While there are exceptions, of course, you could safely say that almost no one buys an exotic high-performance catamaran or V-bottom to go unnoticed. Their owners may want to avoid the spotlight—and in fact many do—but that tends to be the last thing they want for their handmade, big-buck beauties. And why not? When you drop $500,000 to $1.5 million on a custom go-fast boat you don’t want it to look like anyone else’s pride and joy. So you might as well dress it up in a wild custom $30,000 to $50,000 paint job.
Of course, there are performance-boat builders that do solid in-house paintwork. But the best go-fast boating painting outfits are stand-alone specialty shops. Here’s a quick look at the four top painting outfits in the performance-boating world.
Led by a gifted young man named Chris Mills, Boat Customs is located in Caledonia, Mich. Mills has painted performance boats from Skater catamarans to Mystic and Nor-Tech center consoles. But one of his projects this early this year, repainting the first Statement Marine 42 Ultimate V-bottom produced—way back in 2009—truly showcased his exceptional skills.
“I felt like this boat, because of the publicity it received throughout the years, would be a fun, unique project, and it definitely met my expectations,” said Mills. “Because of all the intricate aspects of the boat like the custom dashes and the air-cushioned cockpit, I was surprised at how well everything held together over the years. We stripped it down and didn’t find a single stress crack, and we’re not talking about a boat that was never used—Statement took this thing everywhere.”
Travis McDougall, the 42-footer’s owner, was ecstatic with the result.
“What Chris and his team have accomplished is crazy—I mean these guys are doing next-level stuff that is so different than anything else out there,” he said. “We probably went through a dozen concepts and the paint job is better than I could have imagined. From the airbrushing and shadowing, it really is amazing. It looks 3D down the sides, I don’t know how they do it.”
For more information, visit Boat Customs.
Stephen Miles Design
Based in Owensboro, Ky., Stephen Miles and his talented crew are best known for their paintwork on V-bottoms and catamarans from Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats. But the SMD also handled the graphics on a slew of Mystic Powerboats luxury performance center consoles, as well as the most recent Mystic C4400 catamaran that debuted this summer.
To accommodate his growing business, Miles expanded his facility this year. But he’s wary of expanding too rapidly.
“One of my biggest cautions since day one has been to not grow too fast,” he said. “I see that happen all the time, and people get over their heads. I am deadline oriented and I have a sense of urgency, but the quality has to be there. I want to see my work on a lot of different canvases, but at the same time I know I don’t want to grow too fast.”
Though painting new models is his bread and butter, Mile said he sees growing opportunity in bring older models back to life with fresh paint.
“There is a lot of new construction going on with center consoles,” he said. “They are the future, and I think that’s really cool. But there are a lot of older boats out there in good condition that could use an updated look. I’d like to do more of that.”
For more information, visit Stephen Miles Design.
The Art of Designs
Known in the performance-boating world simply as TAOD, The Art Of Design is the “grandfather” of all of today’s go-fast boat custom paint shops. A graphics force of nature, Dean Loucks started the Elkhart, Ind.-based outfit in 1998 and became an instant trendsetter in the go-fast powerboat marketplace. From “mural” paint jobs to theme-boats, Loucks led the way and inspired the likes of Stephen Miles and Chris Mills to pick up an airbrush and create.
Cigarette, Skater, Outerlimits and so on—name the custom go-fast powerboat brand and Loucks has painted it. (DCB Performance Boats is a notable exception—Loucks would love to get his hands on one those beauties in the near future.)
The Art Of Design shop pioneered many painting trends that are now “standard” in the custom powerboat graphics world.
“We brought a lot to the industry,” said Loucks. “People were not custom-painting their vehicles to match their boats when we started. We brought that in. We brought exterior colors into the interior. We painted the undersides of the engine hatches—we painted bilges. We brought paint into the tunnels of catamarans.”
Asked what’s next The Art Of Design, Loucks plays it close to the vest.
“I would say that we are going to continue to lead, but I don’t want to have a specific conversation about where we’re going with it,” he said. “We know the industry very well. Look at the crotch-rocket motorcycle world. So many have so much color on their sides that they all look the same. You can’t tell one from the other. Then a Ducati goes by and you say, ‘Wow, look at that Ducati.’
You can go back to something simple and still have plenty of detail,” he added. “You can still have a bright colored boat with clean detail. It just takes some creativity. What I will say is this: We’re going to continue to push the limits.”
For more information, visit The Art of Design.
Mark Morris, the talented man behind Visual Imagination, made much of his exceptional reputation painting catamarans Marine Technology, Inc., which like Morris’ business is located in Missouri. As any of his contemporaries will attest, his attention to detail is second to none.
But the reach of Visual Imagination has extended far beyond Missouri border. The company has painted everything from Statement Marine center consoles to Cigarette V-bottoms. Morris even designed the new graphics, which were applied in a vinyl wrap, for the Wake Effects team 48-foot MTI catamaran, which will defend its 2016 Unlimited-class world championship this month at the Super Boat International World Championships this month in Key West, Fla.
Among Morris’ best-known projects are a couple of paint jobs he did for DCB Performance Boats in El Cajon, Calif. In 2015, he painted an M35 catamaran called Lickity Split. It was the first DCB to be painted—the company handles all in-house color application in gelcoat. And this year, Morris painted a DCB M44 catamaran—a new model for the company—called All Spooled Up.
For more information, visit Visual Imagination.