more. Click the image to see Amazon price and availability.

The hull is the entire bottom of the craft; it is waterproof and designed to move quickly through the water. 

A personal watercraft is built with a planing hull, which is designed to rise up and glide on top of the water at high speeds. The greater the speed your watercraft is going, the higher the hull lifts out of the water.

Two different hull shapes are considered planing hulls, the flat-bottomed hull, and the vee-bottomed hull. These shapes look exactly as you would picture from the names; one is flat, and the other looks like the letter “V.” 

These two hull shapes are designed to go extremely fast and rise out of the water as the watercraft speeds up. Just think how cool it will be to see the new paint color on the hull of your jet ski as it planes across the water.

Deck

The top deck is the upper portion of the craft, where the handlebars and seat are attached, and the engine is housed directly below.

It is the most visible part of your personal watercraft, as it is the part that stays out of the water. The top deck is removable, and often painted in one solid color, different from the rest of the craft.

You can also personalize the multifunction components, which are parts of the watercraft that are not necessary for function, but additional features that can be added to the craft.

In the next few paragraphs, you will find the descriptions of these multifunctional components.

Paintable multifunction components include the grab handle, shroud, splash guard, hood, rub rails, and sponsons (source).

The grab handle is a small handle often attached to the back of the machine. It is added to personal watercraft for boarding and disembarking purposes.

The shroud is on the upper portion of the craft and is where part of the sidewells curve inward to give room for a rider’s knees (source). Foam removable knee pads attach to the shroud.

The splashguard attaches under the front nose of the watercraft. This helps keep water from splashing upward when operating the craft at high speeds.

The hood is a component on the top deck that protects the engine from water. It is located in different places on each personal watercraft, but is often in front of the handlebars.

The rub rails are long strips on the sides of the hull. They keep the body of the machine from bumping into things like a dock and getting scratched.

The sponsons are attachments on the sides of the personal watercraft that provide additional buoyancy. This additional buoyancy creates machine stability and affects handling characteristics.

When painting the deck, you will need to remove or mask off some or all these components depending on the look you’re going for.

What Kind Of Paint Should You Use?

Any waterproof gelcoat paint will do the trick for repainting the top deck.

Since the top deck does not become fully immersed in the water, you do not have to put as much thought into the product. 

Your local hardware store or large retailer will carry a variety of options, from aerosol sprays to gallon cans. Top products to look for include Flex Seal, Interlux Brightside, and Rustoleum.

The most common paint product used for the hull of any watercraft is anti-fouling paint. This paint reduces the number of subaquatic organisms that may become attached to the underside of the vessel (source). 

Living things such as microorganisms, plants, algae, and small animals will stick to the surface of water components that have a mechanical function and can cause operation issues.

Some of the top-selling anti-fouling products include Rustoleum Marine Coatings, Interlux Aqua-One, and Duralux Marine. You will be able to find these at most hardware stores, as well as some big-box stores.

Should you decide to use a can of paint rather than a spray, you will, without a doubt, need to use a paint sprayer. Trying to brush an even coat onto the surface of a craft like a jet ski is a near impossibility.

A paint sprayer converts paint to tiny droplets and applies a thin coat of paint in an even layer.

Prepare The Watercraft For Painting

First wash your PWC thoroughly

The jet ski needs to be cleaned vigorously to prepare the surface for paint. The paint will not adhere if there is any sort of dirt or residue on the exterior.

Microorganisms, plants, algae, and small animals that stick to the hull could keep the paint from bonding to the surface. If you are using a professional to complete your project, cleaning the watercraft will be their first step as well.

As a personal watercraft owner, you should be cleaning it on a regular basis, or bringing it in to be cleaned regularly. A boat cleaning service will usually charge between $50 and $80 to clean a PWC. 

If you are the do it yourself type of person and are painting your jet ski at home, you will want to be sure you clean your craft as if you were a professional.

Great products are available at any Walmart, Target, grocery, or hardware store. You should try using Comet and a Scotch-Brite pad or Goo-Gone and a wool pad.

Learning to clean your personal watercraft yourself is an excellent idea since it is something that you should do often. There are a handful of helpful YouTube tutorials out there on how to do a thorough cleaning.

This hose extension from Amazon will get the job done.

Surface preparation before painting

Any scratches or dings need to be filled in and sealed prior to painting. Use a polyester Bondo or Durglass on the top deck and 3M Marine Putty or West System Epoxy on the hull.

Big-box stores will carry the Bondo and Epoxy, and a hardware store would sell the Durglass and Marine Putty. 

After filling in the scratches, you will need to sand everything down afterward, to get the entire area nice and even.

After sanding, you’ll want to do an additional quick cleaning, to remove the residue. Hand sanding is the best option, as you have more control over the pressure being applied.

Another important step in preparing your craft, as mentioned with the video posted above, is taping off any components that you absolutely do not want to be painted.

Some parts can be removed entirely, such as the seat and knee pads. For the rest: tape, tape, tape!

Should You Have It Painted Professionally?

Knowing that your Jet Ski is in good hands is worth every penny. If you want to make sure that everything goes smoothly without mistakes, then a professional is the way to go.

Plus, unless you love doing everything yourself, you will not expend any effort. It is a win-win.

What is the Cost of a Professional?

The cost of living in your area is going to be a significant factor in the estimate you receive from a service shop. On average, you are looking at somewhere between $600 and $1,000 from a reputable shop.

