What's easier? Varnish or Paint?

For a first-time builder, which one is easier to work with--Interlux Schooner varnish or Interlux Brightsides paint? My goal is to minimize frustration while getting the best-possible finish.

Thank you,


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RE: What's easier? Varnish or Paint?

Mark These two products are almost equal in ease of application the big key to your best possible finish is the prep before paint or varnish. Paint requires a better prep job as it accents each and every flaw in its opaque shiny surface while varnish because of its translucent properties allows the grain of the wood to show through and tends to visually hide slight imperfections ( it fools the eye) if your boat does not have issues with rough sanding and nice neat fillets etc then varnish is easier to use just remember PREP is the main concern and for the best finish the prep needs to be equal in either method you are looking for a wax paper appearance to your hull prior to any application of final finish. We believe in wet sanding with a firm rubber sanding block (3M) to a minimum of 220grit and prefer to go to 320 grit, the closer to that perfect wax paper look (flat matte look) the easier the final finish will go personally here at our school we like to Roll wiyh a very short nap mohair roller (1/8th) and tip imediately with a good quality varnish brush although you can use foam brushes for the tipping as well with great results, just remember keep a wet edge and roll into wet finish not out of wet, also follow closely the interlux recomendations for thinning  and use thier brushing thinner for the most trouble free system,you will have many tell you to thin more than they say and to use cheap thinners to thin with "why spend the extra money on the brushing thinner" but for ease and the most trouble free system follow the makers formula they know far more than the "experts" out there, try to roll about 2sq ft at a time no more and tip as soon as you have rolled that area after you move away LEAVE IT ALONE !!!!!!!!!!! and deal with what you have done after drying, if you play with it after 30-45 seconds you will cause more trouble than good

Good luck and enjoy the process it is worth it


RE: What's easier? Varnish or Paint?

Paint would be easier and faster because you can minimize sanding, use a high build primer to cover flaws and slap the paint on.

Varnish has to be done around 6 times.

Everyone will tell you, the varnish is the way to go. Don't look for shortcuts. You can varnish 3 times, use the boat and then finish it afterwards, it doesn't have to be done all at once. Once you get that first trip on the water under your belt, you will have more patience to finish the job.

I can't imagine building one of these awesome looking boats and covering it with paint. Yes I would paint the hull/sides and may on my next build or two, but I would never cover the deck with paint. Decks are meant to be varnished.

RE: What's easier? Varnish or Paint?

I can't imagine covering any part of that fine and expensive wood with paint. Varnishing is a little more work, but you'll be proud of the result.

RE: What's easier? Varnish or Paint?

I'm in the process of finishing a Chessie 16.  The bottom has received 2 coats of primer, then 3 coats of Brightside.  The top has received 5 coats of varnish.  Based on my limited experience, painting is easier. Hardest of all is the combination of varnishing and painting the top.  My boat looks great, like a shark of the upper classes, with a mirror like finish top and bottom.  However, if I had to do it again, it would be either all varnish or all paint. 

RE: What's easier? Varnish or Paint?

Full disclosure here - I've only done 1 painted boat so far and it was to a workboat finish. My "pretty" boats have all been varnished.

That said, a couple of years ago one of the winners at Okoumefest was an absolutely spectacular solid blue paint job. It was tastefully combined with black trim. Unfortunately, the person left early and nobody got any pictures. If the builder is reading this, please let us know.

The paint was flawless - no bumps, depressions, brush marks, etc. Uniform color, uniform gloss, good choice of color, everything was right. Brand new cars were put to shame.

Not  only can okoume be painted, it can be done in a way that rivals varnish for beauty. In fact, BS 1088 okoume is probably the perfect wood for painting. It's smooth, has a uniform grain and is easy to work with.

While varnish lets you highlight the surface of the wood, paint lets you concentrate on the boat's lines. The choice of which to emphasize is yours. Equal quality finishes take approximately equal time in either medium.


RE: What's easier? Varnish or Paint?

We finished our Millcreek 16.6 about 3-weeks ago. we have a painted hull and varnished deck. I tried to give the boat a 1930's yacht look to it, i rolled the paint a 1" over the  deck to cover the deck nails and added pin stripe to the ply prior to applying the glass. The color is "Interlux" Hattoras white with Black strip below the rub rails. I made the hatch covers from scrap cedar. the 6-diamonds represent our 6 (yes 6) sons.

our web link here.


RE: What's easier? Varnish or Paint?

I built my 17LT last year and am now completing a refinishing of the hull and deck.

Asthetic Choice? in the long run varnsh willmake your boat stand out and will draw attention from others as a thing of beauty. In particular the deck is most worthy of the exposure which varnish provides. I will defer to you on whether or not to paint or varnish the hull (I prefere varnish).

Varnish is the most forgiving of finishes.

But which ever you choose, I am sure your boat will be prettier than mine.

Good luck!Kayak Completed!

Tim Clark

RE: What's easier? Varnish or Paint?

Last year I built a Chesapeake 16.  I applied polyurethane to the deck and painted the hull.

5 coats of polyurethane to the deck and it looked great (and still does). Then 2 coats of undercoat to the hull and 3 coats of "Adminalty Blue" paint. then a yellow stripe at the shear line, only 2 coats. I was really happy until the masking tape came off with a section of the blue paint stuck to it.  There was no option but to mask the yellow and paint the blue again only 2 coats this time.  That is a total of 14 painting days.

I'm sure varnish to the whole boat is easier and quicker.  But, in my unbiased(?)  opinion, the end result of a painted hull and varnished deck looks better. Particularly against the a sandy beach on a bright Australian day.

I'm sure what ever you do will make you pleased and give a great sense of satisfaction.  Good luck.





RE: What's easier? Varnish or Paint?

Ian, did you use regular masking tape that pulled up your paint?

Use the blue painters masking tape, it is not as sticky for that reason.

RE: What's easier? Varnish or Paint?

try the 3M "fineline tape" auto body shops and/or auto body paint stores will have it. my little roll was $12.00. it is the best. then i used regular blue tape and masking paper to protect any areas from splatter or spills. my lessons learned from using the marine paint was that it took a good 24 hours to re-coat depending on the temp. 



RE: What's easier? Varnish or Paint?

I did use the blue masking tape.  In the part that came off it appeared that the blue coat had not bonded with the undercoat.  All 3 coats of blue came off.  I am still puzzled why this happened as I tried to sand the under caot well and it was only in a small section that it happened.



RE: What's easier? Varnish or Paint?

Fineline tape is the top dog try Jamestown Dist. it is far less costly if you can pull tape soon after painting use 3m 233+ Green in color and remove after paint is just tack free or sooner we pull tape as soon we finish painting as it allows some improvement of the paint to tape edge


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