Painting – Rolling and Tipping

Aeon in her new blue dress


(to start of project)

Had a very, very successful weekend. Not without its bumps and mistakes, but it all ended well, and results exceeded expectations. In fact, T no longer mourns the obliteration of all that gorgeous wood, which is really saying something. Those fairing problems I was worried about? Miraculously, it seems, they’re now silent as the grave, all forgotten like dirt in a hole.

The plywood skiff I built five years ago was painted with house paint, which turned out only OK for what it is. It’s a good example of Dave Lucas’ “Ten Foot Rule” – if it looks good from ten feet away it IS good. You get closer, though, and you see what a crude job it was. Drips, runs, ripples, sags, curtains – it’s all there. None of that is out of place on a work style boat, even lends a certain amount of charm, but these boats really need better than that, and I’ve never done better than that before.

Tony Thatcher helped out again with a bunch of painting tips to get started (Thanks Tony!) Good paint (expensive) makes a huge difference if you really want high gloss and a smooth finish. This time I splurged on Interlux Brightsides and their 333 brushing thinner. Aeon is Flag Blue, and Caesura is Hatteras Off White.















Thinning the paint according to conditions – temperature, humidity, air circulation and your own work style – is essential. This much I can tell you: There’s no way to know how all those things will interact before you are already deep into it, so plan to adapt as needed. I was halfway through the first coat on the second boat before I figured out what was wrong. Once it dried, I had to sand off most of that first coat on three of the four sides and start over.

Here’s the problem: The paint starts drying the moment you open the can. It dries even faster in the roller pan. It dries really, really, really crazy fast when rolled out thin on the hull. As it dries, it gets thicker, and thick paint doesn’t flow out flat, leaving brush strokes wherever you touch it. You have to add thinner to keep it running smooth. There is a constantly moving window between too thin and too thick that you have to stay within to get it right. My problem turned out to be too much thinner. But not in the paint – in the brush.

A capful of thinner to a cupful of paint was just about perfect for a 70 degree humid basement, and a cup was just the right amount of paint to do one full coat on one side. Instructions with the paint, and from Tony, were to wet the brush with thinner. This keeps the paint from drawing up into the bristles and drying in the brush as you tip out. What I didn’t realize was that the brush was overloaded with thinner, and was releasing it into the paint as I worked. The paint was streaking, but I didn’t know why, so kept dipping the tip of the brush in the thinner. This diluted the paint more and caused the pigment to retract into ribbons. I didn’t know what to do, so just kept working.


Streaks hardened into ridges in the paint, too much thinner in the brush.


By the time I got to the second boat, the thinner in the little cup I used had evaporated, but I was working too fast to stop and refill it. As the brush began to dry out, the streaking slowly dissipated. Then I dipped the brush in the paint to moisten it instead, and Bingo! Wow, it was like magic. The last side of Aeon was absolutely perfect. Amazing.

The other three sides, already painted, hardened into ugly streaks. This could have been really, really discouraging; but I knew now I could make it work and was ready to roll. Spent half of Sunday sanding back almost to the primer, then buffed out the scratches again with a Scotch pad on a sanding disk. Cleaned and dusted again. Then applied a second coat using what was learned the day before, and all went well.


Bad stuff sanded off three sides, scuffing the one good side for the second coat.


Second coat. WIN!


The paint went farther than expected. I started with two quarts of each color, but so far have only used one. There’s enough paint left in the opened cans to do one last coat, and I’ll do that this week; otherwise, that paint will just go bad, and it’s too expensive to waste. It will do far more good on the boats, whether they need it or not. I’ll save the two unopened cans for next season.

I had found descriptions of rolling and tipping, but little that shows what it looks like in practice. Technique is everything. Everyone has their own variation, but whatever style you use, get into a rhythm and move quickly and efficiently until the job is done.

