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Designing and Ordering Boat Lettering,

Before you order

Measuring Your Boat
Lettering on Transoms
Lettering on Sides
Color Matching


Ordering Online

Preset styles
Your Lettering
Font Selection
Lettering Size
US. Coast Guard and DMV regulations
Choosing Colors
Specialty Colors
Hull Color
Zoom in / Zoom out
Ordering Graphics
Why Vinyl

Boat Lettering Installation

Boat Lettering Removals

Quick Downloads:

Application Instructions.pdf
Boat Name Removals.pdf
Boat Measurement Worksheet.pdf
Letter Visibility Chart.pdf
Download Free Adobe Acrobat Reader

Designing and Ordering Boat Lettering

Ordering your custom lettering can seem like a daunting task. We have over 30 years of experience in the boat lettering business so we know all the right questions to ask in order to get it right the first time. Here are some tips and suggestions that will get you great results.

Before you order:

Measuring Your Boat:

This is the first and most important step in the process of ordering boat lettering. You want to make sure the lettering you order will fit on the boat the way you want it. Once you decide what you want to call your boat, you need to figure out where to put the lettering. Some people like their lettering a little larger, some a little smaller. It's really a matter of personal choice. There are, however, some things that will determine the size for you, such as limited space and government regulations.

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Lettering on Transoms:

The transom is probably the most common place to put your boat lettering. Some transoms have lots of space with very little hardware to get in the way of your lettering. Others can be quite small or have many obstacles, such as thru-hulls, bait tanks, doors, lights and fasteners. This can be a real headache when determining the size of your lettering.

For the best results, try not to worry too much about minor hardware, especially that which can be removed prior to installation and later replaced. It is almost always best to center the lettering on the transom rather than placing it off to one side just to avoid a small thru-hull or hardware.

Many people ask me about putting lettering over doors. Most sport fishers have a door on their transom and avoiding that door is almost impossible. It is very common to place lettering over the door, as long as it is mostly flush with the transom. Try to avoid placing the lettering over both sides of the door, unless the door is centered on the transom.

Download and Print worksheet:

Boat Measurement Worksheet.pdf

Download Free Adobe Acrobat Reader

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Lettering on Sides:

Many boats do not have any space available on their transoms, such as smaller boats with outboards and sailboats. In this case, the sides of the boat will be the only place to put lettering. In this case you will probably have all the room you could ever need and the size of the lettering will be determined by your own personal tastes. Some sailboats have their hailing port on the transom while their name is on both sides. This is common and seems acceptable by the USCG.

One way to see what size will look best is to use some masking tape and place a rectangle up where you would like the lettering to be. This way you can step back from the boat and get a better perspective. Once you decide what size looks good to you simply measure the taped area and you will have your lettering size.
This method can also be used for boat transoms if necessary.

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Color Matching:

Now that you have your measurements down, be sure to take note of the colors already on the boat. Many boats will have a boot stripe, pin striping or graphics. Using the same or similar colors for your lettering gives your boat a more polished and complete look. However, if you’re not crazy about the colors currently on your boat, you can choose colors that are more neutral and less likely to throw off the color scheme. Black lettering with a gray, silver or gold effect will work with almost any color combination.
We use Calon High Performance vinyl from Arlon. Although, if you have special color needs, such as matching a special stripe color, please make a note of it and we will try and match it as best we can. We can match colors with most high-end paint and vinyl color charts, such as Awl Grip, Sterling, Gerber, 3M, and Avery. Email us for a free color chart by mail.

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Ordering Online:

Preset styles:

Now that you have measured your boat and have some ideas on the colors, it's time to order your lettering. Your first step is to choose which style best suits your lettering needs. Our lettering presets should serve as inspiration to get you started in the design process. Once you choose a lettering preset simply type in the name of your boat, hailing port or registration numbers. Then, you can change the height and width of the lettering, as well as font style and colors.

