Color advice…why did you choose yours

I have been reading the advice posts and came across one mentioning why they chose the colors they did. I will be ordering a craft and therefore can pick my color scheme.
As a diver I am aware of visibility on the water with my safety sausage but this may be a different scenario. The vast majority of my paddling is on smaller lakes or rivers. In reality will probably never get on the ocean.
I am torn between getting a color scheme based on what I like versus the safety, visibility aspect.
Why did you experienced folks choose the colors of your kayaks?

I’m easy: my favorite color is orange.

(That said, my other favorite color is cheap/free and I got my kayak as a hand-me-down; it’s yellow.)


I went through so many paint samples trying to choose a color scheme. I like my deck to be a light-, sort of sky-blue because I just like that color and it’s calm and that’s the kind of paddling I do and the attitude I paddle with, mostly. I did the seam and coaming in something that was bright orange-ish because it’s kind of high-vis, and it looked good against the blue. I actually blew up some pictures of seabirds that often have orange in their bill or facial plumage…sometimes feet I think (e.g., puffins, various terns and gulls, oyster catchers) and tried to color match using a Sherwin-Williams app.

I watched other paddlers in various conditions, esp low light. I chose yellow because it is very visible in those conditions.
Even if it is a bit ugly.
My WS boats have been primarily orange with yellow hilites.

with orang

e hilites.

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I remember about 20 years ago doing all kinds of research trying to figure out my next kayak. After doing some demos, folks at the kayak shop seemed to agree that I seemed comfortable in a Current Designs Extreme and that it fit my idea of what I was looking for. Maybe just smart salesmanship on their part, but we definitely weren’t wrong about that being a great choice. I had read about bright colors and visibility, but I also had thoughts of kayaks as hunting vessels, but more nature watching in my case. Thoughts of minimizing the glare of my presence. We walked into the shop, and there was a brand new forest green Extreme on the wall. It was one of those choirs of angels singing moments. No black tupperware lids. It was truly a thing of beauty to me. So that just made that decision for me. But the dilemma in my head about the “right” colors wasn’t resolved. So I’ll still struggle with that same question.
I have many kayaks now. I have yellow and orange and red. I’m confident that I’m more visible in brighter colors. I’m confident they’re advantageous in a search and rescue situation. But as crazy as it sounds, it actually enters my mind at times that something just isn’t very peaceful about the bright colors. It’s mostly those times when I’m feeling peaceful, and the bright color literally remains in front of my face. I more often notice in the Extreme and in my SKUK Greenlander that somehow the forest green just makes everything seem a little more pleasant, or I feel somehow more part of things and less a disturber of the peace. And I think there just might be something to the colors of our surroundings having some real effect on our mental state at times.
This makes advice difficult, as it’s not clear to me that I don’t get benefits either way - just different benefits. If I’m blowing the safety whistle, it has to all be about visibility. If I’m thinking about overall wellness, and goals of blending into nature, I might have some internal debate. For me, small lakes and river paddling, in this moment, for myself, there’s this sage color that Wenonah and Current Designs uses (it’s the trim color on the last new solo kayak I ordered from them on a white deck and hull) and I think I would find it so pleasant as a deck color out on the water.
So I guess I’d be leaning towards what I like.


The closest I have come to being hit by a speeding boat was on a lake in a white kayak. If you have an accident /problem you still want to be seen on a lake or river. My kayaks are mostly yellow, I have owned ocean blue, red, & white too. My best waveski is a blend of yellow orange and red and white, and was chosen to be seen so people get out of the way or don’t run into me.

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I’ve only had one boat with colors that I ordered. It had a yellow deck over white hull. I felt that it was probably good from a visibility perspective and I loved the look of it. Turned out that I hated the boat.

Every other color of boat that I have had was what was available. Period. Currently paddling a black and white boat. Probably not the best in terms of visibility but I love the boat.

