Paint a Cartoon Piano




About: Hi I'm Dylan

This project is to turn a drab old piano into a piece of art that reflects both a happier environment and its surroundings...a school. I painted this piano to sit in the lobby of a local middle school so that both kids and adults would be greeted by something the other school didn't have and so that kids could play on it as they wish. The project took about 5 days working 6-7 hours each of the days. (Like watching paint dry....literally) the majority of the time was just that. Watching paint dry. No skill in piano mechanics are required just patience and caution so you don't break the valuable and delicate action inside. Enough with the intro lets get to the FUN!!

Step 1: Acquire Materials.

Foremost you are going to need a piano.

  1. One piano (preferably in working order) and not a valuable heirloom
  2. Zissner BIN Primer
  3. 1 Quart Green Paint ( I used parrot green)
  4. 1 Quart Pink Paint (Cotton candy, not too bright. Should compliment the GREEN)
  5. 4 oz jet black paint
  6. 2 2inch foam brushes
  7. 2 3inch foam brushes
  8. Sanding block ( The HARD way) or Electric sander ( The EASY way)
  9. Screwdrivers
  10. Tarp or Canvas. Unless you want a green and pink floor.
  11. Various grits sandpaper 100-120-220
  12. X-Acto Knife
  13. Blue Painters tape
  14. Sharpie markers
  15. Patience <----- Not sold in stores


Vacuum, brass polish


Step 2: Dismantle Piano, Clean and Sand

The piano comes apart fairly easily.

  1. Push up metal tongue under keyboard and the bottom panel will pop out. #6
  2. Open lid #1 and pull out on panel #2, some lift off while others may have levers to hold them in place.
  3. Inside where the ends of the keys are unscrew the assembly that consists of #14, #13, and #4. This should come off in one piece though all pianos have slight differences.
  4. Now that these parts are off the piano should look like the first photo.
  5. Remove the keys by lifting up on the plastic part and pulling out. Don't worry about wiggling the keys just don't yank them out.
  6. Using a vacuum or brush remove the years of dust and likely coinage that is under the keys. ( Be careful not to vacuum up the green and red felts. These are set to exact heights and can only be done by a piano tuner.
  7. Unscrew the four thumb bolts that hold the action in and pull it out and up holding firmly onto the cast iron sides. DO NOT GRAB BY THE FELT HAMMERS THEY WILL SHATTER. I recommend finding a helper for this part and watching the video i have attached. Of you break the action the piano will never function and the cost to have it repaired will exceed the value of the instrument.
  8. Sand all external surfaces of the piano. DO NOT sand under the keys or the wood on the back of the piano. These parts are crucial to the instruments sound.
  9. Sand using either hand block or electric sander first with 100 or 110 then with a 200-220.

Step 3: Prime and Prime Again

Now for the part when you get mad and question why you did this. Priming. Its annoying painting something white-ish just to paint it again later but it is a necessary evil if you want a flawless finish.

Cover the pianos internal parts (Strings and Harp) with plastic sheets and tape these on for protection from drips.

Shake and Mix the Zissner BIN primer and begin painting as normally with a 2 or 3 inch foam brush. Do 2-3 light thin coats making sure not to let the primer drip and glob. It dries fairly fast so this part wont take long. Just be careful not to let it dry while you are working it. Keep the stuff moving and you will be fine.

If the primer does dry i one spot because lets say you got a phone call or dropped the beer you will need to get through this step, then wait for it to dry sand the area fine a fine paper brush the dust and try again. Don't worry LIFE isn't perfect. Neither is primer.

Optional. Lightly sand between primer coats if using a high gloss paint is only using semi gloss this step is not necessary.

Step 4: Begin Painting for Real

Now that the primer has dried you can open up the green paint and begin painting using either a 2 or 3 in foam brush. Apply 2-3 coats or until even without being able to see primer.

Pianos are build with lots of different parts and the grain of the wood is not always in the same direction. Make sure to observe and paint with the direction of the woods grain.

Paint all visible surfaces of the piano. There is no need to paint the underside of the lid unless you choose to.

Do Not Paint The Back Of The Piano Or The Inside.

Step 5: Housekeeping

After many years the keys will yellow. Take this time to mix up a mild soap and water solution and scrub the key tops. Don't soak them as the wood is not waterproof just a light rub with a washcloth to remove dirt.

Step 6: Accents, Piano Comes to Life in Pink & Black

Here is the part when your creativity can come to life. There is no exact science to this part and you may wish to sketch out your design on paper to make sure it is appealing to the eyes. I chose to paint the legs and key side scrolls pink. On the bottom panel I painted a pink rectangle 3 inches in from the edge and then roughly outlined it in black with an artists paintbrush. On the sides I painted adjacent black drips and outlined the front edge of the sides in black. The edges of the top lid got the same treatment. The front beneath where the keys go was outlined in black and any areas where there is nothing going on. Feel free to change the design to suit you. There are no exacts here because i painted it looking at pictures and just thinking... Where do we need more design. Taping off areas you don't want paint is necessary and will make the whole project look sharper and cleaner.

Step 7: More Design and the Pianos First Big Fix.

Now that the majority of the painting is done i reinstalled the keys by dropping the m onto their designated pins. This is made easy since the keys come pre numbered 1-88 from the factory. Afterward i dropped the action back in. reconnected the poles that work the dampers and pedals and made sure all the keys worked. These POLES you will notice have pins which fit into lever arms on the action they are not had to reinstall, just push them down and make the pin go into the actions holes. I replaced the bottom and top panels and added a pink oval and 4 pink boxes by taping off the edges and using an xacto knife to alter the shape. it doesnt have to be exact because the cartoony black lines will cover it. Some swoops accented the sides and the piano was almost done.

Reinstall all lids, and part in the reverse order you removed them.

The embedded video shows how to remove the parts (You get the idea) but extra tips area always helpful when dealing with the foreign worlds of piano parts.

Step 8: Enjoy

The piano is finished and now it can be enjoyed. If it feels that this was over complicated just know that i am a perfectionist and therefore I removed ever single part of the piano one by one painted them all separate and then reinstalled them on by one. This will take a few day, but it is entirely possible to paint the piano without removing everything as long as you cover and tape and watch where your paint drips.


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22 Discussions


4 years ago



4 years ago on Step 8

Nicely done. Your perfectionism shows, as does your artistic eye. I'll bet the kids and teachers love this.

1 reply

4 years ago on Introduction

Very cool! My dad was a piano craftsman. He rebuilt several player pianos for a pizza parlor chain with very flashy paint, glitter, acryllic (to allow seeing the player in action) and a coin slot for customers to pay for music. It was a huge hit, especially with children. Thank you for reviving those memories.

1 reply

4 years ago



4 years ago

You did a great job! Taking it apart before painting is essential -- otherwise the parts become painted (read glued ) together and the piano can't be tuned or serviced.


4 years ago on Introduction

That looks really cool. There is a piano sitting in my living room that isn't mine. It's my landlord's & he hasn't taken it out in over a year even thought he said he would. I should show him that picture & tell him if he doesn't take it out soon, that I'm going to paint it that way. Ha Ha Ha. I think it's great, but I'm sure he wouldn't! :o) Lisa


4 years ago on Introduction

It looks great, just like something out of a Dr. Seuss book!

Tater Zoid

4 years ago

I really like your choice of colors, it definitely pops.