Introduction: How to Paint a Surfboard

There's a lot of plain white surfboards out there. They're the least expensive. They're also a blank canvas that you can easily customize "grom" into a personal statement and work of art. Painting your board is fun and easy and can be done with a little effort. The amount of detail and design work is up to you. If you can draw it, you can paint it. There are just a few things you'll need to remember to make it work well. Here I've done my 8ft plain old white surfboard I've been eager to take up a notch. Sure it surfs great and yes surfing is fun. But imagine how much more fun if you add some color and personality to your board!

Step 1: Materials

  • Acetone (to prepare surface),
  • sandpaper 320 grit,
  • 1 dry erase (whiteboard) marker
  • Paint pen assortment (minimum of black)
  • Acrylic paints in colors desired
  • Several sized brushes
  • Mixing tray in case colors need to be blended
  • 1 can clear coat spray, preferably UV resistant. Gloss for a glossy board. Matte or satin finish for non-glossy boards

Step 2: Rough Sketch

Now's the time to use your whiteboard marker to sketch out some designs you might like. Hopefully, you'll already have been doodling or collecting images of other people's designs you like. I've included a few geometric design sketches that can be made using a straight edge or common household objects as templates. There are many things all around your home you can use. Since I wanted circles going from large to small, I began with a large plate, small plate, cereal bowl, cup, and small can. Bigger circles? Use a lid from a 3-gallon plastic bucket. Squares and rectangles are everywhere like boxes. You can choose to have them overlap or not. Remember, the more the shapes overlap, the more spaces will need to be painted. Too many and the design may appear "too busy" to you and not very impactful from afar. Fewer, larger shapes might look great from afar, but a bit simple up close. You're the judge and since it's your surfboard, the choice falls on you. Remember, no matter what you do, it will probably end up looking great.

Starting with a dry erase marker will help you put some rough sketches on your board to make sure you like what you see. I wanted a combination of circles and wavy lines but wasn't sure what that would actually look like. In the end, I opted for more circles and no waves but it took actually seeing the shapes on the board to decide.

One thing to make sure of before you begin using a dry erase marker on a board is that the board's surface is glossy, like a whiteboard. Some boards, especially epoxy, use a dull non-glossy finish. Dry erase markers will stick to this surface so this step won't be possible. Better to use a thin, light pencil for the lines.

Step 3: Surface Prep

So you've come up with your planned pattern. Snap a photo of your board with the dry erase pattern on it to refer to later. It's time to erase it all and get the boar prepped.

The key to any paint project is making sure the paint sticks properly. That means preparing the surface. Before you get started, you'll need to strip the oils, wax, and dirt off. Acetone, mostly available as nail polish remover, is an excellent solvent recommended by many. Don't use nail polish removers with added moisturizers or anything fancy added that will prevent a good stripping of the surface. Got it? Great. Now moisten a rag or paper towel and start rubbing starting from one end to the other making sure you have some good ventilation from the fumes.

Once finished, many recommend a light sanding for glossy surfaces to help the acrylic paint stick better. Remember to wipe the dust off with a clean dry rag before you go on. A 32 or higher grit is best. You're not trying to sand down rough spots here, only to make a very fine rough surface for the paint to better adhere to. You don't need to get crazy trying to hit each area evenly. If a bit of shine still shows, your paint will still likely stick with no problem. Some people don't even sand. Most experts do.

Using the dry erase marker again, this time for keeps, trace the edge of your objects that you chose for their shapes. You can add straight edges, wavy lines, etc. To avoid painting over logos or over pinstripes and panels with borders, use painter's tape. Remember, this time is for real. You've sanded the surface and the whiteboard marker won't easily come off. Hopefully, you'll take your time, get it the way you like, and have no need for any "oh no!" moments.

Step 4: Start Painting!

With a paint pen, you'll be able to make countless designs. Small designs could be filled in with a broad tipped paint pen. Bigger designs, like the circles we outlined in dry erase pen need to be filled in with acrylic paint. I wanted three distinct colors that ranged from blue to aqua to greenish yellow so we used three paint colors and a medium brush. As we traced circles around the objects we used as templates, we filled them in as shown.

Step 5: Outline With a Black Border for More Definition and Effect

Look at the shapes without any outlining. The addition of a black line makes a more dramatic effect by defining the shape against the white background. Use the same template object you used to make the original shape. Hold it firmly in place and run the black paint pen around the perimeter for quickest, easiest, and most accurate results.

Step 6: Pull the Tape and Spray Several Layers of Clear Coat on for Protection

Adding clear coat restores the glossy finish you sanded away to start. More importantly, it prevents the great work you've done from flaking off or getting rubbed away the first time you beach your board. Got it? Awesome!

Well, with some enthusiasm and a few supplies, we were able to turn my plain old white surfboard into one that will be unlike the others. While we didn't use any spray paint to fill, many people do. Some even use a combination of pens and spray. Now it's your turn to show us what you've done. Your only limit is your imagination. Good luck and happy surfing!