You can’t stop halfway down a side, even to mix more paint, or there will be a visible ridge where you stopped and started. You have to keep working while the paint is wet and flowing. If you have paint left over when you’re done with one side, you can either pour it back in the can or mix a fresh batch to add to it and keep going. But mix enough to do the whole section, and plan your stops at logical end points.

After some trial and error, I came up with a method that worked well. I found I could only roll and tip a section two-roller-widths wide, and still have the new paint and the previous strip wet enough to blend evenly. When I tried do more than that, the previous strip was already so dry it held brush marks. In fact, I could actually feel the difference in the brush from the start of tipping out a section to the end of it. If you want to see what it looks like in action, at least what worked for me, Terri filmed a bit of the process. As you can see from the smile, this was shot AFTER I had it figured out:

Youtube Link

melonseed skiff, mellonseed skiff, melon seed, mellon seed   

37 Replies to “Painting – Rolling and Tipping”

  1. Awesome! The roll and tip dance. Sort of meditative once you get the rhythm. The only real difference that I do is to wipe ahead of the area that I am going to roll with a lint free cloth soaked in the thinner. Then I do the tipping strokes into the unpainted area. But the important thing really is to find a process that works for you and allows you to work systematically.

    Pretty soon the basement is going to be giving birth to a couple of beauties!

    Tuesday, June 28, 2011 – 11:05 AM

  2. I know how easy it must have been to lose whole slabs of time (sometimes without realising it) to get hulls to this point. They look magnificent. I’m really looking forward to seeing you sail these things.
    Out of interest, do the girls have any ‘ownership’ of either one yet, or have they been created equal (ie; both yours)?

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011 – 06:37 AM

  3. Why is it that we are always the first one to do anything? Have to learn it all new. Ain’t that the way it seems? You should try this at my house in 90 degrees. One man can’t do it. The bursher has to be five seconds behind the roller or it’s too dry to tip. The part that shocks me is that you’re painting them at all after all the care you did on the wood work. I do like the color, thinking about painting my fantail this blue, rolled on house paint for me. Dave

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011 – 10:12 AM

  4. Good magic or bad, Guiseppe, it’s just a medium quality brush from the hardware store – one that loves thinner, apparently.

    Thanks for the help again, Tony. I tried wiping ahead of the paint, but the thinner in the damp cloth was compounding my too-much-thinner problem. I had to wipe a whole side down and let it dry. Seemed to work better for me stroking from the unpainted into the wet. I couldn’t get a light enough touch to start in the paint and go the other way.

    Thanks Rob. A lot more time than expected, surely. If I know the girls, they have already negotiated ownership secretly between them, and likely involved some serious wheeling and dealing. Funny, though, the “favorite boat” has switched back and forth several times among us over the course of the build – which seems to mean they are quite on par with one another, and that’s a good thing.

    Dave, I can’t imagine working in 90 degree tropical heat, let alone trying to paint in it. And what about bugs in the wet paint? With an outdoor shop that must be a real pain. I had a bat fly into the basement right in the middle of all this, circling around my head like an angry hornet. That was rather interesting, to say the least; but he eventually flew back out instead of landing in the wet paint and dying there.

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011 – 11:40 AM

  5. Aeon will be the prom queen. It’s hard to beat the beautiful contrast between varnished wood and dark blue.
    I will not fault your perfect method, but I know how to eliminate the brush. You’ll have to come and visit (bring whiskey) to discover it. If I only had your fairing skills…….
    What is the sound track for this video? Is it playing in the background or did you add it? Masterful; touch to have the sounds of your work with a soft overtone of music.

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011 – 10:42 PM

  6. Whiskey sounds good! If it’s the good stuff I’ll even help you do the fairing. I’ll bring a bottle if you’ll tell me what you know.

    The music is playing in the background, a custom “chill mix” I play during particularly stressful taskes, keeps me relaxed when I’m not. Let’s see, that’s, in order:

    Jose Gonzalez – Heartbeats
    Mazzy Starr – Rhymes of an Hour
    Peter Gabriel – Mercy Street
    Aimee Mann – Great Beyond

    It gets rather eclectic. Some classical and bluegrass, rock, folk, jazz, new and old, etc.

