PAINT YOUR BOAT
Hints and tips for choosing a colour scheme, how many panels to divide the cabin sides into, how much decoration - and what makes the cabin look shorter or longer?
One thing’s for sure, it’s up to you. A fresh coat of paint in the same colour or a daring makeover. And only you and your regular passengers need to like it. And once you’ve completed the job there’s no boat to beat it. Stick to some simple guidelines and you’ll be turning heads on the towpath.
The choice of red and green doesn’t have to be avoided just because there’s a lot of it about. It’s seen up and down the network because it works. They were common colours for working boats but a modern take is turning towards a fairly dark green and middle to bright red. However, a less fashionable mid-green paired with a red that is heading for orange looks fresher and sharper.
With modern boats, strong colours in the most dominant areas often look more elegant than light ones. Navy blue gives a feeling of depth and strength for instance that a light blue wouldn’t. The same is true of most colours. Even a mid-chrome yellow has more punch than lemon chrome.
Just as important is the level of contrast and colour balance between major colours and the secondary ones. It’s safe and effective to have two shades of the same colour – perhaps deep Brunswick green paired with light Brunswick green set off with a red handrail and an off-white line – or a deep crimson offset by a related but brighter red – with a gold line.
Gold lines certainly work well if the major colours are rich and dark and then even the signwork could be in gold as well, provided
there was some light/bright contrast to stop things looking muddy. Sometimes, though, colours cannot be separated from the overall design of a livery; you need to consider colour and layout at the same time, and that can get complicated.
Now for the basic but important rules of graphics when choosing a colour scheme: If you paint the gunwale and the gunwale sides the same colour as the cabin side, the boat will look shorter. If you divide the cabin side up into lots of separate panels, again the boat will look shorter. If your boat has a typically modern for’end with a relatively short deck, if you cram loads of diamonds, circles and half moons and so on onto the top bends (the bits either side that sweep up to the stem bar) once again, the boat will look shorter. When the job is done and ready for signwriting, try to avoid sticking scrolls or roses, or anything else for that matter, between the windows or portholes.
Now, with reference to the above, boats are, it often seems to me, rather like the
bonnets of certain sports cars in that, generally, shorter is not good. Remember that, when thinking up a range of trad designs for the front, that the foredeck of a carrying boat, and therefore the bend below it, is well over six feet long.
If your boat has a cruiser stern and lots of windows I think that one panel, going the full length of the cabin is enough. It’s almost inevitable that dividing it up will look contrived since the panels will be entirely dictated by the position and size of the windows rather the actual shape of the boat. Something simple that is well presented works wonderfully well.
If a boat is what is known as a ‘trad’ there should hopefully be portholes, at least at the back end of the cabin. This allows more freedom in the placing of panels, although aesthetics dictate that one big panel, with a smaller one in front of it, leading then to one long one going along to the front, is the most tasteful way – if you want the whole cabin side panelled that is.
Better to my eye, especially if the boat is a good replica of working boat, is what I’ve come to call an ‘all or nothing’ scheme. In such a layout, the back end of the cabin is panelled like an old carrying boat: a large panel at the back, a smaller engine room panel including the doors, and a very slim panel in front of that.
Equally well, the doors could form a panel of their own. From there forward, you simply settle for a continuation of the handrail with the remainder plain, and perhaps a different but complimentary main colour, or carrying a thin line – preferably the same colour as the handrail, not necessarily the same colour as the ‘coach’ or ‘stress’ lines around the panels at the back. That really looks the business as long as the plain bits are well finished. Then you can go to town on the for’end and ‘cratch’ board.
So you have a gloriously lettered and decorated chunk at the back (one third of the overall cabin length is plenty) preceded by a lovely elegant saloon, or whatever, all announced by a beautifully decorative for’end.
Of course, there’s always an alternative! A boat of elegant proportions and style can be painted with almost severe simplicity. Colours don’t have to sing, they can also whisper. Just remember that the plainer the layout, the fewer places has the painter to hide.
If you are going to paint a big boat in a plain but highly tasteful way, and it can produce a truly stunning result, you will have to paint it well. Very well.
One last thing, make sure the shapes you create suit the shape of the boat. Don’t impose a layout just because you fancy it – square pegs, round holes etc.
Keep the surface clean during the project
Each to their own when it comes to a colour scheme
A smooth finish provides the perfect key
Flaking paint must be removed
CAreful masking for panel painting