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Your Lettering:

There are whole books written on how to name your boat so we won’t go into that here. The best advice I can think of is to choose a name that suits your personality or something that means something to you. Keep in mind that the name of your boat is the way you are identify yourself over the radio in the maritime world so choose your boat name carefully. Just say to yourself, “This is (insert boat name) calling for assistance”.

When typing in your lettering, be sure to type it in exactly as you would like it to read on the boat. If you want a space, no space or a dash (-) between letters make sure it is typed in that way. Also, make sure you type in the lettering in the desired case, such as UPPER CASE, lower case or Mixed Case.

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We have included a selection of Distortion effects that can be applied to your lettering. Distortion effects can add pizzazz to ordinary looking lettering; giving it the appearance of movement. We are not able to preview these effects on screen (same as Big Caps/Small Caps). Our designers will apply the distortion effects here at our shop. You can preview these distortion effects by viewing our Preview Distortions page.
There is no additional charge to apply any distortion.
For best results, use UPPER CASE Roman or Block style fonts when choosing distortion effects.

Note: Applying a distortion to your lettering will change the overall size (usually the height) of the lettering. Do not apply a distortion such as arc, arch, top arch, pennant or squeeze if you have a limited vertical area to work with. In general, the overall height of the lettering with any distortion applied will not be more than twice (2 times) the Lettering Height selected.

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Font Selection:

The font you choose for your lettering can have almost as much impact as the name you choose. Each font has it’s own unique personality. We have put together a collection of our most popular font styles for you to choose from. The fonts are by their category and then in alphabetical order within that category. The categories are Block (pages 1-4), Roman (pages 5-8), Script (pages 9-11) and Miscellaneous (pages 12-14). Some fonts are found in more than one category

Block fonts, like Arial Bold and AvantGarde, offer great legibility and are well suited for hailing ports and registration numbers, but are still great for a clean and simple boat name.
Roman letter styles such as Times New Roman Bold are a classic choice for boat lettering and are great for almost any other application.
Script fonts, like Amazone BT or Commercial Script, while not suited for registration numbers and ports, are very popular for boat names.
Miscellaneous fonts, like Viking, are mostly used for the name of the boat. In general these fonts defy categorizing and are great for a more unique style.

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Lettering Size:

The lettering size is calculated by first entering the desired height of the letters. The width of the lettering will then be displayed to the right. The price of the lettering is determined by the preset you choose (1,2 or 3 colors) and then by the length of the lettering. In some cases an additional charge will be applied to lettering taller then 13.5 inches if specialty materials are used. In this case you will be contacted by email with any pricing change and will have the option to adjust or cancel your order.
If you have strict sizing requirements due to limited available space you can tailor your lettering to fit by adjusting the length + or - 10 inches. If the lettering still does not fit your space try selecting a narrower or wider font style.
Remember, a boat name with a lot of letters will probably need to be shorter in height in order to fit most work-areas on the boat. If you name your boat something like INDEPENDENCE and you have 4 feet of width to work with, you probably cannot use 10-inch letters.

When ordering, keep in mind the letter height selected on the preview page represents the height of the upper case letter and does not take into account special/ornamental letters or letters with descenders, such as the letters g, j, p, q, y and, in some cases, the letters f, t and z. This is very common with script letter styles, such as Brush Script, and some Roman styles, like University Roman Bold.

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US. Coast Guard and DMV regulations:

All markings may be made by any means and materials that result in durable markings and must be at least four inches in height, made in clearly legible letters of the Latin alphabet or Arabic or Roman numerals. The "hailing port" must include a place and a State, Territory, or possession of in the United States. The state may be abbreviated. This being said, many private yachts use a 3-inch letter for hailing ports.
Registration numbers as issued by the DMV are required to be at least 3 inches tall.
Both agencies require letters to be legible and of contrasting color to that of the hull.

