Introduction: Guitar Tattoo

Picture of Guitar Tattoo

Give your guitar a temporary tattoo with this instructable. This is a very simple and fun procedure, provided you have a few things:

Guitar to Tattoo
PhotoShop (or something similar)
Printable Window Decal paper (avery)
piece of paper (optional)
scanner (optional)

This is great because you can 'decorate' your guitar without damaging the finish! You'll be able to change out your guitar tattoo whenever you like. You can slap your name on your guitar. How about a picture of your significant other? Display the name of your band. Display the name of your bird. Whatever. Enjoy!

Step 1: Preparation

Picture of Preparation

My first step was to draw the contour of the bottom right area of the body of my guitar. To do this I just set my guitar on a piece of paper and traced the edge... simple right?

Step 2: Design Your Tat

Picture of Design Your Tat

I scanned my traced guitar contour guide line into my PC and opened it in PhotoShop. Following the guide line contour I was able to create a 'tattoo' to accent the curve of my guitar.

If you know how to use layers in PhotoShop, put the traced guitar contour on a separate layer from the tattoo. Then before you print it, turn off the line layer. If you are not familiar with layers, just erase the guide line before you print.

Step 3: Finish Up

Picture of Finish Up

Now stick the window decal paper into your printer and print your tattoo. I usually let the printed decal dried for a while. Make sure your guitar is clean. Then cut out the decal, peel off the back and carefully put it on your guitar. That's it!

You don't even need to do the hole 'contour of the guitar' thing. As you can see in my final photo, just print out some of your favorite pictures and decorate! Pan, God of Music, graces the top of my guitar.


samik000 (author)2017-03-27

Where to buy window decal paper someone post a link pls

bretgeek (author)2015-10-08

Very nice how to!

mrzarrok (author)2015-05-10

Can someone post a successful video of doing it cause I'm very confused on everything

meme4209 (author)2013-06-13

Thanks for this tutorial. I have been wanting to do something like this but knew that
to do something like this professionally would be exspensive. Also this way I can change it when I get tired of it.

Hollis613 (author)2013-03-08

Great idea. Where did you find that pic of Pan?

taywill95 (author)2011-02-19

Would it be alright to print something out and make it into a stencil to sharpie onto the guitar? I'm wondering if I need to avoid it...

GreaseStains (author)taywill952011-03-26

i've tried drawing on my guitar with sharpies before, the clear coat and the alcohol based ink keep it from being permanent. it will slowly wipe off completely, but the plus side is, you can wash any mistakes off with rubbing alcohol.

vruiz3 (author)GreaseStains2012-08-16

the trick is to remove the clear coat then draw.then add the clear coat

elijahlucian (author)2009-04-24

My advice to all of you who want to do this from a professional graphic designer: use illustrator or corel draw. using a vector drawing program will make your design have very sharp edges, thus making it look like more of a professional job.

potatojesus (author)elijahlucian2009-04-24

Agreed. The graphic on the bottom of the guitar pictured was done using Illustrator. Resizing will always stay nice & crisp. The upper graphic was a downloaded graphic and then adjusted using PhotoShop. The original graphic was slightly larger then the one I ended up printing for this guitar. The problem with Illustrator & PhotoShop for the average schlub is affordability (luckily I'm a graphic design student and only had to pay student prices for those over priced softwares). So for quick & easy guitar design... which will not be permanent... and can be changed whenever one wants, any graphic software would work out. For anything else more professional great care, design and proper software should be used. Otherwise, this is 'just for fun' and can be easily changed at will.

elijahlucian (author)potatojesus2009-04-24

yeah. well i recommend 'artrage' for any hobbyist artist. full sketch and trace program for 25 bucks! cant go wrong

nclarke (author)elijahlucian2011-08-16

For people who don't want to pay out the ...nose... for Illustrator or coreldraw, Inkscape is a free vector graphics editor.

paqrat (author)2011-07-20

This is very cool.

bassdale (author)2009-06-16

What if you own a black guitar?, no raceism intended!

compgeek97 (author)bassdale2011-01-17

try making your image then making it negative so the black is white and viceversa

potatojesus (author)bassdale2009-06-22

humm, good question. I have a black decal on a black bass. Its really cool because it almost looks like a shadow. It's a very subtle graphic. But I can't really imagine anything showing up brightly on a black guitar. It would have to be a different type of printer... a professional vinyl printer or something. But the black decal I did on my black bass is pretty cool.

nitrox027 (author)potatojesus2009-08-29

print it white, itll show up lol

no it wouldnt!

mkkrushmt (author)bassdale2009-06-22

could you use a lighter color ink? (author)2010-11-04

Projects are always fun when you do it yourself, but we do carry some pretty cool waterslide decals and you can get some amazing results. Check out some of the projects that our customers have done:

amcayanan (author)2010-07-08

Great idea! thanks for sharing.

the-ruler-of-craziness (author)2010-03-02

where do you buy printable window decal paper from?

