How To Paint A Guitar

Effectively carrying out a paint job on your guitar and how you do that, is determined by whether it is a fresh painting or a repainting. Whichever it is, let’s see how to paint a guitar. 

How To Paint A Guitar

Painting your guitar serves multiple purposes, the primary one being the aesthetic value. Other advantages of painting a guitar are that it offers protection from damage, it stabilizes the wood underneath the coat, the paint also makes up the outer layer in which sound waves spring from.

Whether it is a fresh coat or a repainting job, a large amount of attention and patience is needed in order to get a smooth finish.

To repaint over an existing finish is obviously more difficult than a fresh coat. This is because you will have to completely strip the guitar off its finish. To do this you will be needing a few tools:

Tools You’ll Need

  • A sanding paper
  • Filler
  • Orbital sander
  • Turpentine
  • Paint
  • Fine grit, medium grit, and coarse grit sandpaper.
  • Vacuum cleaner.
  • Cloths.
  • Mineral spirits.
  • Primer.
  • Masking tape
  • Paint or stain
  • Clearcoat
  • Ventilation mask
  • Ultra-fine sandpaper pads
  • Dust mask and eyeglasses
  • Wire cutters
  • Screwdriver
  • Allen wrenches
  • Soldering iron and solder

Disassemble The Guitar

To carry out a repainting job on your guitar, the first step is to disassemble the guitar. You will need to take out parts that will not be in the painting. The strings are to be removed using a pair of wire clippers. 

The next part to take off is the neck, this will be easier to detach if it is a Bolt-on neck, all you have to do is to the un-screw the guitar neck using a screwdriver. If the neck is glued on, you may want to tape the entire length of the neck to avoid the paint from getting on. 

Remove all the hardware inclusive of the electrical components and arrange them in a safe place for re-assembly. 

Sand Off Its Finish

Now that the guitar has been dis-assembled, you should get to sanding off the existing finish. To do this, use an orbital sander to get the coat off without leaving marks. Alternate between using medium grit sandpaper (120 grit) and a finer grit of paper (220 grit) for a smooth surface. 

In the event that you would rather not go through the trouble of separating the components of the guitar, then you have to mask the parts you don’t want to guitar paint using masking tape.

When you are done removing the finish of the guitar and sanding the guitar body, get rid of the shavings and dust using a handheld vacuum cleaner. In the alternative, make use of a can of compressed air to spray the dust away or clean the dust using a moistened cloth that has been dampened with water. 

A grain filler should be applied only if the guitar is made of wood, this evens out the surface of the guitar, whether or not you apply an oil-based or water-based finish is dependent on the choice of guitar paint you will be using.

Using mineral spirits should accompany the application of the grain filler, this is to make sure that the oils on the guitar body are cleared off. Once the mineral spirit is applied, the guitar is not to be touched until it has gotten dry. 

Apply Primer

Before diving into the painting, apply coats of primer on the guitar body. 

The primer should match the type of paint you want to use, then leave it to dry out. 15 to 20 minutes should be given in between each coat of the primer.

Once the primer is dry, if the guitar body isn’t smooth, try sanding again until you get the desired texture. Once this is done, it is now time to apply your choice of paint.

Start Painting

The exciting part of this entire process is deciding the color/colors to paint your guitar with. Guitar paints are typically made with nitrocellulose, polyester or polyurethane. 

Nitrocellulose gives a lighter and smooth finish. The only problem is that it takes a long time to get dry. 

Black is a common and safe color choice for a guitar. This is because it provides a good background and layout for customizing your guitar. 

Choose whatever color of paint you desire. Cover the surface of your guitar with a single coat of your desired paint. The first coat is called the base coat, oftentimes, this is done thinly. 

How many times a coat should be put on the guitar is dependent on the choice of color. If the desired color is white, it will take a lot of coat to give a smooth finish.

After the base coat, make sure you wait for at least twenty-four hours before spraying another layer of paint. The guitar must be placed in a ventilated area and allowed to thoroughly dry before applying another layer of paint.

The paint must be given some time to thoroughly dry up because the next step is sanding. 

Sand Down Again

Using the 600grit sandpaper, sand the surface of your guitar, moving in one direction only. Move on with your 1200grit sandpaper to smoothen out the guitar surface. The sanding is only done if the body does not have a smooth surface after the base coat, it is not a compulsory step.

Finish Painting

After the base coat is dry, spray the guitar body two to three times, leaving intervals between each painting to dry thoroughly before the next coat is applied. A total of five to six coats of paint may be necessary to give you the final finish. 

If you make use of nitrocellulose or a polyurethane finish, you will have to wait for an extended period of time usually anywhere within 3 weeks and four weeks. This is to ensure that the paint completely hardens. But if you made us of an oil-based finish, it will only take a few days to completely dry.

Apply A Clear Coat

The final stage for the painting is the application of a clear coat. This is dual-purposed as it seals the wood and also gives the guitar a glossy look and feel. 

The prevalent option is a nitrocellulose coat. Multiple layers of the clear coat are required. Whilst the first layer of the clear coat can be thin, additional layers must be thicker to give a factory finish.

Make sure that the clear coat is completely dry before carrying out the final sanding. The final sanding must not be dry. The sanding helps to remove blemishes, it must be done with wet sandpaper, starting with a fine grit to eventually end at a rough grit. Polish the body using a clean rag and wax, and finally, assemble the pieces of the guitar.

For A Fresh Paint Job

Fresh painting follows almost the same process with few exceptions. 

  • For fresh painting, ascertain if your guitar is suitable for painting taking into consideration the grain pattern of your guitar.
  • Prepare for painting by getting your materials. Always put on your ventilation mask while sanding or spraying your guitar to prevent unnecessary exposure to dust, wood shavings, and paint fumes.
  • If your guitars’ components are difficult to detach, masking tape will come in handy to protect the features.
  • Inspect your semi-finished guitar for any dent or rough edges, fix them by sanding and applying grain fillers.
  • The sanding should be done with the appropriate sandpaper, once you are satisfied with the surface you have, wipe with a damp cloth.
  • Remove all traces of oil and dust before applying the primer. You can do this using water and detergent or a vacuum cleaner.
  • Tape all the areas you wish to protect from the paint.
  • The grain filler used must be aligned to the color of the wood.
  • Re-sand as many times as possible until you have gotten your desired surface.
  • Put multiple coats of white primer on the body.
  • You can choose to paint with an oil-based or water-based paint.
  • Spray the paint on, using a spray gun.
  • Spray the entire body, let it dry, flip the body and spray another coat.
  • Consistency is key, make sure all parts of the body are covered.
  • If you want a fast-drying paint, the acrylic paint is a good choice.
  • Place your clear coats on the guitar, multiple coats are required to be done at intervals. Apply multiple layers while waiting for each coat to dry before the next application.
  • Give the guitar a light sanding and apply the final clear coat.
  • Wet sand the guitar and wipe off the surface with a damp cloth.
  • Polish the body of the guitar using automotive wax.
  • Make use of buffing pads on the guitar, this highlights the gloss of the guitar.
  • Finally use a microfiber cloth to wipe off the guitar.


Painting a guitar is hard, repainting a guitar is harder. Both processes require a lot of work, time and patience. 

Finally, if you are going to customize your guitar, you should take that into consideration that dark colors such as black, navy blue or deep red are better backgrounds. 

While colors such as white and silver will need multiple coats of primer and paint for a smooth finish. Remember to take safety precautions such as wearing a ventilating mask, eye goggles and gloves while carrying out a painting.