For more information on USCG documented vessels go to: http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g%2Dm/vdoc/faq.htm#15

Download and Print our Letter Visibility
Chart for viewing distances of letter height:

Letter Visibility Chart.pdf

Download Free Adobe Acrobat Reader

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Choosing Colors:

Deciding on which colors to use for you lettering can be almost as hard as deciding on the name of the boat itself. If you are finding yourself at a loss for ideas in this area you may find inspiration by browsing our boat name gallery. For the most part you really can't go wrong with any color selection as long as you follow a few simple rules. If you are after maximum visibility you will want to choose a letter color with the highest contrast to the color of the hull. A medium to light gray color against a white hull will not offer a lot of visibility at distance. At the same time, medium to dark blues or greens will not show up very well against a dark color hull.

One way to gain visibility on a low contrast color situation is to use a high contrast outline and/or shadow color. Gold lettering on a white hull may not show up very well, but gold lettering with a black, blue or green outline will show up much better.

This also applies to the colors you choose to complement your lettering, such as outline, shadows, or both. If you have black lettering, it is better to choose a color of medium value for an outline or shadow, such as Silver metallic, Gold, Gray, Teal or Olympic blue. For lighter color lettering, a dark color will make it stand out.

Shadows can be used to complement a letter's color, or to create dimensionality not seen with single color designs. Using a light to medium gray shadow can give the appearance that the lettering is set away from the surface of the boat giving it a three dimensional effect. Using an outline along with a shadow can offer an even more dramatic effect. If you are working with a colored hull, experiment with different color shadows to see what works best.

For more on color please visit our page on Color Theory.

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Specialty Colors:

Specialty colors are: 22kt Gold Engine-turn, 22kt Gold Florentine, Diamond, Topaz, Imitation Silver Leaf and Imitation Gold leaf. Choosing any of these colors will increase the price of the lettering. That price increase is noted in the shopping cart under “Additional Price”. The 22kt Gold selections will add $1.25 per inch (width) and the Imitation Leafs, Diamond and Topaz will add $.25 per inch (width).

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Hull Color:

When dealing with dark colored hulls, the same theories apply, only in reverse. White is going to be the highest contrast color on a dark hulled boat. However, you can use another color and still use that high contrast white to your advantage. For example: a classic dark blue hull looks great with gold lettering. Add a white outline to that gold and it will really pop. Red is also a favorite lettering color on dark hulls. Use it as an outline with a white letter, or as the main color with a white outline. Both will look great, but remember the higher contrast letter will have the highest visibility at a distance.

The Hull color shown in the Preview Page is for previewing purposes only. Lettering ordered with a colored will be shipped without any background color surrounding it. This is also true for lettering ordered with a white hull. The lettering and letter effects are produced without any surrounding material except for it's own backing paper and pre-spacing tape over the top. The hull color will show through all openings and spaces once installation is complete.

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Zoom in / Zoom out:

Use this feature to size your lettering to fit on the screen. If you can’t see enough detail in the lettering or if the lettering goes beyond the window, simply zoom in or out to adjust it. This feature is primarily for viewing purposes and does not affect the final size of the lettering or the way the effects are applied to the lettering. The effects are determined by the preset selected.

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Ordering Graphics:

We have a wide variety of clip art for you to choose from. However, due to the huge variety of clip art and possible color combinations, we have limited our selection to the more commonly asked for images and limited number of colors per image. We will soon have a larger selection of clip art graphics, which will include full color printed images up to 12 inches in height, which last outdoors for up to 4 years. After selecting your clip art, choose the size of the graphic (the measured length being the widest part of the graphic) and add to cart. Then, in the "Comments" section in the shopping cart type in the color you would like to use and (if ordering a quantity of two) whether or not you want them to face the same direction or face opposite directions in order to have them both "face" forward on either side of the boat. Clip art containing 2 colors will be charged at one and a half times the single color price and three colors 2 times the single color price.

