Introduction: How to Paint an Ukulele

About: A journalist, a musician, a geek. Complete perfectionist when it comes to my job.

Music is therapeutic and if you own an ukulele you should take good care of it. You can actually use it to learn the basic guitar skills. You can use it for fun. Either way you might want to make it truly unique.
One way of taking care of it is by giving it a fresh elegant look by painting it.
Here is a basic guide on how to paint an ukulele like a professional.
It was inspired by JessieDejaVu experience, and I would like to add my two coins as well.


Things you need to get the job done:

  • Sandpaper (rough grit and a finer one for the finishing step)
  • Primer
  • Paint - preferable Acrylics
  • Paint brushes - nylon is better
  • Clear spray paint (consult the seller to find one that will not ruin the original paint)
  • Tape
  • Paper towel or wash cloth

Step 1: ​Preparation

If you intend to paint the entire uke as Jessie did, the first thing that you need to do is remove the tuning pegs and all the strings. Proceed to clean the entire instrument as applying the paint on grime or dust will ruin the end results.

On the other hand, if you only want to paint a small section - like I did - just tape the area around to avoid scratching or applying paint in the untargeted sections.

Last - but not the least - choose a place where you can create a mess and clean up without ruining anything. Most people prefer doing it outdoors.

Step 2: Taping, Sanding, and Selecting a Reference Point

If you want to achieve specific results, you need to have a reference picture to act as a guide.
Then, decide where you want to paint it on the ukulele. Pinterest might be a great source for ideas.

As for me, I was inspired by Van Gogh. Plus I had some flower photos from my recent trip.

Tape the area and use the rough sand paper with grit to sand it before starting to apply the paint. Be careful when sanding, you should stop when you reach the bare wood. The goal is to get rid of the original gloss not reshape the entire ukulele. And you probably don't want to ruin it.

Use a paper towel or dump wash cloth to clean off the wood particles before you start painting. So it won't mess with your picture in the result.

Step 3: ​Painting

With the area you want to paint now ready, proceed to paint your design. It is recommendable to start with the bigger parts such as the initial shapes and backgrounds. Use the big brushes (I prefer flat ones) for this purpose then thereafter use the small brushes for the small fine details.

Be very careful about the amount of paint that you apply on the instrument as too much of it will distort the sound quality.
And try not to use water as it might harm the wood.

Step 4: Finishing

Once you finish painting and you are happy with the results, apply the clear spray paint. Polyurethane is also great but be careful not to apply to much rest you ruin the design. Ideally, 2-3 coats of polyurethane are enough to achieve a smooth finish on the design.
Here's a separate guide on how to apply the varnish.

If you find any droplets of the paint that make the ukulele rough, just wipe them off with the normal pieces of paper gently.
Finally, remove the taping around the newly painted section.

Well done!

As you can see, painting an ukulele is not that difficult (if you're interested, mine is Kmise, I used it for tutorial), you just need to follow the above steps and pay close attention to detail. Take time complete each step well to achieve the best end results.