    The boats will have corresponding appeal, I think. The white one, with the fancy wood rails, will have the red rust tanbark sail. It will catch your eye rather dramatically from a distance, flashy, getting all the attention over the other boat with a plain cream sail. It won’t be until you get up close that you’ll appreciate the darker sister, with straw colored hair and dark blue eyes. Not unlike pretty women at a dance, actually. That was kind of the plan, anyway. 😉

    I think it will be interesting to see who prefers which.

    Thursday, June 30, 2011 – 12:28 AM

  7. I prefer which ever one the boat builder and I are actually sailing in! Soon, soon. Actually, Barry caught me vainly staring at my reflection in Aeon’s deep, dark evening hue….
    Thursday, June 30, 2011 – 07:56 AM

  8. My husband and I are in the process of restoring an ’85 wahoo for me and my dog 🙂 my husband came across your youtube video of rolling and tipping, something I do when I paint furniture so I am familiar with the process. The Aeon painting is spectacular, do you have any advice on painting a fiberglass hull? We live in the FL Keys, so climate is a bit different than yours, but hoping you may have heard something along your way.

  9. Hi Dawn, thanks for the kind words.

    Painting your fiberglass wahoo should be exactly the same. You can’t tell it, but these wooden boats are actually sealed with a transparent layer of fiberglass and epoxy – that’s the surface getting primed and painted here. You should only have to adjust for temperature and humidity.

    Paint indoors if at all possible, because wind of any kind will be the devil. If you can do that, you’ll only need to adjust how much to thin the paint according to how hot and humid it is while you work. If you can’t paint inside a shop, rig up a tarp tent and seal it best you can, then work on a very still evening.

    Unless you can do a practice run on something, if you’re like me you won’t get a feel for exactly what works until you’re well into it. But don’t get discouraged. Assume you’ll have to do at least a second coat. It’s the last one that really counts. Scuff thoroughly and evenly between coats. Good paint dries so slick and shiny that, without scuffing, subsequent coats of paint won’t have anything to grip to, and will bead and ripple like oil on water.

  10. I found your website after viewing your youtube roll & tip video. I have recently painted one of my cars with Rustoleum enamel, and have decided to use Brightside on my next project based on several amateur painters’ description of this polyurethane’s superior attributes. Thank you for sharing this knowledge borne of blood,sweat & tears; my philosophy is “if we each have an apple, and we trade apples – we still only have an apple apiece…BUT, if we each have an idea and trade ideas – then we both have TWO ideas”. Thanks again, and good luck enjoying your beautiful boats, sir.

  11. Hi, did you use an Interlux primer? If so, how does the Brightsides feel/flow compared to that?

    I’m using both the Pre-Kote primer and Brightsides to finish a home built small trailer (see The original West System epoxy coating degraded due to UV exposure in a very short time (I knew I had to paint it quickly but didn’t expect it to be THAT quickly) so I did a complete sand down and reapplication of the epoxy and am now doing the UV protection finally.

    I’ve applied several coats of the primer using roll and tip (I use a section of the foam roller material cut up to drag for tipping) and noticed the quick drying and streaking tendency. I did not thin the primer but once I got used to putting it on with abundance and working in smaller sections/tipping right away it got better. Covered/filled wonderfully and sanded out pretty well so long as I kept the sandpaper fresh. Feels silky smooth and should be a good substrate for the Brightsides, which I hope is as tough.

    I’m looking forward to the finish coating now, but hope I don’t end up with another full sanding cycle to smooth out streaks. Your experience with the 333 will inform my first attempts, thanks for sharing! I’ll be applying in an unheated garage with 68-74 F degree days and 50s overnight forecast for the next week or so.

  12. Hi Don,

    I used just the Pre-Kote and Brightsides – no additional primer. Two coats of Pre-Kote, the first one sanded mostly away, and the second sanded smooth. Knowing this, I didn’t put a lot of care into the application.