Clip art with more than three colors will have an additional charge and will be handled case-by-case. The adjusted balance will be emailed to the customer for approval.

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The price of the lettering is determined by the number of colors used in the design and the overall width of the lettering. Specialty materials can also increase the price of the lettering. Price increases due to specialty materials will be noted separately in the shopping cart as Additional Price:. If you do not wish to be charged for specialty materials go back and edit your lettering; choosing a non-specialty color. Specialty colors are: 22kt Gold Engine-turn, 22kt Gold Florentine, Diamond, Topaz, Imitation Silver Leaf and Imitation Gold leaf.

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Why Vinyl:

There are many reasons why vinyl lettering is preferred over hand painted or spray-mask painted lettering. Vinyl is inexpensive and easy to work with, yet it can last outdoors for many years, even in a harsh marine environment. Painted boat lettering will often fade and show brush marks in as few as 2 years and must be touched up. See the photo: WhyNotPaint.jpg

There is a method of painting on lettering that will outlast even high performance vinyl materials. Linear polyurethane can be sprayed on the boat using a series of spray mask stencils, one mask per color. The down side of this method is the high cost, at least 4 times as much as applying vinyl. The boat must be out of the water to be sprayed and each color has to dry at least one day before another color is added.

Vinyl offers better consistency. Because vinyl is computer cut, every letter, every shadow and outline, is perfect every time. Hand painted letters are often inconsistent and rough. Before each custom boat name is computer-cut, our design experts make sure there are no missing parts or overlapping letters making for a "sliced-up" look. We insure proper letter spacing and "weld" all overlapping parts for a professional look.

All boat names, hailing ports and registration numbers are shipped as a complete piece with all letters pre-spaced to each other, not like hardware store letters, which often look crooked. Hailing ports are usually separate from the boat name for easier installation.

The best thing about vinyl lettering: You can install it yourself! No need to hire someone to come out to your boat. When you order your lettering online with Design Dynamics it comes to you complete and ready to install. We include a free squeegee to apply the lettering to your boat. By using our easy-to-follow instructions, your lettering project will be finished in no time.

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Boat Lettering Installation:

Vinyl lettering will adhere to a wide variety of surfaces including metal, glass, gel coat, laminates, varnish and most painted surfaces. The preparation of the surface is very important, as vinyl will not adhere very well to a surface contaminated with dust, dirt, grease, wax, Teflon or other residue. Use a piece of masking tape to test the surface of the entire work area before applying lettering. When pulling up the tape you want to have at least some resistance. If the tape does not stick, the vinyl will not stick.

TOOLS NEEDED: Scissors, Tape Measure, Masking tape, Squeegee (provided)

Apply decal to surface when temperature is between 50 - 80 F. Avoid application in windy conditions. Seek another person's assistance before applying a very large graphic.

1. Clean surface thoroughly. Remove any dirt, grease,
residue, etc., using alcohol, denatured alcohol or acetone
(fiberglass or gel coat only).

2. Tape the decal in the general area to which it will
be applied.

3. Measure and adjust location of decal using the
baseline and centerline as references.

4. Tape down the center once the decal is
measured into place.

5. Lift one side of the decal and separate
the application tape from the backing paper. Using
scissors, cut away that half of the backing paper.

6. Hold the application paper away from the working
surface, keeping it slightly slack and squeegee
outward from the center. Pull squeegee
firmly against surface, hard enough to squeegee out
any air from beneath the decal.

7. Discard center strips of masking tape and lift remaining
side of graphic. Remove the backing paper
and squeegee outward from the center.

8. Squeegee the entire decal again, pressing hard.

9. Remove the application rape by pulling it back on
itself, rather than pulling it 90 to the surface.

10. Eliminate any bubbles by pricking the vinyl with a
sewing needle or pin and pressing down with a
finger or squeegee to expel the air.