Staples, Office Max, online, etc

JKibs95 (author)2009-05-04

Sweet! Questions: 1: Do the tattoos come off? If so, do they ruin the finish of the guitar when they come off? 2:Wasn't Apollo the Greek God of music?

potatojesus (author)JKibs952009-05-10

1. Yes they peal right off and do not hurt the finish (providing you get the printable window decals... not stickers). 2. Yes but Pan also somehow represented music as well.

fatfoohy (author)potatojesus2009-05-23

pan was the god of nature, apollo was the god of music.

potatojesus (author)fatfoohy2009-06-03

Pan, apparently, was a god of many things.

santy22 (author)potatojesus2009-09-06

pan is also "bread" in spanish. maybe he was also god of food!

Mr. Brownie (author)santy222010-01-19

i thought it was japanese

kneecaps (author)potatojesus2009-05-19

i believe pan was a piper

pardusimo (author)2009-11-21

if water/sweat does get on it can it stain the guitar?

potatojesus (author)pardusimo2009-11-25

I've had the ink sweat off onto my guitar and it just wiped off wipe polish.... no guarantees though.

youy (author)2009-10-01

HI..I've got a strat and was wondering if this would work/damage the pickguard? anyone tried that or something similar? Cheers :D

mkkrushmt (author)2009-09-24

i was playing at a school picnic the other day and it started to rain. there were only a few drops, but where the water did hit the label it washed off the ink so its all spotted, it actually has a pretty cool effect. i think i might make some more this weekend. -Alec

potatojesus (author)mkkrushmt2009-09-25

Yeah, they're not waterpoof. I've sweat through one. But the beauty! is that you can always make more!

Lawlzorz (author)2009-09-04

Are you using a laser printer or inkjet??

potatojesus (author)Lawlzorz2009-09-05


guitarman63mm (author)2009-04-28

I went to staples, but a 10 pack of inkjet decal paper was in the neighborhood of $40 US, seemed extremely steep to me, but oh well.

Wow, Expensive. I don't think I paid nearly that much at our Staples here.

guitarman63mm (author)2009-04-11

How does this method compare to one of transparent paper -> laser printer -> guitar + clear coat? I read about a guy on who used that method for his logo. So a standard printer works? Can I change the color of the text? Will this paper dissolve under a lacquer or poly clear coat?

This is most likely inferior to an under coat method for 'up-close' views of the guitar. But if you're performing and people are looking at the guitar from a small distance, it looks great. Plus, the big benefit is that you can change your designs whenever you want without damaging your guitar. On Printable Window Decal paper, an ink jet printer will work fine... you can printed whatever colors you want. You can get this type of 'paper' at Staples or office max or online. I usually use staples. I am positive that ink jet inks, and probably the decal paper, would dissolve under a lacquer coating. I wouldn't advise that at all. Really, the purpose of this instructable was to make 'quick change' 'non-permanent' designs for your guitar.

Thanks, point taken. I suppose I'll stick to the transparency!

Night910 (author)2009-02-09

this will work on a electric right?

potatojesus (author)Night9102009-02-09

Yes, so long as their is a smooth clear coat finish.

You can also use a regular rubb-on tatoo and just remove it with alcohol or something similar. although I don't know if that would damage the finish. It hasn't damaged mine yet and I've been doing that for a long time. Your idea is the best (if you have all of that fancy stuff) though.

Alcohol will damage lacquer based finishes. If it didn't affect yours, rest assured, you're fine. Your finish is almost certainly a catalyzed polyurethane, so if that technique works for you, keep it up. But for those of us with higher-end guitars or vintage instruments finished in nitro, the alcohol thing is a big no-no.

n3gs (author)2009-04-09

This is ridiculously awesome. Saves buying a guitar with a fancy design on it!

mnajar (author)2009-04-02

very nice and sleek. Where would you get a decal paper from? any arts and craft store?

potatojesus (author)mnajar2009-04-02

Staples or Office Max is your best bet. As long as the carry a good variety of printer papers.

mneufeld623 (author)2009-04-01

This is a pretty nifty idea. I bet you could do this type of thing with tons of other stuff. Thanks!

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