Taking your personal watercraft to a small mom-and-pop shop will most likely save you money, if you’re able to find a trustworthy one.

Ask around town for recommendations, do a Google search for local businesses, or find listings on the Better Business Bureau. Always be sure to pick the shop with the best reviews.

It is a lot easier for someone in a shop to create artistic designs if you are interested in a more elaborate paint job. They have stencils and patterns to follow, as well as experience applying the correct thickness of paint.

If a professional runs into any sort of a snag, they tend to have the proper tools for fixing mistakes, as well as other experienced coworkers to help them out.

Should You Paint It Yourself?

Many people prefer and take satisfaction from doing something themselves. One thing to consider is your skill level.

If you have never used sandpaper or a paint sprayer before in your life, you might be biting off more than you can chew. Cost is always a consideration on whether to use a professional or do it yourself.

If you are a frugal person, you should try to paint the watercraft yourself. It will take longer, and require effort, but will save you money in the long run.

When planning your project, remember to budget for additional supplies such as sandpaper, cleaning supplies, and tape. You may need specialty tools and safety equipment as well, if you don’t already own them.

Depending on the cost and quality of the paint, the entire project would most likely fall somewhere between $100-$500.

Is It Worth The Effort?

There are both risks and rewards to not using a professional. You will save hundreds of dollars doing the task yourself, but the possibility of making a mistake is high. Once a mistake is made, the cost of the project inevitably goes up.

If you have the time, skills, and patience, making this a do it yourself project is a wonderful option.

You can paint the jet ski to your exact preferences, and make changes as you go. You can buff the finish to be as glossy as much as you want. Plus, then you get bragging rights with other recreational watercraft owners.

Other Options

Paint isn’t the only option to personalize and protect your jet ski, although it is the most common. There are different and unique ways to spruce up your personal watercraft.

Spray plasti-dip coating is a process used on a variety of products, from tools to wheels to entire cars. I’ve done a few tools and sets of wheels. It isn’t hard and requires no special equipment.

The coatings may be easier to scratch than paint. There is also a little added weight, and maybe drag unless you go with a glossy finish. But you can use the sprays to coat just specific parts or areas to get a unique look.

While this product is not used as often as gelcoat, it is a fun and unique option. The Plasti Dip store on Amazon has a myriad of options for small parts to an entire craft. You can mix and match colors and finishes as much as you want.

Jet ski vinyl wraps are becoming more and more common for a unique finish without the hassle of painting; they are available through an automotive store or mechanic’s shop.

There are thousands of graphics, colors, and options available in wrap form. Wraps are probably best used only for the top deck, as they would easily scratch off the hull.

If you are not looking to take on a large, expensive project and simply want to fix a few scratches on your jet ski, there are a wide variety of touch up kits available.

Deciding how to decorate your personal watercraft is almost, if not as difficult, as the decision you made when buying your personal watercraft.

If you want to be sure to match the color exactly, purchase a kit directly from the manufacturer. 

Additional Personalization

There are other, simpler, methods to spicing up the visual appeal of your watercraft.

You can add vinyl decals to the exterior of the watercraft. Wholesale Graphics sells numerous decal kits for PWC’s. You can purchase replacements for some of the removable parts.

For instance, the seat and knee pads of the craft are easily detachable. These parts are made of foam and plastic and are covered in a cloth or vinyl.

You can go to the manufacturer or a third party and purchase replacements in different styles and colors. Third parties will have a lot of options for designs. In contrast, the manufacturer will just have a few different color options.

When you are buying aftermarket parts, make sure the new parts will fit seamlessly onto your jet ski. 

The handlebars are another somewhat easy change because they are detachable.

You can purchase new grips in a different color, or new handlebars entirely. Grips come in a wide variety of colors, and really add some nice pop to the aesthetics of your machine. 

These parts are just a bit trickier than the seat or knee pads because they have wires that need to be correctly connected after you do the switch. One great idea is to make a video of yourself disconnecting the wires; that way, you can reconnect them the same way.

When ordering spare parts to change the visual appeal of your PWC, make sure they are designed for the exact make and model that you have. The last thing you want is to spend your hard-earned money on something that doesn’t line up properly.

Final Thoughts

Painting, or gelcoating, your jet ski is absolutely possible, and there are a variety of options out there for you. Do your research, make sure you are using a reliable product or going to a reputable shop. 

Always be prepared for a few bumps along the way, as with any sort of recreational watercraft, there is still the chance of finding new things that need repair.

Prepare, prepare, prepare. This is something that can not be stated enough. Make sure you have every single item you need before you need it and be patient, the process is time-consuming.

Know what you want the final results to be before you start. Changing your mind halfway through is just going to make things messy and unsuccessful.

If you are artistic, maybe draw out an example of what you want your ski to look like in the end. Check out all of your options and pick the one that best suits you and your lifestyle.

If you are not a big fan of do-it-yourself projects, bring your personal watercraft to a professional. If you are a frugal individual, do the labor; if you want something unique, go with an option like a wrap.

Make design choices, give your jet ski time to dry and get started with your new paint. Once done, you can launch and show off your fresh new look to your riding buddies or people at the dock who may ask how you got such a unique look.

Good luck, and be sure to have fun with it.

Articles contain affiliate links to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. The site is also an affiliate for other brands covered in our the content. We may earn a small commission when readers purchase through these links at no extra cost to the buyer.

Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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