I already had my red ukulele for several years and had drawn all over it with sharpie markers. When I saw how nicely my sisters paint job had turned out I decided to clean up the marker and paint my own uke.
A while ago I also decided to do a full paint job on my guitar and won third place in a local 3D art contest so it wasn't my first time painting an instrument.
Things you'll need:
- Sandpaper (rough grit first then finer for finishing)
- Paints ( I used Acrylics )
-Clear polyurethane or clear spray paint ( Make sure to get the kind that won't discolor your original paint job!)
- Different sized paint brushes ( small for detail, larger for coverage, etc )
- wash cloth or paper towel
- and a reference picture or stencils or sharpies or whatever to draw up your design.
Step 1: Prep
Make sure your instrument is clean and that you are in an area that you can make a small mess.
*The blue ukulele I did in the kitchen, the red one I did in my room, and similarly I did my guitar just in the living room. It's really up to you on how much clean up you want to do.*
I didn't paint the entire bodies of the ukuleles so the pictures are of a guitar from a work in progress :)
If you're only doing the sides or a small area I recommend taping around the edge of how big you want it just to make sure you don't accidentally scratch up somewhere you didn't want to paint.
Step 2: Picking a Reference, Taping & Sanding
After drawing the image I lightly sanded the area where I would be painting and just started.
*I ended up having to do several layers of paint because I decided not to prime. It probably would've been easier to sand first, prime the area then draw the design.*
With the red ukulele I taped around the front and back edges and then sanded the sides until I started to see parts of the bare wood.
-DON'T SAND INTO THAT-
You just want to get rid of the gloss, not reshape your instrument. It won't sound right otherwise.
I then painted the sides of the ukulele black and waited for it to dry.
*again, I had to do a few coats cause I forgot to prime it.*
I also didn't use a reference for my red ukulele or my guitar but it's good to have an idea of what you want on your instrument before you start painting all over it. I had to do a lot of sanding a re-sanding with my red uke because of that.
Make sure to clean your instrument with a damp washcloth or paper towel to get rid of excess wood and paint dust from sanding before you start painting.
Step 3: Painting
I recommend doing the bigger things first like backgrounds and initial shapes with the bigger brushes then after that drys doing the smaller details.
This step can take as long as you need it to. Any mistakes you find can still be fixed, re-sanded or re-painted as many times as you need!
While the blue ukulele only took a few hours to finish, the red one took about two days. My guitar took a few weeks to completely finish. The greater the detail, the longer you might want to spend on this step.
Step 4: Finishing
For the two ukuleles, since I didn't paint the entire instrument, I got papers and tape and completely covered the body except for the paint job, I then sprayed the clear spray paint over the top of the paint job.
With the guitar I only taped over the top of the neck to cover the frets since I didn't want to get new ones.
Two to three coats of polyurethane or spray paint should be enough but put as many as you think should be enough to make it as smooth as possible.
If you get those annoying little droplets of spray paint making your instrument rough just go over it with a just a regular piece of paper and rub over the surface like you would with sandpaper.
Like I said I'm starting a new project with an older guitar my friend gave me. I'm also helping my brother paint his upright bass.
Be careful with how much paint you put on your instrument. Too much paint will distort the sound.
I said earlier that there was sharpie permanent marker drawings all over my red ukulele. I decided that I just wanted plain red faces and then the black and white sides.
To clean the marker off I spread toothpaste on the front and rubbed it in hard.
I then got a damp washcloth and cleaned the tooth paste off still rubbing around with as much pressure as I could.
After a few passes with the damp washcloth the sharpie marker was completely cleaned off.
*I've heard this toothpaste method also works to clean sharpie marker off walls so, there you go. The more you know!*
I can imagine people doing some really cool things personalizing their own instruments.
Music is an expression of yourself as is painting so why not put them together and make it your own? :)
Good luck with your project and let me know if you have any questions! :)