How to Color Match Gelcoat: Tips from Andy Miller

Matching the color of gelcoat can be one of the most challenging parts of a boat repair, but with the right techniques and products, you can achieve professional results. In the featured video, TotalBoat ambassador Andy Miller from Boatworks Today shares his expert tips on gelcoat color matching. Below is a summary of his key points, focusing on the steps involved and the TotalBoat products used. Make sure to watch the video at the end for a full demonstration!

Understanding Gelcoat Bases

The first step in color matching gelcoat is selecting the appropriate base. Gelcoat typically comes in two varieties: white base and neutral base.

  • White Base: Ideal for pastel colors such as whites, beiges, and off-whites. This is the most common base for boat repairs since most boats are some variation of these colors.
  • Neutral Base: Necessary for achieving bright, vibrant colors like candy apple red or bright yellow. Using a white base for these colors would result in a muted version, such as pink instead of red.

Waxed vs. Non-Waxed Gelcoat

Gelcoat is also available in two forms based on the presence of wax:

  • Waxed (Finishing) Gelcoat: Contains wax, making it suitable for a single layer application that cures completely, allowing for easy sanding and finishing.
  • Non-Waxed (Laminating) Gelcoat: Does not contain wax, allowing multiple layers to be applied over time without additional surface preparation.

Mixing Gelcoat for Color-Matching

When preparing to mix gelcoat for a repair, it's essential to mix more than you think you'll need. Andy recommends mixing at least a pint, even for small repairs. This ensures you have enough material on hand for future touch-ups.

To store mixed but uncatalyzed gelcoat, keep it in a climate-controlled environment to maintain its usability for up to 12 months.

Adding Pigments for Color-Matching

Most boats are some version of white, off-white, beige, or cream. To match these colors, you typically need only three pigments: brown, yellow, and black. Here are Andy’s tips for adding pigments:

  1. Start with Black: No boat is a stark bright white. Adding a tiny amount of black pigment can soften the harshness of the white base.
  2. Small Increments: Use a thin layer of pigment on a stick and add it to your gelcoat in small increments. This method prevents overshooting the desired color.
  3. Mix Gradually: Slowly mix the pigment into the gelcoat, allowing it to drip into the main mixture. This process ensures you don’t add too much pigment at once.

Practical Tips for Gelcoat Color-Matching

  • Shake the Can: Before pouring out any gelcoat, shake the can thoroughly to ensure all solids are well combined.
  • Dilute Pigments: Always start with less pigment and gradually add more. Removing excess pigment is difficult, so it’s better to proceed with caution.
  • Build Up Layers: Use a laminating gelcoat base initially, which allows for multiple layers over time without additional preparation steps.

 

Achieving a perfect color match with gelcoat can be a meticulous process, but following these steps will help you get started on the right foot. For any questions or further assistance, don’t hesitate to contact the TotalBoat team. We are always ready to help you with your projects! Big thanks to Andy Miller for partnering with us for this demonstration! 

3 comments

Thanks, Andy! great tips!

Kristin Browne

Thank you TB Crew!!

Boatworks Today

Thanks

Wade my

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