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Mostly the same as what people had said above. Of the kayaks I have bought new, only one did I get to do a full custom, others were choices from what was in stock. Used boats you get what you get but I have been pretty lucky there too. I like bright colors so most of mine have been red/yellow/lime green but my custom boat is blue and yellow. I do think about visibility but also realize that every color is more or less visible in varying light conditions and from my time in bigger boats the kayak itself is usually the last thing seen - much more important to have a brightly colored PFD, hat and shirt. (FYI sails are really good for visibility! I have had several people comment that they could see me from very far away even with that little sail. So an orange or yellow flag wouldn’t hurt if you are worried about visibility)


My sister always complained that she couldn’t see my kayak from a mile away. No kidding!

I posted pictures of black crab floats that power boaters seem to avoid and miss. So my advice is to buy a boat and a paint it black (more visible in the night and fog, so I’ve been told) and make it look like like a one or two liter plastic bottle. Boaters avoid them so the attached rope doesn’t foul their propellers.

I don’t believe a boater can manage to avoid them and not see a boat that’s 10 to 18 feet long, regardless of the color, with a torso sticking out of the center of it. If you have a problem with power boats running too close st high speeds, you need to augment the color scheme with a day glow smoking flare fired toward the oncoming boat to wake or sober the driver up.

Buy whatever color you want. Bright colors are handy in search and rescue situations.

Its your job to stay out of everybody’s way, and it’s their responsibility to avoid hitting you.


I agree with others that bright colors are functional so that you can be seen and in case of a rescue it could make the difference. There are other times you don’t want to blend in (hunting season, paddling with others in fog, retrieving a pinned boat under the water).

I avoid white boats in whitewater because they don’t show up well in photographs, black boats can get hot (own 2 bought used), but anything else is fine with me.

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Seems to be a lot of different opinions about what color is best and few studies. And even what studies I have see say there are large variances in conditions that effect what color is easiest to see at that time.

Closest I have seen to a real study was done by Mustang Survival. Here is a summary article with a video from Mustang Survival on the student embedded in it:

In summary, it found the most visible colors (in order) are green, orange, yellow, and then red.

My person observation (not a study) is that when looking at water level toward kayakers paddling, paddles are the first thing I see. Color of kayak and clothing would be important, of course, but might also be worth putting effort in to make sure your paddles blades are as visible as possible.


We looked for a balance.

Easily seen colors that we liked. Yellow appeared to the most easily observable color that was offered, so we chose that for the largest part of the kayak, the hull, seam, and keel strip. I didn’t want to look at a yellow deck, but found that robins egg blue is also a good choice for visibility. And I like blue, my favorite color. Blue deck for me.

They are both light colors, so also partially meet the objective of not making scratches as obvious. And, we loved the combination of a yellow hull with a light blue deck, those two colors work well together, in our opinion. But some of the decision is going to be a matter of taste.

Buying used kayaks is so much easier… you don’t have to worry about color choice. :wink:


All used here. No pink and no black preferably Brite colors easily seen.

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That was one thing I forgot to say - the dark blue hull on my Tiderace shows allll the scratches. But I didn’t want to do the reverse color scheme as that much yellow will add some weight to the boat (yellow pigment is a little transparent and requires more to cover, especially over a carbon boat) and I didn’t like the look as much. But it’s a boat, not a museum piece, so I don’t worry about the scratches too much.

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@Peter-CA, agree that its the paddle that shows up most. A mile out, a kayak is hull down (hull is below the line of sight). Doesn’t matter if it’s black, white, yellow or red, it depends on the background, but its the movement that attracts my attention.

I agree . On a bumpy day on Jocassee, I was watching several kayaks running from a rain shower. The color didn’t matter because I could barely see the boats.
The flash from the paddles was very noticeable. My paddles now have reflective strips on the blades.


Color could make a difference in poor visibility.

When there was a choice of colors, I, too, picked based on my own observations of distant other kayaks.

A rich, goldenrod kind of yellow really stood out, so that’s what I chose for both NDK/SKUK kayaks I bought. With white hulls and dark contrasting trim.

That variety of yellow was easy on the eyes and very “cheery” to me. Another consideration was that dark colors become much hotter than light colors. This matters to those of us in sunny regions.

And if you paddle is not moving? :scream: