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How do I paint an acoustic guitar?

Specifically a cheap spanish guitar. Just curious. I know that if I paint too much, it'll kill the tone. And I know I should use a nitrocellulose lacquer (but Ill probs just use Polyurethane). Has anyone had history with this?

Well, with a cheap toy, beginers, or party guitar the tone is often not that good to start with. Just opinion there, don't mind me.

A light coat of paint shouldn't hurt too much on a cheap guitar. It will change the tone slightly, but not that noticably. I'd try painting just the face, and then moving on if you're still happy.

Here's my tips:

-The pickguard is probably glued on and may be hard to remove. You may damage the guitar removing it, but a scraper or a knife can be used to pry it off. You can replace it at the music store, or make a new one out of very thin wood.

-Sand the face down a bit, as evenly as possible, before you paint it. This does two things: It removes the glossy finish, providing a better surface for the paint to stick to. It reduces the thickness of the face, so that when you add paint you're not changing the thickness as much.

-Use oil-based products. Two reasons: They'll stick & they'll be flexable. Choose a thin product. Spray paint might be best. I don't recomend a water-based product because I've found that they crack under stress and believe me, your guitar is under stress.

-Thin your paint and apply light coats.

Best of luck!


My anecdote.

I had really good luck with one my father and I refinished back in '98. It was just a junk guitar with some really deep scratches, cigarette burns, and an aweful tone (due to the abuse and a crooked neck). We only did the face, as it was where the damage was (and it was an ugly color that didnt match the rest of the guitar).

Here's what we did:
1. Dissasembled. We took off only the strings, some stickers, the end peg, and the pickguard. We didn't want to refinish or remove the neck, so we taped it up and left it in place. We left the bridge on because we were afraid to mess with it and taped that too. The pickguard was glued down hard, and came off in small pieces with a scraper.

2. Sanded. Since it was dammaged so badly, I sanded the face down a LOT. we removed all of the existing stained wood, and in some places I had to sand it down enough to expose several layers of the plywood. This resulted in what I'll just call "a lot of character."

3. Stain. I used a slightly-thinned (10% thinner) off-the-shelf oil-based wood stain. Applied four times, as this stuff had a really weak tint.

4. Urethane. Three or four light coats of urethane (hey I can't remember everything it was a decade ago), and the stuff was unthinned ordinary furniture grade oil-based urethane. Dried for 3 days.

5. Reassemble and repaired other problems. We made a new pickguard out of 1/8" birch plywood, stuck on with double-sided tape for easy removal. Restrung it slowly using old (already stretched) strings.

We found that the guitar had a really nice resonance after all the work we put into it. I feel that the drastic thinning of the face gave it a clearer tone. Originally, it had been really muddy. I even had a chance to compare mine to a factory-original in pristine condition, and mine won hands-down in loudness and tone.


Hope I haven't been too wordy.
I recently had my sister paint my acoustic guitar and this article helped a lot! Thanks for taking the time to write all this up. I didn't end up having to go through so much prep work because I was working on an old beginners guitar that didn't look or sound that great to begin with, but it still turned out great! Here's a link to watch the video of my sister painting my acoustic guitar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=TzZjmBlDu6c

and here's a link to a blog I wrote about how to paint an acoustic guitar: http://nickcamillo.com/how-to-paint-an-acoustic-guitar-nashville-tuning/

Hope you like how it turned out!
Noodle93 (author) 5 years ago
Wow. Ace response GuardianFox. Spanish classicals don't have pickguards do they?
Actually, I didn't even take a moment to think about that. Hahaha... Yes and no, for that category it's much less common... but sometimes they do. I've seen transparent plastic pickguards designed just for that purpose.
Just to add something important that I recalled... When I dried the Urethane on mine, I dried the first two coats with no load, but while the third coat was still wet, I added some old strings and tuned the guitar (slowly and carefully). I did this in hopes that the finish would dry on the guitar in the instruments normal "stressed" state. It worked admirably. The finish hasn't shown any sign of cracks and it's a pretty thick coat of glass-like finish.
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