    The first coat of Brightsides will be a bit tricky until you get a feel for how much to thin it and how fast will dry, both of which determine your work speed. I would practice on something like the inside of the trailer lid, or a scrap and save yourself the work of sanding off “the learning curve” which is what I had to do. Once you get the feel of it, it goes on really fast and easy. Be sure, though, to thoroughly scuff the surface between coats. The paint dries so smooth and glossy that subsequent coats won’t stick and lay flat unless you do.

    1. Thanks, my only primer was the Pre-Kote as well. Put on the first finish coat today and it went pretty well once I got the 333 proportion right (~7%). Did the inside of the fenders straight Brightsides and that was horrible. Started adding 333 and going back over it until it smoothed out enough to try the box interior rim. Went OK from there but seems like the coverage will be less than they indicate – was hoping to get three coats out of the quart but half is already used. Maybe the later coats will flow more. Did you sand or use Scotchbrite or similar between the coats? I’m loathe to take any paint off at this point but they spec sanding…

      1. Cool. Flows waaaay better thinned. I used Scotch pads. Had many square feet of surface to prep, so screwed them to a disk sander pad. Scuffed thoroughly without removing much paint. Even that took a long time and a couple of pads. The paint will bead up on any place you leave shiny.

        1. This is great work- well planned and completed. I am starting my first job with Brightside. Do you mind if I ask for your advice? You can respond at my e-mail.

  13. Hi Sasa, I am not surprised that does not translate easily. I sometimes use terms common to informal conversation among boat builders here. A capful is literally a cap full – the cap used is the lid of the can that contains the thinner, which are all a standard size here. It is an informal measure, approximately 10ml – anywhere from 5ml to 15ml. Hope this helps. The amount to use will vary depending on things like humidity, how fast you work, and so forth.

  14. Thanks so much for the video; it gives a much better idea of how to expect the flow of work to go. I’m in the final stage of surface prep on a 78 Corvette that I’m doing with pre-cote and Laguna blue Brightside.

    I really hope I can achieve the kind of flat surface and gloss you got on that dark blue. That is dark enough to show just about any imperfection, and the resolution was high enough to tell that came out really nice. Great work !

  15. Hello Barry
    From your experience would you say a quart is enough to paint a 16′ melonseed? And – I’m thinking I will be ready to paint my boat in the next couple of weeks – in 100 degree Texas heat… Probably use a little more thinner than you needed.

    1. Dang, that will be a challenge in the heat for sure. I did mine in a cold damp basement, and it was still drying almost too fast. If it goes like mine, will almost surely need two coats, and a 13.5′ Melonseed used almost a full quart for two coats. Technically two and a half, as I buffed much of the first one out to fix user error. It’s not cheap paint, but you don’t want to run short, and it’s worth doing extra coats to use up any extra left over while you have the boat prepped. Mine still have the original paint job. So far, I have not had to repaint, just a touch up a couple of scrapes.

  16. I wanted to thank you again for this excellent video and for answering the comments here. As a result, I pitched my expensive, shedding badger brush and used my favorite mid-grade poly brush from Home Depot. I literally cannot tell that our boat wasn’t sprayed. Well, except for the occasional drip. I’ll take care of those on the next coat. How many coats did you end up applying?

          1. No wax. I thought about it, but realized that would make later coats of paint really difficult. Wax is almost impossible to remove completely once it’s on. I figure a fresh coat of paint is not much more work than waxing, anyway.

  17. Thank you for all of your advice! I have sanded a vintage Trillium fibreglass trailer and am getting ready to prime with pre-kote and then paint using Brightside. Someone mentioned rolling and tipping the primer. Is that required or should I roll it on with a high density roller and sand with 220 before the second primer coat? I will be rolling and tipping the paint.

  18. Hi Nancy. I don’t think it matters whether you roll or brush on the primer. Either way, you will want to sand it smooth once it dries. I sanded most of my primer off, letting it fill the cracks and low spots. Then primed once more with a thin smooth coat and lightly sanded again. Everything you do at this point to create a perfectly smooth surface will pay off in spades when you apply the finish paint. Nothing else will make as much difference as this.

    It’s also a very forgiving stage. If you mess up a little when priming you can just sand smooth and do it again. You won’t be able to do that with the final finish coats.

  19. Love your video, I’m painting my truck with with same primer and same color as your dark blue boat. I got a lot of dark lines between the two roller width. This may be due to overlapping the new rolled surface with the previous rolled surface. It looks like you didn’t overlap between old and new. Also you look like you first coat was very heavy. Got some streaks with brush if I don’t get the thinner out of the brush. You mentioned you stopped using 333 on brush and just paint. Were you keeping it wet all the time and also notice you have some weight on the brush. Thanks for all your help.

    1. Your experience sounds exactly like mine. General rule of thumb is you’ll get better results with several thin coats than fewer thick coats. You do have to work fast, and in small enough areas that the previously painted areas are still wet. Always paint wet over wet to avoid ridges of paint build up. It’s the ridges that are a problem, so the paint has to be wet enough to flow out flat. Minor variations in thin transparent paint will be covered by subsequent layers, so resist the urge to use more paint. All the problems I encountered came from either too much paint, or too much 333 thinner in the brush. I eventually learned the brush holds a lot of thinner that flows out into the paint. So I stopped dipping the brush in the thinner. Instead, only thinned the paint so the fluid was uniformly mixed – in the tray, in the brush, and on the boat.

      1. Thank you for your fast response. I sanded the first coat and will apply a second today. Low humidity and about 65F temperature. Your rolling looks very wet compared to mine. I used 10% 333 thinner to paint and it seem to dry quickly on vehicle and I’m working as fast as I can on surfaces about the same size as yours. It seems like your new rolling strokes started away from the previous painted surface and then you just met the previous rolled surface but didn’t overlap, where I overlapped half a roller into the old rolled section and got a dark line. I understand not using the thinner on the brush but are you getting it wet with paint or is it dry? Can you also address the amount of force your used on the brush? I realize it was 10 years ago but appreciate your help.

        1. Yes, mine was very wet. And I worked in a humid basement where there was no wind, of course, so that helps it stay wet longer. I did not really overlap the sections with the roller, just touched the edges to lay down the paint. Then let the brush pull the paint from the fresh paint into the previous section. Super light touch with the brush. Little more than the weight of the brush itself. I dipped the tip of the brush in the paint tray just enough that the brush would not draw paint off the boat, if that makes sense. So the brush is not applying more paint to the surface really, just leveling out the tracks and popping bubbles left by the roller. Pulling paint out of the edges and ridges to flatten them. Lifting the brush as it passes into the previous still-wet section so it just pulls a little paint through the transition. As I got into a rhythm, I even made the last pass of the roller along the “dry side” left side of the section, so that would be the most wet when the next section was laid down.

          I also found that the paint in the open tray dries very quickly, too, becoming too thick really fast. So I worked with small batches in a small tray. If you’re working outside, you might keep a cardboard cover over it after loading the roller and brush. Halfway through, I started covering the tray with the brush inside even in the short time I was using the roller, then would recover it when I swapped the roller for the brush. The 333 thinner evaporates that fast. It’s definitely more art than science.

  20. Thanks so much for response. My second coat turned out much better than my first and the wet coat seem to work better. I didn’t use any thinner on the brush, but noticed it started holding too much paint, so I started wiping it on a paper towel and that seemed to help. Will probably do a third coat because second side I did wasn’t as good as first probably due to thinner evaporation. I also used a new brush on the that side. I have my mixed thinned paint in a small plastic container made for measuring paint with a lid and only use a small amount in the tray. I didn’t notice that you always made a last pass with the roller on the dry side and will incorporate that also.

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