For larger and longer lettering

1. After cleaning the area as described above, tape
the decal in the general area to which it will be applied.

2. Instead of applying the decal into two parts, you
can apply it in four smaller, more manageable parts.

3. Make sure both sections are taped down securely
before cutting them apart.

4. Cut the two sections apart and continue
to step 5 above.

Note: Always wait at least 2 weeks before waxing over a newly applied graphic.
Chemicals such as Acetone, M.E.K. and some solvents may damage the vinyl.
Vinyl lettering should be cleaned with water and a mild detergent.

Download and print our application instructions
so you can take it with you to your boat.

Application Instructions.pdf

Download Free Adobe Acrobat Reader

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Boat Lettering Removals:

The first step in removing lettering and/or graphics from your boat is to determine what you're dealing with. Determine what the lettering is made of and determine that the surface is made of. This will help avoid costly errors and possible cause permanent damage to your boat. If you are not sure about compatibility of a particular solvent with the surface, spot test in an inconspicuous area first.

Vinyl lettering:
Peel up edge and pull from surface. A heat gun, hair dryer or in some cases the heat from the sun can helping this process. Sometimes pulling back on itself or at small angle to the surface can help bring the adhesive with the film. Remove excess adhesive with Goof-Off product or other similar adhesive removal solvents.

After the lettering is removed, take this opportunity to polish the surface thoroughly, which cannot be done with lettering in place. Power buff the surface with a wax less polishing compound. The compound should also not contain Teflon; Silicones as this can affect the adhesion of the new name.

Painted Lettering:
Most lettering is one-part enamel and most hull surfaces are gel coat. If that is the case, acetone and rubbing compound mixture used with a power buffer can take the lettering off. This will also polish the gel coat at the same time. This method is best when the paint is worn thin. If the paint is newer and thicker it is best to soften the paint with an acetone saturated pad of paper towels first, then while the paint is still soft quickly scrape the paint off with a razor-blade scraper. It is important to round the corners of the razor blade first with sand paper as to not scratch the gel coat. This should take off a majority of the paint. The power buffer will get the small ruminant and polish the surface to a mirror finish.

It is best when using compounds to use high-end professional products that do not contain waxes or silicones. The idea is to get a mirror finish without waxes, Teflon, silicones etc. These products are disguising the lack of a true mirror finish. Besides, with these contaminates, the new name won't adhere as well or last as long.

No matter what method used to remove lettering from your boat, protective/safety gear is a must. Gloves must be worn because the solvents can be carcinogenic, cause liver damage, skin damage etc. Keep in mind that rubber gloves will not protect you from acetone, lacquer thinner, MEK, and various other chemicals. The molecules of the solvents are smaller than the mesh of the membrane of the glove and will immediately permeate right through. A 4-H glove or Butyl glove can protect you from the fore mentioned chemicals. A respirator is also strongly recommended.

Another method fro removing enamel from gel coat is spraying Easy-Off oven cleaner on the lettering. Mask off any painted or varnished surfaces; also mask the "drip" areas. The oven cleaner will bubble the paint in a few minutes. Before the paint starts to drip, scrape the letter with a razor blade scraper. Wipe off the excess. You will notice this turned the gel coat yellow. Don't panic! Wipe the entire area with distilled vinegar. This will turn the gel coat back to it's original white. Do not use this method on colored gel coats or painted hulls such as Hatteras, which has an Imron surface. The next step is to polish to high gloss.

A third method for removing paint from gel coat, and in some cases, a linear polyurethane surface, is to wet sand the lettering from the surface. Usually start with a 600 grit, in some cases 400 in spot areas. Then sand with 800, then 1000, 1200, 1500, and finally finish off with 2000 grit. Do the entire process using plenty of water and a sand block in circular motions. The hard part about this method besides finding the elbow grease is finding the sandpaper. Most hardware or home supply stores do not carry sand paper this fine. You will need to find it at a marine supply store or auto-body supply shops.

Download and Print removal instructions:

Boat Name Removals.pdf

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